Central Michigan women would've earned third straight NCAA Tournament bid

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

With the Mid-American Conference canceling the rest of its men's and women's basketball tournaments in Cleveland, the Central Michigan women, as the regular-season champions, were poised to earn the automatic NCAA Tournament bid.

That feeling lasted a matter of hours, before the NCAA cancelled all of its winter and spring championships, including the basketball tournaments, Thursday afternoon.

CMU women had made the last two NCAA Tournaments, including a Sweet 16 run two years ago.

Micaela Kelly (1) and the Central Michigan women will earn the Mid-American Conference's automatic bid if the NCAA Tournament happens.

"I have no knowledge of a similar type of situation, at least on this scale," MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said on a conference call with reporters Thursday, before the NCAA pulled the plug. "I'm sure conferences have dealt with various things from time to time, but to have the nationwide, in fact worldwide issue we're all dealing with right now, I don't know."

The MAC later cancelled all winter and spring sports, just as the Big Ten and other conferences did.

CMU, the No. 1 seed in the women's tournament, lost to No. 9 seed Toledo, 78-71, on Wednesday. It was the Chippewas' third loss in the last four games, and would've had them waiting to see if they'd get an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

CMU was 24-6 on the season.

The only local team that remained in either the men's or women's MAC tournament was the Eastern Michigan women, who were to play Kent State in Friday's semifinals.

Eastern Michigan was 16-15, but won two games in the MAC tournament and had hopes of pulling the upset and landing in the Big Dance.

"Breaking the news to coach Fred Castro, it was heartbreaking to do that, but they understand," Eastern athletic director Scott Wetherbee said in a statement.

"This is where life is bigger than athletics and one game, and we have to keep that in mind."

The Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan and Western Michigan men all lost games before the Cleveland portion of the tournament. The Western Michigan women lost in Cleveland.

Steinbrecher's conference was the first in Division I to bar fans from attending its basketball tournament.

He said the MAC was all set to continue as of mid-morning Thursday, before a change of heart.

"It is incredibly disappointing in terms of the kids having a chance to compete further because I know this is a pinnacle event and is something they look forward to," he said. "But simply from a public health standpoint, this seems the appropriate course of action."


Twitter: @tonypaul1984