Sunday, January 22, 2006

Week 10 Power Rankings: On to division play

[note: still guest blogging on Hoops Junkie...]

Likely my last post during Tim's hiatus, I provide my cut at the Power Rankings for the week. As we head into the heart of the in-division schedule, some surprising West over East games shake things up at the top. With the MAC powers lining up this week for some interesting games, things may shake up even further in the coming week.

Tim may or may not update this to his liking if he thinks I'm a darn fool. It's been fun hanging out here for the week, and feel free to check out my views on the MAC, as well as politics and a little bit of everything else at Scenes from a Hat.

As usual, you are encouraged to make a visit to Vandelay Sports for their Power Rankings. Compare... contrast... talk amongst yourselves...

1. Akron (13-3, 6-0) (2) - 3 wins for the week and solidly on the top of the rankings at this point.

2. Kent State (12-5, 6-0) (4) - Also undefeated for the week and solidly up top, with solid wins against NIU and Western.

3. Ohio (11-3, 5-1) (2) – A loss to NIU moves the Bobcats down a tick, but still look like a team to beat in the East.

4. Miami (9-6, 6-1) (3) – A split week as well, with a win against UT and a loss at Western.

5. Northern Illinois (9-6, 4-3) (5) – Still the class of the West, splitting with East leaders Ohio and Kent.

6. Bowling Green (7-9, 3-3) (7) – A pretty good week on the road, besting Eastern and losing a one-point decision in Muncie

7. Buffalo (13-4, 3-3) (6) – A stunning home loss against CMU keeps the Bulls surprisingly in the MAC East cellar.

8. Western Michigan (5-11, 2-4) (9) – A big win against Miami keeps the Broncos in 2nd place in the West.

9. Ball State (5-9, 1-5) (10) – A close loss at Buffalo and a close win against BG put BSU into 3rd place in the West.

10. Toledo (8-7, 1-6) (8) – The tumble continues for UT, as they lose two this week and five of the last six.

11. Central Michigan (3-12, 1-6) (12) - A surprising road victory against Buffalo makes the season outlook a little brighter for the Chips.

12. Eastern Michigan (3-11, 0-6) (11) –Now the only winless MAC squad after losses against BG and Akron.

MAC Nightcap: Where this reporter is glad his internet connection was down this morning...

[note: still guest-blogging on Hoops Junkie...]

Well, it was certainly an interesting last day of cross-division matchups... I had a nice little "MAC Today" written to post today, detailing how I figured Buffalo, Miami, and Akron had cruise-control match-ups to wrap up their tour through the West, how I thought West leader NIU would likely defend homecourt against Kent, and how I feared that Ball State would continue their suffering against BGSU. Sometimes a downed internet connection can be a blessing. That way you guys will never know about this unbelievably inaccurate set of predictions... oh, wait... I guess I just told you about them... Anyway...

On a day of Top-25 upsets (ND St. over Wisky, the Johnnies over Pitt, the hated UT over the Gators, and, of course, the Dukies falling to the Hoyas), I guess it's natural that the MAC followed suit. A couple of big upsets lead off the MAC Tonight:

  • Central Michigan 71, Buffalo 61 - Central Michigan picked up their first road win of the season after nine tries, breaking Buffalo's streak of 14 straight home victories along the way. In a surprising course of events, the Bulls found themselves down by 22 points in the second half against the 3-12 Chips, but were able to close within three before finally succumbing to the determined CMU squad. A bad shooting night (39% FG, 35% 3FG, 58%FT) certainly contributed to the defeat. Giordan Watson led the way for the Chips with 25 points, along with a double-double from Sefton Barrett (20 pts, 14 boards). Calvin Cage led Buffalo with 25 points.

    Where things stand: Buffalo remains in the MAC East cellar with a 3-3 record, while CMU is tied for fourth in the MAC West with a 1-6 mark.

    Up next: Buffalo travels to BGSU, while CMU travels to Ball State

  • Western Michigan 59, Miami 50 - Another Directional also had a good day at the expense of a MAC East leader... In similar fashion to CMU, WMU built a 13 point lead going into halftime by outscoring the Redhawks 18-2, and then was able to hold on during a second half challenge. Miami was able to cut the lead to one point, but never could take an advantage in the second half. Joe Reitz led the Broncos with 19 points, and William Hatcher also scored 19 points for Miami. Nathan Peavy was held to 4 points on 1-3 shooting, but did manage a game-high 10 rebounds.

    Where things stand: Miami falls into 3rd place, 1/2 game off the pace of the leaders in the MAC East, while Western remains in second place in the West, 1 1/2 games behind NIU.

    Up next: Western travels to Eastern, while Miami hosts Kent

  • Akron 79, East. Michigan 61 - Akron broke up the Michigan party, breaking open a close game with a 12-4 run to cruise to a victory against Eastern. The Zips had a balanced attack with four players in double figures, led by Dru Joyce (16 pts, 5 ast) and Romeo Travis (15 pts, 8 rb). EMU was led in scoring by (guess who?) John Bowler with (16 pts, 9 rb), but he committed 8 turnovers. The Eagles shot 52% from the field, but 24 turnovers contributed to their demise.

    Where things stand: Akron stays atop the MAC East, while EMU remains in the MAC West cellar.

