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MAC Basketball Review: Finally, The Field Separates

Akron 75, Ball State 60
Miami 68, Toledo 66

CMU 69, BG 64
WMU 85, OHIO 83
EMU 78, Buffalo 65
Kent State 84, NIU 77

Something about each team, in their current tournament seeding order:

1. KENT STATE (17-2, 8-2) — They withstood a terrific performance from Mr. Silas on the first of four road games, mostly because Rodriquez Sherman and Justin Greene (among others), and they're really going to need everybody in the rotation if theyr'e going to get through this four-game road swing with at least three wins. So far, one down.

2. WESTERN MICHIGAN (13-10, 6-4) — And just like that, the Broncos finally caught up with Ball State, thanks to their stellar play against the East. In fact, let's look at the updated standings of the cross-divisional play:

East vs. West
Kent State: 5-0
Miami: 5-1
Buffalo: 4-2
Bowling Green: 4-2
Akron: 4-2
Buffalo: 4-2

West vs. East
Western Michigan: 3-2
Eastern Michigan: 2-4
Central Michigan: 2-4
Northern Illinois: 1-5
Ball State: 1-5
Toledo: 0-6

That's East 26, West 9, which means one-third of the West's wins were done by the Broncos. They still have the postponed game against Kent State at home, which we might think is a shoe-in for the Golden Flashes, but we'll never know. It's such an odd team. They'll give Xavier a run for their money, and win at Miami and BG, but then they'll drop games to Toledo, Towson, Troy … hmm, maybe all their bad losses are just against teams that start with T.

They took down OHIO with no Matt Stainbrook presence. It was basically "Flenmetrius" who combined for 35 shots and 49 points.

3. MIAMI (13-12, 8-3) — Oh, what a close call in Toledo. Closer then they'd like to be. I was quite curious to see how they played 40 minutes with mostly six players, and they do so quite well. There was also a noticeable dropoff when Julian Mavunga had to sit countless minutes thanks to foul trouble, as identified by his incredible winning bucket courtesy of an offensive rebound with four seconds remaining. Escaping is the proper term, since they had more turnovers and were outrebounded. Fortunately, they remain in sole possession of second place, thanks to a couple big upsets:

4. BOWLING GREEN (12-13, 7-4) — Another setback befell the Falcons as they were unable to beat a lesser team on the road, and this stuff's gonna happen, but for now they remain on the cusp of the final tournament bye, thanks in part to their earlier win over...

5. BUFFALO (15-8, 7-4) — Oof. Just when their Pomeroy rating peaked at 79, they go and do something foolish like lose by 13 points at Eastern. Everything went sour for them: Byron Mulkey and Zach Filzen shot poorly, Mitchell Watt got into foul trouble, and no amount of ballot stuffing will make Javon McCrea's performance enough. They just played flat and were caught with their pantaloons down.

6. AKRON (15-10, 6-5) — It's been a fun eight days for the Zips. They polished off their games against the West with three wins, all by double figures and averaging 15 points more than the opposition. Oddly enough, of today's six MAC games, UA had the largest margin of victory (15) but the worst shooting (41%). Fortunately the 42.1 OR% and the eight turnovers had the orange sphere on their side for most of the night.

7. BALL STATE (14-10, 6-5) — And so ends a nightmarish seven-game stretch, you'd hope if you're a Cardinals fan, for the once dominant squad out of the East. They went into cross-divisional play 5-0, but a wall was sharply struck for them. Resultantly they're having a bit of trouble defending at the right time, but most importantly getting a heavy batch of scoring. In four of their last six losses, they've failed to score more than 60 points

8. OHIO (12-13, 5-6) — First, the nice news. D.J. Cooper is fine. And quite honestly, a two-point loss at WMU isn't all that bad, but it does supplant them as the last place MAC East team, a moniker that I'm sure most teams in the West would love to have. A first-round bye is probably out of the question for the Bobcats, but that's fine; they did it as a 9-seed last year, but if they can stay in the 5-8-seed range, that'll suffice for them.

9. EASTERN MICHIGAN (7-17, 4-7) — I don't know they did it, but they did it. They caught to solid teams (Akron and now Buffalo) on bad days and capitalized. They should've had another win against Miami, but let's not dwell on that. Percentage-wise the Eagles played better against the East than they did against the West, so I don't know if they'd rather continue playing them, but they have an outside chance at a first-round home game if they can scrape together a few more wins.

10. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (7-17, 4-7) — Protecting one's house is a time-honored tradition among struggling teams. Scraping this one out was crucial, because the rest of the schedule sets up nicely for the Chips: trips to Toledo and NIU, and home to EMU, WMU and Ball State. Three wins is very doable here.

11. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (7-16, 3-8) — Not sure if you knew this, but Xavier Silas still isn't getting much help in DeKalb. Despite laying 34 points with his solo gig on Kent State, they just couldn't make it close. Nobody else hit a single 3-point shot. With five straight losses, they're not necessarily in danger of falling into last place, but oh boy is it ever possible.

12. TOLEDO (4-21, 1-10) — You'd think it'd be painful to watch at this point, but actually they turned out a marvellous perfromance against Miami. They just couldn't finish at the free throw line. But they shot tremendously well from the field (52.1% ... better than the other 11 MAC teams tonight) and led for good portions against what is now the third-best team in the MAC. Nevertheless, it was another win that slipped away, even at home, and all they're fighting for now is some self-esteem down the stretch.

Hustle Five
Flenard Whitfield, WMU — 27 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks
Demetrius Ward, WMU — 22 points, 7 assists
Brandon Bowdry, EMU — 20 points, 6 rebounds
Xavier Silas, NIU — 34 points, 6 rebounds
Rodriquez Sherman, Kent State — 25 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals