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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Constructing The Perfect College Basketball Player

Posted by zhayes9 on February 4th, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

Every college basketball player has flaws. Even the scoring leaders, double-double producers and faces of blueblood programs have portions of their game open to exploitation. For all of Jimmer Fredette’s heroic shooting performances, there’s the flat-footedness he sometimes shows on the defensive end of the floor. For every time Kemba Walker splits a ball screen and tear-drops a beautiful floater through the depths of the net, there’s questions abound regarding the reliability of his outside shot. For these numerous transformative qualities that make the cream of the crop in college basketball so memorable, no 21-year old can possibly have perfected his overall hoops arsenal.

That’s where I come into play. Working tirelessly for hours with the MIT Science and Engineering departments this week, I’ve successfully capitalized on the celebrated strengths and disposed of the much-critiqued flaws of some of our favorite players into one finished product. It is my honor and privilege to present my final creation: the perfect college basketball player.

David Lighty's defense adds another dimension to our perfect player

Pure Scoring Ability of Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins- No player in college basketball can put the ball in the hole with as much variety and skill as Jenkins. The Queens native and two-time Haggerty Award winner as the top talent in the New York area will go down as the greatest player in Hofstra basketball history and one of the top scorers in CAA history. Jenkins’ efficiency totals are off the charts: 21st in offensive rating, 43rd in effective FG% and 14th in true shooting percentage and his raw numbers (23.3 PPG, 54% FG, 42% 3pt) are doubly impressive when one considers there’s only one other double-digit scorer on the Pride and, as a result, Jenkins has to deal with endless double and triple teams from opposing defenses. Jenkins shows an equal propensity and efficiency both driving to the basket and drawing contact (161 free throw attempts already this season) while defenses must also respect a pinpoint outside shot. Jenkins could play, start and contribute for any program in the nation, but his unwavering loyalty to the Hofstra program through losing seasons and coaching changes only renders Jenkins college career even more extraordinary.

Defense of Ohio State’s David Lighty- There were other candidates that certainly could have qualified for this specific trait, but the experience of a fifth year senior, his winning credentials and the aptitude to guard multiple positions were the main reasons Lighty received the nod. Folks tout Lighty as the ultimate glue guy, but he’s so much more than that because of his defensive prowess. Lighty can effectively guard a scoring point guard with the shot clock winding down or contain a bruising power forward in the lane with the same excellence. He has a remarkable ability to corral loose balls, take timely charges, collect steals without gambling and quickly transfer from defense to transition. There isn’t a smarter player who’s seen more different situations under the spotlight in his five years in Columbus than Lighty.

Versatility of Arizona’s Derrick Williams- There’s not a tougher player in America to guard than Derrick Williams because of his ability to score from any place on the basketball court. The raw numbers are, frankly, staggering: 19.9 PPG on 64% FG and 24-35 3pt. Williams not only possesses solid post fundamentals and a variety of scoring moves on the block, but he’s also lethal facing the basket and operating in the mid-range game all the way to the perimeter and beyond. The sophomore forward is also wildly efficient and supremely intelligent, showing tremendous awareness, a high IQ, length and athleticism. This makes Williams nearly impossible to contain once he touches the rock. His operational ability both around the rim and on the perimeter is the ideal blend of versatility we need.

Craftiness of BYU’s Jimmer Fredette- Combining the pure scoring ability of Jenkins with the overall offensive repertoire and craftiness of Fredette would certainly be something to behold. Unless you’ve been trapped under a rock the last two weeks, The Jimmer has become the face of the sport for his previously unimaginable shooting displays. How Fredette collects his 40+ point performances without even breaking a sweat has to be witnessed to truly appreciate. First there’s a spin move and a scoop in the lane amongst the trees. Then there’s a hesitation dribble, killer crossover and explosion to the rim for an and-1. Respect the drive and he’ll pull up in a split second for a dagger three from NBA range. There are no limits on the basketball court for Fredette on the offensive end. This year’s frontrunner for National Player of the Year has the intelligence and scoring craftiness that’s simply unmatched on the collegiate level today.

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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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Checking in on… the MAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 2nd, 2011

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

A Look Back

With the turn of the calendar to a new year comes the meat of the college basketball season: conference play. So, in what is the last Mid-American Conference Check-In of the year 2010, let’s review how the MAC has done in the non-conference portion of the season.

So far, MAC teams have gone a combined 63-82 in non-conference games. That 43.4 winning percentage is further evidence that the overall quality of the MAC is not up to the standard that the league would like to see. Almost by default, Kent State has established itself as the league’s best team (see the Power Rankings below for a quick review of Kent State’s and the other 11 MAC teams’ non-conference performance), and barring a double-digit win streak from the Golden Flashes or someone else, the MAC is a near lock to be a one-bid league come Selection Sunday.

Star Watch

Not to discount the fine performances of the MAC’s top players, including Kent State’s Justin Greene, who at this junction of the season has to be the favorite for MAC Player of the Year, but this week’s Star Watch belongs to Ohio sophomore guard D.J. Cooper, whose stat line against St. Bonaventure on December 18th was nothing short of extraordinary.

In the four-overtime 112-107 loss at St. Bonaventure, Cooper played 55 minutes, made 17 of 41 field goal attempts, scored 43 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, dished out 13 assists, and nabbed 8 steals. The 41 shot attempts were the most by a Division 1 player in the last 15 years, and while Ohio has gotten off to a disappointing start to the season, Cooper has been sensational in posting per game averages of 19.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and 2.9 steals.

Power Rankings (last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Kent State (1) 9-4 RPI: 55
Best Win: vs. South Florida
Worst Loss: at Morehead State

The Golden Flashes have the best RPI to date in the MAC thanks not only to the win over South Florida, but under-the-radar victories over Iona, Robert Morris, and Furman. A 17-point loss at Morehead State earlier this week was Kent State’s worst performance of the season, but its three other losses are against teams with a combined record of 30-6 (Cleveland State, UAB, Florida).

A Look Ahead: Dec. 31 vs. James Madison, Jan. 8 at Akron, Jan. 11 vs. Bowling Green

2. Buffalo (3) 7-4 RPI: 144
Best Win: vs. Green Bay
Worst Loss: at Youngstown State

Buffalo has hardly played the nation’s most difficult schedule to date, but credit goes to the Bulls for both picking up some decent wins (vs. Green Bay, at Army, at Canisius) and avoiding a set of crippling losses to start the season. Six of Buffalo’s seven wins have been by double-digits, while the 11-point loss at Youngstown State and an eight-point final deficit against BYU are the Bulls’ only losses by more than four points.

A Look Ahead: Dec. 30 vs. BYU, Jan. 3 at Cornell, Jan. 8 vs. Bowling Green

3. Ball State (2) 6-4 RPI: 74
Best Win: vs. Indiana State
Worst Loss: vs. Alaska Anchorage (non Division 1)

Ball State’s best win so far is a toss-up between a 15-point home win over Indiana State, a 7-point win at Eastern Illinois, or a 2-point win at DePaul. But the Cardinals’ best performance came in a five-point loss to St. John’s in the Great Alaska Shootout. But also taking place in Alaska was Ball State’s worst performance: an 18-point drubbing at the hands of Alaska Anchorage.

A Look Ahead: Dec. 31 vs. North Carolina A&T, Jan. 3 vs. SIU Edwardsville, Jan. 8 at Northern Illinois, Jan. 12 vs. Western Michigan

4. Akron (6) 8-5 RPI: 83
Best Win: at Detroit
Worst Loss: at Dayton

As evidenced with its best win being at Detroit, none of Akron’s non-conference wins stand out on their own merits, but with the exception of a 35-point blowout loss at Temple, all of Akron’s losses have been competitive. The Zips were defeated by thirteen vs. Cleveland State, and by eight points each at Dayton, at Minnesota, and vs. Miami (FL).

A Look Ahead: Jan. 3 vs. Oral Roberts, Jan. 8 vs. Kent State, Jan. 12 vs. Ohio

5. Ohio (5) 7-6 RPI: 136

Best Win: vs. Valparaiso
Worst Loss: vs. Marshall

Inconsistency has defined Ohio in its first twelve games, as the Bobcats have failed to win more than two games in a row at any point this season. Ohio has missed opportunities in winnable contests against Oakland, Marshall, IUPUI, and the aforementioned 4OT loss at St. Bonaventure. And on its biggest stage of the season thus far, the defending MAC Champs lost to Kansas by 57 points.

