The last games of the non-conference schedule are usually reserved for teams that would be considered easy wins for the scheduler as a way of boosting momentum heading into conference play. Unfortunately, this weekend is that weekend for the nine MAC schools still with a game left to play before opening up against a MAC opponent.
Here's a quick rundown of this weekend's games:
Best game: While UC-Riverside-Northern Illinois doesn't scream awesome game, it should be a competitive one at least. The Highlanders are 7-5 and have five wins over Division 1 competition, which is a good thing. They rank in the middle of the pack in all major statistical categories, so nothing really stands out as a weakness or strength. These two teams met last season which ended up in a 71-64 win for the Huskies in California. I would expect another close game as NIU looks to keep their home record spotless.
Welcome back: Dan Hipsher, the head coach of Texas-Pan American, is back in Northeast Ohio coaching for the first time in awhile. Hipsher coached at Akron for nine seasons in the mid-to-late nineties and early 2000s, guiding the Zips to a 112-137 record during that time period. He'll be in Kent tonight taking on the Golden Flashes, who are looking to get back on track after a loss at Kansas. The Broncs are 5-8 but just 1-7 on the road, and they're playing their fifth straight game away from home tonight. Should be an easy one for the Flashes.
Let's pump up some stats: Central Michigan hosts something called Central Penn tonight, which could either be a college or a life insurance company.
Best game: This is tough, but let's go with Toledo at Northern Kentucky. It could end up being a tricky road game for the Rockets, who are coming off of a tough defeat at Duke and may be looking forward to the start of conference play. The Norse are 4-2 at home this season and 6-8 overall, but just came off one of their best games of the year - a 78-74 road loss at Youngstown State. Toledo can't afford to overlook NKU in what may become a trap game for the Rockets.
Battle for Western New York: Buffalo and Cornell square off on Saturday in Alumni Arena, and while Cornell isn't exactly located in Western New York it's close enough to fit the narrative. The Big Red are doing just a tad bit better than last year's 2-26 campaign - they've improved 300% to six wins and seven losses. Penn State needed a buzzer beater to knock them off in the Charleston Classic and they've also beaten a solid Canisius squad. The Bulls are rolling but can't afford to slip up right before conference play starts.
Good test for the RedHawks: UMKC travels to Millett Hall for a Saturday afternoon tip against Miami. While the Kangaroos' record isn't all that impressive (5-10), they beat Missouri on the opening night of the season and also won at Indiana State. The RedHawks have won two of their last three after a six-game losing streak that sent them to the bottom of the standings. While this may be a stiff test for Miami, it'll be a good measuring stick to see where they really are. Will they keep some momentum heading into their first MAC game against Buffalo? Or will they take yet another step back in what looks to be a disappointing season in Oxford?
Could get ugly: Akron hosts their annual MEAC beatdown tomorrow, and this time the victim is Coppin State. The Eagles are 1-13 this year and only have a win over a D2 team. These two played last year and it was a little too close for comfort (77-66), but I'm sure that game will be in the minds of every player.
Other games: Chicago State-Bowling Green should be a laugher, while Bethune-Cookman-Ball State may cause some eyes to bleed.