O26 Primers: Atlantic 10, MAC and MEAC Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 8th, 2011

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, author of the weekly column, The Other 26, and the Patriot League Correspondent, will be providing conference tournament previews for all non-BCS conferences.

With the completion of several conference tournaments over the weekend, the field of 68 is slowly beginning to take shape, but there is still much to be determined. The kicking off of the Atlantic 10, MAC and MEAC conference tournaments later today will weed out even more teams as we approach Selection Sunday. The Atlantic 10 is definitely a multi-bid league—it is just a matter if two or three teams make the field—while the other two conferences will only have one representative in this Tournament.

Atlantic 10

The Favorite: There was little doubt heading into the season that Xavier would be a formidable team in the Atlantic 10 and one that could do some damage throughout the season. They advanced to the Sweet 16 last year and returned do-it-all player in Tu Holloway, but after a rollercoaster non-conference performance that saw the Musketeers go 8-5 questions were raised. All these questions were answered and more as they went 15-1 in the A10. Although Temple and Richmond are right on their heels, Xavier is the team to beat heading into the tournament.

Dark Horse: Richmond concluded their season with four straight wins—all coming by double digits—and Chris Mooney has the Spiders playing some great ball. The dynamic and versatile Justin Harper is capable of taking over a game, and Kevin Anderson is a steady point guard that has the scoring ability of a shooting guard. Currently, Richmond is on the outside looking in of the NCAA Tournament and a strong run in the A10 tournament will be needed to earn an invitation to the Dance.

Who’s Hot: Aside from a fluke four point loss to Charlotte in the middle of their A10 slate, Xavier went perfect in the conference and has only two losses in 2011.

Player to Watch: If there was a player in the A10 capable of putting a team on his back and carrying them to a few wins in the tournament, it is St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson. The senior from Ontario has scored more than 30 points on four occasions this year and hit buzzer beaters in consecutive games against Buffalo and St. John’s. Nicholson is a scorer and is clutch: watch out for him.

First-Round UpsetSt. Joseph’s over George Washington. It took a while for one of the youngest teams in the nation to become acclimated to the college game, but St. Joseph’s youngsters are starting to come around. The Hawks began their A10 schedule with an 0-8 record, but went 4-4 the rest of the way.

How’d They Fare? The Atlantic 10 had a very successful regular season as they placed three teams in the Tournament, but two of them struggled and were unable to get out of the first round. Temple, the highest seed of the three at #5, lost to Cornell in the first round. #7 Richmond struggled to keep up with Omar Samhan and St. Mary’s losing 80-71. The saving grace was #6 Xavier who defeated Minnesota and then upset Pittsburgh in the second round. The Musketeers were very close to defeating Kansas State and advancing to the Elite Eight, but fell 101-96 in double overtime.

Interesting Fact: The A10 has been a multi-bid conference ever since 2005, and that looks to continue this year with Xavier and Temple being safe bets to earn a bid to the Tournament regardless of what happens in the conference tournament.

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MAC Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 8th, 2011

Alex Varone is the RTC correspondent for the Mid-American Conference. With the MAC Tournament set to tip Tuesday, get up to speed with RTC’s preview and regular season wrap-up.

Postseason Preview

The Favorite: In what was an up-and-down regular season, no one displayed more consistency from start-to-finish than Kent State. Two of the Golden Flashes’ four conference losses were in overtime, and not once did they lose two consecutive league games. Kent State is led by forward Justin Greene, but the strength of this squad is a balance and cohesiveness that is exhibited by the five scorers who average at least 9.4 points per game.

The Sleeper: Ohio came into the season as many expert’s preseason pick to repeat as MAC Champions. The Bobcats never lived up to those expectations and really struggled out of the gate in conference play. But of late, Ohio has looked like the type of team that could win four games to capture the MAC Tournament title. This team has evolved offensively from being the D.J. Cooper Show to a strong, balanced unit that features four double-digit scorers, quality shooters, and a strong inside presence.

Upset Alert: All four teams with first-round byes better be on upset alert, as we saw last year (a No. 9 seed and No. 7 seed both made the semifinals). This year might not see as much parity, but don’t be surprised if anyone seeded 5 through 8 not only pulls off an upset, but wins the whole tournament.

Best Potential Matchup: The beauty of this year’s MAC Tournament is the opportunity for so many great contests that should feature fantastic finishes. An Akron-Miami quarterfinal would be hard-fought, with neither team giving an inch. A Kent State-Western Michigan final would be a lot of fun and a chance for the West to regain some bragging rights. But a Kent State-Ohio semifinal features a number of juicy subplots: two hot teams, last year’s champion vs. this year’s regular season champion, a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal stunner.

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Behind the Numbers: The Other Guys of the Year

Posted by KCarpenter on February 16th, 2011

Kellen Carpenter is an RTC contributor.

The Player of the Year race in college basketball is an interesting and bizarre thing. The most talented player is rarely selected, and the winner is seldom a National Champion. I don’t want to go so far as to say the race is a popularity contest, but it’s something akin to one. Instead of picking the best player, the voters like to pick the most emblematic player, or failing that, the most interesting. Oh, and that player has to almost inevitably be a bit of a ball hog. Evan Turner was not the best basketball player in the country last year, as fans of the Philadelphia 76ers know all too well, but he was a skilled-enough, multi-talented player on a pedigreed team that won a lot of games. With that logic in mind, it’s pretty safe to pencil in Jimmer Freddete, Jared Sullinger, Derrick Williams, Kemba Walker or Nolan Smith as the front-runners of that race. This was true in December, as well. I don’t want to say that the national Player of the Year race is dead, just that it’s perpetually unsurprising, even if the final result does have that extra spice of arbitrariness thrown in for good measure.

Walker Headlines a Strong NPOY Group of Candidates

So instead of breaking down the Player of the Year race and debating just how good, on the scale of really good to incredibly good all those familiar faces are, I thought we could take some time to show some love to some mostly unfamiliar faces who are having extraordinary and superlative seasons of their own. Maybe they don’t play a great all-around game, maybe their teams don’t win, and maybe some of them aren’t good so much as weird, but let’s celebrate them all anyway. We need a name for this party, though, so let’s call it the Other Guys of the Year Awards, dig into the depths of Ken Pomeroy’s stats tables, and hand out some imaginary statuettes.

The first awards go to a pair of players who play for the same team in the Big South. The Iron Man Award goes to Khalid Mutakabbir of Presbyterian who has played 96.1% of all available minutes, a greater percentage than any other player in Division I. Mutakabbir has used those minutes well, shooting a high percentage from the field, and a very impressive 51.7% from beyond the three-point line. The Ultimate Ball-Hog Award goes to Mutakabbir’s teammate, Al’Lonzo Coleman, who somehow comes off the bench, yet uses 36.3% of all possessions, more than The Jimmer himself. While Coleman is undoubtedly president of the Ball-Hog Club, let’s give some special recognition to the other players who, despite living outside the national limelight, have managed to dominate the ball more than Mr. Fredette: Special thanks to Keion Bell of Pepperdine, Anatoly Bose of Nicholls State, Brandon Bowdry of Eastern Michigan, Adrian Oliver of San Jose State, and Will Pratt from Northwestern State. You have all out-Jimmered the Jimmer, except for, you know, the winning games thing.

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Checking in on… the MAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 11th, 2011

Alex Varone is the RTC correspondent for the Mid-American Conference.

A Look Back

Could this season’s Mid-American Conference champion be relegated to a Number 16 seed? It’s possible, as current leader Kent State (RPI: 91) is the only team in the league with a RPI of better than 100. ESPN’s Bracketology has Kent State currently penciled in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 15 seed, while Rush the Court’s own Bracketology has the Golden Flashes as a No. 14 seed. What continues to hurt the MAC is not only the relative weakness of the league’s top teams, but the four teams in the West Division with a RPI of over 300. Wins over those teams do nothing to help the profiles of the contenders, while a loss can do a lot of damage.

ESPN’s annual BracketBusters event is back for another year, and the MAC is heavily involved.

  • 2/18 – Kent State at Drexel [16-8 (8-6 CAA)] (ESPNU)
  • 2/19 – Miami (Ohio) at James Madison [18-8 (8-6 CAA)]
  • 2/19 – Buffalo vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee [13-11 (8-5 Horizon)]
  • 2/19 – Bowling Green at Youngstown State [8-16 (2-12 Ohio Valley)]
  • 2/19 – Ball State at Wofford [13-12 (10-4 Southern)]
  • 2/19 – Akron vs. Creighton [15-11 (7-7 Missouri Valley)]
  • 2/19 – Western Michigan vs. Illinois State [11-14 (3-11 Missouri Valley)]
  • 2/19 – Ohio at Winthrop [11-12 (7-6 Big South)]
  • 2/19 – Northern Illinois vs. Seattle [9-15 Independents]
  • 2/19 – Central Michigan at Niagara [5-20 (2-11 MAAC)]
  • 2/19 – Eastern Michigan vs. Jacksonville State [5-20 (3-11 Ohio Valley)]
  • 2/19 – Toledo vs. Eastern Illinois [8-15 (4-9 Ohio Valley)]

The BracketBusters don’t figure to have too much of an effect on the conference’s NCAA Tournament hopes, as the MAC is going to be a one-bid league regardless. But a few victories could do some good for the league’s RPI woes. Current league leader Kent State gets the only televised game, but Miami (Ohio) has a tough road test at James Madison, and West leader Ball State has an intriguing game at defending Southern Conference champion Wofford.

