A playoffs race to be sounded by the next buzzer

Men’s basketball must lock in for their final two games of the season to secure a Centennial Conference playoff spot.

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Men's basketball celebrates a win against Dickinson on Nov. 28. Photo Editor Kira Bretsky '27.

The Muhlenberg men’s basketball team managed to go 1-1 in their past two games, both against Centennial Conference (CC) teams eliminated from playoff contention, Haverford College and McDaniel College. In their game at Haverford on Feb. 6, the Mules dominated, winning 82-65, led by Luke Gordos ‘25 who tied his career-high of 22 points. However, against the Green Terror on Feb. 10, the Mules were without Giovanni Rubino ‘24, the second-leading scorer in all of the CC, and despite leading for the majority of the game, they lost to McDaniel 76-69 in overtime. Now, holding an in-conference record of 7-9 and an overall record of 8-15, the Mules must win the final two games of the regular season if they want to solidify their CC playoff seeding.

It hasn’t been the best season for the Mules, but they’ve done enough to put themselves in a spot to make the playoffs. Jayson Williams-Johnson ‘25 spoke about how the team is bouncing back after a tough loss, “We definitely should have won that game versus McDaniel and it’s still a little frustrating because we didn’t execute when we needed to down the stretch to secure the win. But at this point in the season it’s important for us to recognize what we need to do in the upcoming games and put that one behind us.”

While it’s clear the top four seeds for the men’s basketball CC playoffs this year will be Johns Hopkins University, Gettysburg College, Franklin & Marshall College and Swarthmore College, the final two seeds are still up for grabs. Currently, the Mules hold the sixth and final playoff spot in the standings, as Ursinus College has an 8-8 in-conference record (12-11 overall), putting them as the fifth seed. Right behind Muhlenberg in the standings is Dickinson College, who currently hold an in-conference record of 6-10 (9-14 overall). With the playoff race as tight as it is, the Mules can lock in a playoff position if they win their final two games of the season. If the Mules are only able to win one of the final two, it’s still likely they’ll make the postseason. However, it depends on how Urisinus and Dickinson each close out their final two games.

Discussing the team’s mentality for the final two games, Williams-Johnson said, “The mentality going into the next couple of games is the same as it’s been all season. We know what we need to do to win and if we do those things, we’ll put ourselves in a good position to come out on top. We are confident that we can compete with any of the top teams in the conference.” 

Despite it being an up-and-down year for them, the team knows that if they make the playoffs, every team will be starting with a new slate. “Going into the playoffs we know it’s a whole new season and every game is win-or-go-home. Once the playoffs start, nothing that happened during the regular season really matters and we’d rather be playing our best basketball now rather than early in the season,” said Williams-Johnson. 

As everyone on the team (besides the first-years) was a part of the Mules’ postseason trip last year, they know what they’re getting into if they make it again this season. “The experience we have will definitely be beneficial this time around. The older guys know what it’s like to be in this position and what it takes to get wins in the playoffs,” Williams-Johnson said. “It’s not easy so we just have to make sure we’re all on board and willing to do what we can individually to come together and get wins at this time of the year.”

The Mules’ final game of the regular season is Feb. 17 at Gettysburg. If the team can make the playoffs, their first game of the postseason will be on Feb. 20. If they make the playoffs as the sixth seed, they will travel to whoever the third seed is and play there. Similarly, if they finish as the fifth seed, they will be hosted by whoever the fourth seed ends up being. Hopefully, the team can finish victorious in these final two games and make the playoffs for the third time in the past four seasons.

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