It was hard to just pick a few games this week, as MACsketball action heats up. There are teams we thought would be contenders on the ropes, and there are teams that were picked near the bottom that are in the mix. Only two teams in the West have a winning record, which is better than the East, where only two teams are better than 1-3.
The first game I will be watching is the game I have had circled since I first looked at the schedules, Ohio at Akron. Let’s take a quick look at that game, and a few others this week.
Ohio Bobcats 11-4 (3-1 MAC) at Akron Zips 14-3 (4-0)
When: Tuesday, January 17th, 7PM
TV: ESPN 3
Ohio slipped up against Eastern Michigan at home on Saturday, preventing a match up of MAC perfect teams. More troubling for the Bobcats, Antonio Campbell injured his ankle. He has been listed as day to day, and missed practice on today.
OU has a bevy of other weapons, so this wont be a walk in the park for the Zips, regardless of Campbell’s situation. The Bobcats have Jaaron Simmons, who is tied for third in the entire nation in assists. Kenny Kaminski is going to need to have a big game for the Bobcats. He is averaging 13.6 points a game. He is streaky and I can’t picture the Bobcats winning if he doesn’t hit near 20 points in this game.
On the Akron side, they are riding a 7 game winning streak this season. They are also owners of the third longest home winning streak in the NCAA, at 25 games.
For the Zips, Isaiah Johnson is patrolling the middle, scoring 15.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. If Campbell can’t go, it’s likely he will have bigger numbers in both categories in this game. Kwan Cheatham Jr. and Jimond Ivey both average over 10 points and 6 rebounds for the Zips, and without Campbell in the game, they also could have big games.
This game should be fun. Not as fun if Campbell can’t go, but fun none the less. Everyone not named Akron or Ohio in the East is sitting at 1-3 in conference play, so a win here is going to go a long way toward winning the division championship.
When: Tuesday, January 17th, 7PM
TV: ESPN 3
Eastern Michigan is tied for the lead in the MAC West, which shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. The team revolves around James Thompson IV, who is averaging 14.3 points and 10.5 rebound, and is certainly a MAC player of the year contender. Ty Toney, Willie Mangum IV, Ray Lee, and Tim Bond are all capable of scoring in bursts, partially thanks to the attention teams have to give Thompson IV. Mangum IV is leading the team in scoring at 16.2 points a clip, not bad for a guy that usually comes in off the bench.
The fact that the Eagles are in a game of the week isn’t shocking. Western Michigan, after opening up the season with a 4-8 record in their non conference schedule is. Some of those losses were close, and they had to play Villinova and UCLA. Even though the schedule was brutal, they showed flashes of potential in some games, while in others they really didn’t look good at all.
Being 2-2 in the conference wouldn’t be that shocking, however, except they opened with Ohio, Akron, Kent State, and Toledo. The only team in the conference that I would expect to go 2-2 against that murderer’s row would be Eastern Michigan.
Tucker Haymond dropped 35 in his last game out for the Broncos. The freshman of the future, Reggie Jones and Brandon Johnson, have been coming on, and Thomas Wilder is starting to show why I picked him to win MAC player of the year. A Steve Hawkins coached team that can score like they have the last two weeks is a handful for anyone in the country, let alone the MAC.
Is Western Michigan a contender? A win here screams yes.
Ohio Bobcats 11-4 (3-1) at Northern Illinois Huskies 11-6 (3-1)
When: Saturday, January 21st, 4:30 PM
Watch: ESPN 3
Northern Illinois hosts Miami in a game they should win Tuesday night. It’s by no means a guarantee, but if they manage to win that game, they will be sitting at 4-1 in the MAC. A win against Ohio after that, and it’s quite possible they could be sitting at 5-1 in the MAC, with the next closest team in their division sitting at 3-3.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t think that was possible with a Marin Maric led team. It’s not a knock on him. I think he is a fine player. He just doesn’t strike me as a climb on my back and I’ll lead you to the promised land type of player. If the Huskies are sitting at 5-1, I’ll believe.
Eastern Michigan Eagles 11-6 (3-1) at Akron Zips 14-3 (4-0)
When: Friday, January 19th, 6:30pm
Watch: CBS Sports Network
This is the only game Friday night in the MAC, and all eyes should be on it. Both teams have tough match-ups Tuesday, but don’t let a loss or two by these teams detract you from just how important this game is.
A win here for EMU, and that would mean they beat the two best teams in the East on their home turf. A win here by the Zips, and they would be sitting no worse than tied for the East lead.
It will be interesting to see how the Zips handle the 2-3 zone in this game. Can they knock down their jumpers, and will Johnson be able to find some easy buckets? We’ll find out Friday night.