A Look Ahead: Dec. 30 vs. Norfolk State, Jan. 2 vs. Robert Morris, Jan. 9 vs. Miami (Ohio), Jan. 12 at Akron

6. Miami (Ohio) (4) 5-8 RPI: 133
Best Win: vs. Xavier
Worst Loss: at Wright State

Its 5-8 overall record is misleading, as Miami (Ohio) has played the 12th toughest schedule in the nation, which has included losses at Duke, vs. San Diego State, at Ohio State, at Dayton, and vs. Cincinnati. With an upcoming date at Kansas, the RedHawks will have played (and likely lost to) five of the seven remaining unbeatens in college basketball.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 2 at Kansas, Jan. 9 at Ohio, Jan. 13 vs. Buffalo

7. Western Michigan (7) 6-6 RPI: 161
Best Win: at Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Worst Loss: vs. Troy

Western Michigan has already had its share of close contests, going 4-3 in games decided by one possession. The Broncos opened the season with a near miss at Xavier, falling to the Musketeers by just three points, and later suffered a two point loss at Towson, and a three point loss in a neutral site game against Troy, the Trojans only win over a Division 1 opponent to date. Close wins over Detroit, at Georgia State, South Dakota State, and Idaho State have kept the Broncos near .500 all season.

A Look Ahead: Dec. 31 vs. Eastern Illinois, Jan. 9 vs. Central Michigan, Jan. 12 at Ball State

8. Northern Illinois (8) 3-7 RPI: 232
Best Win: vs. Illinois-Chicago
Worst Loss: vs. Boise State

Northern Illinois has only two victories over Division 1 opponents: a two-point home victory over Illinois-Chicago (RPI: 230), and a six-point road win at Maryland Eastern Shore (RPI: 295). The Huskies were easily handled against Northwestern, at Temple, and at Missouri, but nearly won at DePaul and at Bradley.

A Look Ahead: Dec. 31 vs. Utah Valley, Jan. 3 at Iowa State, Jan. 8 vs. Ball State, Jan. 11 at Eastern Michigan

9. Central Michigan (9) 3-10 RPI: 305
Best Win: at Illinois-Chicago
Worst Loss: vs. Detroit

After a season-opening win vs. Cal State Fullerton in Hawaii, the Chippewas lost nine of their next ten games, only notching a ten-point road win at Illinois-Chicago in the interim. The back-to-back West Division champions have largely failed to meet expectations thus far, and only recently picked up their third win of the season in a three-point win over Cornerstone, a non-Division 1 opponent.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 9 at Western Michigan, Jan. 12 vs. Toledo

10. Toledo (11) 3-10 RPI: 259
Best Win: vs. Valparaiso
Worst Loss: at Youngstown State

Heading into this season, Toledo was looking like the clear-cut MAC bottom-feeder, a sentiment that did not change after the Rockets’ 0-9 start. But Toledo was more competitive than expected in losses to Illinois-Chicago, Rhode Island, College of Charleston, and Youngstown State. And over the past two weeks, Toledo looked to be the hottest team in the MAC, defeating Valparaiso, Florida Gulf Coast, and non-D1 opponent Indiana Northwest, but regressed in a blowout loss to UNC Wilmington.

A Look Ahead: Jan. 3 at Alabama, Jan. 8 vs. Eastern Michigan, Jan. 12 at Central Michigan

11. Bowling Green (10) 4-9 RPI: 338
Best Win: vs. Manhattan
Worst Loss: at Howard

Bowling Green has two wins over Division 1 opponents: a pair of convincing, but unspectacular home wins against Florida International (3-7, RPI: 321) and Manhattan (2-10, RPI: 294). Some of the Falcons’ early losses haven’t been encouraging either, including a road defeat at Howard (2-9, RPI: 302), and a neutral site loss vs. Niagara (3-10, RPI: 261).

A Look Ahead: Jan. 1 at Saint Louis, Jan. 8 at Buffalo, Jan. 11 at Kent State

12. Eastern Michigan (12) 2-9 RPI: 341
Best Win: vs. Rochester (non Division 1)
Worst Loss: vs. North Dakota

The “Best Win” being over a non-D1 opponent says it all. Eastern Michigan is one of thirteen teams in the nation without a win over the other 344 Division 1 teams. In fairness to the Eagles, six of their nine losses have been by single-digits, including one possession losses against Monmouth and Detroit. However, Eastern Michigan’s RPI ranks 341st out of 345 teams.

A Look Ahead: Dec. 31 at Samford, Jan. 4 vs. Ferris State (non-D1), Jan. 8 at Toledo, Jan. 11 vs. Northern Illinois

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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 Missouri Valley

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2010

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.

