They are two little words that typically make mid-major coaches smile, those two little words being “at” and “large” — as in, an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.
But Central Michigan women’s coach Sue Guevara is here to tell you what you can do with those two little words.
“I haven’t even mentioned it,” Guevara said Monday night, shortly after arriving at her Cleveland hotel room in preparation for Wednesday night’s quarterfinal game.
“A lot of stuff you’re asking me about, the bid, or people talking strength of schedule and RPI, that’s all white noise. I do not even focus on it, I don’t bring it up.”
Instead, Central Michigan (25-4) has kept its focus solely on winning the Mid-American Conference tournament, which continues this week in Cleveland.
Take care of that, and the NCAA Tournament bid is an automatic.
The top-seeded Chippewas open play against No. 9 Eastern Michigan (11-19), an 84-77 upset winner at Northern Illinois on Monday night.
The other local team, No. 6 Western Michigan (17-14), plays No. 3 Ball State (24-5) at 9 Wednesday, after the Broncos beat Bowling Green, 85-71, on Monday.
“You’re talking about an outcome. I’m not talking about outcomes,” Guevara said, when pressed again about her team’s postseason outlook.
“I’m talking about process. That’s something we have talked about and talked about all year.
“This team has been incredible with maintaining the focus and maintaining the composure.”
Central Michigan is coming off a banner year in which it won its second consecutive MAC regular-season championship. For Guevara, 63, it was special, too. In the regular-season finale, she collected her 200th victory as coach of the Chippewas.
But there is work to be done, and Central Michigan knows it all too well.
It was the top seed entering Cleveland last year, too, and was upset by Western Michigan in the quarterfinals.
The team — led by senior forward Tinara Moore (19.2 points, 9.6 rebounds), the MAC player of the year, and junior Presley Hudson (18.6 points), the runner-up — isn’t dwelling on the immediate past, nor is it focusing on the immediate future. It’s all about the present.
So, we’ll focus on the future, then. CMU is a very strong candidate for an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, if it doesn’t win the title this week in Cleveland. In ESPN’s latest round of bracketology, the Chippewas are a No. 8 seed.
That’s news to Guevara, who recently got a text with similar information from a coaching colleague.
“I didn’t even respond to it,” said Guevara, who has made the NCAA Tournament four times, once at Central (2013) and three times at Michigan. “You know, I cannot lose my focus. If I start thinking about this, what if this happens, what if this happens ...
“In my business, that is something I cannot do, and will not do.”
Eastern Michigan, a younger team, is led by redshirt junior Danielle Minott (16.3 points).
MAC WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT
Eastern Michigan 84, Northern Illinois 77
Ohio 85, Akron 73
Kent State 80, Toledo 76 (OT)
Western Michigan 85, Bowling Green 71
Game 5: No. 1 Central Michigan (25-4, 17-1) vs. No. 9 Eastern Michigan (11-19, 6-12), noon
Game 6: No. 4 Miami (20-9, 12-6) vs. No. 5 Ohio (16-14, 9-9), 2:30
Game 7: No. 2 Buffalo (25-4, 16-2) vs. No. 10 Kent State (13-18, 5-13), 6:30
Game 8: No. 3 Ball State (24-5, 13-5) vs. No. 6 Western Michigan (17-14, 9-9), 9
Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 11 a.m.
Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 1:30
Semifinal winners, 11 a.m. (CBSSN)