Detroit — The latest in an occasional series looking at the landscape of college basketball in the state of Michigan.
MEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kendrick Nunn, Oakland. Yes, Michigan State’s Miles Bridges is probably a more popular pick, but Nunn — a Big Ten-caliber player in his own right, having come from Illinois — did finish second in the nation in scoring at 25.9 points per game in his lone season in Rochester.
WOMEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Katelynn Flaherty, Michigan. What a year it was for Flaherty, who not only became the all-time leading scorer in Michigan women’s history, but she also passed Glen Rice for the leading scorer, man or woman, in school history. And she caps things with her first NCAA appearance.
MEN’S FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State. Bridges stayed a second year at Michigan State, but Jackson, the big man, is almost certainly gone, after averaging 11.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks. He had 104 blocks on the season, and in most NBA mock drafts is a projected top-five pick.
WOMEN’S FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Courtnie Lewis, Eastern Michigan. The guard from Missouri averaged 15 points and shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range, and is one of several young players who has the Eagles positioned to be a likely Mid-American Conference West contender for the next several seasons.
MEN’S COACH OF THE YEAR: John Beilein, Michigan. Michigan didn’t get the LCA slot because of toe stubs to LSU, Nebraska and Northwestern. But for a coach who usually has his team peaking in March, he’s taken that to a whole other level, with a second straight Big Ten tourney title and lots of Final Four hype.
WOMEN’S COACH OF THE YEAR: Sue Guevara, Central Michigan. There was so much disappointment a year ago when the top-seeded Chippewas lost in their MAC tournament opener, but Guevara and Co. made amends big-time with their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013. The 28 wins are a program record.
Central Michigan earned its 20th win of the season Monday, beating Fort Wayne, 94-89, in an opening-round game of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Sophomore forward David DiLeo led the Chippewas (20-14) with 22 points, sophomore guard Kevin McKay had 20 and senior forward Luke Meyer added 18. The trio combined for 11 made 3-pointers as CMU finished 17-for-39 from beyond the arc. Junior guard Shawn Roundtree scored 14.
The play of the game was by senior forward Cecil Williams, who drew a charge with 4 seconds remaining and Fort Wayne down by one and positioned for the final shot.
Central’s next opponent was to be either Wofford, Northern Colorado, Portland State or Sam Houston State, depending how Monday’s later games shook out. The Chippewas will remain on the road for at least the next round.
The postseason was the Chippewas’ first since the NCAA Tournament in 2003, when it beat Creighton in the opening round, and CMU’s 20th victory also triggered a $5,000 bonus for coach Keno Davis. CMLife reported he will donate it back to the athletic department.
Fort Wayne finished 18-15.
Eastern Michigan (21-12) also is in the CIT, and opens Wednesday at home against Niagara (19-13).
CATCH FOR CBI, CIT
The CBI and CIT postseason tournaments aren’t for everybody. A number of programs turn down invitations, as Oakland did this year, because the third- and fourth-tier tournaments simply aren’t moneymakers.
For example, here’s how the 20-team CIT works this year.
The home team commits to paying the CIT $38,000 per game. That money is used to pay for officials and the visiting team’s travel expenses. Anything that’s left over is profit for the CIT. That’s why the tournament doesn’t feature a traditional bracket. Instead, it has flex capability to establish matchups featuring schools that are close in location, so expenses are limited to bump up the bottom line.
Home teams very rarely recoup the $38,000 in ticket sales, so that’s why financially strained departments — such as Oakland — often decline invitations, though Oakland and Western Michigan also cited injury-depleted rosters.
Athletic departments more flush with cash decide it's worth it to keep playing, as a “reward,” particularly for the seniors. Teams guaranteed road games also are more likely to participate, as visiting teams break even for each game.
ON THE CALL
Turner Sports has unveiled its broadcasters for the opening-round NCAA Tournament games.
For Michigan’s 9:50 Thursday tip against Montana in Wichita, Brad Nessler will be doing play-by-play, Steve Lavin is the analyst and Evan Washburn is the sideline reporter.
For Michigan State’s 7:10 Friday tip against Bucknell in Detroit, it’s Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel and Allie LaForce, respectively.
Meanwhile, tickets are very much in demand for Friday’s second session in Detroit, because of the Michigan State game. On StubHub on Monday afternoon, Session 2 tickets were starting at $164, while Session 1 tickets (Purdue-Cal State Fullerton, Butler-Arkansas) were starting at $40.
Final state power rankings
1. Michigan, 28-7*
2. Michigan State, 29-4*
3. Eastern Michigan, 21-12*
4. Oakland, 19-14
5. Central Michigan, 20-14*
6. Western Michigan, 17-15
7. Detroit Mercy, 8-25
1. Michigan, 22-9*
2. Central Michigan, 28-4*
3. Michigan State, 17-13
4. Western Michigan, 18-15
5. Oakland, 15-16
6. Eastern Michigan, 11-20
7. Detroit Mercy, 2-28
* Still playing