James Whitford, head of the Ball State men’s basketball team, coaches from the sidelines in the game against Eastern Michigan in Worthen Arena Feb. 27. The Cardinals beat their record of highest number of points since 1989, scoring 115 to 79. DN PHOTO GRACE RAMEY
Ball State men's basketball MAC tournament preview
The Ball State men’s basketball team will finish its season at Northern Illinois, this final game has implications on the upcoming Mid-American Conference West Division title and seeding in the upcoming conference tournament.
With 19 wins secured this season, this has been Ball State's most winningness season since 2010-11. That year, the Cardinals finished 19-13 and made a run to the semifinals of the MAC tournament before getting bounced by Kent State.
“It means a lot because I get a chance to win the MAC West for the first time in four years here,” senior forward Bo Calhoun said. “And, depending how the other games go, I will go straight to Cleveland for a second time. That would mean a lot to me.”
Ball State possible seeding
2 - With win and CMU, Ohio and KSU losses
3 - With win and any 2 losses from CMU, Ohio or KSU
4 - With win and one loss from CMU, Ohio or KSU
5 - With win and CMU, Ohio and KSU win or with loss and Buffalo loss
6 - With loss and Buffalo win
In order for the Cardinals to get a ticket straight to Cleveland, Ball State (19-11, 10-7 MAC) will have to win against Northern Illinois (19-11, 8-9 MAC), and Central Michigan, Kent State or Ohio, which are all 10-7 in conference play, will have to lose. Ball State can end up as the No. 2 seed if each of the following team loses and it wins.
On the flip side, if the Cardinals lose and Buffalo wins, they can drop to as low at the No. 6 seed.
With a win against Central Michigan on March 1, Ball State would have won the MAC West Division outright.
Since Ball State lost, it must win, and Central Michigan must lose its final game against Western Michigan.
“What I try to tell them afterward is that every game from this point on is a big game,” head coach James Whitford said. “I mean, guess what — no matter how this game goes, the next game is a big game. By the way, whichever one of them you advance to, that’s a big game as well.”
The only MAC team to secure its spot is the Akron Zips, who will play as the No. 1 seed and play against the winner of the No. 8 versus No. 9 seed.
The remainder of the tournament seedings are up for grabs as Central Michigan, Ohio and Kent State can lose their top-4 spots, and Ball State and Buffalo have to potential to move up.
“We are just trying to keep them focused on the task at hand,” Whitford said. “We have to make sure we are locked into the now and try not to let your mind wander to what could be.”
If Ball State loses on the road against Northern Illinois, it will be playing at Worthen Arena against either the No. 11 or No. 12 seed in the tournament. Ball State is 12-5 at home this season.
Ball State will look to benefit from its No. 1-ranked MAC defense during its game against Northern Illinois on March 4. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the Northern Illinois Convocation Center in DeKalb, Ill.