For the first time in a few years, I completely missed the Zips game Wednesday.
That said, I'll brush over it without belaboring any stats or ignorant analysis.
Ball State will be Akron's opponent Saturday. The 7-14 Cardinals have an RPI of 251, but a strength of schedule at 137 -- 136 spots higher than the Zips. They played four top-25 teams, three of which on the road. Of course, Ball State lost them all.
They do, however, have a win over Ohio, which would be the best victory of the year for the Zips.
Ball State, like the Zips' most recent adversary Eastern Michigan, has had injury problems from their franchise player. Peyton Stovall, a junior guard, is coming back from his second ACL tear in two years. Stovall, who many believe had MAC Player of the Year potential, was about 80 percent to start the season, the Ball State Daily News reported.
The stats confirm that. Stovall is averaging just 8.3 points per game, compared to 16.7 his sophomore year. Still, he is capable of big numbers. He dropped 22 points on Temple by shooting 5-of-6 on 3-pointers.
Junior forward Skip Mills is replacing some of that scoring with a 13.4 points per game average. Sophomore forward Anthony Newell averages 10.4 points and 7.6 rebounds. Junior college transfer Micah Rollin has impressed the MAC so far with 8.6 points and 5.1 rebounds a night. Rollin, a 6-foot-10 center, is only playing his third year of organized basketball.
Basically, the only way Ball State wins is if three of these four players reach double figures. That's what happened when Ohio visited the Cardinals. It also helps when the team is playing in Muncie, Ind. Ball State has only won one road game this season.
Here's how Ball State stacks up in the MAC...
- Second-lowest scoring average at 60.6 points per game.
- Fourth-best scoring defense at 63.1 points per game.
- Last in the MAC in field goal percentage -- a chilly 39.5 percent.
- Even with a long-range shooter like Stovall, Ball State shoots just 27.8 percent from 3.
- They also allow the second-highest percentage in 3-point shooting.
- Perhaps the reason for such a poor shooting percent is the lack of a fluid offense. Ball State only averages 11.1 assists per game -- second worst in the MAC.
- With all those bricks clanking off the rim, Ball State does pretty well in corralling them. The Cardinals are second in the league in offense rebounds. Strangely, they are second-worst in defense rebounds. Someone explain that.
- With Rollin patrolling the middle, the Cardinals have a decent interior defense. He does get in a lot of foul trouble, so if you attack him enough early, he'll have to hit the bench.
Overall, Ball State has a couple good pieces, but is nowhere near contenders in the MAC. The teams will meet at Rhodes Arena. That means a big Zips win.
Prediction: Akron 72, Ball State 54
I'm still in the Bahamas with limited Internet access. For immediate analysis and fan commentary, check out UofAZips.com (with its shiny new statistics dashboard), ZipsNation.org, Adam Ferrise's blog or good ole' Ohio.com.
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