    Up next: EMU host WMU, while Akron travels to Ohio

  • Ball St. 62, Bowling Green 61 - Yeah!!! (oh, sorry... not supposed to let biases show...) Ball State recovered from a 9 point deficit on the homecourt, finishing with a 26-16 run to finally secure their first MAC victory of the year. In a game that was closely contested throughout, the Cards dove deep into their bench (10 players with 9 minutes or more) and played many minutes with 5 freshmen on the court as Tim Buckley looked for a combination that worked. The result was an ugly victory gained on 37% shooting, but with big shots when they were needed. Maurice Acker (19 pts, 6 ast) and Skip Mills (14 pts, 9 rb) again led the way for the Cards, while BG was led by Steven Wright (who made two late 3-pointers to keep it close) with 16 points, and Martin Samarco with 15.

    Where things stand: BG still resides in the MAC East cellar with a 3-3 mark, while BSU climbs into third place in the West with a 1-5 record.

    Next up: BSU hosts CMU, while BG hosts Buffalo

  • Ohio 71, Toledo 68 - Ohio gained their first win at Savage Hall in a decade by defeating the Toledo Rockets in an ugly affair. The Bobcats shot 57% from the field (67% in the first half), but made 24 turnovers and shot a miserable percentage from the line, leading to a close game against the Rockets. Whitney Davis led the Bobcats with 18 points, while Leon Williams contributed 13. Jeremy Fears had 14 points, but rode the pine for the last 16 minutes or so. Justin Ingram led the Rockets with 20 points.

    Where things stand: Ohio is in fourth place in the East, one game behind the leaders, while UT is in fourth place in the West, three games off of the pace.

    Next up: Ohio hosts Akron, while UT travels to NIU

  • Kent St. 72, Northern Illinois 61 - In what on paper looked like the game of the day but didn't really play out that way, Kent won the battle of division leaders, besting Northern on their homecourt by 11. NIU buried themselves in the first half with a dismal 29% shooting output to dig an 11-point halftime hole that they could never climb out of. Jay Youngblood was on fire for the Flashes, scoring 27 points on 10 of 16 shooting, and also grabbing six boards. Omni Smith continued his impressive efforts off the Kent bench, scoring 14 points in 29 minutes of action. NIU was led by James Hughes (15 pts) and Anthony Maestranzi (14 pts).

    Where things stand: Kent has quietly stayed in a tie for first in the East with an undefeated conference record, while NIU remains firmly atop the West division with a 2-win advantage over the nearest challenger.

    Up next: Kent travels to Miami, while NIU hosts Toledo

Thursday, January 19, 2006

MAC Nightcap: Yawn...

[Guest blogging at Hoops Junkie for the rest of the week... Go check 'em out]

Predictable results again... East 4, West 0 on the night.

Akron 76, Central Michigan 69 (OT) - The biggest surprise had to be the impressive 2nd half comeback staged by Central Michigan, cutting a 2nd half 21 point deficit to force an overtime against East division leader Akron (well... one of the three leaders anyway...). Giordan Watson tied the score with 17 ticks left to force the OT. Akron controlled the overtime, however, and came away with the road victory. Romeo scored 22 in the victory, leading the Zips to their 7th straight victory. The Chips were led in their 7th straight loss by a combination of freshman Aaron Richie (16 pts), Sefton Barrett (15 pts, 9 rb, 3 blk), and Eddie Spencer (14 pts, 8 rbs).

Next up: Akron hosts EMU, while CMU travels to Buffalo.

Bowling Green 79, Eastern Michigan 72 - Ypsilanti native Martin Samarco enjoyed his homecoming, scoring 35 points (including 5-of-7 from three) to pace BG to a road victory over Eastern. John Bowler, of course, led the Eagles with an 18 point, 7 rebound effort, but a 23 turnover night killed any hopes of gaining their first conference victory.

Next up: The Eagles travel to Akron, while BG travels to Ball State.

Buffalo 75, Ball State 64 - A typical Ball State game... As they have in four of their five conference losses, Ball State squandered a 2nd half lead (6 points with 8:45 to play), scoring only twice from the field the rest of the way and allowing Buffalo to score on 13 of its final 14 possessions on their way to a Bulls victory. The short-handed Bulls again played without Parnell Smith, who missed his third consecutive game due to injury, but were also without Greg Gamble, who set out for academic reasons. Buffalo was led by Yassin Idbihi (23 pts, 12 rbs) and Calvin Cage (21 pts). BSU got 20 points from Skip Mills, and 15 from Maurice Acker and D'andre Peyton.

Next up: BSU hosts BG, while Buffalo hosts CMU.

Miami 58, Toledo 49 - Nathan Peavy (19 pts, 15 rbs) had his sixth double-double of the season to lead Miami to a low scoring grinder against Toledo. It was a hotly contested battle, with lead changes throughout the first half and many slim leads for Miami in the 2nd half until a 9-0 run over the last minute or so of the game put the Rockets away. Toledo was led by Jerrah Young and Justin Ingram, who scored 10 points apiece. William Hatcher also scored 18 for the RedHawks.

