Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
If you want to play meaningful games in late February and early March, you have to win your games in January.
After game one, the MAC West stuck out their chest like a geek would if the hottest girl in his class accepted his offer to prom. And now here comes the jocks of the MAC East, and they want payback. Will they get it? Or will the underdog division continue their climb to relevancy?
Saturday offers a full slate of Mid-American Conference games that peeks my interest. Here are grades as to the watchability of these conference matches.
Ohio @ Western Michigan
2 pm MAC Digital Network
After Ohio dismantled Buffalo for 40 minutes last week, and Western Michigan was unable to hang with Akron in the second half, it is really tough to imagine this contest being close. Ohio and Akron are far and above the best two teams in the conference this year, and will require a huge upset for one of them to lose to any school other than each other.
Ohio's talent level is always a reason to tune in. They offer a nice product and play fluent basketball that is easy on the eyes and fits the abilities of their players. They are clearly one of the jewels of the MAC, but you did not need me to tell you that.
Western Michigan laid claim on being the best of the west just three days ago. At this point there are legitimate questions as to whether they are even good.Frankly, Western looked like last years Central Michigan Wednesday night. They may have talented players, but there was nothing exquisite about their play. Often times they looked lost on the floor and their depth leaves a lot to be desired.
When the Bobcats are on the court, there is always a reason to watch. However time can be better spent than tuning into this game.
Final Grade: D+
Kent State @ Ball State
2 pm MAC Digital Network
I think it is fair to say that Kent State is on the decline. They are not the Kent State basketball team that most of us have come to expect. They are not the perennial powerhouse that everyone fears to face. Instead, they are average. Average is not good enough for the KSU faithful, and rightfully so. They allowed way to many open looks to the Toledo Rockets Wednesday night, and could have been buried if they were not anyway.
Kent State needs a huge game Saturday. They not only need to beat Ball State, but they need to do so brilliantly. I need to be dazzled if I am going to put them in the contenders category . Right now they are not.
On the flip side, Ball State is interesting to me. They have a great core of players, three of which average above ten points per game. Jesse Berry, Jauwan Scaife and Majok Majok are great pieces to build around. Along with them, Chrs Bond proved that he also can score Wednesday. He averages just above eight points but scored 18 against Eastern Michigan.
I think this is one of the more important games of the weekend to watch if you wish to have an overall feel of the conference. The Flashes are desperately looking to avoid an 0-2 start, while a 2-0 start for the Cardinals would be more than welcomed and put them well on their way to competing for the West title.
Final grade: A-
Akron @ Northern Illinois
4 pm MAC Digital Network
I've tweeted this out a couple times, but Akron and Ohio are way above the other MAC schools at the moment, and it really is not that close. Though Northern Illinois was able to pull out the battle between the two basement dwellers of their respective conferences when they beat Miami, there is no way the Huskies will be able to pull this one off.
Unless you have not had the opportunity to watch Akron yet, I don't see a reason why a bystander would want to turn on this game.
Final grade: F
The night cap will offer a couple nice games to follow. And luckily enough, the times allow viewers to watch the them both.
Eastern Michigan @ Bowling Green
6 pm ESPN3 Sports Time Ohio.
Both of these teams lost in heart breaking fashion in their first Mid-American Conference game. Eastern Michigan fought Ball State tooth and nail but eventually fell on their home floor 60-58. Eastern, the defending MAC West champions, now needs to respond on the road when the travel to Bowling Green. With all the other West teams locked in tough battles, Eastern will have an excellent shot at closing in on things up in their division.
It is a fair point to make that division standings no longer matter when it comes to the MAC Tournament. Despite this, there is something to be said about winning your division, and I believe each MAC school is keeping an eye on the standings and want to win its championship.
Bowling Green also was forced to sallow a tough one. They were able to storm back from a large deficit only to see Central Michigan rebound and come away with a six point victory.
Being realistic, Bowling Green is not going to compete in this league this year. However they very well could play spoiler to a lot of teams. Eastern, looking to repeat, could be the first to taste the medicine.
Final Grade: B+
Miami @ Buffalo
7 pm MAC Digital Network
In between the two really good games is this one.
Buffalo has proven to be on the decline all season long, and put a stamp on it when they were mauled by the Bobcats. Miami has been on the decline for a while now, and lost to NIU. There is really nothing to get excited about this game. It is a must win for Buffalo if they wish to keep some respectability in the conference, but that is really nothing to get excited for.
Final Grade: D-
Central Michigan @ Toledo
7 pm MAC Digital Network
And this is the game of the day.
Central Michigan, coming off their win over Bowling Green, has their fans thinking they have a realistic shot at the West title this season. It would be a huge turn around for the program, who everyone thought was doomed after the firing of Ernie Zeigler and the departure of all his players. A 2-0 start would deserve a big "WOW!"
Toledo was the MAC West favorites heading into the season, but had fallen on rough times before beating Kent in Northeast Ohio. They are now also looking to continue the good fortune by picking up another win. I don't think it is unfair to say that Toledo has the talent to compete in the MAC. They likely will not come close to clinching the regular season championship, however a good MAC season is well within reach even after a poor out of conference showing.
Overall, this should be a fine game with big time repercussions.
Final Grade: A
There are a lot of good MAC basketball games this weekend. If you find yourself with nothing to do, logging onto MAC-sports.com and catching some of these games would be a great idea. Every game in the MId-American Conference carries a lot of importance.