I apologize for missing the last couple home games. Michael Beaven, as always, did a great job filling in.
Here are some observations as we enter the meat of the MAC season:
The surprise of Saturday was Kent State's win at Ohio. The Bobcats (8-6), with a strength of schedule (SOS) at 128, probably would have done the same against Akron's competition as the Zips have. Their freshman point guard, D.J. Cooper, is going to be a marquee guard in this league for a long time (see Dru Joyce, with even gaudier numbers). So this win validates a Flashes team that, in my opinion, has never found its swagger under Geno Ford. No matter how we paint Chris Singletary (hoodlum on and off the court), he is my frontrunner for MAC Player of the Year. Add in All-MAC caliber guards Rodriguez Sherman and Tyree Evans and high-ceiling big man Anthony Simpson and you have a team that must be considered--at a minimum--the co-favorite to win the division.
Whoa! Toledo is really, really bad. Central Michigan won by 11 at the Rockets' place. Will Toledo go 0-16? It should be a morbid sidebar for the conference's rubberneckers.
With the Carlos Medlock and Brandon Bowdry inside-outside combination, Eastern Michigan was poised to be a top-two team in the MAC West. Well, the division favorite, Western Michigan, gave them a little dusting-up in Kalamazoo. Don't expect that to be a trend. EMU shot 26.4 percent from the field on Saturday, and WMU has shown decent improvement on its defense. I see the West to shake out like this: WMU, EMU, NIU, BSU, CMU and (far behind) UT.
As for the Zips, I didn't see the game, but it seems like the Zips really tortured BG, forcing 21 turnovers and allowing 27.7 percent shooting. You can make a great case for Jimmy Conyers being another favorite for MAC Player of the Year, as well, if the voters only consider conference play. Other candidates must include EMU's Bowdry, WMU's David Kool, one of Buffalo's two seniors (Calvin Betts, Rodney Pierce) and, as stated, KSU's Singletary.
Speaking of Buffalo, the Bulls stamped an 18-point embarrassment on Miami. Buffalo, given its run in the 2009 MAC Tournament, must be considered a favorite. The team to watch is Miami. Will the RedHawks, as protocol, start slowly and build momentum toward March? This is the Charlie Coles method. It would be a short-sighted error to write off the RedHawks as an inconsequential team.
Akron plays at Ohio on Wednesday. Can the Zips match Kent State's win at The Convo? I think so, as long as the Zips play an inside-outside game. The Bobcats play solid perimeter defense, so chucking 3s won't work in that hostile environment. Ohio is also the conference's second-worst shooting team. A solid effort on defense by Akron should merit a victory.