Motor City Madness is on the Horizon


Nowshin Chowdhury

The men’s basketball team enters the Motor City Madness tournament on March 4 as the No. 1 seed.

After months of anticipation and weeks of Horizon League teams battling it out, the bracket is finally set, and the time for Motor City Madness has arrived.

The tournament begins March 3 and runs through March 7 at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The men’s and women’s games will be intermixed throughout the Horizon League’s five-day stay at the Joe.

All 10 league teams play in the tournament, with the bottom four battling out on day one to play the top two seeds in the quarterfinals.

The men’s tournament

In its regular season championship, the Golden Grizzlies earned the No. 1 seed for Motor City Madness. The team finished 14-4 in the Horizon League, tying Valparaiso’s record. Oakland won the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to a two-game sweep of the Crusaders this season.

This sets the Golden Grizzlies to begin tournament play at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 4. They will play the winner of Friday’s matchup between No. 8 Cleveland State and No. 9 Youngstown State.

Senior Sherron Dorsey-Walker said the team has no preference as to who they see in the quarterfinals.

“At this point, we’re familiar with every team,” Dorsey-Walker said. “We are going to take whoever wins and go out there and try and dominate, play well and stick to our game plan.”

Oakland split the series against the Cleveland State Vikings this season, after taking a bad loss at home (76-65) on Jan. 16. The Golden Grizzlies fought back, managing a narrow victory when they visited Cleveland on Feb. 4, when Oakland took the win 53-51.

The Golden Grizzlies swept the Penguins handily this season with a 90-76 win in Youngstown, Ohio, on Feb 2. They followed that up with a 101-72 victory in Rochester a couple weeks later on Feb. 21.

The winner of Saturday’s matchup will go on to the semifinals against either No. 4 Northern Kentucky or No. 5 Wright State. As for Oakland’s biggest rivals, University of Detroit Mercy and Valparaiso, the Golden Grizzlies won’t see either of them until the championship game.

Oakland is on a nine-game win streak headed into the Horizon League tournament.  Despite this, it’ll take more to get the win this tournament, Dorsey-Walkers said.

“Its a great thing,” he said.  “We’ve got great momentum.  But I feel like the season starts over right now.  We’re confident, but at the end of the day, we’ve gotta take it one at a time.”

Valparaiso, which shared the league titled with Oakland but will enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed, has played the last two games without its best player, Alec Peters. Peters averages 23 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the Crusaders. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that Peters was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his leg and is optimistic that he’ll be able to play in the tournament.

The women’s tournament

Just like on the men’s side, the regular season championships came down to the last day of play. A University of Wisconsin-Green Bay victory combined with a Wright State loss tied up those two teams’ records, making UWGB and WSU share the championship, but giving UWGB the top seed in the Motor City Madness tournament.

After a strong finish to the Horizon League regular season, the Golden Grizzlies earned the No. 4 seed for Motor City Madness. The women won’t take the court until the third day of play, facing Milwaukee at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 5 in the quarterfinals.

This is the first year that the women will be included in Motor City Madness at the Joe Louis Arena, which Nola Anderson said will be an incredible experience for her and her teammates.

“It’s a wonderful experience because this is the first time the boys and girls are at one site, and it’s just going to be a great student-athlete experience,” she said.  “I’ve played in big arenas before. . . and we’ve played in big stadiums, so the fact that it’s downtown Detroit, I think it’s going to feel just like home.”

Oakland swept the Panthers this season with a narrow 2-point victory in Milwaukee on Jan. 11 and a strong 77-63 win on the Blacktop on Feb. 4.

“It’s always hard to beat a team three times,” Anderson said. “But I’m feeling pretty confident. . . It’s always a great game when we play Milwaukee, and I love playing them because we always compete.”

Sunday’s winner will go on to the semifinals against either top-seeded Green Bay or their quarterfinal opponent, which will be determined on Friday.

One of Green Bay’s three losses in conference play came from the Golden Grizzlies on Feb. 2 (74-71), thanks to a Sha’Keya Graves layup in the final seconds of the game.