RTC Conference Primers: #18 – Mid-American Conference

Posted by nvr1983 on October 18th, 2011

This conference primer was prepared by the RTC staff. If you are knowledgeable about the MAC and have an interest in becoming the correspondent for this league, please e-mail us at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Reader’s Take I

 

Top Storylines

  • The Freshman Grow Up. After having 15 freshman start for MAC teams last year, this year promises a more balanced, less chaotic version of basketball as many of those freshmen will have matured (although we know that is not always the case). With increased experience, the MAC promises to offer a higher quality of basketball with less inconsistency across its teams. It also bodes well for the conference’s futures as many of these players are expected to be four-year players so even if the conference is not loaded this year it has the potential to be very strong in another year or two.
  • Three Team Battle at the Top. While the MAC has traditionally been a wild conference, there appears to be three teams this year — Akron, Kent State, and Western Michigan – as the class of the conference. While the Zips and Golden Flashes return quite a bit of experience and waged a hard-fought game in the conference tournament finals that was decided on a last second block, the Broncos field a young team with plenty of potential. They are probably a step below the other two teams, but this trio is most likely several levels above the rest of the conference.

Can Akron Do It Again? (AP/M. Duncan)

  • Can the MAC Get an At-Large? As mentioned earlier, the conference has traditionally been a wild one, which means that the team that wins the regular season will not necessarily win the conference tournament (Kent State the past two years). The question is whether a team from the MAC can establish a strong enough regular season resume to earn an NCAA at-large bid. The truth is that we aren’t sure, but at least the three teams already highlighted are trying to play good non-conference schedules, which should boost their strength of schedule come Selection Sunday. Western Michigan has the toughest schedule with a home game against Temple (November 17), at Purdue (November 23), at Gonzaga (November 26 listed as a “neutral site” game in Spokane), at Detroit (December 8), at Oakland (December 23), and at Duke (December 30). Akron has games at Mississippi State (November 9), home against Detroit (November 26), at West Virginia (November 28), and at home against Virginia Commonwealth (December 29). Kent State isn’t quite as impressive, but still has games at West Virginia (November 15) and at Utah State (November 22).
  • How Bad Will Toledo Be? We usually don’t like kicking a team when it is down, but the Rockets might end up having one of the worst teams in Division I this year. Last year they were 4-28 overall and 1-15 in the conference while finishing 344th in Division I in scoring and that was before they had their scholarships cut from 13 to 10 due to poor APR scores and they lost their top returning scorer Malcolm Griffin and Hayden Humes to transfer and Justin Moss retired after being diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart). So basically this team is going to be really, really bad.
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Checking in on… the MAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 25th, 2011

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

A Look Back

Overall, Mid-American Conference teams went 5-7 in last weekend’s BracketBusters. Not great, but not bad either. Akron, Western Michigan, Buffalo, Ohio and Eastern Michigan picked up confidence boosting non-conference wins. Amongst the weekend’s losers, Kent State’s seven-point loss at Drexel, and Miami (Ohio)’s one-point loss at James Madison were of the most importance, but likely won’t hurt either team too much in terms of potential NCAA Tournament seeding.

Turning to conference action, Kent State was the first team to reach ten league wins after Thursday’s victory over Buffalo. But every team in the East Division currently has a winning league record, including Miami, who sits one game behind the Golden Flashes, and Akron, the MAC’s hottest team at 8-5. Defending conference champion Ohio also seems to be turning the corner at the right time of year and is a team to watch the rest of the way.

Out in the West Division, the two-team race between Western Michigan and Ball State is headed down to the stretch. Both teams currently sit at 8-5, but don’t forget about Central Michigan, which is still two games back at 6-7, but riding a three-game conference win streak into the season’s final games.

Star Watch

One of the key questions surrounding Ohio’s bid to repeat as Mid-American Conference champions was whether the Bobcats had enough scoring punch around Player of the Year candidate D.J. Cooper. Early in the season, it appeared that Ohio would only go as far as Cooper could take it, but lately, senior forward DeVaughn Washington has emerged as a viable offensive threat and one of the conference’s best front line players.  After a slow start to the season, Washington has now reached double-figures in sixteen of Ohio’s last seventeen games. But over the last nine games, in which Ohio is 7-2, Washington has upped his play even further, averaging 15.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per contest.

Power Rankings (last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Kent State (1)
19-9 (10-3), RPI: 77, SOS: 152

Kent State emerged from a rough four-game road trip in the middle of February with a 2-2 record, the losses being an overtime affair at Miami and the aforementioned BracketBuster at Drexel. After Thursday’s home victory over Buffalo, the Golden Flashes have the inside track on the East Division title and the MAC’s best overall record. The rest of the schedule isn’t easy, with all three remaining games serving as possible slip-ups, but expect to see Kent State as the MAC Tournament’s number one seed in a couple of weeks.

A Look Ahead: 2/26 vs. Ohio, 3/1 at Bowling Green, 3/4 vs. Akron

2. Akron (6)
18-10 (8-5), RPI: 131, SOS: 207

That’s six straight wins and counting for the MAC’s hottest team. Most impressively, all six of the Zips’ wins have been by at least nine points, including Wednesday’s 72-55 pounding of Miami (Ohio). Forward Nikola Cvetinovic has been one of the biggest reasons for Akron’s late-season surge, as the junior is averaging 13.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per contest over the past month. Akron closes the regular season with a pair of tough road games at Ohio and conference-leader Kent State, but the way this team is playing, no one should want to face the Zips in the MAC Tournament.

A Look Ahead: 2/26 vs. Buffalo, 3/1 at Ohio, 3/4 at Kent State

3. Miami (Ohio) (2)
14-14 (9-4), RPI: 101, SOS: 45

Even with two straight defeats, including a hard-fought one-point BracketBuster loss at James Madison, Miami is right on Kent State’s heels to take the MAC East crown. The RedHawks seem to be at their best when senior forward Nick Winbush is playing well. Winbush, who was named East Division Player of the Week on February 21, had an impressive stretch of games which culminated in a 26 point, 12 rebound performance in a six-point home win over Kent State. But in the aforementioned 17-point loss against Akron, Winbush only hit one-of-seven field goals for just 2 points.

A Look Ahead: 2/26 vs. Bowling Green, 3/2 at Buffalo, 3/4 vs. Ohio

4. Western Michigan (7)
16-11 (8-5), RPI: 195, SOS: 268

The Broncos are in prime position to capture the West Division regular season title thanks to five wins in their last seven league games. Western Michigan will be favored to win its last three games, but must avoid letdowns in road games at Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan. But the game that will decide the West title is the March 2nd clash with struggling Ball State. Junior guard Demetrius Ward continues to impress down the stretch, having scored in double figures in twelve consecutive games.

A Look Ahead: 2/27 at Eastern Michigan, 3/2 vs. Ball State, 3/5 at Central Michigan

5. Buffalo (3)
16-10 (7-6), RPI: 159, SOS: 261

Four losses in six games is a red flag for any team at this time of year, as Buffalo now finds itself in a three-way tie for last place in the highly-competitive East Division. But as I wrote in the last Power Rankings, the Bulls are still one of the most efficient teams in the MAC, especially on the offensive end of the floor. Where the Bulls have hurt themselves is with turnovers, as they rank a dreadful 314th in the nation in turnover percentage. If Buffalo can shore that up over the last few weeks of the season, this team will be a tough out in March.

A Look Ahead: 2/26 at Akron, 3/2 vs. Miami (Ohio), 3/5 at Bowling Green

6. Ohio (8)
15-13 (7-6), RPI: 182, SOS: 171

Don’t look now, but Ohio is quietly playing its best basketball of the season. The Bobcats looked doomed after a 1-4 start to conference play, but have recovered to win six of eight to vault back into relevance, the most notable win being a seven-point road win at Buffalo. The MAC Tournament essentially starts now for Ohio, which finishes its season with a contest against each of the top three teams in these Power Rankings.

A Look Ahead: 2/26 at Kent State, 3/1 vs. Akron, 3/4 at Miami (Ohio)

7. Ball State (5)
16-11 (8-5), RPI: 186, SOS: 282

The more Ball State has descended down these Power Rankings, the more obvious it seems that this team’s hot start had a lot to do with a very easy schedule. The Cardinals’ only win this season over an East Division opponent was a one-point home victory over Buffalo earlier this month. Good news for Ball State fans, all three remaining games are against West Division competition. But the MAC Tournament in a couple of weeks won’t be as easy.

A Look Ahead: 2/26 at Central Michigan, 3/2 at Western Michigan, 3/5 vs. Northern Illinois

8. Bowling Green (4)
12-16 (7-6), RPI: 252, SOS: 257

Just one win in their last six games, combined with the improved play of the rest of the East Division, has Bowling Green staring at a last-place division finish. The remaining schedule won’t do the Falcons any favors, but in many ways, this team has already exceeded expectations. Bowling Green still has a chance to make some noise in the MAC Tournament, but next season should be even better with nearly every key contributor slated to return.

A Look Ahead: 2/26 at Miami (Ohio), 3/1 vs. Kent State, 3/5 vs. Buffalo

9. Central Michigan (10)
9-18 (6-7), RPI: 304, SOS: 288

As disappointing as Central Michigan has been this season, the Chippewas still have a conceivable shot to win the West Division. Three straight conference wins have the Chippewas only two games back of co-leaders Ball State and Western Michigan, with a home date upcoming against each of them. Sandwiched between those games is a very winnable road game against Toledo, the worst team in the conference.

A Look Ahead: 2/26 vs. Ball State, 3/1 at Toledo, 3/5 vs. Western Michigan

10. Eastern Michigan (11)
8-19 (4-9), RPI: 321, SOS: 248

Eastern Michigan is anything but a quality basketball team, but something does need to be said for the Eagles defensive efficiency, which has won this team some games this season. In nearly every one of Ken Pomeroy’s advanced defensive metrics (most notably adjusted defensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage), Eastern Michigan ranks in at least the top half of the entire nation, and near the very top of the conference.

A Look Ahead: 2/27 vs. Western Michigan, 3/2 at Northern Illinois, 3/5 vs. Toledo

11. Northern Illinois (9)
7-19 (3-10), RPI: 319, SOS: 258

A once-promising 2-1 start to conference play feels like a long time ago for Northern Illinois, which has not won a conference game in a month and is just 1-10 in its last eleven games. Even the seemingly unstoppable Xavier Silas has tailed off of late, only scoring 23 points combined in the team’s last three games.

A Look Ahead: 2/26 at Toledo, 3/2 vs. Eastern Michigan, 3/5 at Ball State

12. Toledo (12)
4-24 (1-12), RPI: 328, SOS: 187

In a way, Wednesday’s 68-56 loss at Western Michigan was a microcosm of Toledo’s poor season. Looking to avenge an early loss to Toledo, Western Michigan jumped out to a 43-5 first-half lead over the Rockets (no, that is not a misprint). Toledo rallied to cut the final deficit to only twelve, but Malcolm Griffin, the Rockets’ best playmaker, scored only three points and committed ten turnovers in the contest.

A Look Ahead: 2/26 vs. Northern Illinois, 3/1 vs. Central Michigan, 3/5 at Eastern Michigan

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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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