Mesa women focused on staying home for RMAC tourney

Taylor Wagner likes seeing the “P” next to Colorado Mesa in the RMAC standings, signifying the CMU women’s basketball team has clinched a spot in the conference tournament.

He’d like to see the designation for the regular-season conference title next to the Mavs’ line, but he knows they still have work to do.

With five games left in the regular season, the No. 4 Mavericks (20-1, 16-1 RMAC) have a two-game lead on Metro State and CU-Colorado Springs.

Wagner figures it all will come down to the final weekend, when CMU hosts Adams State and Fort Lewis, and CU-Colorado Springs and CSU-Pueblo, which are in fourth place another game back, travel to Metro State.

Colorado Mesa, Metro, UCCS and CSU-Pueblo have clinched playoff spots, with the regular-season champion hosting the RMAC Shootout final four.

The conference went away from having the men’s and women’s tournaments together at a neutral site, instead opting to give the men’s and women’s top teams the right to host the semifinals and championship games, even though it means splitting the tournament, and in effect, its crowds.

The coaches and conference officials are hoping by playing at home venues, it will spark attendance and bring more of a tournament atmosphere, especially with students at the games.

The Metro State men are close to clinching home-court advantage for the tournament, with a four-game lead on CMU, Fort Lewis and Adams State.

The real race is for that No. 2 seed.

“It’s so balanced from the second place on down, maybe from 2 to 10,” CMU men’s coach Jim Heaps said Saturday night. “Christian right now is 9 or 10, and they’re playing really well, and Regis beat Mines (Saturday). Chadron’s two wins are against Regis, and Regis beat Black Hills twice. Black Hills did everything but beat us (Friday) night.

“You can’t figure it out. I don’t even try to figure it out. We just get ready for the next one.”

Senior forward Jeff Hart knows this weekend’s games are crucial for the Mavericks not only in the conference race — the top four teams host first-round games — but also positioning themselves in the South Central Region.

Colorado Mesa reached the championship game of the RMAC Shootout last March, but wasn’t ranked high enough in the region to get a bid despite its strong play down the stretch.

“We’ve got a tough, tough road trip (this) week,” Hart said Saturday night. “The New Mexico trip is not an easy trip. We’ve got to get focused. (Upsets) tend to happen in the RMAC at the end of the season.

“Young teams who played poorly at the beginning of the season get their act together, and teams start to start playing better at the end of the season, so you’re going to see a lot more better, tougher games than you did at the beginning of the season when the top four teams were kind of cleaning the table on everybody.”

Basketball rankings

The Maverick women moved back to No. 4 in this week’s USA Today/WBCA rankings, up three spots. CU-Colorado Springs received one vote.

The CMU men received five votes in the NABC poll. Metro State remains No. 1. Fort Lewis fell two spots to No. 22, and Adams State, which went 0-2 last week, fell out of the top 25 but received seven votes.

Man enough to wear pink

CMU raised more than $3,000 during last week’s “Pink in the Paint” campaign to benefit breast cancer research.

Many of the players wore pink shoe laces, and just before the game were given pink game socks.

The men’s team got in on the act, too, wearing pink socks.

“We can play (in pink) as well as the girls do,” Hart said, laughing. “I don’t think it’s any of our swag, but we did it together as a team.”

Backboard breaker

In case you missed it over the weekend, Colorado School of Mines center Trevor Wages shattered a backboard with a dunk Friday night at Metro State.

The game was postponed until Sunday evening, so Metro State officials could replace the backboard.

The play made SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays, coming in at No. 5, and the YouTube video has more than 185,000 views. To see the video, go to the men’s basketball page at rmacsports.org and click on the photo of the shattered backboard.

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