A Look Back

  • ACC Beatings: The Missouri Valley Conference was featured this week in a pair of games on Wednesday night—a sort of ACC/MVC challenge.  It wasn’t much of a challenge for Duke and North Carolina to dispose of Bradley and Evansville both by over 25 points.  Fans love the idea of the matchups, but the end result on national TV may not be the best for the league.
  • Missouri State Quietly Consistent: Everyone anointed Wichita State the preseason favorites.  Some thought Creighton was ready to break out even with a new coach.  There were others that said Northern Iowa would just reload.  But very quietly, Missouri State has strung together the most consistency so far.  They put up over 100 points last weekend against Central Arkansas and rode a four-game winning into Saturday’s game with Oklahoma State.  Granted, they haven’t won against the best teams they have played (Tennessee, Oklahoma State and Tulsa), but are at least not losing to teams they shouldn’t.
  • Scoring Drought: The Missouri Valley Conference against Iowa, Duke and North Carolina this week were only able to score as many as 49 points.  Against Iowa, Northern Iowa’s cold shooting woes only garnered them 39 points.   Evansville hosted North Carolina but could muster only 49 points while Bradley went to Duke and only put up 48.  The conference was 4-6 this last week because they could not score any points – aside from a few “Power Six” foes, the MWC played good defense, as reflected by the opponent scoring totals.
  • MVC As A One-Bid League: It is becoming clearer that the MVC is going to be a one-bid league this season.  Through Saturday’s games, the league is an unimpressive 49-38.  A lot of losses have come against teams the league has no business playing at this point.  As Kyle Whelliston wrote this week, the Valley needs to start playing regularly against teams in leagues currently around them to bring the league back up.
  • Player of the Week: — Dwayne Lathan, Indiana State: Lathan is starting to come on for the Sycamores.  Against DePaul last week, Lathan had 24 points, five rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks.  If Indiana State is going to surprise people this season come conference play, Lathan will have to carry the team on his shoulders.
  • Newcomer of The Week — Doug McDermott, Creighton: McDermott is the only consistent newcomer right now.  He continues the start of his career of scoring in double figures in every game he has played and is currently ahead of pace on Creighton’s all-time leading scorer, Rodney Buford.

Power Rankings (Record) (Last week’s rank)

  1. Missouri State (6-3) (1)—Missouri State is on a roll right now (outside of Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State) and seem to be the most consistent in the league routing Central Arkansas 101-61 with six players in double figures.  Will Creekmore, who is one of only two players in the league to score in double figures every game this season is dealing with a dislocated finger on his non-shooting hand.  With Adam Leonard struggling and having health issues, Creekmore will be needed to team with Kyle Weems to keep their pace going.
  2. Wichita State (6-2) (2)—The Shockers have been flying off of everyone’s radar after their failure at San Diego State.  Their problem right now is that they play in spurts but cannot put together a long stretch of consistent play.   They have a game against Alabama A&M on Monday to try and get more consistency before taking on LSU after finals.
  3. Illinois State (7-3) (3)—Illinois State still has a ways to go, but they are still sitting towards the top this week because the rest of the league does not want to play any better.   Against Ohio, D.J. Cooper, a player who ISU head coach Tim Jankovich tried heavily to recruit, torched the Redbirds for 29 points including the game-winner.  Justin Clark is hoping to get on track.  He was 0-for-17 from three point range before hitting one against Ohio this week.
  4. Northern Iowa (4-3) (5)— Speaking of the three pointer, the Panthers were 6-30 from the arc against Iowa in their 51-39 loss on Tuesday.  Northern Iowa is 1-22 all time in Iowa City and are probably glad they don’t come back for another couple of years.  With a rebuilding team like Northern Iowa, they take one step forward and then two steps back.  The Panthers made it 19 wins in a row at home by beating Morehead State Saturday night.
  5. Creighton (4-4) (7)—The Bluejays have lost to a top 25 team, a potential top 25 team, the coach’s former team and their in-state rival in a span of two weeks.  After the loss to Nebraska on Sunday, the new coaching staff probably suffered their first negative reaction from fans during the transition to Greg McDermott.  Kenny Lawson will get some help down in the post with Gregory Echenique becoming eligible at the end of the first semester this week.  Echenique wants to live up to the expectations many have already put upon him.
  6. Southern Illinois (5-4) (8)— Southern Illinois won two straight this week before heading to Western Kentucky.    The Salukis will not play another game for 11 days.  It will be interesting to see whether the time off will help them regroup before conference season.   What has emerged for Southern Illinois is their frontline of Carlton Fay, Gene Teague and Mamadou Seck.  Lowery made the tweek to the lineup by starting Seck and it appears to be paying off.
  7. Evansville (4-4) (4)—Evansville started their week off with a one-point loss to Air Force in the MVC/MWC challenge, but then had the opportunity to take on North Carolina.  The Tar Heels ran out early against the Purple Aces and didn’t look back.  Clint Hopf and Tyler Zeller are both local products, but never faced each other until this game.   Evansville hopes to rebound against Middle Tennessee this week as they finish up a same season home and home with them.  The Aces lost to Middle Tennessee in their first meeting this season.
  8. Indiana State (4-5) (9)— After being called out for lack of toughness in the loss against Wyoming last week,  they bounced back to beat DePaul for the first time since 1979—In the Final Four with Larry Bird with the Sycamores.  Indiana State is slowly climbing the ladder as they appear to be coming together as a team.
  9. Bradley (4-5) (6)—Bradley is in shambles right now.  The Braves have lost five in a row after starting out 4-0 and the blasting at Duke this week has not helped things.   They have to put the pieces back together and Jim Les thinks that, “They are close to turning this thing around.”  One bright spot was the emergence of freshman Walt Lemon, Jr.  leading Bradley in scoring against Duke.  Their next game is not until December 20.
  10. Drake (3-4) (10)— Drake broke a three-game losing streak with a gutsy win at Eastern Michigan last week.   Drake returned to the Knapp Center for the first time in a month with their game on Sunday against Boise State.  Frank Wiseler is gradually coming back from his Achilles injury that he suffered over the summer.  With the Valley suffering like they are, don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs are able to take advantage of things once conference season rolls around.