Star Watch: There hasn’t been much written about Bowling Green in this space this season. The Falcons entered 2010-11 coming off a losing season and featured a roster seemingly devoid of star talent. A 1-8 start was little cause for optimism but Bowling Green has since turned things around, winning 11 of its last 15 games and as of this writing, are only a half-game out of first-place in the MAC East standings at 7-3.  A big reason for that turnaround has been the stellar play of sophomore forward A’uston Calhoun. Over that 1-8 start, Calhoun only averaged 6.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, but in the last 15 games, he’s averaged 14.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest to up his season numbers to 11.5 points and 5.3 rebounds to solidify his position as Bowling Green’s number two scorer and rebounder.

Power Rankings (last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Kent State (2)
16-7 (7-2), RPI: 91, SOS: 158

After a brief hiatus, Kent State is back at the top of the Power Rankings after rolling off five consecutive victories. After a 13-point road win at then-undefeated Ball State, the Golden Flashes feasted on the easiest portion of their schedule, piling up home victories over Toledo, Central Michigan, and Eastern Michigan, the three bottom-feeders of the MAC. Up next, however, is the most grueling portion of Kent State’s schedule, which features four straight road games, including a pivotal East Division showdown at Miami (Ohio) and a BracketBuster at Drexel.

A Look Ahead: 2/12 at Northern Illinois, 2/16 at Miami (Ohio), 2/18 at Drexel (ESPNU), 2/21 at Western Michigan, 2/24 vs. Buffalo

2. Miami (Ohio) (4)
12-12 (7-3), RPI: 101, SOS: 37

Right on Kent State’s heels in the East is Miami (Ohio), winners of its last three games after suffering a tough overtime loss at home against Western Michigan. The current win streak hasn’t come easy, though, as the RedHawks had to rally from nine points down in the second half against Ball State before exploding to a 14-point win. And on the road at Eastern Michigan, Miami trailed by as many as 20 points in the second half before escaping with a two-point victory.
A Look Ahead: 2/12 at Toledo, 2/16 vs. Kent State, 2/19 at James Madison, 2/23 at Akron

3. Buffalo (3)
15-7 (7-3), RPI: 143, SOS: 273

Buffalo continues to play impressive ball of late, with its only loss in eight games being a recent one-point defeat at Ball State. That loss has continued a season-long trend of near-misses for the Bulls, who have lost five games by four points or less this year. But Buffalo has showed remarkable efficiency on both the offensive and defensive ends this season, and is currently the highest rated team in the MAC, according to Ken Pomeroy’s highly-regarded rankings.
A Look Ahead: 2/12 at Eastern Michigan, 2/15 vs. Ohio, 2/19 vs. UW-Milwaukee, 2/24 at Kent State

4. Bowling Green (5)
12-12 (7-3), RPI: 226, SOS: 266

Bowling Green completes the current four-team logjam at the top of the MAC East standings. Unlike their divisional mates, however, the Falcons can’t be looked at as a particularly efficient team, ranking just 279th in the nation in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency and 164th in adjusted defensive efficiency. So how is Bowling Green sitting at 7-3? The emergence of A’uston Calhoun (see above) bears repeating, and the Falcons have shown a propensity for winning the close game, with five of those seven conference wins being by two possessions or less.
A Look Ahead: 2/12 at Central Michigan, 2/15 vs. Akron, 2/19 at Youngstown State, 2/23 at Ohio

5. Ball State (1)
14-9 (6-4), RPI: 183, SOS: 292

The 13-4 (5-0) start seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? Seemingly out of nowhere, Ball State has hit the wall, dropping four out of five, with the only win being a one-point squeaker over Buffalo. The Cardinals are still in good position in the weak West Division, but the trio of Jarrod JonesRandy Davis, and Jauwan Scaife need to get back to their consistent play of the early season in order for Ball State to re-emerge as a league title contender.
A Look Ahead: 2/12 at Akron, 2/15 vs. Toledo, 2/19 at Wofford, 2/23 vs. Eastern Michigan

6. Akron (6)
14-10 (5-5), RPI: 171, SOS: 232

Last week’s loss at Eastern Michigan was the latest confounding performance from Akron, which is surprisingly tied for last place in the East despite not having lost a conference game by more than nine points. The schedule gets much tougher over the coming weeks, as the Zips still have one more game against each of the five teams ahead of them in these Power Rankings, in addition to a difficult BracketBuster game against Creighton.
A Look Ahead: 2/12 vs. Ball State, 2/15 at Bowling Green, 2/19 vs. Creighton, 2/23 vs. Miami (Ohio)

7. Western Michigan (7)
12-10 (5-4), RPI: 202, SOS: 268

A pair of impressive road wins at Miami (in overtime) and Bowling Green, combined with Ball State’s collapse, has opened the door for Western Michigan in the West Division. Junior guard Demetrius Ward has been the offensive catalyst lately, scoring at least 15 points in six consecutive games, while freshman Juwan Howard Jr. has contributed some impressive performances, including a 20 point, 10 rebound effort in the win at Bowling Green.
A Look Ahead: 2/12 vs. Ohio, 2/15 at Northern Illinois, 2/19 vs. Illinois State, 2/21 vs. Kent State, 2/23 vs. Toledo

8. Ohio (8)
12-12 (5-5), RPI: 208, SOS: 168

For all the talk earlier in the season about Ohio’s one-man show in D.J. Cooper, the Bobcats now have four players (CooperDeVaughn WashingtonTommy Freeman, & Ivo Baltic) averaging double-figures on the season. Baltic could be the key to Ohio making a late regular season run if the sophomore forward continues to put up 31 point, 9 rebound performances like he did in the win against Northern Illinois.
A Look Ahead: 2/12 at Western Michigan, 2/15 at Buffalo, 2/19 at Winthrop, 2/23 vs. Bowling Green

9. Northern Illinois (9)
7-15 (3-7), RPI: 303, SOS: 274

This week’s game against Kent State will wrap up Northern Illinois’s six-game stretch against East Division foes, in which the Huskies have gone just 1-4 so far, with the only win coming against Akron at home. Northern Illinois will get one more chance to turn its season around over the next few weeks, with five of its next six games at home, including four straight.
A Look Ahead: 2/12 vs. Kent State, 2/15 vs. Western Michigan, 2/19 vs. Seattle, 2/23 vs. Central Michigan

10. Central Michigan (10)
6-17 (3-7), RPI: 306, SOS: 236

Like Northern Illinois, Central Michigan is wrapping up a six-game East stretch with this week’s contest against Bowling Green. As disappointing as the Chippewas have been this season, Central Michigan stands just three games behind West Division leader Ball State with six games to play. Even with two highly capable scorers in Trey Zeigler and Jalin Thomas, the Chippewas can blame their struggles on an abysmal offense which ranks 330th in the nation in Pomeroy’s efficiency rankings.
A Look Ahead: 2/12 vs. Bowling Green, 2/16 vs. Eastern Michigan, 2/19 at Niagara, 2/23 at Northern Illinois

11. Eastern Michigan (11)
6-17 (3-7), RPI: 320, SOS: 235

Eastern Michigan has been more competitive of late, defeating Akron and playing well in losses against Bowling Green, Miami, and Kent State. But at the end of the day, this is still a bad basketball team that relies exclusively on the night-in, night-out strong performances of Brandon Bowdry. Although he doesn’t provide the scoring punch to complement Bowdry that the Eagles so desperately need, sophomore Jamell Harris (2.3 blocks per game) has provided a solid defensive presence.
A Look Ahead: 2/12 vs. Buffalo, 2/16 at Central Michigan, 2/19 vs. Jacksonville State, 2/23 at Ball State

12. Toledo (12)
4-20 (1-9), RPI: 321, SOS: 191

Will Toledo win another conference game this season? If so, don’t expect it to be on the road, as the Rockets have now lost 42 straight contests away from home. Toledo still has three conference home games left, and at home, Toledo has been a much more competitive team, defeating Valparaiso (RPI: 56) and Western Michigan. But of their nine conference losses, only once did the Rockets lose by single digits.
A Look Ahead: 2/12 vs. Miami (Ohio), 2/15 at Ball State, 2/19 vs. Eastern Illinois, 2/23 at Western Michigan

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Checking in on… the MAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 28th, 2011

Alex Varone is the RTC correspondent for the Mid-American Conference.

