By Michael Reghi
Ohio State gets strong armed by E’Twaun Moore and Purdue, Cleveland State allows more offensive rebounds to an opponent then their total boards, and the MAC wins but 5 of the 12 BracketBuster games they play over the weekend. Not a promising picture of what’s to come as February’s stretch runs turn toward the bright lights of first conference, and then hopefully for many, the NCAA Tournament. Let’s examine more closely. With ‘MUST DO’S” factoring in prominently!
*** E’Twaun Moore’s 38 point explosion on Ohio State is one thing, and he was sensational, just as Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor was, in dropping 27 on the Bucks ‘d’ last weekend, in Ohio State’s first road loss. Very clear to me the key to an Ohio State long, and satisfying run in the tournament. And it’s not Jordan Sullinger. It’s backcourt sharp shooter William Buford. Yep, the Bucks don’t last long if Buford suffers through foul trouble, and a poor shooting performance, as he did Sunday. He must be consistently strong for the Buckeyes to make an Elite 8 run or beyond. What always is the trump card in the tournament? Guard play, and Buford is clearly Ohio State’s most dominant and talented guard. While David Lighty can slash, and looks to get to the rim, and Jon Diebler makes his mark by coming off screens in catch and shoot fashion, it’s Buford who incorporates all the facets the Buckeyes need offensively to help balance the attention that will be placed on Sullinger. William Buford’s production. Watch it. An absolute ‘MUST’ for Ohio State to stick around for a long run.
*** If Gary Waters and his Cleveland State Vikings needed a serious wake-up call regarding how important getting the ball off the glass is in a tournament style setting, they were handed the blueprint by the nation’s second best rebounding margin squad yesterday in Norfolk, Virginia! Old Dominion absolutely terrorized the Vikes yesterday with a ‘plus 29’ advantage on the glass. 53-24! The Vikings watched missed shot after missed shot be rebounded for second, third, fourth, and yes, even fifth chance opportunities on many possessions! Needless to say, the Vikes won’t be around long in the Horizon League Tourney, let alone make their way to the NCAA Party, with lack of effort like this on the glass.
It came on an afternoon, unfortunately, when Norris Cole, who could be working his way into the late first round of the NBA Draft, was again dazzling! Cole dropped 24 first half points on his way to a BracketBuster record 35 on the day, using an array of slashes to the rim, along with his long range bombing. Cleveland State has other offensive capability in Jeremy Montgomery, Tre Harmon, and Aaron Pogue. Pogue, again, a nonfactor, while Harmon and Montgomery accumulated most of their damage after the Vikings fell behind by double digits. Gary Waters ‘MUST’ get the balance back in the Vikings offensive machine. That is unquestionably, when the Vikings are at their attacking best!
***I’ve discussed all season the lack of an ‘elite’ team in the Mid American Conference this basketball season. There are a couple of good programs, but none that stand out. That was never more apparent then this weekend, as the MAC dropped 7 of the 12 BracketBuster games it played. The MAC’s best in late February, Kent State and Miami, both lost on the road at Drexel and James Madison, respectively. Akron, gaining steam with their veteran group, won their fifth straight, by whipping a tough Creighton squad from the Missouri Valley at home. Buffalo and Ohio, each looking to add intrigue to the upcoming MAC Tournament, posted wins – Bulls at home, while the ‘Cats won on the road at Winthrop. Here’s the deal…literally, any of six squads in my estimation, could potentially win the MAC tourney. Is that good for the league? Fans might say ‘yes’. While it may bring some excitement over three days and seven games to downtown Cleveland, the conference’s RPI continues to plummet. Look for the teams in the final two weeks that can win on the road, especially in the MAC East, and who have the staying power to win three games in three days, which some of the six don’t. The MAC ‘MUST’ get back to the relevancy it established in sending multiple teams to the NCAA tournament, and winning games when there, as they did from the late 90’s into the early years of this decade. Until that is achieved, the ‘one bid league’ handle is going to continue to apply.