Twelve days ago, Kent State beat Eastern Michigan 67-60 in the MAC opener at Eastern Michigan.
Wednesday the teams meet again in Kent.
Eastern is 2-1. Kent State is 1-2.
That’s something we didn’t expect.
When the two teams played before, Eastern had the MAC’s worst record (4-8) and lowest RPI in non-conference play. It had finished with the league’s worst record last season. KSU was 7-5 in the preseason and is the defending MAC East champion.
But since the opener, the Flashes (9-7) let an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter get away in an 81-79 loss at Northern Illinois and never led in a 66-61 loss at home to Western Michigan.
Eastern (6-8) beat Bowling Green at BG for the first time since 2005, 54-52, then came home to beat Toledo 70-57. Both Bowling Green (8-6) and Toledo (10-5) have solid winning records.
So who’s favored Wednesday? Probably still Kent State because it’s a home game. But Eastern’s two-game winning streak shows what kind of conference the MAC is this season.
“If you look at every conference in the country, Power Five included, at the bottom of the league you have some easy wins,” KSU coach Todd Starkey said after Saturday’s loss to Western. “In this league, you don’t. There’s no there’s no game that you can go into and not play well and win.”
The MAC has the seventh best RPI of the 31 Division I conferences in the country, according to WarrenNolan.com, the service I follow most closely. The league is ahead the Atlantic 10, the Colonial, the Ivy League, the West Coast Conference — and the American Athletic Conference, home of No. 1 Connecticut. (Here are conference rankings.) RPI is a ranking system that takes into account a school’s record and strength of schedule.
That’s the best the league has ever done. Eight of the 12 MAC teams have RPIs in the top 100 (of 349 teams). Three MAC teams are in the top 10 in the latest Mid-Major Poll.
About the only thing that will keep the MAC from getting two teams into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 years is the possibility that the league schools will beat up on each other so badly that no one will have a great record. Here’s how MAC teams are doing:
- Buffalo: 11-3, 2-1 in MAC, 28 RPI, 10th in the Mid-Major Poll.
- Ohio: 8-6, 2-1, 92 RPI.
- Miami: 9-5, 2-1, 102 RPI.
- Kent State: 8-7, 1-2, 138 RPI
- Bowling Green: 8-6,0-3, 153 RPI.
- Akron: 6-8, 0-3, 226 RPI.
- Central Michigan: 11-3, 3-0 in MAC, 43 RPI, ninth in Mid=Major Poll.
- Ball State: 13-1, 2-1, 24 RPI, seventh in Mid-Major Poll.
- Northern Illinois: 10-4, 2-1, 95 RPI
- Western Michigan: 9-6, 2-1, 68 RPI.
- Eastern Michigan: 6-8, 2-1, 237 RPI.
- Toledo: 10-5, 1-2, 77 RPI.
Eastern brings a pressure defense to Kent that gave the Flashes trouble in the teams’ first game. KSU had 21 turnovers in that game that led to 25 Eastern Michigan points. For the season, Kent State is last in the conference in turnover margin at minus-3.13 per game, though the Flashes had their best game of the season in that category against Western Michigan Saturday. The Flashes equaled a season high with nine steals and forced 22 WMU turnovers. KSU committed 14 turnovers.
Eastern averages 11.9 steals per game, third in the MAC and 31st in the country, and 16.0 offensive rebounds, first in the MAC and 24th in the country.
The Eagles’ leading scorers are redshirt junior Danielle Minott and freshman Courtney Lewis, both of whom average 12.6 points a game. Senior Sasha Daily is first in the MAC and 12th in the country with 3.43 steals a game.
Kent State had five players averaging better than eight points a game, led by senior forward Jordan Korinek at 19.7. That’s third highest in the MAC. Redshirt sophomore guard Megan Carter has averaged 16 points a game in the three games since she became eligible after Christmas. Grad student and forward McKenna Stephens averages 9.8, sophomore guard Ali Poole 8.5 and junior guard Alexa Golden 8.2.
To follow the game
Action starts at 7 p.m. at the MACC.
Video is on ESPN3. You can follow it online if your subscribe to ESPN on cable or on satellite.
Audio starts at about 6:45 p.m. on Golden Flash iHeart Radio and WHLO 640.
Live statistics will be available through the Kent State website
Kent State women’s basketball website, including links to statistics, roster, schedule/results, record book and more.
MAC statistics, including standings. Top games Wednesday are Northern Illinois at Western Michigan and Ohio at Toledo.