Home court advantage is alive and well. You can reenact the scene from Hoosiers where they measure the dimensions of the hoop from the ground. Yes, it's the same as it is at home! But the game is not the same, otherwise the visiting team would win about half the time. Instead, it's closer to a 35-percent victory rate on the road. The home team has a 51-27 advantage during MAC play through 78 games. That percentage oughta be about the same in the final week.
OK. everyone's MAC road record to date, in order of conference standings:
Kent State: 4-3
Ball State: 3-3
The pattern is evident, but look how close everybody is. Also, you can see where Akron failed and flailed, but that's about to correct himself. Furthermore: noice, Western! They may not be the product of a weak division after all. And Buffalo, we expected better.
And now we do the home records:
Kent State: 6-0
Ball State: 5-2
No surprises here throughout the board. Although you did read that right: CMU has the third-best record alongside Miami. This is proof positive that McGuirk Arena is a beneficial thing for the Chippewas, and the rest of the country can learn from naming stadiums after H. Jon Benjamin-voiced characters.
The Cardinals are another one of those teams who are plum different on the road. They did win at Toledo, NIU and EMU; the three worst teams. CMU, by the numbers, is the fourth worst, so this would break into a new echelon for them. So while technically the #2 team (because seeding favors the divisional leaders!) this will prove to be an uphill battle for Ball State. No gimmes in Mount Pleasant, no matter the sport.
Onto the actual game. CMU can't just show up on their home court and win. They're going to need a decent shooting percentage out of Trey Zeigler, as always. It'll be important for Jalin Thomas to get hot from behind the arc, and don't be surprised if he leads the team in scoring (although Zeigler is averaging about 23 points per MAC win). Andre Coimbra needs to bring some fro-inspired tough defense on the Cardinals forwards and maybe bang home some point-blank shots of his own. And, honestly, that "third scorer" really isn't necessary because Zeigler and Thomas can combine for 40 alone.
But Ball State doesn't have any tandem that can carry them. Jarrod Jones can for spurts, and he'll be their main rock, but this team spreads it around. Randy Davis gets about 40 percent of his points from the free throw line, and while shooting over 90 percent in the MAC is worthy, he hasn't gotten there much lately, and was kept completely away from that line against Eastern Michigan. He's also turning the ball over a little too much; he has 22 in seven February games, which is damn near pi.
And then there's ScaifeGuard. Jauwan Scaife's numbers have been terribly on or extremely off. His last eight point totals, in sequential order: 0, 6, 6, 8, 12, 17, 22, 22. Kinda all over the map, don't you think? His last game was an 8-spot, so you'd hope he turns around and goes the other way with something in the high teens and bags a few threes.
All hopes and guesses lay on the game being close, because CMU doesn't have a blowout win — except for Toledo — and their average MOV is just 4.9 points.
If Central pulls this off, and I do believe they shall, then this makes the MAC West remarkably interesting. The Chips would still be in third place, yes, but just a game behind Ball State for that elusive eighth spot. Yes, CMU would rather adore to have a first-round home game in the tournament. As has been expounded above, it's kind of important.
Festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. — here's a free radio link for the game.
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