A Look Back

First, a quick look at the Mid-American Conference Standings (with conference records only).

East

Buffalo                   4-2
Kent St.                  4-2
Miami (Ohio)          4-2
Bowling Green       4-2
Akron                     2-4
Ohio                       2-4

West

Ball State               5-1
Western Michigan  3-3
Northern Illinois     3-3
Central Michigan   2-4
Eastern Michigan   2-4
Toledo                   1-5

The conference season is just heating up, but the early returns in league play indicate that this conference is wide-open and full of surprises. This is most true in the East Division, where the preseason favorites were OhioAkron, and Kent State. Only the Golden Flashes have lived up to the promise so far, and are arguably the MAC’s most complete team. With quality talent coming back at Ohio and Akron, both teams were supposed to be right there with Kent State competing for a MAC regular season championship, but now thanks to the surprising strong play of Buffalo and Bowling Green, the Bobcats and Zips might just have a tough time escaping from the cellar of the standings.

Out West, Ball State has taken control of the division without much resistance. Overall, this was supposed to the season where the West narrowed the gap between itself and the East, but the bottom of the West is as weak as ever. Meanwhile, three-time defending West regular-season champ Central Michigan stumbled out of the gate and hasn’t recovered to this point. Considering the expectations surrounding the Chippewas this season, Central Michigan has been as disappointing as any team in this conference.

Star Watch

Buffalo’s surge to the top of the MAC East standings can be attributed to the surprising play of Javon McCreaByron Mulkey and Zach Filzen. The freshman McCrea is third on the Bulls in scoring at 10.7 PPG, and his 67.8% field-goal percentage is good for third in the nation. The senior Mulkey is second on the Bulls in scoring at 14.3 PPG, and his 3.0 steals per game is the sixth-best total in the country.

But Buffalo’s leading scorer is junior Zach Filzen (14.8 PPG), who has emerged as one of the top offensive threats in the MAC after only playing just over seven minutes per game last season. In the Bulls’ last two wins, Filzen has made 11 three-pointers, and on the season, Filzen is shooting 42.2% from three-point range and his mark of 62 treys on the campaign pace the conference and ties him for tenth in the nation.

Power Rankings (last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Ball State (1)
13-6 (5-1), RPI: 139, SOS: 316

The excitement of a seven-game win streak and a 13-4 (5-0) start has worn off a little after Ball State’s current two-game losing streak, which includes a sloppy two-point non-conference home loss to Morehead State, and a discouraging 13 point home loss to Kent State. The two losses don’t change the fact that the Cardinals have been the best team in the Mid-American Conference to date and should still cruise to a West Division title.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 29 vs. Ohio, Feb. 1 at Miami (Ohio), Feb. 5 vs. Buffalo, Feb. 9 at Bowling Green

2. Kent State (2)
13-7 (4-2), RPI: 83, SOS: 84

After establishing itself as the top team in the MAC during the non-conference season, Kent State struggled through a perplexing three-game losing streak to ring in the new year. The Golden Flashes have since rebounded with four wins in five games, culminating in the most impressive conference win of the season by a MAC team–a 13-point win at previously unbeaten Ball State. Kent State has a chance to put some distance between itself and the rest of the East Division with home games coming up against three of the worst teams in the MAC.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 30 vs. Toledo, Feb. 2 at Western Michigan, Feb. 5 vs. Central Michigan, Feb. 9 vs. Eastern Michigan

3. Buffalo (7)
12-6 (4-2), RPI: 130, SOS: 228

After a pair of three-point losses against Bowling Green and Miami (Ohio) to open the conference season, Buffalo responded with a three-point victory of its own against Akron. Buffalo also rolled over Kent State by 24 points, and won road games at Ohio by five points and at Western Michigan by eleven points. Four straight wins have vaulted Buffalo into contention, and with home games coming up against bottom-feeders Northern Illinois, Toledo, and Central Michigan, the Bulls should remain near the top of the East Division standings.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 29 vs. Northern Illinois, Feb. 2 vs. Toledo, Feb. 5 at Ball State, Feb. 8 vs. Central Michigan

4. Miami (Ohio) (3)
9-11 (4-2), RPI: 100, SOS: 8

A 21-point road loss at Kent State this past Sunday was not a good sign for Miami (Ohio), but the RedHawks got a much-needed road win Thursday night at Central Michigan to snap a win-loss-win-loss streak that has occurred over their previous four games. After a tough schedule to start MAC play, the RedHawks’ slate finally gets a little easier over the next couple of weeks, with games against Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, and Toledo coming up.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 29 vs. Western Michigan, Feb. 1 vs. Ball State, Feb. 5 at Eastern Michigan, Feb. 9 vs. Northern Illinois

5. Bowling Green (8)
9-11 (4-2), RPI: 249, SOS: 281

Is Bowling Green really the fifth-best team in the MAC? Probably not. But Bowling Green is playing as well as anyone in the conference lately, having won eight of its last ten games. The Falcons recently defeated Miami (Ohio) and Ohio by comfortable margins before suffering a five-point setback at Akron. Bowling Green avoided a further letdown by beating lowly Toledo on the road by six points. With three of their next four at home, the Falcons have a chance to continue its climb into contention.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 29 vs. Eastern Michigan, Feb. 2 at Northern Illinois, Feb. 5 vs. Western Michigan, Feb. 9 vs. Ball State

6. Akron (4)
11-9 (2-4), RPI: 153, SOS: 165

With only one win in its last five games, Akron has suddenly turned into one the MAC’s biggest mysteries. During this slump, the Zips have struggled on the defensive end, allowing 79 points in a home loss to Ohio, 73 points at Buffalo, 84 points at Miami (Ohio), and 83 points at Northern Illinois. The next four games will be crucial to Akron’s season, as all four are winnable contests against the league’s worst teams. But a couple of losses could put the Zips in a hole that it won’t be able to climb out of.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 30 vs. Central Michigan, Feb. 2 at Eastern Michigan, Feb. 5 at Toledo, Feb. 9 vs. Western Michigan

7. Western Michigan (6)
10-9 (3-3), RPI: 218, SOS: 249

All season, Western Michigan has shown flashes of being a quality team and the type of team that could challenge Ball State in the West Division. A 17-point thrashing of Eastern Michigan and an 82 point offensive outburst against Northern Illinois are recent evidence of that, but each of those wins was followed up with an equally disappointing loss. A 13 point loss at Toledo and a 11 point home loss against Buffalo could haunt the Broncos later in the year.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 29 at Miami (Ohio), Feb. 2 vs. Kent State, Feb. 5 at Bowling Green, Feb. 9 at Akron

8. Ohio (5)
9-11 (2-4), RPI: 209, SOS: 127

As has been documented in this space previously, Ohio has been victimized by some uncharacteristically tough losses. That stretch of close losses continued with a one-possession loss to Kent State, and was followed by losses at Bowling Green and vs. Buffalo that dropped the Bobcats to 8-11 (1-4) and last place in the East Division, a place that most Bobcat fans didn’t expect to see their team this season. Ohio bounced back with a double-digit win over Eastern Michigan, but this team needs to get on a hot streak soon, otherwise the Bobcats might have to once again win the MAC Tournament as a No. 9 seed (or worse).

A Look Ahead: Jan. 29 at Ball State, Feb. 2 at Central Michigan, Feb. 5 vs. Northern Illinois, Feb. 9 vs. Toledo

9. Northern Illinois (9)
7-11 (3-3), RPI: 277, SOS: 278

If you watch a Northern Illinois basketball game, chances are it’s going to be a close contest. Just over a week after defeating Eastern Michigan by two points, the Huskies lost on the road at Central Michigan and at Western Michigan by a single basket each. Northern Illinois did manage to pick up its third conference win of the season in a comfortable nine-point win over Akron that once again showcasedXavier Silas’s outstanding scoring ability. Silas scored 39 points in the victory, his sixth 30-point game of the season, to lift his average to 24.4 points per game (tied for second in the nation).

A Look Ahead: Jan. 29 at Buffalo, Feb. 2 vs. Bowling Green, Feb. 5 at Ohio, Feb. 9 at Miami (Ohio)

10. Central Michigan (10)
5-14 (2-4), RPI: 309, SOS: 263

Central Michigan’s disappointing season continues, as the Chippewas have now squandered multiple opportunities to win important games. After getting to 2-2 in MAC play with a win over Northern Illinois, Central Michigan dropped an ugly 41-38 affair at Eastern Michigan that saw the Chippewas only score 13 points in the first half. Thursday night’s home loss to Miami (Ohio) leaves Central Michigan gasping for air and with a very difficult upcoming slate, which includes three of the next four games on the road, all against quality MAC opponents.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 30 at Akron, Feb. 2 vs. Ohio, Feb. 5 at Kent State, Feb. 8 at Buffalo

11. Eastern Michigan (11)
5-14 (2-4), RPI: 331, SOS: 273

Eastern Michigan manages to stay out of the basement of the Power Rankings thanks to the aforementioned 41-38 victory over Central Michigan. But in the victory over Central Michigan, Eagles leading scorer and double-double machine, Brandon Bowdry, only contributed 6 points, and only followed that up with 8 points in a 14 point loss at Ohio.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 29 at Bowling Green, Feb. 2 vs. Akron, Feb. 5 vs. Miami (Ohio), Feb. 9 at Kent State

12. Toledo (12)
4-16 (1-5), RPI: 325, SOS: 216

Much as it did during the non-conference season, Toledo continues to compete in every game, which may not be enough to win often, but occasionally it will lead to a double-digit victory, as it did when Toledo defeated Western Michigan. Sophomore Malcolm Griffin shone brightly in that victory, as he has for the past four games, where he has averaged 25.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per contest.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 30 at Kent State, Feb. 2 at Buffalo, Feb. 5 vs. Akron, Feb. 9 at Ohio

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Checking in on… the MAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 14th, 2011

Alex Varone is the RTC correspondent for the Mid-American Conference.

A Look Back

Conference play has arrived in the Mid-American Conference, and once again, the MAC has proven to be one of the most competitive and balanced leagues in the country. Check out the following results from just the first few games of the conference season.

  • Western Michigan over Central Michigan, 64-56 (OT)
  • Miami (Ohio) over Ohio, 92-88 (3OT)
  • Bowling Green over Buffalo, 74-71 (2OT)
  • Akron over Kent State, 65-62
  • Miami (Ohio) over Buffalo, 70-67
  • Northern Illinois over Eastern Michigan, 71-69

Midway through the month of January, the MAC has already seen three overtime games, including a classic triple-overtime affair, and three other one-possession games. All told, ten of the league’s twelve teams have already participated in an overtime and/or one-possession game, a sure sign that the MAC should be wide open and competitive throughout the rest of the season.

Star Watch

  • Jarrod Jones of Ball State has continued his season-long run of impressive play during the Cardinals’ current four game win streak. Over the four victories, including two to begin MAC play, Jones made 31 of 53 field goals (58.5%) and averaged 20.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game. For the season, Jones is fifth in the conference with 16.5 PPG, and second with 8.9 rebounds, while also chipping in 1.2 steals per contest.
  • Elsewhere, Xavier Silas of Northern Illinois continues to lead the MAC in scoring at 23.9 PPG. Second-leading scorer Brandon Bowdry of Eastern Michigan (20.9 PPG) is also first in the MAC in rebounds per game (10.1), and third-leading scorer D.J. Cooper of Ohio (18.8 PPG) has a sizable lead in assists per game (8.1).

Power Rankings (last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Ball State (3)
10-4 (2-0), RPI: 86, SOS: 243

The early season loss to Alaska Anchorage seems like a distant memory, as Ball State has won four straight and seven of eight to cement its case as the best team in the Mid-American Conference to date. After a pair of blowout wins over North Carolina A&T and SIU-Edwardsville, the Cardinals opened conference play with a five-point win at Northern Illinois, and a nine-point home win over Western Michigan.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 15 vs. Central Michigan, Jan. 19 at Eastern Michigan, Jan. 22 at Toledo, Jan. 24 vs. Morehead State, Jan. 27 vs. Kent State

2. Kent State (1)
10-6 (1-1) RPI: 95, SOS: 74

A three-game losing streak (at Morehead State, vs. James Madison, and at Akron) was an unexpected setback for the Golden Flashes, but Kent State recovered in its most recent outing, knocking off Bowling Green by 17 points. Kent State will have a chance to regain the top spot in these rankings with a tough upcoming slate: at Ohio, at Buffalo, vs. Miami, at Ball State, four of the top teams in the MAC.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 15 at Ohio, Jan. 19 at Buffalo, Jan. 23 vs. Miami, Jan. 27 at Ball State

3. Miami (Ohio) (6)
7-9 (2-0), RPI: 87, SOS: 4

The time is now to see how well Miami’s grueling non-conference schedule will pay off, and so far, so good for the RedHawks. After finishing the non-conference season with double-digit defeats against Cincinnati, and at Belmont and at Kansas, Miami (Ohio) kicked off conference play with a 92-88 triple-overtime victory at defending champion Ohio, and a three-point home win over Buffalo. The front-line of Julian Mavunga, Nick Winbush, and Antonio Ballard doesn’t get a lot of publicity, but have been and will be the key to Miami’s success.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 16 at Bowling Green, Jan. 19 vs. Akron, Jan. 23 at Kent State, Jan. 27 at Central Michigan

4. Akron (4)
10-6 (1-1), RPI: 115, SOS: 115

The Zips seemingly turned the corner at the start of the new year, winning six out of seven, including a three-point conference-opening win over Kent State, but then dropped a home contest to Ohio by nine points. Akron becomes a very dangerous team when sophomore seven-footer Zeke Marshall is a factor in the offense. Marshall played his best game of the season against Kent State, putting up 20 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and swatting 3 shots, but against Ohio, Marshall only attempted five field goals.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 16 at Buffalo, Jan. 19 at Miami, Jan. 22 vs. Bowling Green, Jan. 26 at Northern Illinois

5. Ohio (5)
8-8 (1-1), RPI: 189, SOS: 124

Not too many teams can claim to lose a four-overtime game and a three-overtime game in the same season, but over the past month, Ohio has done just that. In fact, three of the Bobcats’ last four losses have been in overtime, beginning with the 4 OT defeat at St. Bonaventure, continuing with a single-OT home loss against Robert Morris, and ending with a 3 OT home loss against Miami. In more encouraging news for Ohio, freshman Nick Kellogg lead the Bobcats with 23 points in the pivotal road win at Akron.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 15 vs. Kent State, Jan. 19 at Bowling Green, Jan. 22 vs. Buffalo, Jan. 26 vs. Eastern Michigan

6. Western Michigan (7)
8-7 (1-1), RPI: 172, SOS: 179

After relying offensively on one guy (David Kool) last season, Western Michigan has countered this season with a much more balanced attack, with only two players (Flenard Whitfield and Demetrius Ward) averaging double-figures for the year. So far, it’s working, with the Broncos having won three of four, including a overtime win over Central Michigan to kick off MAC play. Even with a loss at Ball State, Western Michigan has a chance to keep its hot streak going with games against Eastern Michigan and Toledo coming up.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 16 vs. Eastern Michigan, Jan. 19 at Toledo, Jan. 22 vs. Northern Illinois, Jan. 25 vs. Buffalo

7. Buffalo (2)
8-6 (0-2), RPI: 185, SOS: 285

Even with an inexperienced squad, Buffalo rode a manageable non-conference schedule to an impressive start to the season, but the Bulls have come back to earth a bit in the first two conference games, losing by three in double-overtime against Bowling Green, and by three at Miami (Ohio). In the two losses, however, freshman Javon McCrea has been outstanding, scoring 18 points, grabbing 9 boards, and blocking 3 shots against Bowling Green, and following that up with 26 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks against Miami.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 16 vs. Akron, Jan. 19 vs. Kent State, Jan. 22 at Ohio, Jan. 25 at Western Michigan

8. Bowling Green (11)
6-10 (1-1), RPI: 273, SOS: 283

A tremendously disappointing non-conference season for Bowling Green ended on a positive note, with the Falcons finishing with three straight wins over Manhattan, Texas San Antonio, and at St. Louis. Bowling Green carried that momentum into conference play with a double-OT win at Buffalo, before getting beat by 17 points at Kent State. The Falcons still struggle on the offensive end, but sophomore forward A’uston Calhoun has come on of late, averaging 19 PPG and 8.3 RPG over the last three contests.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 16 vs. Miami, Jan. 19 vs. Ohio, Jan. 22 at Akron, Jan. 25 at Toledo

9. Northern Illinois (8)
5-9 (1-1), RPI: 241, SOS: 185

Northern Illinois opened the MAC season with one of its most balanced offensive efforts of the season, featuring four double-digit scorers in what ended up as a five point home loss against Ball State. Three nights later at Eastern Michigan, the Huskies were back to being a one-man show, with Xavier Silas scoring a game-high 31 points, but also committing 7 turnovers, in the two-point win. The lack of a second offensive threat has been well-discussed, but the lack of an interior presence could be what holds the Huskies back over the next several weeks.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 15 vs. Toledo, Jan. 20 at Central Michigan, Jan. 22 at Western Michigan, Jan. 26 vs. Akron

