They say the hardest thing to do in sport is beat a team three times in one season. Well, that exactly what the Ohio Bobcats are trying to do Wednesday night as Round 2 of the MAC Tournament opens up at The Q with No. 5 Ohio facing rival No. 8 Miami.
The Battle of the Bricks, as it's known, is heading to Cleveland for a third installment this season, after Ohio beat Miami in both of their regular season matchups. The 'Cats downed the 'Hawks 82-75 in Athens on Feb. 8, then closed out the regular season with a come-from-behind overtime victory in Oxford, 76-64 to improve Ohio's winning streak in the rivalry to six straight.
2014 MAC Tournament Coverage
2014 MAC Tournament Coverage
Now, how about that whole "beating a team three times is hard bit"? One would assume considering the results of the previous two games this would mean that Miami at least has luck on its side this time out. Then again, assumptions are hardly ever right. Our very own Todd Barton debunked that myth a few weeks back, using historical MAC data to show that in cases such as this the team that won the first two won the third, if favored, almost 70 percent of the time. The Bobcats are a 4.5 favorite over the RedHawks.
On paper this is a good match up, and should prove to be exciting once again. Both of the regular season contests were drama-packed, with late-game heroics deciding the outcome. Both teams feature efficient half-court offenses, albeit predicated on different styles. Miami relies heavily on strong shooting from its guards. Willie Moore, Will Sullivan and Geovonie McKnight are all key components to the RedHawks success. While forward Will Felder is among the best fours in the conference, he's not at the level of some of the other bigs to where he can take over and carry a team all on his own. This is where those aforementioned guards come in.
Last time out when they started off hot (especially Moore, who torched Ohio for 24 points) the 'Hawks were controlling the pace and the game. But Ohio relies on a more balanced mix of sharpshooting and a strong inside presence. Ultimately that proved to be the difference as Ohio's bigs, Maurice Ndour and Antonio Campbell, combined for 28 points, and 13 rebounds. Fellow forwards Treg Setty and Jon Smith chipped in a combined 16 points and 15 rebounds to help the 'Cats bully the RedHawks down low and turn the pace of the game.
Ohio is clearly the better team. Not only have the Bobcats won more, and are more experienced, they've shown they're the superior squad in head-to-head play. But that doesn't mean this game is a lock. Ohio struggled mightily with turnovers in the last game, coughing the rock up 19 times as the team tried to make due without regular point guard Stevie Taylor for most of the game.
If Miami's guards can force pressure on the 'Cats this time out as well, and capitalize on that by working an inside game and trying to feed Felder (who was noticeably cold last time against Ohio) Miami has a legit shot at taking Round 3. But, if Ohio can limit turnovers and use its superior size advantage by working the glass and controlling the paint, it's going to be an uphill battle for the RedHawks.
This game tips off Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. from Cleveland, and can be seen on TWC SportsChannle and WatchESPN.
The winner will move on to play No. 4 seed Akron in the quarterfinal on thursday at 6:30 p.m. in The Q.