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MAC Basketball Review: It Takes All Kinds

Thoughts from a rather insane night of MACsketball:

Akron might be the most dangerous team in the MAC. Forget about that 1-3 start in the conference. Throw away the puzzling losses to Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan. Since then, they're 6-0 and are winning by 17 points a game. On Wednesday night they clobbered Miami 72-55. They're lurching but lurking at 8-5 in the MAC East, good for third place but just 1.5 behind Kent State. Left on their plate: Buffalo, at OHIO, at Kent State. A rough three-game swing, but this is the time for it.

Geez, Nick Winbush barely did anything tonight. It's not that he didn't play well — although 2 points on 1-of-7 shooting isn't much to write home about — but the 40 Minute Man was quite invisible all night, playing just 25 minutes with chronic foul trouble. "Only" three RedHawks clocked at least 30 minutes, meaning three bench players saw considerable time. And of those three, only Chris McHenry made a flash on the scoreboard, popping three treys in the first half for a total of nine points.

It seems Western Michigan wanted to prove the Toledo loss was a fluke. Remember the 73-60 loss on January 19? Wednesday night's game began with the Broncos building a 43-5 lead. Not a misprint, although that would make more sense. The final score was a puzzlingly close 68-56 victory, which still counts as a W and helps them keep pace with Ball State.

Malcolm Griffin is like a poorly-located Arby's. 10 turnovers to three points and three assists might be his worst came as a Rocket. The sophomore guard continues to be their only playmaker on the court, but what a miserable night for him. While the MAC retools their 2009-10 stats, the last double-digit turnover game was Al Fisher of Kent State in 2008, who had 10 assists, five assists, and four points — but the Golden Flashes did prevail over Miami 50-39. Yuck.

OHIO's record is a red herring. Overall AND conference. 15-13 and 7-6 is nothing to sneeze at — it's not much better than BG's (12-16, 7-6), but the Bobcats are a team that can play anywhere on the musical scale from sharp to flat. That was prudent in their 70-60 triumph over Bowling Green, splitting the season series. Even in the first half when the Bobcats were B-flat major, they rolled strong at the end with an augmented fifth and a symphony of horrors for the Falcons, especially on the offensive glass and passing through the zone. They're tied for last, probably with about 47 other MAC teams in the East, but they're right in there.

Bowling Green's zone has square wheels. In the land of the tractor pull, it seems that the zone defense had some failure to rotate, and OHIO's one extra pass into the paint always did them in. Hence the "square wheel zone." But the fouls crept up on them, and eventually A'uston Calhoun sat for minutes. Luke Kraus also was ejected for a hard and needless foul on Tommy Freeman in the final minute, but the collective slowness on defense resulted in 26 fouls and 30 free shots for the Bobcats, of which 23 were made. And that was the difference.

Don't rebound against Ball State in a dark alley. And that's mainly because of Jarrod Jones, who'll do that to you, but in their 64-49 thrashing of EMU, 13 offensive rebounds helped put away the Eagles in the second half, especially since their piping hot shooting was already in play. Eastern just no chance, and the Cardinals feel right at home beating up on teams in the West. The emergence of Chris Bond, who other than Jones was the only Cardinal in double-figure points, has also re-balanced the power struggle.

Eastern Michigan. Yep ... Eastern Michigan.

But Central Michigan? Sure, Central. The added touch of love to the win was Jalin Thomas pretending he was Tommy Freeman from behind the 3-point line, making 7 of 13 shots from such a range and finishing with 29 points, tops in the MAC Wednesday night. And 12 team steals ain't bad either.

Northern Illinois without Xavier Silas is like a bad basketball team without a breakout star. This photo brings nothing but teary eyes for the Huskies faithful, and that ankle does look painful. Down the stretch nobody else could drill the key shot, although Antone Christian, DeMarcus Grady, and Tim Toler simply played at their ability.

Hustle Five
Nikola Cvetinovic, Akron: 21 points, 1.91 PPS, 9 rebounds, 3 assists
Tommy Freeman, OHIO: 20 points, 1.67 PPS
Jalin Thomas, CMU: 29 points, 1.71 PPS, 6 rebounds
Trey Zeigler, CMU: 19 points, 1.36 PPS, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks
Jarrod Jones, Ball State: 18 points, 1.50 PPS, 14 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals