By: Chris O’Brien
Saturday, March 4th
Point guard Finn “Floor Burns” Slater never brings it less than 110 percent. And on Saturday night, that intensity may have cost the Bears a shot at the NCAA Tournament.
Medium Rare University was down 65-61 with two minutes left to go. Finn had a big steal that led to a transition three. The next possession, almost identical, Finn anticipated the crossover dribble, stripped the ball, MRU hit another three from the corner.
The crowd went wild as the Medium Rare Bears took their first lead of the night. It was a halfway sold out crowd for senior night in Jackson Auto Parts Arena.
Caught up in the excitement, Finn got into his defensive stance and slapped the floor with both hands. An immediate look of pain came to Finn’s face.
“Growing up I used to watch guys on Duke and Michigan State do this on defense,” Slater said in the locker room after the game. “I guess I just got caught up in the moment.”
Slater sat on a bench in the locker room, each hand in a separate ice bucket.
The Bears went on to win the game 71-67 completing a memorable 25-6 season, 15-3 in conference play, their first Midwestern Conference championship in nine years.
Coach Dart was left with mixed emotions after the game.
“I obviously appreciate the intensity by Finn,” Coach Dart said. “But now I don’t have a point guard for the conference tournament.”
The conference tournament kicks off Monday in Kalamazoo with No. 1 MRU playing the No. 8 seeded Lake Agnes Liberal Arts College. The small Minnesota college has 285 students and 145 different degree programs available.
Only time will tell if the Bears can rally without Slater running the point.
Monday, March 6th
Lake Agnes Liberal Arts (LALA) pulled off the upset 53-36 over MRU in the first round of the Midwestern Conference Tournament.
It was an exciting win to pair with an otherwise pretty dreadful season. The Mountain Goats went 7-24 (3-15 in conference) during the regular season, losing nine of their last ten.
Head Coach Mike D’Angelo talked about what this win means for the program.
“There was a point this season where I printed out ‘LALA Land’ t-shirts, passed them out, was hoping I could get a student section going at our home games,” Coach D’Angelo said. “We had like 15 people show up. And now to be two wins away from the NCAA Tournament, it’s crazy. Proud of these guys.”
Sophomore Cody Galwey (Philosophy major and Eastern European agricultural studies minor) said he didn’t know the school had a basketball team until D’Angelo’s attempt at building the student section.
“Honestly, I thought they were showing the movie Lala Land in the gymnasium,” Galwey said.
As for Medium Rare University, the shot at an NCAA at-large bid feels like a major stretch. Coach Dart said he’ll be watching on Selection Sunday, but compared their chances to winning the lottery at this point.
“Yeah, I won’t be holding my breath,” Dart said.
We reached out to the lead bracketologist at the Sports! Sports! Sports! TV network to see what he thought about the Bears’ chances. His email response was short.
“Who?” he replied.
I have an idea for a series called “Road to a 16 seed” covering the fictional Midwestern Conference. If you’d like real midmajor coverage, hey, we’ve got that too. Tune into the Medium Rare College Basketball podcast where Chuck and I are going to break down which mid-majors we think to have the best shot at making a run in the REAL NCAA tournament.