This is the problem for Bowling Green. We know Kent State is good. Akron is always right up there, and OHIO will eventually get it together. Miami gets in their shots, and you're now aware of Buffalo's surprising skill. It's not a stretch to brand these five as the best teams in the entire conference, and they all reside in the MAC East.
That leaves BG, the sixth team in the East, who isn't bad per se, but they own a bad record (now 5-9) and really play just one senior (Joe Jakubowski). Their forwards are still getting their sealegs, and they had fallen apart late in games on the road. At least they did in 2010. But on the new year, they eked out a close one against Atlantic-10 foe Saint Louis.
How they did it was the surprising part. For one, Scott Thomas scored zero points. Nobody on the team made a 3-point shot. And they were victorious?
Thomas did have eight rebounds and four steals, but others stepped up: Dee Brown hit free throws and finished with 21 points. A`uston Calhoun came off the bench and bucketed 20. The guards defended so well, SLU's three starting guards to average 30 points a game were held to 14. For a squad that does pretty well from three (38.6%), 4-for-19 is pretty lousy.
Jordon Crawford also showed up, and they needed both his point play (six assists) and his free throws down the stretch (6-of-8, all in the last 1:23). Brown was also 4-of-4 from the free line in that last minute, so it's nice to see them run out to a reasonable lead and hold it.
But can the team hang with the MAC East competition? They could easily go 4-2 against the other division and finish last in theirs. Though if they can defend and have multiple men stand up and score — not necessarily two 20-point scorers, but I won't say no to it — then maybe they can surpass Miami for fifth place, at best.
However, their first test is their next game next Saturday, January 8. They travel to Buffalo.
Tomorrow's MAC games:
2 p.m. — Robert Morris at OHIO
6 p.m. — Miami at Kansas (TV: ESPNU