10. Central Michigan (9)
4-11 (1-1), RPI: 291, SOS: 224

Central Michigan got a much-needed win earlier this week over Toledo. The win was the Chippewas’ first over a Division 1 opponent since the day before Thanksgiving. Freshman Trey Zeigler had a big-time performance in the victory, scoring 30 points and hitting five three-pointers to bring Central Michigan its first conference win of the season, after falling in its opener at Western Michigan in overtime.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 15 at Ball State, Jan. 20 vs. Northern Illinois, Jan. 23 at Eastern Michigan, Jan. 27 vs. Miami (Ohio)

11. Eastern Michigan (12)
4-11 (1-1), RPI: 329, SOS: 261

It took until January 8th and the first game of conference play, but Eastern Michigan finally got its first win over a Division 1 opponent in a 23-point blowout win at Toledo. Senior Brandon Bowdry continues to be a double-double machine, posting 19 points and 13 rebounds in the win, and sophomore Derek Thompson emerged with a 31 point performance in a two-point loss against Northern Illinois.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 16 at Western Michigan, Jan. 19 vs. Ball State, Jan. 23 vs. Central Michigan, Jan. 26 at Ohio

12. Toledo (10)
3-13 (0-2), RPI: 321, SOS: 204

A three-game win streak in the month of December briefly catapulted Toledo out of the power rankings basement, but four consecutive losses, including blowout losses vs. Eastern Michigan and at Central Michigan, two of the league’s worst teams, have brought the Rockets back to the bottom of the MAC. Three of Toledo’s next four games are at home, but the offense (50 PPG in first two MAC games) needs to pick it up to have a chance to be competitive.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 15 at Northern Illinois, Jan. 19 vs. Western Michigan, Jan. 22 vs. Ball State, Jan. 25 vs. Bowling Green

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The Other 26: Week Five

Posted by rtmsf on December 18th, 2010

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.

Introduction

Oakland Had Reason to Celebrate (AP/W. Payne)

For about a four hour stretch on Tuesday evening, I was glued to my TV. Watching college basketball on the ESPN family of networks is a beautiful distraction during finals week. Somehow, watching Oakland shock Tennessee and then Drexel hand Louisville its first loss of the season was more appealing than writing a paper. To the average hoops fans, both of these games would be of little interest. I mean, the Summit League vs. the SEC and the CAA vs. the Big East? Call me crazy, but I greatly anticipated both of these matchups. Teams coming from obscurity that are comprised of players who were a mere afterthought when recruited excites me. When further investigating both Oakland and Drexel, it wasn’t inconceivable that an upset could happen. Oakland had just lost to Michigan State by a point, and Drexel had won six of seven games. The point being, there are many teams from the Other 26 conferences that when they catch a talented BCS team on an off night, can knock them off. This is, after all, the allure of the NCAA Tournament—watching the little guy win. Seeing the likes of Oakland and Drexel defeat the big kids on Tuesday night could be a preview of what is to come during March.

Tidbits from the Rankings:

  • Steady at the Top: Although UNLV lost to drop them in the rankings, San Diego State and BYU maintained their positions at one and two. A lot can happen this coming week though as both teams play three games each.
  • The Mountain West and Atlantic 10 lead the way in the rankings: #1 and #2 are from the MWC and #3 and #4 from the A-10.
  • There was not a whole lot of upward movement in the rankings, but two teams did have significant falls. UNLV, after losing two games, dropped five spots to number eight, and Virginia Commonwealth moved from #10 to #19 after Richmond beat them handily.
  • Cleveland State, at 12-0, is still outside of the top ten, but will have an opportunity to potentially crack it with a victory against West Virginia.
  • Two come and two go, again: Drexel and Southern Mississippi entered the top 20, while Dayton and Missouri State departed.
  • Breakdown: 4 (MWC), 4 (CAA) 3 (A10), 3 (CUSA), 2 (Horizon), 2 (WCC), 1 (MVC), 1 (WAC)

What team impressed the most?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking in on… the MAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 18th, 2010

Alex Varone is the RTC correspondent for the Mid-American Conference.

A Look Back

Is the Mid-American Conference in the midst of a down year? Early returns to this point in the non-conference season indicate that yes, this league is down. Kent State has been the one team to look like a viable NCAA Tournament squad so far, and while contenders such as Ball State and Miami (Ohio) have shown flashes of quality play, the conference’s bottom-dwellers (see the Power Rankings below) have been a major disappointment and are dragging down the MAC’s overall profile.

For further evidence of the MAC’s struggles early on in the 2010-11 season, check out where the conference has landed in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings and Conference RPI over the past five seasons:

2006-07: 13th (Pomeroy) / 14th (Conference RPI)
2007-08: 12th / 12th
2008-09: 18th / 21st
2009-10: 16th / 16th
2010-11: 19th / 19th (to date)

For context, in the 2008-09 season, only two MAC teams ended up with 20-win seasons, led by Akron’s 23-13 (10-6) mark which landed the Zips into the NCAA Tournament as a one-and-done No. 13 seed.

Star Watch (All advanced metric stats courtesy of Ken Pomeroy)

A quick glance at the national stats leaderboard reveals that Northern Illinois‘s senior guard Xavier Silas is currently leading the nation in scoring at 28.3 points per game. Silas has been brilliant all season, but his performance in a two-point win over Illinois-Chicago was particularly memorable. Coming off his third 34-point game of the season in what was a two-point loss at DePaul, Silas converted 22 of 24 free throw attempts en route to a 40-point outburst. What is perhaps most impressive about Silas is that he isn’t your typical high-volume scorer who accumulates points by taking a ton of shots. Silas is shooting 56.3% from the field, and ranks 21st nationally in effective field goal percentage, and 8th nationally in true shooting percentage.

I’ve briefly mentioned the solid contributions of Ball State’s junior forward Jarrod Jones in these parts before, who has quietly become of the MAC’s top forwards. So far this season, Jones has recorded five double-doubles and has improved his scoring and rebounding per game averages from 12.2 to 14.6 and 7.4 to 9.4, respectively. Jones does his best work on the defensive glass, where he is 9th in the nation in defensive rebounding rate.

Power Rankings (Last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1Kent State (1) 8-3 - So what, if anything, did we learn about Kent State in its two recent losses at UAB and at Florida? Mostly that the Golden Flashes are not quite ready to compete with that level of competition on the road. The most important thing to happen to Kent State over the past week, however, was the five-point win over South Florida that followed those two losses. South Florida was a beatable foe despite being a Big East squad, but that win served as Kent State’s biggest win to date.

A Look Ahead: Dec. 21 vs. Youngstown State, Dec. 28 at Morehead State, Dec. 31 vs. James Madison

2. Ball State (5) 5-3 2-0 –
The quality of Ball State’s five overall wins don’t reveal much about the strength of this team. Two of the five wins have come over Eastern Illinois (once at home and once on the road), and there are also victories over Indiana State, Southern Utah, and DePaul, which is arguably the worst BCS conference team in the country. The upcoming schedule should provide more of the same, with a date at Valparaiso on December 28 the Cardinals’ best chance to pick up a decent win before conference play commences.

A Look Ahead: Dec. 21 vs. Mount St. Joseph (non D-I), Dec. 28 at Valparaiso, Dec. 31 vs. North Carolina A&T

3. Buffalo (6) 6-3 –
The Bulls’ nice start to the season continued with a pair of double-digit home victories over Niagara and Wisconsin-Green Bay. The nightly double-digit scoring and all-around efforts of the guard duo of Byron Mulkey and Zach Filzen has been the key to Buffalo’s success, but the Bulls are at their best when they get balanced scoring and contributions from guys like forward Jawaan Alston (16 points against Niagara) and forward Javon McCrea (13 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocks against Green Bay).

A Look Ahead: Dec. 30 vs. BYU

4. Miami (Ohio) (4) 5-5 –
In its latest non-conference test, Miami (Ohio) briefly had a second-half lead at Dayton, but couldn’t overcome 20 turnovers and poor three-point shooting night in what was an eventual double-digit defeat. After a gimme win over Saginaw Valley St., the RedHawks overcame a nine-point deficit in the final five minutes at home against Troy, and finished the game on a 18-2 run to pick up the seven-point win. The road doesn’t get any easier for Miami (Ohio), with a couple of tough games looming, including a home contest against still-undefeated Cincinnati on December 21.

A Look Ahead: Dec. 18 at Wright State, Dec. 21 vs. Cincinnati, Dec. 30 at Belmont

5. Ohio (3) 6-4 –
The up-and-down mystery that is the 2010-11 Ohio basketball team continues, as the Bobcats lost home contests to Marshall and IUPUI, won at Illinois State, and defeated St. Francis (PA) in what was probably the team’s most complete and balanced performance of the season. After D.J. Coooper’s 1-9, four-point performance in the loss at IUPUI, six Bobcats scored in double-figures in the 29-point blowout of St. Francis (PA). That type of balance had previously been non-existent for the defending MAC champions.

A Look Ahead: Dec. 18 at St. Bonaventure, Dec. 22 vs. Temple, Dec. 30 vs. Norfolk St.