Next up: Miami travels to Western, while Toledo hosts Ohio

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

MAC Tonight: The Quick Version

[Guest blogging at Hoops Junkie for the rest of the week... Go check 'em out]

I got totally swamped over the last 24 hours, so I apologize for the late (and very short) post:

Last night:
On tap tonight:

  • Ball St. (4-8, 0-4) @ Buffalo (12-3, 2-2) , Alumni Arena (Buffalo, NY) at 7:00pm ET

  • Akron (11-3, 4-0) @ CMU (2-11, 0-5), Rose Center (Mt. Pleasant, MI) at 7:00pm ET

  • Toledo (8-5, 1-4) @ Miami (8-5, 5-0), Millett Hall (Miami, OH) at 7:00pm ET

  • Bowling Green (6-8, 2-2) @ EMU (3-9, 0-4), Convocation Center (Ypsilanti, MI) at 7:00pm

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

MAC Today: Recapping one game and setting up tonight's action

[Guest blogging at Hoops Junkie for the rest of the week... Go check 'em out]

First, a quick mention of the non-league action for Akron last night. Led by Dru Joyce (12 points, 8 boards), Romeo Travis (12 points) and Nate Linhart (also 12 points), the Zips secured their 6th straight victory and their 12th for the season on the road against Horizon League opponent Cleveland State. After leading by 16 points midway through the half, Akron let the Vikings within 8 with 6 to go before the Zips took control back and finished out. Akron resumes MAC action on Wednesday at CMU.

On to tonight's action:

Western Michigan (4-10, 1-3) @ Kent State (10-5, 4-0)

Kent State will attempt to keep pace with the rest of the MAC East leaders tonight as they host Western Michigan. All signs point to a victory for the Flashes, who are 5-0 in MAC play this year, matching their best start in their history in the MAC. Western Michigan is coming off of a streak of five losses in the last six games. To further compound the Broncos' predicament, Kent has won six in a row against WMU at the M.A.C Center. Sophomore Joe Reitz leads the Broncos (14.1ppg, 7.4rpg), while Kent is led by Jay Youngblood (14.9ppg), Deandre Haynes (9.3ppg, 3.9apg), and a resurgent Kevin Warzynski (9.3ppg, 5.8rpg). Omni Smith has been fantastic recently as well for the Flashes, earning a MAC East Player of the Week designation after his 18ppg average last week.

Las Vegas says: KENT STATE 11½ over Western Michigan

Audio: Kent or WMU, and follow live stats at Kent's webpage
Gametime: 7 p.m. (ET)

Ohio (10-2, 4-0) at Northern Illinois (8-5, 3-2)

The game I'll be listening to is the OU/NIU clash. Ohio has coasted through a schedule filled with the bottom-feeders of the West, but today they will face what may be their first serious in-conference challenge when they travel to DeKalb. The Bobcats have won four straight matchups and are still undefeated in MAC play in their best start since 1941, while Northern Illinois leads the West division with a 3-2 mark. It should be an interesting game in that Bobcats lead the MAC in opponent scoring (60.7), while the Huskies lead the MAC in field goal percentage (49.3%). Ohio is still depending on their balanced scoring, with six players averaging between 7 and 12 points, led by Leon Williams (12.2ppg, 7.8rpg) , Mychal Green (11.9ppg), and (Jeremy Fears (10.4ppg, 4.8apg). NIU is very balanced as well, with five players averaging between 8 and 11 points, led by Todd Peterson (10.9ppg, 5.3rpg) and Mike McKinney (10.5ppg). Northern is 5-1 in DeKalb this year, while Ohio is 3-2 on the road.

Las Vegas says: Pick 'em

Audio: Ohio or NIU, as well as the little doggy company, channel 117. (It appears that Sirius is picking up a MAC game of the week now. XM only carries ACC, PAC-10 and Big1Ten. Is it enough to make me want to switch from my beloved XM? Nah... I can't stand Stern. And the way they're paying him and others, they'll be bankrupt soon. And XM's equipment is so much better... I think I'll wait until they go under and XM picks up the contract... Oh... what was I talking about? Basketball... right...)
Gametime: 8 p.m. (ET)

"A tripleheader, donkey-style"

My former hometown is just bursting with quality entertainment options...

From the Muncie StarPress:

Donkey basketball comes to Fieldhouse

MUNCIE -- A tripleheader, donkey-style, will take place tonight at Muncie Fieldhouse.

A donkey basketball fundraiser will pit the Central boys' basketball team against the Central girls' basketball team, followed by a second game between the Central coaches and the Central faculty. A championship game will include local celebrities.

"A tripleheader, donkey-style?" Hmm... That doesn't sound like something to take the family to. I'm thinking that there may have been a better way to phrase that...

Monday, January 16, 2006

Week 9 Power Rankings: Where it's hard to rank teams that are all undefeated...

[Guest blogging at Hoops Junkie this week...]

Another good week of MAC play behind us, with the East taking it to the West on almost every turn. The East is now 21-4 in league play, while the West lingers at a 5-22 mark. It's kind of arbitrary who you select at the top of the heap when there are four undefeated teams to choose from. Akron scored the best victory of the week on paper by beating NIU, but all of the four teams made impressive showings for the week. One more week before things get interesting and some separation can start to occur...

As usual, you are encouraged to make a visit to Vandelay Sports for their Power Rankings. Compare... contrast... talk amongst yourselves...

1. Akron (10-3, 4-0) (2) - A solid win over NIU rounded out the week for the Zips, keeping their 5-game win streak intact. A busy, but very favorable, slate awaits, with games against Eastern and Central after an out-of-conference matchup with Cleveland St. this evening.

2. Ohio (10-2, 4-0) (1) – Ohio has done everything it needs to do at this point, racking up wins against cellar-dweller West teams. Things will get a little more interesting this week, with road trips to Toledo and NIU.

