College Basketball By The Tweets: Bill Walton, Northern Illinois and the Rise Of Marshall Henderson

Posted by Nick Fasulo on January 30th, 2013


Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Bill Walton Comedy Hour

There’s almost nothing better then the glee and unbridled joy Bill Walton spews into his microphone when calling a basketball game. Formerly an NBA-only announcer for ESPN, Walton has resurfaced this season calling Pac-12 games for the Worldwide Leader, and we’re all better for it. He’s a bit kooky, sure, but what’s most enjoyable about Walton is his unique ability to criticize and praise a player or coach with a positive tone of voice. Take Ben Howland, for example. While he’ll say it with a smile on his face, Walton is quick to judge the coach of his alma mater, and it was never more prevalent than last Thursday during the Bruins’ game against Arizona.

Drink. Drank. Drunk. Thanks, Bill.

Duke Gets Wrecked By Hurricanes

It feels like it happened eons ago, but we can’t forget that the Blue Devils were embarrassed by Miami last week, potentially turning Coach K’s team in to national championship pretenders and Jim Larranaga’s team into real ACC contenders.

You used to laugh at him, but perhaps an injury to one of Duke’s best players will define his worth as he watches from the sidelines.

Since Ryan Kelly went down with a busted foot, the Blue Devils are 2-2, and while that shouldn’t change the magnitude of the victory for The U, the annual rules of court rushing were brought to the Twitter table from the moment the game was all but over.

We all have our opinions on when this student celebration should and should not be warranted, but much like your fantasy football team, nobody else really cares to hear about it.

The Week of Marshall Henderson

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Morning Five: 01.28.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 28th, 2013


  1. In what might have been one of the more ridiculous controversies we have ever seen a minor firestorm erupted late Thursday night following UCLA’s win over Arizona when some reporters noticed that Shabazz Muhammad had a Gucci backpack on. Several writers jumped on this story as a sign that Muhammad could have been (or even was) receiving impermissible benefits since they could not imagine that his family could afford a bag worth in excess of $1,000. We will let you think of the sociopolitical ramifications of that idea. It turns out that Muhammad’s family had in fact managed to scrape together the money for it and was able to produce enough evidence that UCLA’s compliance department has closed the “case”. As we said on Twitter a few days ago, it is a sad state of affairs when the media is fixated on a backpack with all of the unscrupulous things going on within the NCAA.
  2. When your team sets multiple NCAA records for offensive futility in a half you have to be creative when conveying the story to your students, fans, and boosters. In the case of Northern Illinois and its four-point first half, the athletic department had to come up with creative ways for talking about the team’s performance and did so by talking about their defensive effort and glossing over the 1-31 field goal shooting in the first half. To be fair to the school we doubt that we could have come up with a better way of putting the game in a positive light. Unfortunately for them the folks at Deadspin are always watching.
  3. Louisville may not be as offensively challenged as Northern Illinois, but the Cardinals still have some significant issues as Saturday’s loss should illustrate. Fortunately for Rick Pitino and company help may be on the way in the form of incoming recruit Terry Rozier, who scored 68 points on Saturday while coming off the bench. The big issue for Rozier is his academic status, which is still in question, but it appears that he is taking it seriously as he missed a week of practice and two of his team’s game while working with a tutor to get his grades up to the necessary level (apparently the reason that he did not start). We are sure that there are a few more Louisville fans who are concerned about Rozier’s grades after this weekend’s debacle.
  4. The TV ratings for nationally televised college basketball games so far this season are out and they are not pretty. The highest rated games so far have been Duke-Kentucky and Kansas-Temple, which both had 2.0 ratings (apparently that is around 3 million viewers). It should be noted that the Kansas-Temple game was the lead-in to the NFL playoffs so I am sure that played a major role in that number. We are sure that some of these numbers will trend up now that we are getting into conference play where we have some more traditional rivalries (at least for this season) and other major sports are finishing their season. It is nice to see that when you get two major teams on TV you still are able to get viewers, but the numbers (there are even a few 0.0 ratings) are kind of depressing.
  5. And finally because some of you may have missed it, here is Marshall Henderson interacting with the friendly Auburn fans after his team pulled out a win on the road:

You Could Spend Hours Dissecting Everything Going On Here

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ATB: Another Loss For Louisville, UCLA Can’t Sweep Arizona Schools and the Big Ten’s Best Come Up Big…

