This weekend is the vaunted BracketBusters set o' games, and all 12 MAC teams are participating. Despite the wild growth of this event, it's still pretty fun, and it's very akin to bowl matchups. They don't mean TOO much, other than bragging rights for each conference, and you know how much I love a good battle of egos.
A glimpse at each matchup:
9 P.M. — KENT STATE (17-8, 8-3 MAC) AT DREXEL (17-9, 9-7 CAA) (TV: ESPNU)
Even as a MAC blogger, I can't tell you what a Golden Flash is other than it's an imaginative concept, much like Drexel's mascot, the Dragons. Granted, we know more about dragons, as entire series of books have been penned about them, but even though Dungeons & Dragons never had a "Golden Flashlance" realm, the fictitious element remains the same.
Also a myth in this matchup: offense. Drexel is one of the most defensive-minded mid majors in the country — only Utah State has a better defensive efficiency as a mid-major, and they're 19th overall — so if anybody gets to 70 points, it'll probably be enough. Louisville averages 76 points a night. Drexel held them to 46. This is the type of stuff we're talking about. Gather ye baskets while ye may.
Or maybe both teams are going to just struggle at shooting the ball. Drexel is a pretty weak perimeter shooting team, and Kent State isn't much better: they're both under 47 percent just on two-pointers. Don't ask about the 3-pointers.
They're going to actually televise this, so that humans on a Friday night will gaze into the screen and not understand why there are so many missed shots and forced turnovers, and how they, of all the matchups, was bestowed with cameras. Defense on defense. Great for true basketball zealots.
But Drexel will likely edge out the Golden Flashes in this one, for a Golden Flash does not breathe fire without the aid of hot sauce. Defense wins BracketBusters. But if Kent State wins, suddenly it's their best win. Better than the opener against Iona. Better than South Florida. And certainly their best road win: right now that claim lays to their double-digit triumph over Ball State. (Not much competition: they've only won three true road games.)
12 p.m. — MIAMI (14-12, 9-3 MAC) AT JAMES MADISON (19-9, 9-7 CAA) (TV: ESPN3)
Well, Kent State was going to be the "one to watch," but now that Miami's in first place, keep an eye on this one. Unfortunately, MU drew a team that started like gangbusters, although JMU has cooled off, going 4-6 in their last 10. The familiar face on the Dukes, his name is Humpty Hitchens, the ornery 5'9" shooting guard, and yes he did play for Akron last year. Transfer out of the MAC, will ya!? Get 'em, Charlie.
2 p.m. — CENTRAL MICHIGAN (8-17, 5-7 MAC) AT NIAGARA (7-21, 4-12 MAAC)
Treat it just like a game against Buffalo, only pretend it's Buffalo 10 years ago. You're going to see few points, but that's not out of great defense — that's just because both teams average about 60 points a game. Heave it up and godspeed.
2 p.m. — ILLINOIS STATE (11-16, 3-13 MVC) AT WESTERN MICHIGAN (14-10, 7-4 MAC)
WMU drew fortunate on this one. Even if Flenard Whitfield is a "no" for the game, at least it's the Redbirds, a team that has neither won more reached the 60-point mark in five straight games. That, and WMU is playing some surprisingly impressive roundball. Enough to not die against the MAC East.
4 p.m. — SEATTLE (9-16, N/A) AT NORTHERN ILLINOIS (7-17, 3-9 MAC)
Let's see. "Seattle" is a D-1 independent team that plays their home games at KeyArena. Yeah, I'm going to go ahead and say they're actually the Sonics incognito. This "Seattle" team does have wins against Oregon State and Virginia, and that seems like enough of a resume to call a win over NIU. They're up-tempo and just might wear down a team in disarray.
4:30 p.m. — JACKSONVILLE STATE (5-23, 3-14 OVC) AT EASTERN MICHIGAN (7-18, 4-8 MAC)
Not much to see here. JSU's best day of the season was a football win at Mississippi, and they played valiantly at basketball against UAB, but this is a team that oughta make even the Eagles look impressive. Brandon Bowdry will be the beastliest baller on the court, and he'll make it look ugly.
7 p.m. — MILWAUKEE (16-11, 11-5 HORIZON) AT BUFFALO (15-9, 7-5 MAC)
Milwaukee just oughta call themselves The Team That Beat Butler Twice. It's easier to remember. But keep in mind UWM also lost to WMU, mostly because they thought they were playing a scrambled version of themselves, and once they realized it was another basketball team, it was too late. This game's in the cavernous, frightening Alumni Arena, where good opponents come to choke on the silence. They're on a seven game win-streak, and UB has lost three of four, but this seems like as good a time as any to right the ship.
7 p.m. — BALL STATE (15-10, 7-5) AT WOFFORD (15-12, 12-4 SOUTHERN)
A home game against the Cardinals is nothing for the Woffordians. Dig their nonconference schedule: Minnesota, Clemson, Xavier (whom they lost to in 3 OT), George Mason (who they DID beat in overtime), Georgetown, South Carolina ... damn, that's some heavy lifting for a small little SoCon program. As one of the most offensively efficient teams in their conference, BSU's only neat road win was DePaul. This would be neater, but it won't happen.
7 p.m. — EASTERN ILLINOIS (8-18, 4-12 OVC) AT TOLEDO (4-22, 1-11 MAC)
EIU, losers of eight straight. Toledo, losers of eight straight. Basketball, everyone!
7 p.m. — CREIGHTON (17-11, 9-7 MVC) AT AKRON (16-10, 7-5 MAC)
This is not your older brother's Creighton. The Jayhawks are always fierce, but in Year 1 of the post-Altman era, so far they've held it together but that big win isn't on the radar. This is a great chance for the ZIps to strike and get some confidence heading into the final leg of the conferece race.
7 p.m. — OHIO (13-13, 6-6) AT WINTHROP (12-14, 8-8 BIG SOUTH)
Oh, these two teams were just sculpted for each other. Neither team has any "wow" wins, they haven't put together any great week of basketball, and yet they've never hit a skid. Oh, and you noticed they both have .500 records in their conferences. Good for you. This one needs to go to 5 overtimes or I remain disappointed.
7 p.m. — BOWLING GREEN (12-14, 7-5) AT YOUNGSTOWN STATE (8-18, 2-14 HORIZON)
The Fighting Penguins have but two wins on the new year: Wilberforce (probably made up), and Butler (spits out coffee). Meanwhile, the Falcons have regressed with a 1-3 record in their last four, but they really gained some ground — and fast — to become a player down the stretch. This seems like the most likely road win for the MAC in these BracketBusters.
Put them all together, and that's six home, six away. Why don't we go nuts and call it a 6-6 day for the MAC?