A Look Ahead

With finals week this week, there are limited choices, but some games worth paying attention to once the weekend arrives.

  • 12/18—Idaho State @ Creighton (ESPN Full Court)—Many Creighton fans had this date circled on their camera for the debut of Rutgers transfer Gregory Echenique.  The Bluejays specifically tried to schedule three games between now and the conference opener on December 29 to get Echenique some playing time.
  • 12/18—Iowa @ Drake (Local TV)—The battle for Iowa supremacy concludes as the Hawkeyes visit the Knapp Center.  The Bulldogs need this win not only for them, but to help the conference profile.
  • 12/18—Indiana State vs. Purdue at Conseco Fieldhouse (Big Ten Network)—The Sycamores and Boilermakers get together for the Boilermaker Blockbuster which was revived for the first time since 2003.
  • 12/18—Wichita State vs. LSU in Bossier City, LA (Local TV)—This closes out a three-game series between these two teams where each team played on their home court and the final game of the series was at a neutral site.  But in reality it is basically a home game for the Tigers in this one.  Wichita State needs this one to get a key win on their resume.  LSU is not the answer, but they are still a Power Six conference team.
  • 12/18—St. Louis @ Missouri State (No TV)—This is a rare A-10 vs. MVC matchup in this one.  Both teams want to make noise in their respective conferences, so this should be a good game, but too bad it is not on TV.
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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: Butler’s Unfurling & Opening Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on November 15th, 2010

In case you’re just catching up with us after a football weekend, we covered Friday night’s games — the real Opening Nightin a special ATB that evening, while RTC contributor Zach Hayes put together an Opening Night edition of his 10 Scribbles series to share some of his initial thoughts on most teams’ first games of the year.

Your Watercooler Moment.  This is something we don’t see much and it may be a long time before we see something like it again, so Butler’s banner unfurling from Saturday night was this weekend’s best moment.  Jump ahead to the 2:20 mark if you’re the impatient type (a shorter alternate version is also available).