Posted by Chris Johnson on January 28th, 2013


Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The Weekend’s Lede. Parity Rocks Conference PlayThe theme of this college basketball season isn’t going away. There are no dominant teams. From Indiana to Duke to Louisville, or whoever else inherits the top spot in the rankings this season, their stay won’t be a long one. But what we’re seeing this season is about more than big-time upsets. Not every surprising result is a top-five stunner. It’s the parity in conference play that makes pegging conference frontrunners and Final Four contenders so adventurous. The insanity continued over the weekend, and frankly, I don’t envision it stopping any time soon. This – hotly-tested games, minimal gaps between the best and worst of each league, contested conference races, no clear favorites – is college basketball at its finest. It comes at you from so many different angles, so many different time zones, so many different TV channels. It gives you unranked Villanova knocking off two top-five teams in a week, and UCLA losing to the little-brother Arizona school two days after beating big brother, and Marshall Plumlee and Alex Len engaging in mid-game dunk warfare. And then, just when you’ve seen enough, it brings you another healthy heaping throughout the week. Before we get there, the weekend brought us plenty to dissect and deliberate. Time to dive in.

Your Watercooler Moment. Villanova Strikes Again.

Two top-five upsets highlighted an excellent week for the Wildcats (Photo credit: Getty Images).

Two top-five upsets highlighted an excellent week for the Wildcats (Photo credit: Getty Images).

There is no rational explanation for why Villanova was able to take down not just one but both of the Big East’s best teams this week. The Wildcats are still worlds away from the perimeter-oriented teams that fared so well under Jay Wright over the past decade. But they got those wins, and now Villanova’s season is headed in an entirely different direction. A week ago, the Wildcats were licking their wounds after dropping consecutive games against Pittsburgh and at Providence. The first was predictable and totally understandable; the second one hurt. It hurt not just because you’d rather not lose to a talented but young Providence team on the road under any circumstance, but because the rigorous two-game stretch that loomed left the possibility for a sustained losing streak. That rigor, in hindsight, was ‘Nova’s upset gold. And the weirdest part: Louisville and Syracuse, both ranked in the top-six in Kenpom’s defensive efficiency rankings entering Saturday, are about as upset-proof as tom-five teams come this season. Sure, the Cardinals’ offense betrays them from time to time, and when the bad, turnover-proned, wacky Russ Smith overwhelms the All American-level star we’ve seen in large stretches this season, Rick Pitino’s team can lose. And yes, the Orange have their warts, especially without their best shooter, James Southerland. But that baseline defensive commonality buffers against bad shooting nights, against 25-point games from Darrun Hilliard and poor late-game foul management. Seeing one of these teams go down in Philadelphia would have been run of the mill stuff for this season. But two, both lorded over by hall of fame coaches with decades of upset-avoiding wisdom at their disposal? Can’t say I saw this coming.

Also Worth Chatting About.  Bruins Still Maturing.

As the season rolls on, the Bruins will continue to get better (Photo credit: AP Photo).

As the season rolls on, the Bruins will continue to get better (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Swinging through a late-week road trip bookended with games at the two Arizona schools without a loss was a pipedream from the start. UCLA is an explosive offensive team, flush with talented freshmen and a handful of valuable role players, plus a much-improved defense. It is not the best team in the Pac-12; at least not yet. By season’s end, Ben Howland’s team is the odds-on favorite to own that title, but the Bruins have a few tweaks to make before they reach their peak. They won the more important of the two games, beating Arizona Saturday in relatively comfortable fashion, and that’s the biggest takeaway from this brutal two-game stretch. UCLA, like its Pac 12 challengers (Oregon, Arizona), is not experienced or balanced enough to stroll through conference play without a few hiccups along the way. Besides, Arizona State is quietly playing some excellent hoops on both ends of late; the Sun Devils entered Saturday making exactly half of their two-point shots, tops in the Pac 12. If Jordan Bachynski is going to give you 22 points and 15 rebounds, Carrick Felix adds 23 and 11, and David Wear can’t hold his side of the bargain (five points on 2-for-12 shooting), competing – much less winning – is a dubious goal.

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Mid-American Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 16th, 2012

Ethan Back is the MAC correspondent for RTC.

Top Storylines

  • Will Ohio Be Able to Reach the Sweet Sixteen Again? After an extremely successful season that ended in an overtime loss in the Sweet Sixteen against ACC power North Carolina, Ohio will look to make another deep NCAA Tournament run. The Bobcats have a lot of hype to live up to, as they return all of their significant contributors from a season ago, including standouts D.J. Cooper and Walter Offutt. Not all of the personnel returns from a season ago, however, with former head coach John Groce now at Illinois, but new head coach Jim Christian will look to keep momentum going.

