The visitors

Mavs need to win on the road to host in RMAC tourney

It’s been an up-and-down road for the Colorado Mesa University men’s basketball team, but the Mavericks are in control of their own destiny.

With two games left in the regular season, the Mavericks have clinched an RMAC tournament spot, but could be seeded anywhere from third to eighth.

“It’s different than I’ve ever remembered it,” CMU coach Jim Heaps said. “You don’t have a team with real superior talent playing a game on the road. It’s been nuts as far as the records of teams and teams still in the hunt. If you don’t play at the top of your game on the road, you lose.”

Colorado Mesa (14-10, 12-8 RMAC) is in fifth place, ½ game behind Nebraska-Kearney (15-10, 13-8 RMAC) for fourth.

The Mavs have a chance to host a first-round RMAC game next Tuesday, but in order to do so, they must win both of their road games this weekend — 8 p.m. today at Adams State (18-6, 14-6 RMAC) or 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Fort Lewis (13-11, 11-9 RMAC).

“You always go into it, that’s one of your goals to host a first-round game,” Heaps said. “To be in this situation with two games to go and going through the stretch we went through with the luck we had, to control our own destiny is about all you can ask for at this point. We just need to take care of what we can do and play as well as we can play.

“If we sweep and Adams loses two, which that’s kind of a far-fetched deal, we could be all the way up to third. If we lose two and Western State wins two, we could be eighth. When does that ever happen?”

Adams State hasn’t lost a home game this season and have won 16 straight at home dating back to last season. The Grizzlies are in third place in the RMAC, but more important to them, eighth in the NCAA Central Region rankings. Eight teams qualify for the NCAA tournament.

“The last month or so, they’ve got in a nice flow,” Heaps said of Adams. “They feel comfortable. Their rotation is more set. They’re playing really well. They feel like they need to win a couple games to solidify (an NCAA berth).”

Fort Lewis has played well at home (8-2), with losses to No. 3 Colorado Mines and Adams State. The Skyhawks are sitting in seventh place in the RMAC standings and need one win in their final two games to qualify for the RMAC tournament.

“They’re having the same kind of year we’re having,” Heaps said. “They have struggled on the road and had some tough losses like us.”

Mesa has been solid at home, winning 11 of 13 games, but is 2-7 on the road.

The Mavs will have to figure out a way to not only win on the road this weekend, but at two of the more difficult places to play in the RMAC.

“We have to be focused going in with the same kind of focus we have at home,” Heaps said. “It’s hard. It’s a problem on the road. When we’re on the road, we’re in hotel rooms, the TV is on and you’re with some other people. Nobody, I don’t think, has the opportunity to do what they do to prepare to play.

“There’s no doubt in my mind we can play better on the road, but we’ve got to do it.”

Mesa senior Michael Bear returned to the lineup last week against Western State, but looked tentative. Heaps said the forward, who will start tonight, won’t be 100 percent the rest of the season.

“It’s difficult,” Heaps said. “He’s been starting all year and now he’s out. You’ve got a different dynamic as far as your team’s concerned. You play 4-5 games without him and you make that adjustment. Now he’s back and you got to readjust. That affects your chemistry. That’s why injuries stink.”


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