It’s still early in the season, but I I think the three teams that are leading their respective divisions are going to be at the top at the end of the year, too. In the West, it’s Toledo. In the East, it’s Ohio and Akron. Those two don’t play each other until next week, but they have some tests this week before that happens.
These are the games I will be watching this week in MACsketball shootyhoops action.
When: 7pm Tuesday
Watch: ESPN3, via stream
Central Michigan was getting blown out for most of their game against Northern Illinois, before they heated it up and made a great comeback that fell just short.
If you have yet to watch Central play basketball this season, I highly recommend tuning in. They are a fun team to watch. Marcus Keene is leading the conference and the country at 29 points a game. He could become the basketball season’s version of Western Michigan football. That is to say, the national story out of the MAC. Averaging over 30 points a game for an entire season hasn’t happened since the 96-97 season. The more he flirts with that line, the more he’ll make the ESPN. Not bad for a guy that is 5’9.
His back-court companion is Braylon Rayson, who is also 5’9. Rayson is averaging 18.1 points a game. This team can light it up in a hurry. They were down 17 with 10 to go against NIU, and 10 with 2 minutes to go and got it to a 1 possession game before finally losing. Rayson made an attempted steal that would have given them a chance to tie with a 3, but he slipped and ended up out of bounds.
Akron is 12-3, and loaded. Two of their three losses are against top 10 teams. Isaiah Johnson leads the team in scoring, rebounding and assists, but is hardly a one man show. They have 5 guys averaging in double figures in scoring. I lied, Kwan Cheatham Jr. is only averaging 9.9. But they could be after this game.
It will be interesting to see how they handle a team with the guard play of CMU. They struggled a bit against Bowling Green.
Ohio Bobcats @ Buffalo Bulls
When: 7pm Tuesday
Watch: ESPN3 via stream (Subject to blackout)
Buffalo is back, baby! I have been pretty hard on Buffalo most of the season. They proved me to be the idiot I always knew I was by beating a pretty good EMU squad on the road. They have always had the talent and ability. I just questioned their shot selection. I said they could beat anyone if they got hot from outside. Against EMU, they didn’t really do much better in that department, but they crashed the glass, hard. They finished with 17 offensive rebounds.
It will take an even more Herculean effort if they are going to knock of the Bobcats. Antonio Campbell would be the player of the year favorite if there weren’t a guy named Keene lighting it up in Mount Pleasant. Jaaron Simmons is averaging 7.6 assists for the Bobcats. The Bobcats are 10-3, and depending on the time of day, are my favorite to win the MAC East. On the hour, I go with them, on the half hour, I go with Akron.
Toledo Rockets @ Central Michigan Chippewas
When: 7pm Friday
As I said, Central Michigan is fun.
Toledo is a really good basketball team. Their record doesn’t reflect how much they have grown since the start of the season. After starting the season 4-6, they have rattled off 5 wins in a row. They are complete team. Guard Jonathan Williams leads the team in scoring, averaging 20.6 per clip. Big man Steve Taylor Jr. not only scores and rebounds, but leads the team in assists. Nate Navigato has been coming on lately, scoring in double digits 4 out of the last 6 games.
The West was always going to be a wild ride this year, but Toledo has emerged as one of the favorites. If they can knock off Central at Central, it would be a huge win.
Eastern Michigan Eagles @ Ohio Bobcats
When: 3:30pm Saturday
Watch: ESPN3 via stream
Eastern Michigan has MAC title hopes. They have a talented roster and a good coach. James Thompson IV is one of the best players in the MAC. Where are they as a team at this point in the season? I can’t call it. Sometimes, they look really good. Sometimes they look really bad.
Ohio can make a lot of teams look bad. Their Convocation Center is a rocking place. If Eastern is the team I thought they were going to be at the beginning season, they need to be competitive in this game. What I am really looking at is to see how they react when things don’t go their way, which at some point in this game it almost certainly will.
Another week, another line up of great basketball action in the MAC.