Ohio’s D.J. Cooper Hopes To Follow One Head-Turning Season With Another. (AP Photo/T. Dejak)

  • Toledo’s Postseason Ban: Toledo has a very solid core intact from the 2011-12 season, so it’s a real shame that the Rockets won’t be able to qualify for postseason play due to its academic problems. Luckily for the Rockets, two of its best players (Rian Pearson and Julius Brown) are underclassmen, so they’ll still get a chance to win the MAC Tournament in future years, assuming they stay in school beyond the 2012-13 season.
  • East vs. West: Last season, the East had five teams finish with a winning record, whereas the West had a measly one. This clear imbalance within the MAC doesn’t have serious ramifications, as the conference tournament seeds are not based on division, but for the sake of self-respect, the West will hope to have a better season than it did last year.
  • No More Zeiglers: Winning games hasn’t been an easy task for Central Michigan these past two seasons, as its 12-20 conference record during that span indicates. It won’t be any easier this year after the firing of head coach Ernie Zeigler led to the transfer of his son and the Chippewas’ leading scorer Trey Zeigler to Pittsburgh. New head coach Keno Davis brings great experience to the program, but his first season on the job will likely be a rough one.

Reader’s Take I

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Checking In On… the MAC

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2011

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the MAC. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls and life.

Reader’s Take

The Week That Was

  • Non-Conference MAC MVP? Miami (OH) may be mired at the bottom of the East Division with a 2-4 record, but it’s not because of Julian Mavunga. The 6’8’’ senior forward from Indianapolis is averaging nearly a double-double, and leads the conference in both scoring (21.5 PPG) and rebounding (9.8 RPG).
  • Western Michigan’s Rough Non-Conference Schedule: While the Western Michigan brass deserves some credit for scheduling a rigorous non-conference slate to steel them for the rigors of the MAC, they may have overdone it a bit. The Broncos are 1-7 and still have difficult road games left against Oakland and Duke before MAC play begins. WMU has lost to the likes of Gonzaga, Temple, Purdue and Detroit to start the season. Whether or not this helps them win the West remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that the Broncos will almost certainly have to win the conference tourney if they have any Big Dance aspirations.
  • Northern Illinois is Awful: There’s really no polite way to say it.  New coach Mark Montgomery probably knew his squad was going to struggle in his first season, but he couldn’t have imagined dropping non-conference games to the likes of Utah Valley State and Nebraska-Omaha. There aren’t a lot of easy answers, either. The Huskies (0-7) are allowing more than 73 points per game and offensively are shooting a dreadful 35% from the field. To make matters worse, NIU turns it over 17 times per game. To be fair, the Huskies are very young. Five of NIU’s 10 regulars are true freshmen. Stud rookie Abdel Nader (10.1 PPG/3.9 RPG) has shown some early promise, but things are looking ugly in DeKalb.

Miami of Ohio's Julian Mavunga is Off to a Tremendous Start This Season (AP/Amy Sancetta)

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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

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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Deconstructing NCPA’s “The Price of Poverty in Big Time College Sport”

Posted by nvr1983 on September 15th, 2011

Over the past few months there has been a growing sentiment that college players, particularly those in revenue-generating sports, deserve to be paid in addition to the value of their athletic scholarships. The recently released report (full PDF here) by the National College Players Association (NCPA) and Drexel professor Ellen Staurowsky created a lot of buzz and has been used by many proponents of proposals to pay college athletes as a piece of academic evidence to reinforce the notion that the athletes are getting cheated out of millions, if not billions, of dollars. While the report does a good job of making the case that athletes should be more highly compensated than they are at the present time, it is not without its flaws, which come both from the author herself and the people who have already chimed in to use it against the current state of college athletics.

[Ed. note: we created a sorted spreadsheet of the FMV of each basketball program’s players here)

The NCAA Has Come Under Increasing Attacks (Credit:

Before we go into the actual data, we should clarify that we approached this study with a skeptical eye because it was funded by the NCPA. A study analyzing the under-payment of a group of individuals funded by an entity that represents that group of individuals should always be viewed critically in the same manner that a medical journal article funded by a pharmaceutical company is viewed. This does not necessarily mean that the report is flawed in some way, just like a study funded by a pharmaceutical company may in fact be valid. It is just that you need to dig a little deeper rather than just looking at the figures presented in the executive summary or the lay press. Having said that, let us take a look at what the study says, what it does not say, and what some of the potential implications are for college sports in general along with possible solutions moving forward.