3. Miami (8-5, 5-0) (3) – The Redhawks keep delivering low scoring, hard fought, close call victories. Time will tell if they will be able to continue this way against East foes. UT and a road trip to WMU up next before joining in-division play.

4. Kent State (10-5, 4-0) (6) - Kent hasn't been spectacular, but have certainly been solid while building a 4 game win streak. BSU coach Buckley says they are "the best team we’ve played so far" (over Ohio and Akron). Upcoming: an interesting road contest at NIU.

5. Northern Illinois (8-5, 3-2) (5) – The only West team that's been respectable against the East opponents. The Huskies are firmly in the driver's seat as the in-division contests heat up in a week. Tough upcoming schedule (Ohio, Kent, Toledo) is helped by all of the games being at home.

6. Buffalo (12-3, 2-2) (4) – A disappointing loss to Toledo has put the Bulls in a 2 game hole in the MAC East race. Should come out of this week with a 4-2 mark against BSU and CMU, but likely still 2 games off of the pace.

7. Bowling Green (6-8, 2-2) (11) – Seem to be somewhat catching their stride after a pretty solid week, with a heartbreaking one-point defeat at NIU followed by a big win over UT. A favorable schedule this week could lead the Falcons to a 4-2 conference mark heading into their East schedule.

8. Toledo (8-5, 1-4) (10) – A 50/50 week for the Rockets, with a big win against the Bulls followed by a disappointing defeat at BG. Need a good showing against Ohio and Miami this week to catch up with NIU.

9. Western Michigan (4-10, 1-3) (8) – Not a good week, with 2 losses to upper tier East teams. Still holding onto a tie for 2nd due to their win against BG, and thus holding a higher spot in this ranking than the rest of the MAC West cellar.

10. Ball State (4-8, 0-4) (7) – Until the Cards prove that they can win a game, no amount of close calls and measured improvement will get them anywhere in the standings or the tournament seedings. Tough road trip to Buffalo upcoming.

11. Eastern Michigan (3-9, 0-4) (9) – Ditto for Eastern. They haven't been blown out in conference play, but no points granted here for staying close to the East leaders. Best opportunity in a month awaits: a home game against BGSU.

12. Central Michigan (2-11, 0-5) (12) - The same can't be said for the Chips. Blowout after blowout against the East division, culminating in a 2 FG effort in the first half of their blowout at OU. Not any easier this week, with Akron and Buffalo on tap.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

MAC Nightcap: BGSU is showing signs of life

[More guest blogging at Hoops Junkie. I'll be back with some non-hoops related posting soon...]

Despite a 33% shooting night and a 3-21 performance by leading scorer Martin Samarco, Bowling Green held the homecourt against rival Toledo in the only MAC action of the day and kept themselves in a tie with Buffalo (but 2 wins behind the frontrunners) early in the MAC East race. Toledo shot a similarly frigid 39%, but the biggest difference came from the foul line, with the Falcons shooting 20-of-24 compared to Toledo's lackluster 11 of 19 effort. With the loss, Toledo has thrown itself into the mix with 5 other teams trying to jockey for position behind division leading NIU. The standings are as follows:


Miami (Oh.) 5 - 0 (8 - 5) W4 -
Ohio 4 - 0 (10 - 2) W4 ½
Akron 4 - 0 (10 - 3) W5 ½
Kent State 4 - 0 (10 - 5) W4 ½
Buffalo 2 - 2 (12 - 3) W1 2½
Bowling Green 2 - 2 (6 - 8 ) W1 2½


Northern Illinois 3 - 2 (8 - 5) L1 -
Western Michigan 1 - 3 (4 - 10) L2 1½
Toledo 1 - 4 (8 - 5) L1 2
Ball State 0 - 4 (4 - 8 ) L6 2½
Eastern Michigan 0 - 4 (3 - 9) L5 2½
Central Michigan 0 - 5 (2 - 11) L6 3

Even though it seems way too early to think about conference tournament seedings, and even though the in-division games have yet to begin, a few teams in the West are getting to a point where they may be digging themselves into a very deep hole. Ball State, Eastern, and Central are all 3 losses down to division leading NIU. The fact that both Toledo and Western lost (as did every other team in the division, for that matter) puts this pack into a little more favorable position, especially considering the 2nd place bye to Cleveland that each division will have this year. Unless some of these teams start winning, they may get factored out of the bye picture before the in-division games even begin. Of course, the way things are going, it may be that the status-quo is maintained all through the inter-division games by all of the teams losing all of their games in the next week...

Over on the East side of things, BGSU's win is very important for them to not get shuffled out early as well. The West teams may head into in-division play with nothing decided in the top four if things continue like they are. In this scenerio, Buffalo and BG will be in a position to have to make up ground. This could make for a very interesting start to things in a week or so when d-day hits... In the first mid-week stretch, Kent travels to Miami, Akron travels to Ohio, Ohio travels to Buffalo, and Miami travels to Akron. This should be fun and frivality for all...

