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Misc The MAC The MAC Archive Part Two of BracketBusters Week for the MAC
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

0akronohioSaturday’s lengthy slate of MAC games forced this week’s previews to be separated into two parts. You can find Part One here, which talks about tonight’s Akron/North Dakota State game and the first half of the Saturday schedule. The BracketBusters matchups give teams an opportunity to get a win that looks good for a postseason selection committee, whether that’s the March Madness committee or the committees for the National Invitation Tournament, the Tournament, or the College Basketball Invitational. Though those tournaments have varying degrees of notoriety, it’s always nice to keep playing deep into March.

Picking up where we left off with Thursday’s Part One, the Kent State Golden Flashes travel to Chicago to take on the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers from the Horizon League on Saturday at 3 p.m. Last season, Kent hosted the College of Charleston, so this appears to be a good indication of how the Flashes’ season has gone thus far. The Ramblers are 14-13, having taken advantage of a weak non-conference schedule, as they are just 4-10 in Horizon League play.

Kent State has played better of late, scoring 402 points over their last five games. The Flashes took Ohio to overtime last Saturday, but lost in the extra period. The Ramblers come into this game as losers of five out of six. The Ramblers’ struggles coincide with a concussion suffered by leading scorer and rebounder Ben Averkamp earlier this month. Both teams have similar offensive percentages, but the Flashes are averaging eight points more per game than the Ramblers, so if they dictate the pace, they should come away with the victory.

The Miami Redhawks hit the road to take on the Missouri Valley Conference’s Southern Illinois Salukis in Carbondale, IL. The Salukis are 11-16 on the season, but have played much better at home than on the road, posting a 7-4 home record so far. Neither team is particularly gifted offensively, as the Redhawks are averaging 64.3 points per contest and the Salukis are 271st in the country at 63.3 points per game. To make matters worse for SIU, they rank 325th in field goal percentage defense and 338th in three-point percentage defense. The Redhawks are also bad in both categories, ranking 336th in field goal percentage defense and 329th in three-point percentage defense.

The Redhawks enter this game in a tailspin, losers of eight out of nine. The Salukis have won three out of their last five after a stretch where they lost 12 out of 14. These are two teams that are desperate for a feel good win and the beauty of this game, if there is any beauty in this game, is that one of them will have to win it.

A battle of East and North will take place in DeKalb on Saturday when the Eastern Illinois Panthers from the Ohio Valley Conference will take on the Northern Illinois Huskies. At 8-20, Eastern Illinois ranks 280th in the RPI rankings, while the 5-19 Northern Illinois Huskies are 319th. With just one win over a top-150 RPI team between the two schools, this appears to be the least interesting game on the slate. Both teams are just 2-11 on the road this season, so the home court advantage is definitely in the Huskies’ favor.

These two teams met in both 2011 and 2010 in non-conference play and the Panthers won both games. The Huskies only have two shots left, this game and next week’s home game against Eastern Michigan, to avoid going winless for the month of February, so that should be a motivating factor. Eastern Illinois ranks 318th in points per game, while Northern Illinois ranks 342nd.

A battle of the birds will take place in Cape Girardeau, MO on Saturday as the Ball State Cardinals take on the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks of the Ohio Valley Conference. SEMO State appears to be a tough matchup for the Cardinals as they are capable of scoring points, averaging just over 72 per game. Over their last five, the Redhawks are lighting up the scoreboard with more than 77 per contest. The Cardinals, on the other hand, have scored just 54.4 points per game over their last five.

The Redhawks are also on the plus side in assist-to-turnover ratio, a problem that has plagued the Cardinals all season long, averaging nearly four more turnovers per game than assists. Add in a Cardinals team that isn’t playing well and a Redhawks team clicking on all cylinders offensively and this could be one of the few blowouts of BracketBuster Saturday.

Bowling Green, the only team to play two BracketBuster games, heads out on the road with short trek to Fort Wayne, IN to take on the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Mastodons of the Summit Conference. The joint Indiana-Purdue satellite campus team is 13-16 on the season and has one of the coolest mascots in Division I. They’re also playing good basketball right now, riding a three-game win streak into Saturday’s contest. The Falcons destroyed the New Orleans Privateers on Thursday and attempted a season-high 76 shots.

These two teams look pretty similar on paper, both struggling on offense at times. The Falcons are a much stronger defensive team, however, so they may be able to go 2-0 during BracketBusters week. The Falcons are just 1-10 on the road, so they’ll have to overcome that hurdle, but a solid defensive effort could lead to some good things.

The Central Michigan Chippewas head back to the state of Ohio to take on the Youngstown State Penguins from the Horizon League. The Chippewas are in the midst of their lowest point in the season, losers of eight straight and haven’t really been competitive in any of those games. The Penguins have been inconsistent all month long, losing four out of six.

The Chippewas will head to Youngstown as underdogs, with just one road win on the season and the aforementioned eight-game skid. The Penguins hold an edge in nearly every statistical category, but they did lose leading scorer Kendrick Perry to a knee injury in practice this week. Perry was averaging nearly 17 points per game, so that’s a big loss for the Penguins and one that could open the door for the Chips to snag an upset victory.

The premier matchup of BracketBusters weekend in the MAC takes place in Nashville, where the Ohio Bobcats take on the Belmont Bruins of the Ohio Valley Conference. Belmont, who has made two consecutive March Madness appearances, is one of the top mid-major programs in the country. They will put their 10-0 home record on the line against a Bobcats team that has won 12 of their last 13 and most of them have been lopsided victories. These are two complete teams that can score with high efficiency and also defend well.

There should be no shortage of intensity from the Bobcats, even with Wednesday’s big matchup with Akron looming on the horizon. Ohio ranks 16th in the country in field goal percentage and Belmont is the eighth best team in the country in that category. The Bruins also shoot the three effectively, 12th in the country at 39.9 percent. This should be a fantastic game and a great nightcap for a day full of MAC teams in action.

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