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Mid-American Notebook

January 10, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Mid-American Notebook

Well, so much for those worries about Kent State. What’s going on with Central Michigan is another story altogether.

The two defending division champions in the Mid-American Conference are heading into decidedly different directions after stumbling at times in non-conference action.

The Golden Flashes eradicated a lot of the nagging questions about their title hopes with a 81-54 destruction of Ball State on January 2nd. Trevor Huffman broke out of a mini-slump to score a career-high 32 points and Kent State held Ball State to season lows in points, three-pointers and field goal percentage. Yes, even lower than Duke.

Kent had struggled at times for consistency in the non-conference season, losing to a very poor Youngstown State team, but look now to be back on track. Getting Huffman back on track is a great start. He was averaging only 16 points a game and only 30 percent from the three-point line before the win over Ball State.

Meanwhile, the start of the conference season only added to the woes of Central Michigan. Winners of the MAC’s West Division and picked to repeat by the media again this season, the Chippewas have stumbled out of the gate to a 3-7 record and lost their opener to resurgent Bowling Green, 82-81 and the next game in double-overtime to Miami.

Bowling Green’s Keith McLeod, the conference’s leading scorer with 22.5 points per game, came back from foul trouble to score 13 of BG’s final 14 points and hand Central its first conference home loss since 2000.

Not only is Central finding ways to lose games it could win, it’s finding ways to not get any kind of decision at all, after having a game against Northern Iowa abandoned while leading 57-53 because of condensation falling from the ceiling. That game won’t be finished unless it will affect one or both team’s NCAA Tournament hopes, which isn’t likely at this point.

It appears that the loss of a senior class which provided a lot of off-court leadership for the Chippewas is hurting more than it was thought it would.

David Webber, who was hyped as an All-American candidate after winning conference player of the year honors last season has struggled at times to get the ball in position for easy shots and was averaging 17.2 points per game before hanging 44 on Miami.

The record is also somewhat deceiving since Central faced the 17th most difficult non-conference schedule in the country according to RPI rankings. But with the early-season stumbles, the Chippewas have put themselves into a position where they will have to win the MAC Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament.

More on Bowling Green
After Ball State’s big start, it was widely assumed that only not falling on their face would get the Cardinals into the NCAA Tournament – and that may be the case – but now it looks as if Bowling Green is the likely candidate to get an at-large bid if they stumble in the postseason tournament.

The Falcons find themselves ranked 20th in the RPI as of January 4th and posting 13 or 14 conference wins should be more than enough to get BG a nod.

In fact, with Ball State still on the radar and Kent State looking stronger every day, the MAC could place three teams in the tournament if things break the right way.

Oxford Blues
It’s hard to get a handle on Miami this season, but it’s certain that its December 29th performance will go down as one of the worst in school history.

The RedHawks (4-9) managed only eight field goals in a 60-23 loss to Dayton. The numbers are about as grim as you can imagine – 13.3 percent (8-for-60) from the field, eight points in the first half, Alex Shorts was 0-for-11 from the field and Doug Davis was 0-for-8 from the field. Brian Edwards played only seven minutes and led the RedHawks with six points.

It was the worst offensive performance for Miami in more than 60 years – since a 35-21 loss to Kentucky on Dec. 6, 1941, a day before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

All this only a week after a win over nationally ranked Boston College. The loss got Miami coach Charlie Coles to questioning himself and you can’t help but wonder if the Miami administration is doing the same thing.

“We played a team that was a well-oiled machine,” Coles told the Dayton Daily News. “That team was well-coached. I don’t know that ours was.”

Rising in the West(ern)
Western Michigan’s conference opening win over Miami on January 2nd gave the Broncos (7-5) as many wins this season as it had all of last season (7-21).

After going 0-10 in non-conference games last year, the Broncos knocked off a Big East team (Virginia Tech) and Big Ten team (Michigan) this season en route to a 6-4 non-conference mark.

In fact
Western is one of three teams that have already matched or exceeded last season’s win total, joining Eastern Michigan (4-8 this season, 3-25 last year) and Buffalo (7-5 this season, 4-24 last year). Northern Illinois (3-7) is only two wins away from matching last season’s total of five wins.

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