Victory at WMU is far from meaningless

Last year, Western Michigan came into the Klotsche Center, spoiled the Retro Night and embarrassed the Panthers in front of a smaller-than-expected crowd.

Milwaukee can do two things tonight with a victory. First, they can wash the bad taste from a tough loss to Butler out of their mouths heading into the huge rivalry game on Saturday. Second, they can get revenge on the Broncos for coming into our crowded practice facility and beating our Panthers.

Grumblings among some fans are to sit starters more than usual and to get players like Evan Richard and Shaq Boga extra playing time so they can get experience for the future.

Their reasoning is that because we’re out of the running for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament, we don’t need to put a priority on this basketball game.

In the words of the totally mortal Lee Corso, not so fast my friends.

Even without the chance at an at-large, the Panthers have a real possibility of winning the Horizon League Tournament and carrying its automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Once there, they will be seeded. So make no mistake, while late non-conference games meant almost nothing last year – by January we had already lost to FAU, Portland, WMU, DePaul, among others – this year a loss to Western Michigan would be our first “bad” loss to the Selection Committee.

While we don’t have any good wins that we need to garner an at-large bid and that ship has sailed, we conversely don’t have any bad losses. All five – Michigan State, Wisconsin, Northern Iowa, Marquette and Butler – are all NCAA Qualifiers or close to and will likely not be counted against us when the selection committee makes its decision on where to seed us. Throw in a loss to Western Michigan, and we may be looking at losing a seed or two if we drop another Horizon League game we should have won.

So Western Michigan is still an opponent of great importance in a game of great importance. While it isn’t nearly as big as the looming contest with Green Bay, the Panthers’ game with Western Michigan still carries a lot of weight as to where Milwaukee is seeded should they make the NCAA Tournament or the NIT.

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