It’s must win time if either of these teams want to win the MAC West. Currently, The Ball State Cardinals are tied for the lead with Western Michigan, with the Toledo Rockets just one game back.
Also at stake, an all important bye in the MAC tournament. Akron has locked up one of the spots. The Bobcats are the only other team that controls their own destiny, with 10 wins in the MAC. There are 4 teams that are 9-7 in conference play, including the Cardinals. The Rockets are sitting at 8-8. Theoretically, there could be 7 teams tied at 9-7, but no one wants that to happen, except Bowling Green and Northern Illinois. Confusing? That’s the 2016-17 MAC basketball season in a nut shell.
When: Tuesday, February 28th, 7p.m.
Where: Savage Arena, Toledo, Ohio
Watch: BCSN/ESPN3 or stream via the watchESPN app
Listen: WLBC 104.1 in Muncie or you can stream via utrockets.com
Scouting the Cardinals
The Cardinals are solid all the way around. They can hurt teams inside with the play of Franko House and Trey Moses, and they have 3 or 4 guys that can really light it up from outside. They aren’t the quickest team in the world, but play solid defense, forcing teams to take jumpers.
Tayler Persons, Franko House, and Trey Moses are all scrappy guys that get after it, and the team takes on that persona.
Scouting the Rockets
The Rockets are the second in the MAC in scoring, and second from the bottom in team defense.
Offensively, they are a site to behold. Led in scoring by senior Jonathon Williams, he can score from the outside or drive to the basket. Steve Taylor Jr. is a highly skilled center, that actually leads the team in assists. A true center, he is third in the country with 12.4 rebounds per game. The offense centers on those two players, who then get the ball to the shooters, and the Rockets have several.
Players to Watch
Jonathan Williams, Toledo: One of the better scoring guards in the league, he is averaging 19.8 points per game. He has scored in double digits in every game this season except twice. Once early on against Evansville, and in the first match-up against Ball State, a game he didn’t play in.
Steve Taylor Jr, Toledo: The MAC is loaded with highly skilled post players this season, and Taylor is one of them.
Franko House, Ball State: House is a wide player that does a lot of the dirty work for the Cardinals. He can also score inside and out.
Tayler Persons, Ball State: The Cardinals point guard had 26 points the last time these two teams played. It will be interesting to see if he has a similar performance with Williams playing in this game.
Keys to the Game
Last time these teams played, the Cardinals won 81-80. The Rockets were without Jonathan Williams, which leads me to believe this game will be an even higher scoring affair.
Both teams will need to play tough defense early. If either lets the other team get heated up, this game could get out of hand in a hurry.
The Rockets will need to help Taylor in the interior. He had 18 rebounds to keep the rebounding margin close last time. With Trey Moses and House, the Cardinals are very good at controlling the lane.
With Williams in the lineup this time, and it being in Toledo, I give the Rockets the edge in what should be an exciting contest, 90-88