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Why Michael and Marcus Weathers Transferring to an Atlantic 10 School Would Make Me Sad

Obviously I want what is best for their future, but

Dayton wins on a last second shot by Kyle Davis
Miami Ohio loses a heartbreaker with three seconds left on the clock.

First, let me say that I want what is best for the brothers. I would never be upset that any college kid was trying to better their situation, regardless of my rooting interest. As I was writing the story of their transfer, I started running some landing spots in my head. Since they are from Kansas, I know the Jayhawks are a possibility. Any Big 12 team is. Then I started to think what if they stick somewhat close to their college team? As I was coming up with some candidates, several Atlantic 10 schools popped up. This made me sad.

This train of thought really isn’t about the brothers, however. I have nothing but goodwill towards their future, even if it’s an A-10 school. It’s about where the A-10 is compared to the MAC. So when I say that I would be upset if they end up in the Atlantic 10, I really wouldn’t. As a fan of all things MACtion, however, it would shine a light on the glaring disparity between the two conferences.

When I was a young lad, like a lot of young lads, I was a huge sports fan. Being from Columbus, I had family and friends from all over the state. Since there are 6 MAC teams in Ohio, it was easy for me to find a rooting interest in all of them. My uncle played football at Toledo, so I followed them the most in that sport. One of my best friends was from Southern Ohio, and a huge Ohio fan, so I tended to follow them the most in basketball. It helped that around that time, Paul “Snoop” Graham was in the NBA, and Lewis Geter and then Gary Trent were dominating the MAC.

Like most, as adulthood hit, I couldn’t spend as much time following my childhood interests, and my love for MACtion had to take a back seat. When a score came across the ESPN, I noticed, and if I was lucky enough to have the time to actually watch a game, I did, but my knowledge of all things MAC was in the equivalent of the Dark Ages.

When life took a turn for the better, and I again had time to pursue child-like interests, I started following the MAC again. Football was largely where I left it. Attendance was down, but a lot of that was the direct result of weeknight MACtion. The product on the field was the same, or possibly even better. Then came basketball season.

I was aware the game changed a lot. Gone were the super teams of the 80s and 90s, and the one and done is dominating the major programs. The game has suffered tremendously. Could you imagine what the 1982 North Carolina team of Sam Perkins, James Worthy and Michael Jordan would do in this day and age? UCONN women would be envious

NBA teams are investing 10s of millions in kids that they don’t have a lot of film on. Of course they are going to be slow to get rid of that kid when some inevitably don’t pan out. And of course when you give a kid 50 million guaranteed dollars, he is going to struggle with commitment and listening skills. I know I would at 42, let alone 19.

Ironically or not, this has helped some of the little guys. While the NBA and the major colleges are struggling to adjust, the natural order of it has helped the underdog. At least some of the little guys. They are taking the same recruits they always got, and developing for 3 and 4 years, like they always have. These juniors and seniors don’t face the same level of competition as their forefathers. That’s how Butler was a missed half court shot away from a national title, and Gonzaga is in the Final Four now.

I was mildly optimistic that the MAC would be better than when I left it.

I was sorely disappointed.

The teams just weren’t that good. There is talent. There are good coaches, but the overall state of things isn’t ideal, to say the least.

I am not going to break down the season of each team here, I will do that in the coming weeks. However, I will use Western Michigan to make my point.

They started off the season a hot mess. They had a solid core of returnees, but also a lot of new faces, so that wasn’t unexpected. They muddled through the non-conference, and improved enough to come from way back to tie for the top spot in the MAC West.

And here is why I am going to use them as the example. As great as their season was, it could have been a little better, it’s very telling about the state of the MAC as a whole. They played some really good games in their non-conference, but didn’t quite pull out that signature win. They took Washington to the wire, and played Villanova tough. The problem is that they didn’t pull out those extremely important non-conference wins.

In fact, no MAC team did. The Kent State win against Texas was nice, as was Ohio beating Georgia Tech, but neither of those vanquished foes were in the Big Dance. For the MAC to improve their lot in life, they need to pull out a few of those close non-conference meter moving games.

They are close. They also need to play much better when they are in post season play.

The gap between the MAC and the big boys isn’t as big as it plays out in the media. And that is what brings us to the Atlantic 10. The MAC got one bid to the NCAA tournament, as expected. Had they won a few big non-conference games, or a few post season games in the past, maybe it would be a little different.

It is a little bit more sunny in the Atlantic 10. They got three bids to March Madness.

Keith Dambrot, who has had great success at Akron, left for Duquesne, a not so good A-10 school. His reason, according to an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "When you're not happy after winning 26 and 27 games, you have to re-evaluate,'' Dambrot said when contacted late Monday night. "The one-bid league thing was really starting to wear on me and my staff.”

When I look to the ACC, I have no envy, because the MAC can’t compete with that. When I look to the Atlantic 10, I think, “Why not us?”.

Their arenas aren’t much nicer than ours. Their history, while better, isn’t so much better that it can’t be overcome. Their teams, while a little better, can be beaten. All it would take is a little bit of commitment by the MAC. Or more specifically, some teams in the MAC.

That commitment can come from the administrators, and they can throw some more cash at coaches and facilities. That might help. What would certainly help is a commitment from the fans. Even though it’s fairly cheap to go to a basketball game, the arena is usually empty.

I saw the strides Western Michigan made this season. And Bowling Green. I was impressed with how Ohio recovered after losing the reigning MAC Player of the Year. Did you see that run Kent State made after slumping? The point is, how much better would all of those improvements have been if they were doing them in front of packed houses?