When the Ohio Athletic Conference coaches preseason poll was released back in the first week of November, the John Carroll University men’s basketball team was tabbed as the favorite to win the conference for the third consecutive season.
Wilmington University, who came into the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center last March and won the 2010 conference tournament, was predicted to finish second.
However, the preseason predictions proved to be worth as much as the paper they were written on.
The Blue Streaks loss on Saturday to the Wilmington Quakers, eighth in the conference standings, locked up the regular season title for the Marietta College Pioneers, a team that was pegged to be tied for fourth in the preseason poll.
The loss at Wilmington came after a win at home against Baldwin-Wallace College on Feb. 9. The split this week gives JCU an overall record of 16-7, and has them at 11-5 in the conference and in control of the two-seed.
Showing how worthless the preseason rankings are, Baldwin-Wallace was predicted to tie with Marietta in the November poll.
After their loss to John Carroll and win over Capital University on Saturday, B-W is in ninth place and on the verge of missing the eight-team conference tournament when it gets underway on Tuesday.
Its been a tough year for the Yellow Jackets, and the Feb. 9 game was no different as JCU scored 30 of the first 39 points in the game, giving the Blue Streaks an early 30-9 lead in the first half.
The Yellow Jackets battled back slightly, but still trailed by 21 at halftime by a score of 45-24.
The Blue Streaks slowed down a little bit in the second half but still held on for the win, defeating their crosstown rival by a score of 78-62.
“Our win against B-W was huge,” said junior Joey Meyer, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half against the Yellow Jackets. “We know how big of a rivalry that is and we always expect a physical game from them.”
Despite the fact that this is a down year for B-W, the game still carried a lot of weight with the players.
“B-W is always going to be a great game. No matter what the records are we know the game is going to be tough,” said junior Mark Hester, who contributed with six points, six rebounds and two steals against the Yellow Jackets. “It was a good win for us.”
That win over B-W was the third straight for JCU and gave them six wins in seven tries, but the streak ended Saturday in Wilmington.
The Quakers bested the Blue Streaks by a score of 93-85.
JCU held a narrow 41-40 lead at halftime, but Wilmington came from behind to defeat the Blue Streaks.
Senior Maurice Haynes led the Blue Streaks with 23 points in the loss. Junior Conor Tilow chipped in 14 points off the bench, while Meyer and Hester combined for 23 points.
JCU leads the OAC with nine three-pointers made per game, but hit just five of 15 against Wilmington. The Blue Streaks also boast the best team assist to turnover ratio in the conference, but dished out 11 helpers while turning it over 14 times. Wilmington finished the game with 21 assists.
“After losing to Wilmington, we lost our chance to win the OAC, but now we’re just going to try to gain some momentum going into the conference tournament,” said Meyer. “We’re fighting for the number two seed now.”
Before they worry about the conference tournament though, the Blue Streaks must first worry about their regular season finale on Saturday with league-leading Marietta.
It will be Senior Day for the Blue Streaks lone senior, Maurice Haynes.
“All we have to do is play our game. If we play our game, I feel like we are the best team in the conference,” said Hester. “We have to stay focused and continue to play hard.”