6. Akron (2) 4-4 –
The Zips wrapped up a difficult four game road trip with a pair of losses against Temple and Minnesota. Akron was never a factor in the loss to Temple, falling behind by as much as 40 points, and hitting on fewer than 30% of its field goals. Against nationally ranked Minnesota, Akron put forth a much better effort, leading the Golden Gophers by five at halftime before eventually losing by eight. A big problem thus far for Akron has been a lack of rebounding; the Zips currently rank 336th out of 345 teams in offensive rebounding percentage.

A Look Ahead: Dec. 18 vs. Bethune Cookman, Dec. 21 vs. Arkansas Little Rock (neutral), Dec. 22 vs. Stetson (neutral), Dec. 23 at Miami, Dec. 29 vs. Arkansas Pine Bluff

7. Western Michigan (8) 4-4
- Credit to the Broncos, who have a three-game win streak going, albeit against the likes of non D-I school Alma, followed by a pair of two-point wins over Detroit and Georgia State. One thing we know about this Western Michigan team is that no one player does it all, with all five starters averaging between 12.1 and 8.1 points per game, and 5.1 to 4.1 rebounds per game.

A Look Ahead: Dec. 18 vs. South Dakota St., Dec. 21 vs. Troy (neutral), Dec. 22 at Utah State, Dec. 23 at Idaho St., Dec. 31 vs. Eastern Illinois

8. Northern Illinois (9) 3-4 –
The offensive exploits of Xavier Silas, as mentioned above, have done a nice job in covering up many of the Huskies’ other flaws, namely a lack of any other scoring punch and one of the nation’s worst defenses. No other player averages over eight points per game, and in the two-point win over Illinois-Chicago, Silas scored 40 of Northern Illinois’s 80 points, while no one else had more than eight. Defensively, Northern Illinois is in the bottom ten nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, and in the bottom third nationally in the defensive “Four Factors” stats.

A Look Ahead: Dec. 18 at Temple, Dec. 22 at Southern Illinois, Dec. 27 at Missouri, Dec. 31 vs. Utah Valley

9. Central Michigan (7) 2-7 –
Through the first quarter of the season, there may not be a more inconsistent team in the MAC than Ohio, but up to this point, the most disappointing team in this conference has been Central Michigan. Expectations were high coming into this season for the back-to-back West Division champs, but the Chippewas surprisingly haven’t been a particularly good offensive club, and have also struggled in close games, with six of their seven losses by three possessions or less.

A Look Ahead: Dec. 18 vs. Detroit, Dec. 20 vs. South Dakota St., Dec. 22 vs. Cornerstone (non D-I), Dec. 30 at UNLV

10. Bowling Green (11) 2-8 –
If you’re looking for an explanation for Bowling Green’s recent seven-game losing streak that was just snapped with a home victory over Florida International, it’s simple: the Falcons don’t score efficiently, and more to the point, they are a dreadful shooting team. As a team, the Falcons shoot 36.6% from the field, one of the worst percentages in the country, and even with playing at an average to above-average pace, Bowling Green has not scored more than 62 points in any of its eight losses this season.

A Look Ahead: Dec. 18 at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Dec. 22 vs. Manhattan, Dec. 30 vs. Texas San Antonio

11. Toledo (12) 1-9 –
Congratulations to Toledo for picking up its first win of the season in a three-point overtime victory over Valparaiso, and for finally escaping the Power Rankings basement (for now). Even with the single victory, Toledo is still one of the nation’s worst teams by nearly every advanced statistical metric, but first-year coach Ted Kowalczyk has the second-most inexperienced team in the country (ahead of only Nevada) fighting hard every game, which should lead to a few more victories.

A Look Ahead: Dec. 18 vs. Florida Gulf Coast, Dec. 21 vs. Indiana Northwest (non D-I), Dec. 30 at UNC Wilmington

12. Eastern Michigan (10) 1-8 –
Eastern Michigan settles into the bottom of these rankings with Toledo’s victory, and by virtue of being the only Mid-American Conference team without a win over a Division-I opponent. The Eagles have been unfortunate in close games thus far, with five of their last six losses having been by six points or less, including an overtime loss to Detroit in their last game. But much like Northern Illinois with Xavier Silas, Eastern Michigan is single-handedly relying on Brandon Bowdry, who averages more than 13 points and five rebounds per game more than any other Eagle.

A Look Ahead: Dec. 20 vs. Valparaiso (neutral), Dec. 31 at Samford

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Checking in on… the MAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 4th, 2010

Alex Varone is the RTC correspondent for the Mid-American Conference.

A Look Back

Once again, there appears to be a clear divide between the Mid-American Conference’s East & West Divisions. Four of the East’s six teams (Kent StateOhioAkron, Buffalo) have winning records at this early junction in the season, while a fifth (3-4 Miami (Ohio)) just upset Xavier of the Atlantic 10. Meanwhile, none of the West’s six teams have a winning record, three have fewer than two wins (Eastern MichiganWestern Michigan, Toledo), and the only team without a losing record (Ball State) just lost to Alaska-Anchorage.

Star Watch

  • Justin Greene (19.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.6 BPG) has continued his fine season for the 6-1 Kent State Golden Flashes, ranking in the top five in the league in points, rebounds, and blocks. Entering the month of December, Greene has been the MAC’s best player. But don’t overlook some of this conference’s other fine talent, including Xavier Silas out of Northern Illinois. The senior guard leads the MAC in scoring at 24.8 PPG, and opened the season with four consecutive 20-point games, including back-to-back 34-point outbursts.
  • Byron Mulkey out of Buffalo has been one of the pleasant surprises of the early season. The senior sat out last season, and has bounced back with some of the MAC’s finest all-around play, averaging 13.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5.5 APG, and 4.3 SPG. Those numbers are comparable with Ohio‘s star D.J. Cooper (17.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 6.7 APG, 2.7 SPG), the league’s best guard.

Power Rankings (Last week’s ranking in parentheses)

  1. Kent State (2) 6-1 – Sure, the Golden Flashes don’t have any attention-grabbing wins over teams from high-major conferences, but Kent State has quietly defeated Robert Morris and Lehigh, a pair of NCAA Tournament teams from last season. And Kent State’s only defeat in the month of November was a three-point loss at still-undefeated Cleveland State. Keep an eye on Kent State’s continued performance in close games, as the Golden Flashes have recorded four of their six wins by five points or fewer. The week ahead, with road games at UAB and Florida, may put a dent in Kent State’s fine early record, but those games will go a long way in showing how good this team actually is.
  2. Akron (4) 3-2 – Another year, another quality start for the Zips. Akron’s two losses — at Dayton, vs. Cleveland State — were fairly competitive, and Wednesday’s eight-point win at Detroit was a better win than most realize. Four players are averaging double-figures for Akron, but the development of 7’0 sophomore center Zeke Marshall (14.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.3 BPG) gives the Zips a dangerous weapon come conference season.
  3. Ohio (3) 4-2 – Ohio has only lost one of its last four games, but what a loss it was. The Bobcats were defeated by 57 points (!) at a neutral site against Kansas. To expect the defending MAC Champs to beat the Jayhawks was unreasonable, but to at least be competitive for 40 minutes wasn’t. Ohio only made 14 field goals against Kansas; half of them were made by Cooper, the team’s only double-figure scorer through six games. This is still a good team, but Ohio needs more consistent scoring from some other players.
  4. Miami (Ohio) (5) 3-4 – The RedHawks’ continued gauntlet of a non-conference schedule paid off this Wednesday with a nice 11-point win at home over perennial A-10 power Xavier. But still looming this week is a trip to Dayton on Saturday. While Miami (Ohio) hasn’t shown much offensive explosion early on in the season, forwards Antonio Ballard and Nick Winbush are capable of notching double-doubles, as is junior Julian Mavunga, who leads the team in points, rebounds, assists, and blocks per game.
  5. Ball State (1) 3-3 – What might have been for Ball State at the Great Alaska Shootout. The Cardinals nearly upset St. John’s before falling by five in overtime, and then suffered a crushing 18-point loss against Alaska Anchorage. So what does that mean for this team? Well, the truth is that Ball State probably isn’t as good as it played against St. John’s, and it probably isn’t as bad as it played against Alaska Anchorage. And for now, that middle ground is still good enough to be the top team in the sorry West Division.
  6. Buffalo (9) 4-2 – Credit to the Bulls, who have been better to this point in the season than it was originally thought. Buffalo’s four wins — home versus Navy and Towson, road at Canisius and Army — aren’t exactly eye-opening, but it’s a nice set of wins over some decent mid-majors in what looked to be a rebuilding year. The Bulls do their best work on the defensive end, ranking in the top 40 nationally (courtesy of Ken Pomeroy) in effective field goal percentage and turnover percentage.
  7. Central Michigan (8) 2-4 – Only two wins so far for Central Michigan, which has two 16 PPG scorers, and two of the conference’s top six scorers, in freshman Trey Zeigler and senior Jalin Thomas, but seemingly little else offensively. A big problem for this team has been getting to the free throw line. Last time, I mentioned that Zeigler had eight attempts from the line in a single game against Hawaii, a number which is now exactly half of his total attempts from the line on the season.
  8. Western Michigan (7) 1-4 – In its first game of the season, Western Michigan blew a seven-point late second half lead in an eventual loss at Xavier; in its latest game, Western Michigan blew a fifteen-point late second half lead in an eventual loss at Towson. As it stands now, the Broncos have only one win — albeit against a tough early schedule — and uncertainty about an offense that’s still trying to replace guard David Kool and his 21.6 points per game last year.
  9. Northern Illinois (11) 2-3 – If there’s one thing to like about Northern Illinois, it’s the aforementioned Xavier Silas. When on, Silas has the potential to carry the Huskies offense for forty minutes. But when a 2-for-9, 9-point performance happens for Silas, as it did against Boise State at home earlier this week, that’s when Northern Illinois only scores 51 points in a 29-point home drubbing and in the process looks like a bottom level MAC team.
  10. Eastern Michigan (6) 1-3 – If you’re looking for a problem with Eastern Michigan through four games, look no further than offensive struggles, beginning with the Eagles’ best player, senior forward Brandon Bowdry. On the surface, Bowdry’s stats (18.5 PPG, 9.3 RPG) are no worse than last year’s (16.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG), but so far this season Bowdry’s field goal percentage is way down (from 48.8% to 39.7%), as is his free-throw percentage (63.6% to 48.3%).
  11. Bowling Green (10) 1-6 – Speaking of offensive troubles, the Bowling Green Falcons have had a tough time scoring, and therefore, a tough time winning. Bowling Green has not yet defeated a Division-I basketball program, and losses to teams like Howard, Niagara, and Albany can be pinned down to an offense that doesn’t have a go-to-scorer, shoots a combined 37.1% from the field, and turns the ball over 16 times per game.
  12. Toledo (12) 0-7 - The winless record doesn’t lie: Toledo is a terrible basketball team. In fact, not only is it the least talented team in the MAC, but it’s also one of the least talented teams in the country overall. But first-year coach Ted Kowalczyk has the Rockets fighting hard each game, see last week’s pair of single-digit road losses at Youngstown State and Illinois-Chicago. However, win number one is still a ways away.

