Checking In On… the MACPosted by jstevrtc on November 22nd, 2009
David Sanchirico is the RTC correspondent for the MAC.
- Ohio 3-0
- Kent State 3-0
- Bowling Green 1-1
- Buffalo 1-1
- Akron 0-1
- Miami (Ohio) 0-2
- Ball State 1-0
- Eastern Michigan 1-0
- Central Michigan 2-1
- Western Michigan 1-1
- Northern Illinois 0-2
- Toledo 0-2
The MAC continues to struggle during out-of-conference play as potential upsets slipped out of teams’ hands, others succumbed in blowouts, and teams that were expected to win, didn’t.
But there were also some good showings from a few surprise teams, including a club from Oxford, Ohio that almost pulled off the biggest upset in recent memory. The first week of basketball really set the stage for what should be an intense and competitive season in the MAC.
Miami(Ohio) Scares Kentucky in Another Near Upset
Last season, head coach Charlie Coles’ Miami squad gave the UCLA Bruins quite a scare before dropping the game by five points at Pauley Pavilion. A year later, the RedHawks found themselves once again pushing a top five opponent to the edge.
Miami traveled to Lexington and raced to a 36-18 lead over the No. 5-ranked Kentucky Wildcats. Led by the hot shooting Nick Winbush and the fine play of Kenny Hayes, Miami weathered a Kentucky run that made a blowout Wildcat victory seem imminent, and a back-and-forth contest ensued in the second half.
But eventually, as Coles said during postgame, DeMarcus Cousins became DeMarcus Cousins, and John Wall started to show his game. Wall’s buzzer-beating shot thwarted Miami’s upset bid and sealed a Kentucky 72-70 victory.
After a game in which the RedHawks’ usually pesky defense surrendered 82 points at Towson, Miami appeared more composed and ran its gameplan better against a more talented team than the Tigers. The out-of-conference portion of the schedule is all about toughening Miami for the MAC season. Every year Coles stacks up power teams, and this year is no different: Miami will face Dayton and Temple at home and travel to Cincinnati, Xavier, and Colorado before heading into MAC play.
Nonetheless, it was an impressive performance by the Red Hawks, and Coles certainly had no problem dropping a contest to the “Big Blue.”
Team on Fire
Ohio — This was a toss-up between the Bobcats and Kent State, just because no other teams have played a significant amount of games.
We all expected a typical 20-win season from Kent State, and even with nice wins against UAB and Samford, I’m going to give this edge to the Bobcats, who most MAC pundits saw as the last-place team in the MAC East.
Are their wins impressive? Not really; no one sees North Carolina A&T doing much this season, and no one knows what Ohio Valley University is, but the team is winning with a young roster that is showing signs of turning the corner. Sophomore Steven Coleman is becoming a consistent scorer, and forwards DeVaughn Washington and Tommy Freeman are playing well in the frontcourt.
But the emergence of two freshmen guards may help this team battle out of the basement in the tough MAC East. So far this season, D.J. Cooper and Jay Kinney have combined to average 28.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 11 assists a game. That some nice production from two newcomers. If they keep this up, then Ohio will have the best backcourt in the MAC for many years to come.
Oh yeah, and they will benefit from the services of former Indiana 3-point assassin Armon Bassett after Thanksgiving Break. This team is the dark horse in the conference.
Akron — Yes, Akron has played only one game, but they shouldn’t be dropping home games to Austin Peay. Though Peay could potentially capture the Ohio Valley Conference, Akron returns a vast majority of its contributors from a team that won the MAC last season. The Zips also brought in Zeke Marshall, a top 10 center prospect.
The Zips held a 74-62 lead over the Governors with 5:26 remaining in the game, but were outscored 18-3 down the stretch to start the season 0-1.
That’s not how an experienced club is suppose to start a title-defending season. Akron came in the unanimous favorite to win the MAC, but could the team’s blown lead in that game foreshadow a disappointing season? They have the bull’s eye on their backs, and nothing is guaranteed in the unpredictable MAC East.
How Everyone Else Fared
- Ball State — Picked up a very nice home win vs. Valparaiso. The frontcourt of Jarrod Jones (19 points 6 boards) and Malik Perry (17 points 7 rebounds) have the pressure of carrying this team to another MAC West crown.
- Bowling Green — The Falcons picked up a win before getting exposed against a powerful Xavier team. It was not a good sign for the BG, who will be relying on its defense to keep the team in games.
- Buffalo — Poor shooting hurt the team against a good Vermont squad, but the team rebounded with 43 percent shooting at Navy. The rebounding and defense are still tops in the conference; Buffalo just needs its guards, including 1st Team All-MAC Rodney Pierce (5 points/game), to shoot better.
- Central Michigan — The season started on a poor note against Princeton, but CMU improved and captured two wins, including an impressive blowout over Illinois-Chicago. Robbie Harman (20 points/game) and Jordan Bitzer (14 points/game) will have to shoot well against Wright St. and Purdue to keep the Chippewas doing strong.
- Eastern Michigan — The Eagles have played just one game so far, but it was a nice win against Summit League-contender Oakland. Aside from a game at Missouri State, Brandon Bowdry (26 points, 13 rebounds), Carlos Medlock (14 points) and EMU do not have a punishing schedule during the next two weeks.
- Northern Illinois — The Big Ten was not kind to NIU as the Huskies lost to both Northwestern and Illinois by 19-plus. NIU will need more production from star Darion “Jake” Anderson (9.5 points, 9 rebounds/game) to win games in the future.
- Toledo — It’s going to be a tough year for the inexperienced Rockets. They dropped a home contest to EIU then proceeded to get shellacked by Cincinnati. It doesn’t get any easier for Stephen Albrecht (17 points/game) and the Rockets: they have road games against Michigan State, Cornell and Drexel ahead.
- Western Michigan — A loss at Detroit wasn’t promising, but the Broncos followed it up with a very impressive and convincing win against VCU. It seems like WMU finally has a quality supporting cast surrounding David Kool (23 points, 7 rebounds/game), making the team a contender in the West
Top Five Games Ahead
- Akron @ Niagara (11/29) – Matchup between two potential NCAA Tournament teams. Both teams are trying to improve their resumes after disappointing season-opening losses.
- Dayton @ Miami (Ohio) (12/02) – The athletic Flyers travel to Oxford for a battle against pesky Miami. Miami can grab the upset if it can instill its slow, frustrating tempo on Dayton.
- Eastern Mich. @ Missouri St. (11/22) – This could be a nice time for the Eagles to show that they are a contender in the West. It’d be a nice road win over a MVC team for the conference as well.
- Ball State @ Temple (11/24) – The Cardinals’ frontcourt will have its hands full against an impressive Temple team, but BSU could really make a statement for the conference with a win.
- Buffalo @ Towson (11/21) – The Bulls will remain in Maryland for a game against an improved Towson team from the CAA. It’ll be a battle between Buffalo’s stalwart defense against the Tigers’ explosive offense.