Oh... I mentioned the 2 byes per division... In case you haven't heard, the tournament structure has changed with the departure of Marshall. On MACReportOnline recently, it was mentioned that the new tournament layout will have four byes to Cleveland, resulting in the 1st and 2nd place teams in each division bypassing the campus site games. Also, each division will seed separately (1-6), which probably means that the tournament will be similar in structure to the SEC. Something like:

Opening Round (at campus sites)
West 6 at East 3
West 5 at East 4
East 5 at West 4
East 6 at West 3

2nd Round (in Cleveland)
West 1 vs. West 5/East 4 winner
East 2 vs. East 6/West 3 winner
East 1 vs. East 5/West 4 winner
West 2 vs. West 6/East 3 winner

(props to MACReportOnline, and also to MikeSpicer at BSUFans for pointing me in the direction and laying out the example schedule)

Thus, the West and East's #2 spots will be a much coveted position and may give a ray of hope to a struggling West squad or two. I haven't seen anything official out of the MAC offices (at least nothing that I've seen), so confirmation and more details as they come out...

MAC Today: Quick Sunday Edition

[note: Still guest-blogging the MAC coverage at Hoops Junkie]

Why one game on Sunday? Just to annoy me, I think. I can't quite figure out the schedule makers sometimes. Anyhoo...

Toledo (8-4, 1-3) @ BGSU (5-8, 1-2)

A nice rivalry game for your Sunday viewing enjoyment, and an important game for both teams. Toledo can certainly use a victory to close within a game of West division-leading NIU, while Bowling Green needs to play catch-up in the win-heavy East division. Both teams are coming off of close games against leading teams in the opposite divisions, with Toledo looking to build on a win over Buffalo and BG trying to regroup after a one point loss against NIU. This matchup is usually a close affair, with five of the last seven games decided in the last minute. The Falcons are led by junior Martin Samarco with a 18.1 points scoring average, while Justin Ingram leads Toledo's balanced attack with a 14.6 average.

Las Vegas says: (not yet posted)

Audio: BG or UT
Television: BCSN
Gametime: 1pm (ET)

Saturday, January 14, 2006

MAC Nightcap: As Expected...

[note: Still guest-blogging the MAC coverage at Hoops Junkie]

I've been writing this column for less than a week, and I'm already tired of writing about the East division dominance over the West. Of course, tonight was no exception:

  • Kent State 74 Eastern Michigan 64 - For only the second time in school history, Kent is 4-0 in MAC play. Kent was challenged late in this game, with Eastern cutting the lead to one with 3:45 remaining until Nate Gerwig ran off six straight points to secure the victory. Kent was led by Jay Youngblood's 23 points. John Bowler scored yet another double-double with a 23 point, 14 rebound effort.

  • Akron 86, Northern Illinois 73 - Akron capitalized on a 12-0 second half run to counter a one-point NIU lead and gain a 13 point home victory. In a balanced attack, the Zips had 5 players in double figures to stretch their winning streak to 5 and keep themselves in the undefeated mix in the MAC East. Northern still maintained their 2 win lead on the MAC West pack pending the results of Sunday's Toledo-BGSU game.

  • Ohio 76, Central Michigan 44 - Central Michigan scored only two field goals and made 12 turnovers in the first half, leading to an insurmountable 35-7 halftime deficit and eventually a 32 point road loss to the Ohio Bobcats. The Chips missed 15 consecutive shots and were held scoreless while Ohio scored 24 points during a 13 1/2 minute stretch in the first half.

  • Buffalo 73, Western Michigan 62 - Buffalo got back in the win column, using 9 three-point shots to gain an 11 point home victory over Western Michigan. The Bulls used a 19-4 run at the end of the first half to overcome an early lead by the Broncos. Calvin Cage and Yassin Idbihi led the Bulls with 17 points each.

  • Miami 59, Ball State 55 - In a game where neither team led by more than 5 points, Miami won their second straight victory at Worthen Arena in Muncie. The game was close throughout and was knotted at 51 with 2:36 to go in the game. From that point, Miami took advantage of good foul shooting and key defensive stops to gain a four point victory. The Redhawks remained undefeated in conference play, while the Cards remained winless.

MAC Today: The Weekend They Televised All of the Games

[note: Still guest-blogging the MAC coverage at Hoops Junkie]

A good weekend for MAC basketball on television, as four of the six games are televised in some fashion. Again this Saturday, the East looks to continue dominance, with Las Vegas listing the East team as favorite in every single game. Nevertheless, there may be a few good games mixed in with the blowouts. Here's the lineup for the five games on tap today:

Northern Illinois (8-4, 3-1) @ Akron (9-3, 3-0)

The most interesting game of the day may be the NIU/Akron tilt. Northern Illinois has seemed to play to the level of their competition, with their last 7 games decided by 5 or less points. Even still, a win in this game will give the Huskies their best MAC start since 1996 and will cement them firmly into first place in the West division, where they already are two wins up on the nearest competitor. Akron, on the other hand, is looking to extend their four-game winning streak and preserve their best start since 2000. The Zips own a 9-1 record at Rhodes arena against the Huskies, meaning that it may be a tough win for NIU on the road.

Las Vegas says: Akron 8 pt favorites over NIU

Audio: Akron or NIU
Television: ONN
Gametime: 7 p.m. (ET)

CMU (2-10, 0-4) @ Ohio (9-2, 3-0)

Per the norm with the undefeated East squads, Ohio is also building on it's best season since forever (1986, actually) when they host the CMU Chippewas. The Chips have not won at Ohio since 1990, so the task of taking out the MAC leader on the road is that much tougher. The Bobcats have had a great bench presence and unbelievable balance, with six players averaging between 7 and 13 ppg. The Chips will likely attempt to keep the score low, much like they did in their close 66-60 loss to Kent. CMU has held their last 7 opponents under 70 points, and will need to continue this trend to stay in the game today. Giordan Watson, who leads the team with a 13.8ppg average, has been on fire the last two games, averaging 23.5 points in those games.

