Today's MACsketball games, going in chronological order and not necessarily in order of importance.
11:00 a.m. — Ball State (12-10, 4-6 MAC) at Kent State (17-6, 7-3 MAC) (TV: ESPNU)
If you don't have ESPNU, you're SOL, because they're not simulcasting it on ESPN3, nor does the MAC have the rights to stream it on their site. And that makes so much sense!
But then again, maybe you don't want to see this. I don't know the antidote for losing five games in a row, but a trip to Kent cannot possibly be part of the cure. It may seem a little unnerving to Flashes fans that they wobbled a bit against WMU and EMU in back-to-back games, putting them away only by a combined nine points (and one overtime frame), but wins are wins and they have five in a row, not to mention the best offensive efficiency in the MAC.
If this game is out of hand at halftime, you might as well see if NIU has a shot. And that's saying something.
12 noon — Northern Illinois (3-19, 2-8 MAC) at Akron (17-7, 9-1 MAC) (Free/Legal Video Stream)
Although! NIU is on a "one-game winning streak," rallying to beat the bottom team in the MAC East at home. The best team in the MAC East on the road is slightly tougher, but the Huskies have the second-best weapon finally in their arsenal: some confidence. What I'm not sure they have yet, however, is the defense needed to slow down those furious Akron scoring rallies. But if guys like Tyler Storm and Stian Berg can replicate their games against Miami ... well, that'll be a start. But it likely won't be enough.
What they'll need to do is hope that the Zips have a cold shooting night, because the one thing NIU does well can help on this front: they rebound like menaces. Their 54.7 rebounding percentage is in the top 50 in the country, and that's about the only real stat they can hang their hats on. If Nikola Cvetinovic and Quincy Diggs and Alex Abreu are getting easy shots, then it's going go be a long night.
And you'll be stuck with this game (other than women's games, which MIGHT BE BETTER). If you're stuck with the men, you won't have anything until...
3:30 p.m. — Central Michigan (7-16, 2-8 MAC) at Miami (7-15, 3-7 MAC) (Free/Legal Video Stream)
And, yikes. This one's the ultimate test of which team can get a boost of confidence. CMU has lost eight straight games while Miami is on a one-game losing streak to NIU, which might as well feel like eight games in a row. The edge goes to Miami mostly because of venue, where MU hasn't won much but they do have three very quality wins (Buffalo, Dayton, Belmont are all in the RPI top 100).
We know what Julian Mavunga will do, and usually we know what Trey Zeigler is good for. Unfortunately he left Wednesday's game with an injury crashing into Buffalo's bench saving a loose ball and his status nor quality of performance will be known until game time. Get ready for Austin McBroom jumpers!
4:00 p.m. – Toledo (11-13, 3-7 MAC) at Bowling Green (12-11, 6-4 MAC) (Free/Legal Video Stream)
Northwest Ohio is pulling double duty today. The women play at noon in Savage Arena, then four hours later the action moves to the Stroh for the men getting on their version of the rivalry. This one isn't as intense but both teams are playing better than expected. BG looks like a true MAC East darkhorse. And Toledo just beat OHIO.
They don't need an otherworldly game from Rian Pearson — although they won't turn it down, either. I think a large factor can be produced by Matt Smith, who hit some key shots and free throws down the stretch in their last game, to help neutralize some of the efficiency out of the BG big men. The Rockets may be able to match the Falcons' guard energy but it seems like BGSU has the more complete team right now.
4:30 p.m. — OHIO (19-5, 7-3 MAC) at Eastern Michigan (10-14, 5-5 MAC) (Free/Legal Video Stream)
No, I won't be watching this game (as I'll be at UT-BG, natch) but it does seem like the most intriguing one of the day for a person who isn't ensconced in the Black Swamp rivalry. Both teams are coming off a couple of disappointing finishes and I'm sure both teams want to show to the conference — and to themselves — that they can close in harsh conditions.
6:00 p.m. — Western Michigan (10-14, 4-6 MAC) at Buffalo (14-6, 8-2 MAC) (TV: SportsTime Ohio/ESPN3) (Free/Legal Video Stream)
It's a decent pick for the STO televised game. After all, WMU is still a tantalizing team to watch but UB has weathered the season to emerge as the standalone second place team overall in the MAC. I cringe a little bit at how Matt Stainbrook will handle being guarded by the combination of Javon McCrea and Mitchell Watt — it may not end well, especially since Stainbrook was blocked earlier this week by Akron guard Brett McClanahan, who DIDN'T HAVE A BLOCK ALL YEAR. I know how UB fans like to rag on Reggie Witherspoon, so WMU may have the coaching advantage here but both teams play smart and rebound well. And if Watt accidentally swats Austin Richie, ball and all, back to Kalamazoo, that may not be a surprise.