Quick Hits…

  • Emmanuel Negedu.  Hey, if you can literally come back from the dead and contribute 8 points, 6 rebounds, a steal and a block in your first game as a New Mexico Lobo merely a year after you were resuscitated, you deserve all kinds of props.  Can’t root for this guy enough.
  • Chris Singleton. Quite possibly the best defensive player in the country, Singleton pulled off a very difficult triple double by going for 22/11/10 stls on Sunday against UNC-Greensboro.  Oh, he also added four blocks just for show.
  • Illinois Backcourt. Bruce Weber’s backcourt of Demetri McCamey, DJ Richardson and Brandon Paul off the bench was outstanding on Saturday against Southern Illinois.  The three combined for 43 points and 16 assists in that game, and in three games this season all of them are shooting over 50% from the field and 40% from deep.  With the solid play inside of the two Mikes (Davis and Tisdale), the Illini look very strong right now.
  • Kyrie Irving.  As good as advertised, with 17/4/9 assts to prove it against Princeton on Sunday.  Everything seemed completely natural and smooth with very little wasted motion.
  • Matthew Bryan-Amaning.  MBA’s been getting a lot of hype all offseason, but we weren’t completely sold due to his inconsistency over the last three years.  After a 28/13 performance against McNeese State on Saturday, we might be coming around.  As a side note, the Huskies had an inconceivable 67 rebounds in that game.
  • Matt Howard’s Foul Trouble.  Sure, we know the game was against Marian College, but the fact that Howard failed to commit a single foul in 23 minutes of action is encouraging.  Without Gordon Hayward around, Brad Stevens must have his star big man on the floor most of the time this season, so committing nearly four fouls a game again isn’t going to work.
  • DJ Cooper.  Keep an eye on Ohio University again this year — the MAC champions who took out Georgetown in last year’s first round NCAA game return MAC POY candidate Cooper, who debuted the 2010-11 season with a strong 25/5/7 assts/3 stls evening.
  • James Rahon.  SDSU’s transfer guard from Santa Clara hit three straight threes in the mid-second half to give the Aztecs breathing room to win a true road game in front of a packed arena in Long Beach.  If the Aztecs can get solid guard play to match their dominant post play, Steve Fisher could have a MWC juggernaut on his hands.
  • Jeremy Hazell.  Seton Hall might be able to put together a surprisingly good season if it can continue to get the types of games it got from Hazell today.  28 points on 8-11 FG and 8-8 from the line is extremely efficient, something that Hazell hasn’t always done well.

… and Misses

Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Lower Midwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 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.

Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL)

  • Shelvin Mack – Jr, G – Butler. There were times during Butler’s superb run to the national championship game last season where you’d be excused if you thought Shelvin Mack, a 6’3 guard with icewater in his veins, was the best player on the floor.  In BU’s first round NCAA game against  UTEP, his explosive 18-point second half where he drained five threes in the first eleven minutes fueled a 22-4 blitz that awakened his sleepwalking team and drove the Bulldogs into the second round (and beyond).  He also added four boards, four assists and a couple of steals in that one just for kicks, but it was seemingly like that all season long.  While Horizon League POYs Gordon Hayward (2010) and Matt Howard (2009) garnered most of the publicity, Mack quietly went about his business of doing whatever was needed to win games — 25 points against UW-Milwaukee; 7 rebounds against K-State; 8 assists against Northwestern and Green Bay; sticky defense every night out.  And win Butler did, to the tune of 25 victories in a row and an unprecedented march to play Duke for the title.  Neither the Bulldogs nor Mack will sneak up on anyone this year, especially after a summer with USA Basketball where the stocky junior opened the eyes of NBA scouts and his peers by earning a spot on the USA Select team ahead of such notable guards as Jimmer Fredette, Jacob Pullen, LaceDarius Dunn, Scoop Jardine, William Buford and Scotty Hopson.  Go ahead — check any preseason all-american list and you’re likely to see quite a few of those names on it.  If anyone actually believes that Butler was a one-year flash in the pan, they haven’t been paying attention.  It’s very difficult for any school to make the Final Four in a given year, but the Bulldogs with Mack leading the way along with Howard and a cast of other returning players, will once again be in that conversation.  Sometimes you just know  when a player is a winner — he has that little extra something that doesn’t always show up in the box score yet you know he’ll find a way to get it done?  That’s Mack, a true example of the ”Butler Way” if ever there was one.  All-American forward Gordon Hayward will be missed, but  we have absolutely no doubt that Butler will again be a top ten caliber program in 2010-11 in large part due to the heretofore overlooked glue player whose time has come to take the spotlight.