Las Vegas says: Ohio 20 pt favorites over CMU

Audio: Ohio or CMU
Television: ONN
Gametime: 2 p.m. (ET)

Miami (7-5, 4-0) @ BSU (4-7, 0-3)

Broken record time... Miami is off to it's best MAC start since 1999 as they travel to Muncie to take on the winless-in-the-MAC Ball State Cardinals. This series was hotly contested last season, with Miami taking an overtime victory at Millett and a controversial 2-point victory at the Johnny (the winning shot was made after the buzzer but counted nonetheless). Miami, who also has been playing close to it's competition with two come from behind victories in their last three games, has been relying heavily on William Hatcher (14.2ppg, 4.7apg, 37mpg) with balanced support from Tim Pollitz (12ppg, 5.4rpg) and Nathan Peavy (10.6ppg, 7.3rpg, 2.3spg). Ball State is still led by Skip Mills' MAC-leading 19.8 average (6.7rpg, 35mpg) with Maurice Acker stepping up to support (12ppg in last 5 games), but the Cards are getting very little consistent support from their inside players. Persistent foul trouble (8 foul-outs in 3 MAC games) and long scoring droughts (one 7 min drought per game in 3 MAC games) have hampered BSU's efforts in MAC play, contributing to their 5 game losing streak and 1-7 D1 record since Peyton Stovall's injury.

Las Vegas says: Miami 1.5 pt favorites at BSU

Audio: Miami or BSU (WCRD or WLBC)
Television: BSSN (Satellite Coordinates: SBS 6, Transponder 9)
Gametime: 4 p.m. (ET)

WMU (4-9, 1-2) @ Buffalo (11-3, 1-2)

Buffalo looks to bounce back from their 2-game road losing streak as they start a 3 game homestand against Western Michigan. The Broncos have won the last three games at Alumni Arena, but WMU is below .500 in the MAC for the first time under Steve Hawkins and have lost four of the last five games entering this two-game road trip. Sophomore Joe Reitz is leading the team with 13.9ppg and 7.6rpg, with support from Brian Snider (11.9ppg, 5.8apg). Buffalo is attempting to recover from two straight close road losses against West foes, returning to the friendly confines where they carry a 11 game winning streak. The Bulls need to improve their ball handling after a 27 turnover performance in the loss to Toledo. The Bulls have five players averaging double figures, led by Calvin Cage's (17.8ppg, 3.2apg) and
Yassin Idbihi (14.2ppg, 7.2rpg).

Las Vegas says: Buffalo 10.5 pt favorites over WMU

Audio: UB or WMU
Gametime: 7 p.m (ET)

Kent (9-5, 3-0) @ EMU (3-8, 0-3)

Guess what? Like much of the Eastern division, Kent State is also looking to build an undefeated conference start and start 4-0 in the MAC, matching their all-time best conference start in 2004, as they travel to Eastern. Kent has won every game in the series since 1999, winning nine straight matchups. Jay Youngblood leads the Flashes with a 14.4 average, while DeAndre Haynes averages 11.8. Omni Smith and Kevin Warzynski have stepped up in recent games helping to build this win streak. EMU is looking to stop a four game slide and is in the middle game of a three game home set. John Bowler leads EMU with a MAC-leading 19.8 average to go along with 9.4rpg, providing the Eagles' most consistent offense. Bowler is backed up by three other players that are averaging around 8ppg.

Las Vegas says: Kent 7.5 pt favorites at EMU

Audio: Kent or EMU
Gametime: 7:30 p.m. (ET)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

MAC Nightcap: Proving again the East is the Best (and that this writer needs some sleep)

[note: Still guest-blogging the MAC coverage at Hoops Junkie]

At the beginning of the season, I wasn't ready to buy into the "East is dominant" storyline. Sure, Buffalo and Ohio looked great on paper (and on the court at the end of last season), but surely BSU, NIU and Toledo were going to be up to the challenge. Parity usually rules the MAC, and there never seems to be such an imbalance of power, right? Obviously things have played out much like the pundits predicted, and very much not in the way that I had thought they might. Outside of BGSU and (surprisingly) Buffalo, the East teams have continued their undefeated sweep through the Western division. Tonight, the results were no different:

  • Ohio scored a 75-63 victory over Eastern in their first MAC road action. Sonny Troutman rung up 19 points, Leon Williams chipped in 14, and Mychal Green added 11 for the Bobcats. Reminiscent of the BSU game, Ohio held the Eagles scoreless for 6:05 leading to a 17-1 run that provided all the cushion needed. John Bowler scored another double-double in the losing cause, racking up 16 points and 11 rebounds. Ohio added to their perfect conference record with the victory, while Eastern is left still searching for their first MAC victory.

  • Miami used a 20-0 run at the start the second half to coast to a 66-49 over Central. The Chips failed to score until the 10:53 mark of the 2nd half, a 9:07 drought. The Redhawks were led by William Hatcher's 19 points and six assists. Giordon Watson led the Chips with 17 points. Miami remains undefeated in MAC play heading into their road trip to Ball State, while CMU remains winless in conference play.

