MAC Basketball Tournament: Akron and Ohio Meet in the Battle by the Burning River

I am pretty sure that less than a couple of inches separated the MAC from having Buffalo and Kent State representing them in the finals.

The Bulls' shot at the buzzer hit the back of the rim and looked right on target as it left the hands of Jarod Oldham. (Had that gone, I would have taken full credit for calling his greatness.)

Kent State left a number of shots short against Akron.

As it was, Ohio and Akron did everything possible to not be playing tonight, in what I will dub the Battle by the Burning River (this just seems like a marketing chance the MAC and Cleveland are letting slip past them).


Next Game


Akron missed 10 free throws and shot just 64 percent from the charity stripe. Ohio's Reggie Keely missed two free throws that could have iced the game for the Bobcats, after a very touchy intentional foul call on Buffalo's Zach Filzen. Two shots and the ball turned into two empty possessions. The Bobcats were dreadful at 7-for-16 from the line.

Maybe both teams were finally getting tired.

If that is the case, then Saturday's championship game is going to be very disappointing for those hoping that the two most all-around teams from the MAC were going to put on a show.

Based on Friday's games, I would lean toward Ohio in the final (and my computer agrees with me, giving the Bobcats about a 67 percent chance of winning).

They have become the team where anyone at any time can contribute. Five players finished with 10 or more points Friday, led by D.J. Cooper, who got off to the hot start the Bobcats needed, and finished with 18. If he can just top 12 points and send around the same nine assists, Ohio should be in good shape.

Or maybe he will go off as he did two years ago, when he scored 23 in the championship against Akron. Then he and Armon Bassett led the charge. Now Cooper has a different set of characters to help him, and he is a very different point guard.

Not that Akron isn't just as balanced as a team. It just seems that the Bobcats have more weapons firing right now.

The Zips should make it interesting, but a lot will depend on if Zeke Marshall stays out of foul trouble. Anytime the 7-footer is on the floor, he will make things difficult (another reason that it helps so many Ohio players are playing well right now). And he seems to have the ability to calm Akron down, maybe because he can so easily dominate inside.

I just have to favor offense over defense right now, so I am officially calling this one for Ohio -- let's say by five because someone manages to hit some free throws down the stretch.

Join out live game thread later tonight as we all find out who will be dancing next week.

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