A Look Ahead

Will any of the Mid-American Conference’s top teams take advantage of the December non-conference action to emerge from the pack as a legitimate favorite come conference play? The following games are opportunities for those teams to capture a signature non-conference win:

  • Dec. 4 – Miami (Ohio) at Dayton
  • Dec. 5 -Kent State at UAB
  • Dec. 8- Ohio at Illinois State
  • Dec. 9 -Kent State at Florida, ESPN2
  • Dec. 11- Ball State at DePaul
  • Dec. 12 -Akron at Temple
  • Dec. 15 -Akron at Minnesota

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Checking In On… the MAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 19th, 2010

Alex Varone is the RTC correspondent for the MAC and the CAA.

A Look Back

The 2010-11 college basketball season is barely underway, and already the MAC is down to just one unbeaten (Ball State). On the whole, it’s been a fairly disappointing start for the league, as the conference’s twelve teams have a combined 12-15 record, with three of those wins coming over non-D1 opponents. Furthermore, in games against teams from the “Power 6″ conferences, MAC teams are 0-5, with none of the five games decided by fewer than 19 points.

Player of the Week

A tough call with so few games played and so many deserving candidates thus far, including Ohio guard D.J. Cooper (21.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 7.5 RPG, 5.0 SPG), Eastern Michigan forward Brandon Bowdry (32 points, 15 rebounds at Michigan State), and any one of Ball State’s trio of guard Jauwan Scaife (21.5 PPG), guard Randy Davis (14 PPG, 8.5 APG), or forward Jarrod Jones (13.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG). But the honor this week goes to Kent State forward Justin Greene (18.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.8 BPG). Through Kent State’s first four games, Greene is leading the Golden Flashes in points, rebounds, blocks, and is hitting on 60% of his field goal attempts.

In Kent State’s season-opening win over Iona, Greene scored 26 points, hauled in 14 rebounds, and blocked three shots. In the game’s final minute, with the score tied at 72, Greene blocked a shot, grabbed a defensive rebound, and hit the game-winning free throw with only one second left.

Power Rankings (pre-season power rankings in parentheses, overall record in brackets)

  1. Ball State (4) [2-0] – The Cardinals top the debut of the in-season rankings mostly on the virtue of being the MAC’s lone unbeaten. Ball State hasn’t faced the stiffest competition in earning that unbeaten record, but easily handled Eastern Illinois and Indiana State at home, and the aforementioned trio of Scaife, Davis and Jones could be as talented as any group within the MAC.
  2. Kent State (3) [3-1] – A three-point loss at Cleveland State is the difference between the Golden Flashes and the number one spot in the rankings. In addition to the season-opening win over Iona, Kent State cruised to a 41-point win over Bryant, and held serve at home against two-time defending NEC champion Robert Morris.
  3. Ohio (1) [1-1] – The defending MAC Champs handled a young Delaware team in the season opener, but were then humbled in a twelve-point home loss against Oakland. It’s hard to criticize Cooper, a guy who nearly posted a quadruple-double against Oakland (18 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, 7 steals), but the sophomore turned the ball over seven times, which is far too many for Ohio to be successful.
  4. Akron (2) [1-1] – A 48-point win over Millikin and an eight-point loss at Dayton hasn’t revealed much about the Zips that we didn’t already know. Akron is a balanced offensive team that will feature a lot of different scorers and will win games in a variety of ways.
  5. Miami (Ohio) (6) [1-1] – After a three-point victory over Towson, Miami (Ohio) began its gauntlet of a non-conference schedule with a blowout loss at Duke. Nothing unexpected there, but the RedHawks only made 18 field goals against the Blue Devils, while committing 15 turnovers, which is never a good sign, no matter the opponent.
  6. Eastern Michigan (7) [1-1] – The Eagles were the first, but certainly won’t be the last team to get blown out at Michigan State this season. Bowdry had a great game against the Spartans, but only followed it up with seven points in what was a team-wide lackluster nine-point win against Madonna University.
  7. Western Michigan (10) [0-1] – Many people expected Western Michigan to lose at Xavier, but not many people expected the difference on the scoreboard to be only three points. The Broncos were very impressive in defeat, leading the Musketeers–one of the Atlantic 10 favorites–by as many as eleven in the second half.
  8. Central Michigan (5) [1-2] – The early record isn’t exactly what Chippewas fans had in mind with the arrival of Trey Zeigler, but all three contests were close (two decided by three points, and a seven-point OT loss). As for Zeigler, the freshman has already scored 20 points twice, and impressively got to the free-throw line eight times in Central Michigan’s last game.
  9. Buffalo (11) [1-1] – Perhaps Navy is far worse than most thought, but Buffalo’s 42-point thrashing of the Midshipmen was impressive nonetheless. Unfortunately, the Bulls followed it up with an 11-point defeat at Youngstown State, which probably goes to show that this could be an up-and-down year for the young Bulls.
  10. Bowling Green (8) [1-2] – The Falcons’ lone victory is over a non-Division I opponent, Ohio Dominican, which was sandwiched in between a pair of disappointing performances: a two-point loss at Howard, and a 19-point defeat at Michigan. Bowling Green has issues on offense, which will be tough to overcome in the competitive East Division.
  11. Northern Illinois (9) [0-2] – Northern Illinois was soundly defeated at home against Northwestern, but the Huskies bounced back and showed some grit in a three-point loss at Bradley. A bright spot for the Huskies has been guard Xavier Silas, who is the early leading scorer in the MAC at 23.5 points per game.
  12. Toledo (12) [0-2] – To be fair, Toledo’s first two games (at Illinois, at Temple) were the most difficult of any of the MAC’s twelve teams. But the Rockets were never a factor in either contest, and with this team’s poor collection of talent, Toledo has a stranglehold on the bottom spot in these rankings.

A Look Ahead

The non-conference portion of the season is just heating up. Here are five key games to watch for over the next week and a half.

  • Nov. 20 – Ball State at Butler
  • Nov. 25 – Ball State vs. St. John’s in Alaska
  • Nov. 26 – Ohio vs. Kansas in Las Vegas
  • Nov. 26 – Miami (Ohio) at Ohio State
  • Dec. 1 – Xavier at Miami (Ohio)

These five games are prime opportunities for the Mid-American Conference to move past its early-season struggles and land a marquee win over a “Power 6″ or nationally-ranked team.

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After the Buzzer: The Opening Night That Isn’t

Posted by rtmsf on November 13th, 2010

College Basketball comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over the BCS and NFL
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

The Season Surrounds Us, But Where Is It?