  • In what proved to be the game of the night, Mike McKinney tipped in a errant shot with 4 ticks left to secure a 75-74 victory for NIU over Bowling Green. The Huskies, in their quest to win or lose every game in the last 5 seconds, came back from a 15 point first half deficit to gain the win. Northern was led by reserve players Craig Reichel and Todd Peterson, who scored 20 and 12 respectively. The Falcons Martin Samarco continued to be their leading scorer, contributing 25 points in the losing cause. NIU now holds a comfortable 1 1/2 game lead in the East standings, while BGSU is stuck in the cellar of the powerful East division with a 1-2 record.

  • Kent State held home court and maintained their perfect MAC mark with a 84-71 decision over Ball State. The Cardinals changed up their usual pattern of having a 6-7 minute scoring drought in the second half, instead choosing to have the drought midway through the first half. BSU led 15-12 at the 12:46 mark, but then went scoreless for the next 7½ minutes leading to a 36-15 deficit. Kent let the lead slip no further than a 12 point margin for the rest of the game. Omni Smith was outstanding for the Flashes, ringing up 24 points including a 4 of 6 tally from the 3-point line. Kevin Warzynski added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Isaac Knight added 16 points and 7 rebounds. Ball State's freshman PG Maurice Acker continues to impress in place of Peyton Stovall, scoring 23 points including 5 of 7 from the 3-point line. Skip Mills added 18 points in a losing cause. Kent joins 3 other teams with perfect MAC records, while Ball State remains stuck winless with 3 other teams in the MAC West cellar.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

MAC Today: Where the East continues dominance

[note: more b-ball news on Hoops Junkie]

Tonight's MAC schedule offers more West v. East action, where the East appears to be in the driver's seat in all but one of the clashes:

Ohio (8-2, 2-0) @ Eastern Michigan (3-7, 0-2)
Ohio looks to continue their perfect MAC record as they travel to Ypsilanti to face the Eastern Michigan Eagles. The Bobcats, who are enjoying their best conference start since 2002, are hitting the road to face a MAC opponent for the first time this season. With a nicely balanced scoring attack (six players averaging over 7.7ppg), the Bobcats are being led by Leon Williams (12.1ppg, 7.7rpg), Mychal Green (12.7ppg, 3.6rpg), and Jeremy Fears (11.1ppg, 4.6apg), but really anyone can step up for this team in any given game. EMU, on the other hand, has lost three games in a row, including a loss to NCAA bottom-dweller Northern Colorado and a heartbreaking overtime loss at Miami. This will be the first conference game in the friendly confines, though, where they have a 3-1 record this year, including wins over California and Tulsa, and a close loss to Detroit. The Eagles are being led by 6'8" senior John Bowler, who scored 31 in the loss to Miami to become the conference's leading scorer (20.2ppg, 9.2rpg).

Audio: EMU or Ohio

CMU (2-9, 0-3 MAC) @ Miami (6-5, 3-0)
Central Michigan has the uneviable task of pursuing its first conference win when they travel to Millett Hall for their second meeting of the year with the Miami Redhawks. The RedHawks won the previous tilt, with a 75-62 victory in Mt. Pleasant. Miami was led in that game by junior forward Nathan Peavy (22pts, 10rb, 3blk, 2stl). Miami, ending their 4 game skid against top 60 RPI teams with two MAC wins last week, sits at 3-0 in conference and is enjoying their best MAC start since 1999, but they have done it in nail-biting fashion, with two come-from-behind victories: an overtime win against EMU and a 2-point victory at NIU. CMU, on the other hand, continues on a four game slide after narrowly losing to Kent last week. Things aren't looking any easier for the Chips, as they embark on a tortuous conference schedule over the next two weeks (@Miami, @Ohio, Akron, @Buffalo). Sefton Barrett (13.9ppg, 5.2rpg) has led the Chips, with support from Giordan Watson (13.5ppg, 3.6apg).

Audio: Miami or CMU

Ball State (4-6, 0-2) @ Kent State (8-5, 2-0)
Ball State continues their search for a first D1 victory in over a month as they travel to the M.A.C. Center to face a Kent team that is undefeated in MAC play. Since All-MAC guard Peyton Stovall's injury, the Cards are 1-6 against D1 squads, with four of the six losses coming after holding comfortable leads for a good portion of the game. The Cardinals are looking for consistent help for Skip Mills, who leads the team with 19.4ppg and 6.8rpg. Freshman PG Maurice Acker (9.3ppg, 4.3apg in last 4 games) and Juco transfer PF D'andre Peyton (12ppg, 5rpg in last 3 games) have stepped up, but more consistent help is needed. Kent seems to have pulled things together in spite of the injury to Nate Gerwig. Senior guard Jay Youngblood has been the rock for the team, leading scoring with a 14.6ppg average, while senior guard DeAndre Haynes has recovered from very spotty OOC performances to average 12.5ppg. Solid contributions from front-liner Kevin Warzynski (8.5ppg, 5.6rpg) and freshman Issac Knight (5.9ppg, 4.9rpg) have helped to fill the void left by Gerwig's knee injury, which has led him to score only 3 points in very limited action in the last 5 games.

