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Friday, June 21, 2024
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Men’s and women’s basketball look to advance in first round of MAC Tournament

Women will enter postseason play as favorites while men will pose a formidable threat as No. 5 seed

Women’s basketball defeated Ohio, 79-65, at Alumni Arena in late February.
Women’s basketball defeated Ohio, 79-65, at Alumni Arena in late February.

March means tournament time for UB’s women’s and men’s basketball teams.

Led by junior guard Dyaisha Fair and senior forward Jeenathan Williams, UB’s basketball teams hope to earn their first NCAA Tournament berths since the 2018-19 season by winning the Mid-American Conference Tournament at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland.

The women’s team looks to regain control of the conference while the men’s team attempts to redeem a fairly disappointing regular season after streaky stints of play.

Here’s the outlook for women’s and men’s basketball as the MAC Tournament approaches:

Women’s basketball looks to capitalize on momentum heading into MAC Tournament

Fueled by Fair’s dynamic play, the No. 2 seed Bulls (22-8, 16-4 MAC) are riding a six-game winning streak heading into the conference tournament.

Despite coming off an uncharacteristic two-point performance against Bowling Green to end the regular season, Fair is still averaging 23.1 points per game, good for fourth-best in the nation. 

Graduate forward Summer Hemphill is averaging 13.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest following multiple injury-riddled seasons, while freshman guard Georgia Woolley — the newly crowned MAC Rookie of the Year — is averaging 14.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

No. 1 seed Toledo is the only team in the MAC Tournament the Bulls didn’t defeat in the regular season. UB will face No. 7 seed Western Michigan (16-3, 10-10 MAC) in the first round. The Bulls defeated WMU, 71-64, at Alumni Arena on Feb. 7. Fair and Woolley combined for 39 points while Western redshirt freshman guard Lauren Ross and redshirt senior forward Reilly Jacobson each scored 17 points.

The Broncos might not have the most impressive résumé (the majority of Western Michigan’s wins have come against the bottom feeders of the MAC), but they did manage to beat No. 3 seed Akron on the road in a Feb. 2 matchup. WMU could upset UB if the Bulls take their foot off the gas.

A win over Western Michigan would move the Bulls one step closer to reaching the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time under head coach Felisha Legette-Jack and for the first time since the 2018-19 season.

Men’s basketball must live up to its potential in Cleveland

Despite owning two top-three recruiting classes in the MAC the past four seasons, men’s basketball (19-10, 13-6 MAC) — the No. 5 seed in the upcoming MAC Tournament — have yet to win the conference title under head coach Jim Whitesell.

The 2019-20 season ended in disappointment when then-No. 5 seed UB fell to then-No. 12 seed Miami (OH) in the first round. The following year saw progress as the Bulls made it to the MAC Championship Game, where they fell to future NBA draft pick Jason Preston and then-No. 5 seed Ohio.

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Redshirt sophomore center David Skogman dribbles the ball during a recent game against Western Michigan.

Now in his third season at the helm of UB’s basketball program, Whitesell needs a deep tournament run to stave off calls for his dismissal.

The Bulls are led by a trio of seniors: Williams (19.2 points, five rebounds and 1.4 steals per game), guard Ronaldo Segu (15.2 points, 5.2 assists per game) and big man Josh Mballa (13.3 points, 8.8 rebounds per game). Thursday will mark the third time the three have shared the court in the MAC Tournament together.

The trio’s experience (along with senior guards Maceo Jack and Keishawn Brewton) will be crucial for the Bulls to pull out their first NCAA Tournament berth since the 2018-19 season.

But if the Bulls want to make a run at “The Big Dance,” they’ll first have to beat No. 4 seed Akron (21-9, 14-6 MAC).

UB dropped its only meeting with the Zips this season in an 88-76 road defeat. Sophomore forward Ali Ali scored a career-high 32 points while fellow sophomore forward Enrique Freeman posted a 14 point, 10 rebound double-double. 

The Bulls have run through the majority of the MAC but have had trouble with the top teams in the conference — Toledo, Kent State, Ohio and Akron. The regular season ended with back-to-back losses to Toledo and Kent State and UB has yet to defeat Ohio or Akron this year.

While it’s not out of the realm of possibility for the Bulls to win three games in a row and make the NCAA Tournament, the MAC Tournament will be an uphill battle.

Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor and can be reached at anthony.decicco@ubspectrum.com and @DeCicco42 on Twitter


ANTHONY DECICCO
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Anthony DeCicco is the Editor-in-Chief of The Spectrum. His words have appeared in outlets such as SLAM Magazine andSyracuse.com. In 2020, he was awarded First Prize for Sports Column Writing at the Society of Professional Journalists' Region 1 Mark of Excellence Awards. In his free time, he can be found watching ‘90s Knicks games and reading NFL Mock Drafts at 3 a.m. 

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