We’re reminded of this (slightly modified) poem every year when one day we wake up and find ourselves facing an “opening” Friday night of 135 games with nearly zero hype and fanfare ahead of it.  Like the fog in Carl Sandburg’s world, the game creeps up and appears all around us rather damp and sticky, but unless you have an alt-network like ESPN-U or the Full Court package, you probably missed the whole thing.  And that’s sad.  We’re certainly not the first and we won’t be the last to belabor the point of just how badly the NCAA needs to work with its television partners so that there is a real opening night that celebrates the sport’s return.  But it’s only four days until the ESPN 24 Hours of Hoops extravaganza — why not make that the season opener each year?  We hear it every day, folks — everyone is happy that college hoops is back on their sets and in their local gyms, but nobody is pleased with the week-long trickle followed by the firehose way in which the season begins every year.

Your Watercooler Moment. Tonight’s watercooler moment is that there were a handful of teams on opening night who already have pretty bad home losses on their NCAA Tournament resumes, regardless of how they do the rest of the season.  Let’s take a closer look.

  • Wake Forest.  Stetson chalked its first win over an ACC opponent in nearly thirty-five years by taking advantage of the Deacs’ weakness on the boards (+11) and the obvious adjustment of having a new sheriff in town (Jeff Bzdelik).  We knew Wake would struggle, but this is beyond expectations.
  • Tulsa.  Tulsa is not an easy team to beat in their house, but Appalachian State and its brand-new young coach, Jason Capel, pulled off the feat tonight behind 35/4 from Omar Carter.  There was some heat given over App’s hire of the 30-year old Capel, but after one game it looks like a grand slam, huh?
  • UTEP.  Tim Floyd’s first game in El Paso didn’t go so well as his star guard Randy Culpepper shot poorly (6-15) and Pacific picked up a very nice RPI booster win for the Big West over CUSA.
  • Auburn.  Nobody expects much from the Tigers this year (or, ever), but losing to UNC-Asheville in the christening of your new building isn’t the best way to start a hoops renaissance.  We have a feeling that Tony Barbee is going to rue the day he ever ventured onto the Plains of Alabama.
  • St. Louis. Rick Majerus’ Billikens sans its two knuckleheads dropped a home game to Austin Peay, 64-62, they type of game that SLU would have never lost had Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed still been on the team.  Even if Mitchell returns to the team in January as expected, St. Louis could be too far behind the eight-ball at that point to catch up.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • Class of 2010. It was a very solid first night for the rookie class in college basketball tonight, with many players stepping right into productive roles from the opening tip.  More details on this below.
  • Temple. Despite not being able to hit anything from outside, the Owls manhandled Seton Hall on the glass and held the Pirates to 30% shooting in a good intrasectional matchup between A-10 and Big East.
  • Tu Holloway’s Second Half.  Holloway scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half when it appeared that XU was going to drop its opener to Western Michigan.  The Muskies have really struggled so far this year (losing an exhibition last week), but we have faith in Chris Mack that he’ll figure it out.
  • Brad Tinsley. The junior guard recorded Vandy’s first-ever triple-double tonight with 11/10/10 assts and 3 stls.
  • Morgan State.  Todd Bozeman’s team went west and eked out a win against a game Loyola Marymount squad that many believe can contend with Gonzaga and St. Mary’s this year in the WCC.  Great RPI win for the Bears.
  • Alex Oriakhi.  UConn will need its talented post to have a bunch more nights like tonight (11/18) if the Huskies hope to get back into the NCAAs this year.
  • John Henson.  The 6’10 sophomore resembled a young Tayshaun Prince in UNC’s win over Lipscomb tonight, going for a near triple-double with 10/16/7 blks.
  • Markieff Morris.  Forget his more-hyped brother — Markieff blew up the stat sheet with 14/15/5 assts/4 stls/2 blks in a dominating KU win.
  • Georgetown Backcourt.  Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark combined for 54 of the Hoyas’ 62 points in a really nice road win at ODU.  Georgetown is really going to struggle inside, though, as they were -11 on the boards and looked lost inside without Greg Monroe.
  • Keith Benson.  The Oakland center and legitimate pro prospect put up nice numbers against the bruising front line of West Virginia (21/15/2 blks), but his team simply wasn’t competitive (tough night for the Summit).
  • Kalin Lucas’ Return. Lucas showed no signs of his nasty Achilles injury from March as he dropped 18/3/6 assts in 26 minutes of action against EMU.
  • John Shurna.  The Northwestern big man dropped 31/9/3 assts in the first game of the latest NW attempt to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time.  Gotta win games like these, though (and they did).
  • UMass Comeback.  The Minutemen came back from 21 points down at the half versus Rider to win comfortably by ten, 77-67.  Anthony Gurley had 31/4 in the winning effort which featured the student section exiting en masse at halftime.  Guess they shoulda stuck around?
  • Brandon Bowdry.  The talented Eastern Michigan forward exposed a soft spot in the Michigan State defense with a 32/15 effort that still ended in a loss.

… and Misses.

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Upper Midwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 25th, 2010

For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

Upper Midwest Region (MI, WI, MN, IA, NE, SD, ND)

  • Kalin Lucas – Sr, G – Michigan State.  Few elite players and certainly no other senior elite players will enter this season as more of an unknown quantity than Kalin Lucas. Coming off a solid junior season where he averaged 14.8 points and 4.0 assists per game, Lucas and the Spartans were poised for yet another run at the Final Four before a torn Achilles tendon in the second round against Maryland supposedly ended those hopes along with the possibility that Lucas might declare for the 2010 NBA Draft, already lacking in depth at the point guard position. We all know what happened instead (MSU rallied to yet another Final Four even without their starting point guard).  All indications point to Lucas having recovered from the untimely injury to near 100%, but we can’t help but wonder if his explosiveness, which already was a concern for NBA teams, might be compromised. Lucas is certainly fast enough when he gets going in the open court, but his first step has never been at the level of the other elite point guards he has been compared to and a potential reluctance to push off that torn left Achilles tendon may hinder that more. Despite the questions, Tom Izzo is certainly happy to have Lucas and his all-around skills and intangibles back in East Lansing—there are very few All-American point guards in BCS conferences that stick around for their senior season—and if Michigan State is going to make a push to yet another Final Four it will be Lucas who will again be the driving force. Having lost the enigmatic but explosive Raymar Morgan and equally enigmatic but troublesome Chris Allen, Izzo will expect Lucas to carry an increased offensive load while still distributing the ball to wings Durrell Summers and Draymond Green along with the talented Delvon Roe, who has yet to fulfill the promise he showed coming out of high school. If Lucas is able to meet those expectations, he could have a senior season much like one of his Spartan predecessors (Mateen Cleaves) that results in the Spartans cutting down the nets in Houston next April.

Lucas Returns For a Last Final Four Shot

  • Blake Hoffarber – Sr, G – Minnesota. Here’s the thing about Blake Hoffarber: he’s probably not the best player on this Minnesota team, maybe not even the third or fourth best player, but he is absolutely critical to their success, perhaps the most important player on the team in that regard. Guys like Al Nolen and Devoe Joseph, Ralph Sampson, III, and Colton Iverson, are all probably more talented and more complete players than Hoffarber, but last year’s Golden Gopher results tell the tale of a team that succeeded when Hoffarber succeeded and failed when he failed. In the 15 games in which Hoffarber scored ten or more points last season, Minnesota went 13-2; in the remaining 20 games when he scored less than ten, they were 8-12. The lesson is simple: Hoffarber needs to score for this team to be successful. And given that Hoffarber’s offensive game is almost entirely predicated on hitting spot-up threes, maybe the true impact player here should be Joseph or Nolen, getting Hoffarber good looks on drive-and-dish. Or maybe it should be Sampson and Iverson for sucking in defenders in the post or kicking out offensive rebounds that eventually find their way into Hoffarber’s hands. But the point remains, Hoffarber needs to get and hit threes for the Gophers to be successful. His offensive numbers tell the story well, as last season Hoffarber was the most efficient offensive player in the nation, but only used 14% of all Gopher possessions when he was in the game. He scored a total of 351 points last season, 255 of which came from behind the arc (at an impressive 46% clip, leading to an effective field goal percentage of 67.3%, good for fourth in the nation). Of the remaining 96 points, 28 came from the line, meaning he scored just 34 hoops inside the arc, less than one point per game. Basically, Hoffarber is the very essence of a pure shooter – you really don’t need to worry about him going around anybody and the only open looks he’ll create for teammates is when he draws defenders to him at the line and rotates the ball around the arc. Sure, he contributes a handful of rebounds a game and rarely turns the ball over, he passes pretty well and is a decent if unspectacular defender, but when it comes right down to it, he’s “just a shooter” – one of the best in the nation upon whom the Golden Gophers’ chances depend, but in the end, still “just a shooter.”

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