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A roundtable is born!

January 1, 2012

Happy new year, and welcome to Eagle Totem’s first new feature of 2012 — I hope I didn’t make you wait too long!

If you’re a regular Eagle Totem reader, you’re probably familiar with the MAC Blogger Roundtable. Each week during football season, one blogger “hosts” the roundtable, posing questions to all the others, and then rounding up the best answers. Timothy Riordan, of Bull Run, has been a driving force in keeping the roundtable going this year, and so he gets the honor this week of hosting the first ever MAC Hoops Roundtable. I’m going to keep using the same roundtable image for the time being, but if you’re good with photomanipulation, I invite you to make a basketball-specific image that we can use.

1) Kent State or Ohio: who is better and why?

By resume, Ohio certainly looks better. The Bobcats are 12-1, with their only loss coming at now-#4 Louisville by just four points, while the Golden Flashes have losses against Cleveland State, at Texas-Arlington, and by 19 at Utah State. On the other hand, when you look at how they did against their one common opponent, both beat Arkansas State 69-54.

Fortunately the BCS doesn’t run college basketball, so the teams will settle the matter on the court. By mid-March, we won’t have to compare resumes and guess at which team is better.

2) Ball State: Every year someone in the west looks legit until the MAC Championship tournament begins. This season Ball state has positioned itself as that team. The Cards are receiving votes in the mid-major top 25 poll and were ranked 4th in Hustle Belt’s last MAC power rankings.

Will they be a factor in Cleveland or not?

I’m going to say “not”. With the new tournament format, and straight 1-12 seeding ignoring divisions, it’s more important than ever to be one of the top two teams in the conference. Right now, it’s awfully hard to see that being anyone other than Ohio and Kent State.

3) Speaking of Cleveland what do you think of the MAC new format and revenue sharing for hoops? Will this help elevate the conference or just make the bad teams even worse?

Well, I already made fun of the new format a little bit. While it improves the odds that the MAC champion will truly be the best team, with the best chance of winning a game or two in the NCAA tournament, the format probably works against the MAC getting a second team into the tournament.

A league that’s been a one-bid conference for the last several years isn’t suddenly going to become a four- or five-bid conference in one season. Realistically, the MAC’s immediate goals are to win an NCAA game or two and to get a second bid. A second bid is going to obviously go to the best team that doesn’t win the tournament, and it’s probably only going to go to one of the top two seeds. So the question then becomes whether, if either of the top two seeds are on the bubble for an at-large bid, the new format helps or hurts their chances. With one fewer game to play to win, they also each have one fewer game to win if they lose the tournament.

On the other hand, if any of the teams seeded #5 or worse have a chance for an at-large bid (extremely unlikely!), the new format helps their chances by giving them extra games to play.

4) When, if ever, will NIU turn things around?

Hopefully never; with Northern Illinois as bad as they are, EMU should be confident in not finishing last in the league!

Seriously, though, EMU has been there in football, and not only is it no fun as a fan, it’s also not good for the conference. There’s a reason the Northern Illinois administration fired Ricardo Patton, and while it can be done faster in basketball than in football, it does still take some time to turn around a program. Fortunately for the Huskies from a PR perspective, they have a streak-stopper scheduled for January 2, in the form of the Roosevelt University Lakers, an NAIA team in only their second season of play.

5) What has to happen in conference play for the MAC to crack an at-large bid?

This is an easy one, but there are two parts to it. First, a MAC team has to have such a compelling regular-season resume that they can qualify without the MAC’s auto-bid, and second, that team has to not win the MAC tournament. Right now, the only teams that could do it this year are Ohio, Kent State, Buffalo, and Ball State, with the latter three needing to come through the season with no more than three conference losses each.

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