Butler's Heart & Soul Returns to Indy (AP/P. Sakuma)

  • E’Twaun Moore – Sr, G – Purdue. Less than a week ago Purdue was one of the three favorites along with Duke and Michigan State to win the national title this coming April, but a Robbie Hummel ACL injury later and everyone has been talking about another lost season for Matt Painter and the Boilermakers. However there is still some hope in West Lafayette that comes in the form of E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson (Moore, Hummel, and Johnson were part of a loaded Boilermaker recruiting class in 2007). As talented as Johnson is it will be Moore and his all-around brilliance that will have to be driving force behind the Boilermakers if they are to make a push for the Final Four, of which they are still capable even with the loss of Hummel (to injury) and Chris Kramer (to graduation). Coming off a season where he was first team All-Big Ten and honorable mention AP All-American and an off-season where both he and Johnson briefly flirted with entering the NBA Draft before deciding to come back for their senior year, Moore will be expected to increase his scoring load and pick up some of the defensive slack created by the departure of Kramer. On the offensive end, Moore averaged 16.6 points per game providing the Boilermakers with their most explosive offensive threat since the days of Glenn Robinson while adding 2.7 assists per game, a figure that may not need to increase as the Boilermakers should be bolstered by the full-time return of Lewis Jackson. However it is the other side of the ball where Moore will really have to step up. Although he averaged a respectable 1.5 steals per game Moore was not expected to exert himself significantly on the defensive end as he had Kramer taking on the tougher defensive assignments and being an all-around Steve Wojciechowski-like pest to help create opportunities and cover up for the mistakes of others on the defensive end. To get the Boileramakers back to the Sweet 16, which they got to last year without Hummel, and beyond Moore will have to step around his all-around game while still maintaining his scoring even as teams continue to put an increased focus on him during their game-planning.

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Second Round Game Analysis: Saturday

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 16 of the second round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Saturday games.

1:05 pm – #2 Villanova vs. #10 St. Mary’s  (Providence pod)

A great opening game of the day for the group of teams that produced the best opening day of the NCAA Tournament ever. A lot of experts are going to be calling for an upset here and based on the way these two teams are playing we can’t say that we blame them. The Wildcats came into the NCAA Tournament having lost five of seven games and nearly lost to Robert Morris (down by 7 with less than 4 minutes left before some controversial calls went ‘Nova’s way). On the other side, the Gaels stormed through the West Coast Conference Tournament and knocked off Richmond, a team that a lot of people had as a potential sleeper, in the first round. The key to this game will be how Reggie Redding handles Omar Samhan. After watching Samhan rip apart the Spiders, Jay Wright has to be concerned about his interior players going against one of the best low-post players in the country. On the other side, Saint Mary’s has to figure out how to deal with Scottie Reynolds and the rest of the Wildcat backcourt. They are certainly better equipped to match-up with Villanova’s perimeter players with Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova than the Wildcats are to handle Samhan. Saint Mary’s perimeter players pack enough offensive punch to make keep up with Villanova’s guards, but Mouphtaou Yarou and Redding shouldn’t challenge Samhan too much defensively. The one wildcard here is Reynolds. Will he “learn” from Wright’s “teaching moment” and become the Scottie Reynolds we knew for most of the past two seasons or will be the 2-15 from the field Reynolds?

The Skinny: Samhan overwhelms the Wildcats on the inside and advance into the Sweet 16 as this year’s Cinderella.

3:20 pm – #5 Butler vs. #13 Murray State  (San Jose pod)

The second game of the second round will feature the top mid-major program in the east versus an upstart who would love to get there themselves.  In their first round game, if you haven’t heard, the Racers’ Danero Thomas hit a shot at the buzzer to knock Vanderbilt out of the Tournament, but what you may not know about that game is that Murray State pretty much controlled it throughout.  It was very late when Vandy regained the lead and set the stage for Thomas’ game winner.  The point: Murray is better than your typical #13 seed Cinderella.  Butler, on the other hand, had a weak first half and a superb second half to put away UTEP.  It was two of the staples of Butler’s attack — relentless halfcourt defense and the three-ball — that allowed the Bulldogs to quickly take the lead and never look back against the Miners.  As for this game, Murray State does many of the same things that Butler does, it’s just that Brad Stevens’ team does those things better.  It will certainly be interesting to see how Butler responds to being the Big (Bull)Dog in an NCAA Tournament game, as they’re usually the upstart taking on some higher-seeded Kansas or Florida type of team.

The Skinny: We’d love to take Murray State here, but Butler isn’t going to let a johnny-come-lately out-Butler them en route to the Sweet Sixteen, so we expect Butler to hang on and win by 6-8 points.

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