Audio: BSU or Kent, and track live stats via Kent's page

NIU (7-4, 2-1) @ BGSU (5-7, 1-1)
Northern Illinois travels to their game at Bowling Green fresh off of an exciting overtime win over Buffalo. The win earned them a mention in the AP polls (3 votes for a 39th ranking), even after suffering back-to-back last second losses in the two games before. The Huskies have landed themselves in the driver's seat in the East, and have done so due to excellent scoring balance, with four players (Sims, Hughes, McKinney and Peterson... sounds like a law firm) all averaging around 10ppg. Although BGSU has won 9 of the last 11 games against the Huskies, they are coming off of a 22 point pummeling at Western Michigan. Bowling Green is led by Martin Samarco (17.5ppg, 5.5rpg), with support from Wright, Marschall, and Floyd (another law firm...) all in the 9ish ppg range.

Audio: NIU or BG

MAC Night (err… Morning)cap: The Night of Miscues, Upsets and Injuries

[note: another simulcast of my posts at Hoops Junkie. Be sure to head over there for more roundball talk.]

Certainly an interesting night in the MAC and beyond. The MAC West takes another shot at the East's big dogs, while mild upsets permeated the major conferences. Unfortunately, a few injuries have hit some major players for major teams in the last few days as well, which could make things interesting as conference season gets into full force. Take a look:

  • 52 turnovers. Wait... 52 turnovers?!? That can't be right! But it's what the Toledo-Buffalo boxscore reads. Toledo held homecourt by starting the game with a 27-6 advantage and then holding on through a game that featured the Rockets shooting 58%, but committing 25 turnovers. All of you math majors can figure out that the Bulls, only shooting 43%, committed the other 27 miscues, but still managed to cut the early 20+ point deficit down to 3 with 14 ticks left. I'm sure the Mighty Maniac will provide more complete coverage shortly.

    Also in the MAC, Akron beat Western Michigan for the first time since February 2000. In a night where Romeo Travis only scored 6 points, the Zips (9-3, 3-0 MAC) looked to four other double-digit scorers to secure their fourth straight victory and their best start since 2000.

  • Upset City, Baby. In a game that became eerily reminiscent to the Ohio-UK, OU-BSU, and Akron-BSU games from the last few weeks, Vanderbilt jumped to a 14 point second half lead but let Kentucky stage a late comeback to take a 1-point lead. Vandy quickly regained the lead, though, and never looked back, gaining their first win at UK in 31 years (dating back to the Nixon administration) and their first win ever at Rupp. Also on the upset slate, Oklahoma took a rare home loss, losing to Mizzo in the final seconds 71-69, and NC State, in a mild upset, scored a lopsided 79-60 victory against BC in Boston.

  • The injury bug strikes again. Days after IU lost D.J. White to a season-ending foot injury (his second of the year), Cincinnati forward Armein Kirkland tore an ACL in yesterday's game against UConn, UCLA starting forward Josh Shipp succumbed to season long hip pain, and Alabama forward Chuck Davis blew his ACL and MCL, effectively ending the season for all of these players. Being an expert at seeing star players fall to season ending injury at Ball State, and witnessing our own All-MAC player end his season with an ACL tear and what it has done to that team's season, it will be interesting to see how these teams recover from losing key players.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

MAC Today: The guest host edition

[note: Tim over at Hoops Junkie asked me to do a guest shot on MAC basketball coverage for the next week or so. Figured I'd simulcast over here. Should start posting some non-hoops related posts soon.]

I’ll start my fill-in for Tim with a split schedule this mid-week, with a couple games tonight and the other match-ups in the traditional Wednesday slot. It looks to be an interesting evening, with both games offering a 3 ½ line (for entertainment purposes only!), with Toledo and Akron drawing the favor of Las Vegas. Likely they won’t be that close (but it is the MAC…), and in one case I would question the favorite (at least based on recent performance). Here’s what’s on tap:

Akron (8-3, 2-0) @ Western Michigan (4-8, 1-1)

One would have to imagine that this would be a road lock for the ‘Roo. Akron's rolls into University Arena with an 8-3 start, their best in the 2000’s (what do you call this decade? The ’80’s or ‘90’s worked so well, but I got nothin’ for this decade), and they are rolling with a three-game win streak after a come from behind win at Ball State and a thumping of Toledo last week. Romeo Travis (15 ppg, 5.6 rpg) was “The Man” again last week, averaging 19 points and six rebounds in the two victories. The young Broncos have a 22 point pounding of a not-so-impressive BGSU squad to build off of, and will be looking for their first back-to-back victories of the season. Joe Reitz leads a balanced scoring attack for Steve Hawkins’ squad (13.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg), but it will likely not be enough against the talented Zips.

Audio: Akron (pay) or WMU (also pay), or keep up with the live stats via WMU’s website

Buffalo (11-2, 1-1) @ Toledo (7-4, 0-3)

Buffalo continues their 2-game road swing and looks to get back on track with a contest at Toledo’s Savage Hall, a venue that is very friendly to the home team (28-3 over the last 3 seasons, 6-1 this year) and very unfriendly to the Bulls. Buffalo has never won at Savage, but comes in facing a Toledo team that looked very lackluster in double-digit losses at Akron and Kent last week. Toledo is still looking for its first conference victory, but will likely find problems in facing a Bulls team that is likely energized after dropping an 84-82 overtime decision at Northern Illinois, only their second loss of the season. Junior Justin Ingram (14.5 ppg) leads three Rockets averaging double digits, while the Bulls offer an outstanding 44.7 3pt FG% and an impressive five players in double digits, lead by Calvin Cage (17.8) and Yassin Idbihi (14.5).

Audio: Toledo (pay) or Buffalo (also pay)