MAC Basketball Preview: Akron-WMU Is The One To Watch

Nikola Cvetinovic remains a senior leader with Akron, but as the top team in the MAC they have not needed to rely on his scoring alone.

Today's MACsketball games. The West has a shot to pick up a couple wins on their blistering deficitsince they host all six games.

7 p.m. — Akron (16-7, 8-1) at Western Michigan (10-13, 4-5) (TV: SportsTime Ohio/ESPN3/ESPN Full Court) (MAC-Sports.com Video Feed)

Yeah, if I had to pick one to televise this would be it. Akron's finding very few ways to lose recently and I think there's still a sizeable group of people holding out their final opinion on WMU. They were finally shellacked at home against BGSU but then turned around and almost won at Kent State without point guard Mike Douglas, who it looks like will return from his one-game suspension.

The key here will be limiting turnovers. WMU has averaged 20 in their last two games and ranks near the bottom of the MAC in turnover rate (23.5%).

But Akron is just playing miles ahead of all others right now. They're having the run OHIO used to have; 13 wins in 15 games (losses to Buffalo and VCU in there). They don't just score in lumps; they consistently put up points and THEN will go on a run. Very dangerous combination. Keep an eye out for Alex Abreu if you haven't seen him yet. He's much, much improved from last year and always seems to be in the middle of these scoring streaks.

7 p.m. — Kent State (16-6, 6-3) at Eastern Michigan (10-13, 5-4) (MAC-Sports.com Video Feed)

The records/numbers indicate this one could be competitive. And I pray to Boykins it will. But EMU was sorely exposed by Akron last weekend and if Kent State follows their rubric of relentless attacking (and a bit of shooting luck) then Eastern could be quickly disposed of, tarnishing the hopes of a nice little Cinderella story. With another offense-on-defense display, it's truly a gut-check game for the Eagles.

Because the Eagles interior may be able to contain Justin Greene but they can just kick it back out to those talented guards who can shoot, slash and create.

And while KSU is starting to pick up some momentum, they do have a few issues to correct on defense. WMU was able to overpower them at times at rebounding, as well as shoot just a little better. And EMU, if they have anything, has size. So they don't need Darrell Lampley to hit every perimeter shot, although that wouldn't hurt.

7 p.m. — Bowling Green (11-11, 5-4) at Ball State (12-9, 4-5) (MAC-Sports.com Video Feed)

Akron-WMU may be the one to watch but BG-Ball State has the highest potential of a close game. I refuse to think Ball State is this bad. They've dropped four in a row and that Butler victory seems forever ago, and it seems like common logic that SOMEONE else not named Jarrod Jones is bound to have a wonderful showing tonight.

And while I've harped all year about BG not being a great shooting team, lo and behold they're third in the MAC in FG% and eFG%. So their guards are still improving and guys like Torian Oglesby are staying at home and taking only makeable shots. The game seems more contingent on if the Falcons have a hot or cold shooting night. And they are on the road.

7 p.m. — OHIO (19-4, 7-2) at Toledo (10-13, 2-7) (MAC-Sports.com Video Feed)

It's no 12-1 start but the Bobcats have won six games in a row. Some of the names they took down were impressive but all but NIU were victories at home. They ought to be able to take care of the reeling Rockets at this point, but a sneakily-improved Toledo has been able to disrupt the comfort level of some quality competition this year.

But the problem remains: UT hoops have taken a page from their football brethren and seem to be unable to defend. That might be just the remedy for OHIO, who has trouble knocking down shots at times, but are always smart with the ball and have the best turnover rate of anyone in the MAC. Walter Offutt has been providing more points than even D.J. Cooper on his own team, but no doubt others will join the action.

And what has gotten into Rian Pearson? He's tied with Julian Mavunga as the top scorer in the conference but in MAC-only games he's averaging 19.3 points per game. In their last four games Pearson has averaged 25.0 points. So they're great individual numbers but in those four games they're just 1-3. He needs help.

7 p.m. — Buffalo (13-6, 7-2) at Central Michigan (7-15, 2-7) (MAC-Sports.com Video Feed)

Polar opposite teams right here. UB has won six in a row, beginning the streak with a win against Akron. The Chippewas have lost seven in a row, marked by NIU's lone conference win. Really, what else is left to elaborate?

8 p.m. — Miami (7-14, 3-6) at Northern Illinois (2-19, 1-8) (MAC-Sports.com Video Feed)

Just going to throw a random stat out here about Miami which may or may not floor you (it did to me): This is Coles 16th season and there's a question of whether the team will win 10 games. They ought to, but in his 16 seasons, his lowest win total was 13. But only once in those 16 years did his team have a losing record in the MAC: the 1999-2000 season, when they went 15-15 overall and 8-10 in the East. That's it. Once!

It seems likely that between this game, their next one at CMU, their BracketBusters game and possibly their first-round MAC tournament matchup are the last four expected wins out of this team. They might even be considered a sleeping hill giant in the MAC East, viable to knock a team or two out of the running of the crowded division.

I'm talking about Miami at lengths in this game because just once I want to ignore NIU's results as much as possible. It's painful to discuss them.

Note: Women's MACsketball takes a "half week" off. Their games will resume Saturday.

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