The report is essentially an analysis of the financial state of Division 1 athletes in college football and men’s college basketball (the two “revenue-generating” sports) in contrast to the money made by the schools and the coaches. The major findings of the study can be summarized rather succinctly:

  • “Full-ride” athletic scholarships fall short of “full-ride” academic scholarships as the former are restricted by NCAA rules from covering the full cost of attendance (the figure that schools report to the Department of Education). In 2010-11 they fell short by an average of $3,222;
  • The dollar value of the room and board portion of an athletic scholarship falls below of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guideline of poverty ($10,890 for a single individual) for 85% of those living on-campus and 86% of those living off-campus with the average athlete on a “full-ride” falling $1874 and $1794 short, respectively;
  • Applying the revenue sharing used by the NFL and NBA last season where players get 46.5% and 50% of revenue generated, the average to calculate the “fair market value” of the athletes indicates that football players and basketball players are worth approximately $121,048 and $265,027, respectively, each year;
  • For players on teams that were in the top 10 highest estimated fair market value in football, 100% received scholarships that were worth less for room and board than the federal poverty line (average $2,841 below), and in basketball 80% received scholarships that were worth less for room and board than the federal poverty line (average $3,098 below);
  • For a set of 21 schools that earn over $30 million in revenue, their players received scholarships with room and board valued on average between $3,070 (on-campus) and $4,967 (off-campus) below the federal poverty line; and
  • FBS schools spend on average approximately $350,000 more per each non-revenue-generating sports team than their FCS counterparts do, which, according to the authors, indicates potential cost-saving opportunities that would enable them to maintain the scholarship opportunities for athletes in those sports while still being able to provide enough money for those in revenue-generating sports, as those cost-savings ($6.3 million per year if one assumes an average of 18 non-revenue generating teams per school) would be able to provide approximately $64,000 per player per year in the revenue-generating sports.
While all of these seem to be compelling arguments on the surface, there are quite a few weaknesses inherent in several of them that we will get to in a little bit.
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Ten Offseason Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on June 1st, 2011

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

It was easy to get energized about Vanderbilt’s chances next season once the somewhat surprising news was announced that versatile swingman Jeffery Taylor would return for his senior campaign. Taylor joining forces with an experienced and talented guard tandem of John Jenkins and Brad Tinsley, along with efficient big man Festus Ezeli and quite a bit of depth, immediately gave folks in Nashville reason to believe they could contend with the powerhouse roster Kentucky assembled in the SEC. While those are four legitimate reasons for excitement – it’s awfully rare a team without a brand name like Duke, Carolina, Kentucky or UCLA returns their top four scorers (including three possible first round picks) from a top-15 efficient offense in the one-and-done era – I won’t be completely sold on Vanderbilt’s chances to usurp the Wildcats, or even fend off Florida, if their team defense doesn’t improve dramatically. The ‘Dores ranked a meager 88th in the nation in defensive efficiency last season, a mark good for tenth in the SEC, well behind the likes of both Kentucky and Florida. Their inadequacies on defense were a major reason why those of us tantalized by Vandy’s talent last season was so dumbfounded when they couldn’t quite put it all together on a sustained basis and why they ultimately dropped their final two games of the season to Florida and to #12 seed Richmond. The most confusing part: Vandy seemingly has the ancillary parts to be a strong defensive club. Taylor is regarded by NBA scouts as a premier stopper on the perimeter and Ezeli ranked 16th in block percentage in 2010-11.

Taylor needs to coax his teammates into playing stronger defense

The near-unanimous reaction following the NBA Draft declaration deadline was that Texas was the big loser. This isn’t necessarily false, but were we all that surprised Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson bolted for the pros, especially once it was known Thompson would be a lottery selection? Playing with a fellow Canadian in Myck Kabongo may seem enticing until millions of dollars are staring you in the face. Hamilton was never suited for a structured college game, either, and could really take off in the pros as a polished, explosive scorer capable of putting up points in bunches. The most shocking decision was that of Cory Joseph, who opted to leave school primarily on the basis of one workout just prior to the deadline, a decision that very few saw coming from an undersized point guard without mature floor instincts. Joseph likely saw the writing on the wall – that he’d be playing primarily as a two-guard opposite Kabongo and this move would devastate his draft stock even more – and ditched while he had a chance at the first round. Ben Howland must have been even more crushed than Rick Barnes, though. With Derrick Williams and Momo Jones out in Tucson, the opportunity was there to re-establish UCLA’s status as the premier Pac-10 representative after two tumultuous seasons. Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee are far from locks to have their name called in the first round, yet both made the abrupt decision to forgo their remaining eligibility and take their talents to the NBA. With Honeycutt and Lee joining forces with Reeves Nelson, Josh Smith, Lazeric Jones, Jerime Anderson, Tyler Lamb and incoming two-guard Norman Powell in the fray, UCLA had a top-10 roster had the parts stayed together. It’s a shame, really.

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MAC Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 8th, 2011

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

Postseason Preview

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

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

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

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

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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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