Well, we're a month into the MAC basketball season. Some teams are looking great (Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Bowling Green) and some are surprisingly struggling (Toledo). Akron is learning to play without Demetrius Treadwell as is Western Michigan with Shayne Whittington. What else have we learned during the first month of the basketball season?
The MAC has three undefeated teams left: Eastern Michigan (6-0), Central Michigan (5-0) and Bowling Green (4-0). Are some of these wins legitimate though? Or are these three just beating bad teams?
Eastern Michigan has already beaten two non-D1 teams. Their D1 opponents so far have a 9-19 record. The Eagles' best win is over Oakland, who just beat Toledo over the weekend. Fortunately we will find out just how good Eastern Michigan is in the month of December, as they face Dayton, Michigan and Michigan State in three consecutive games. They won't be expected to win any, but if they at least compete it'll bode well for the remainder of the season.
Central Michigan's four D1 opponents have a combined record of 7-17, so the Chips haven't beaten anybody good yet. Their best win is over Youngstown State, but do have a game at Northwestern coming up. It's hard to tell just how good the Chips will be this year, but they've done what they are supposed to do so far this year: beat bad teams.
Bowling Green's undefeated record is probably the most impressive of the bunch. The Falcons just knocked off Detroit on a buzzer beater from Richaun Holmes. Detroit has already beaten Toledo at home, so being able to knock off the Titans on the road is a great win. BG also beat Wright State, who are 4-3 on the season and have an impressive win over Belmont. Their two other wins are Drake on the road and Southeast Missouri State at home, which at least are D1 schools.
What's Up With Toledo?
The Rockets are just 2-4 with wins over Northern Arizona and Bucknell and losses to VCU, Oregon, Detroit and Oakland. While the first two losses are excusable, the second two are a little more worrisome. Although both losses were by a combined five points, Toledo beat Detroit twice last year and Oakland had already lost to both Eastern and Western Michigan this season.
The start is a little alarming, but Toledo will be okay. They're still the second best team so far in the MAC according to KenPom and face an easier schedule in December. Julius Brown will start to score a little more and the bench will get better from more experience. This team should still be considered the favorites to win the conference, even with a sluggish start.
Get to Know These Guys
The MAC has had the same guys leading the conference for the past few years - McCrea, Treadwell, Whittington, Pearson, etc. But with those guys graduated or suspended, new faces have stepped into their places and have really produced.
Buffalo's Justin Moss may be best known for this:
But his play over the first few games shows he's ready to take over Javon McCrea's role. Moss is third in the conference in scoring and rebounding, averaging eighteen points and nine rebounds per game. It's a small sample size, but Moss is quickly becoming one of the most exciting players to watch in the conference.
Ohio guard Javarez Willis has also stepped up with increased playing time. Willis averaged just seven points while playing twenty minutes per game last year after transferring to Athens from Texas Tech. This season, averaging over thirty minutes per game, Willis is filling it up. During this weekend's loss to Belmont, Willis had 25 points on 10-19 shooting. The Bobcats will need Willis to play well (and a lot with a limited bench), and early returns say that Willis can be a primary scoring option.
You would imagine that David Brown would be the leading scorer for Western Michigan, right? Wrong. Senior point guard Austin Richie leads the Broncos in scoring at nearly fifteen points per game, tenth in the conference as of Saturday. Richie is also twelfth in the conference in assists per game at a little over three per game. His scoring average is a little inflated due to a 28-point outburst in the first game, but Richie has still scored in double digits in each game since then.
Freshmen Stepping Up
Raise your hand if you thought the leading scorer in the conference at the end of November would be a freshman? Didn't think so.
Ball State's Sean Sellers has been playing phenomenally well during his first few weeks in a college uniform. Sellers exploded for 26 points in the season opener against Utah and is averaging 19.5 points per game through four games. The Cardinals star has an amazing shooting line: 52% from the field, 63% from beyond the arc, and 90% at the free throw line. It'll be tough to keep up, but his play has been so impressive, especially for a guy coming right out of high school.
One of Sellers' teammates is also contributing quite well for the young Cardinals. Freshman Jeremie Tyler has filled in the now-graduated Chris Bond's shooting guard role superbly, averaging over sixteen points per game. Ball State may not win a lot of games this year, but their talented freshmen have them set for success in the near future.
Other impressive freshmen include Akron's Noah Robotham, Buffalo's Lamonte Bearden and Ohio's Ryan Taylor. All three are averaging double-digit points and are featuring in central roles on their respective teams. It's going to be an interesting race for the Freshman of the Year award, that's for sure.
There are some big games in December as teams start to push themselves a little harder to get ready for conference play. Eastern Michigan will test themselves with the three straight road games mentioned above. While Central Michigan doesn't have the greatest schedule, trips to Northwestern and McNeese State will challenge them. Ohio has the chance to pick up some nice wins at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii.
MAC schools will play some really talented teams in December. Toledo goes to Duke, Kent State will play at Kansas and Buffalo heads to Wisconsin, all after Christmas. Those will be really tough games but will be a measuring stick to see where those teams stand heading into conference play.