The MAC Blog: Wally Szczerbiak, surging Ohio, and more.

coop

D.J. Cooper is the leader of the Bobcats, and the best player in the MAC. (Photo by Mark Clavin)

In a key non-conference game, the Ohio Bobcats beat the St. Bonaventure Bonnies 69-64 in Athens on Wednesday night. The ‘Cats had their win sealed by a late three from star guard D.J. Cooper after their eight point half time lead was erased by a 13-0 run from Bonaventure. This was a big win for Ohio, it was the first of a key three game stretch against non-conference foes.  On Saturday, the ‘Cats will travel to Robert Morris in Moon Township, Pennsylvania and then will travel to Memphis, Tennessee to play the Memphis Tigers, If Ohio can come out of the road-trip 3-0, they could receive more Top 25 votes than the eight they already have – or maybe even crack the top 25.

Game to watch: Ball State will be representing the MAC this week against Butler in a game that Butler should win pretty easily. Over the past few season, Butler has really solidified themselves as a top program lead by coach Brad Stevens. This current Butler squad is 4-2, but those losses came against quality competition in old friend John Groce’s Fighting Illini’ and the Xavier Musketeers. Their leading scorer is senior guard Rotnei Clarke, who is averaging 18.5 points per game in his first year of eligibility since transferring from Arkansas. Junior guard Jesse Berry, who averages 14.4 points per game, will pace Ball State. Again, I am not expecting this game to be competitive. Even if this is a down year for Butler, they are sill a quality team that beat UNC handedly. If you are a fan of MACtion, then watch this game for the slightest chance of a MAC team not named Ohio pulling an upset.

What’s up with Wally Szczerbiak? Due to this being a quiet week in MAC Basketball, let’s take a look back at one the best players to ever come out of the MAC: former Miami RedHawk Wally Szczerbiak. The former Cavalier, Celtic, and Timberwolve spent 10 years in the association, averaging 14.1 points during his career. At Miami of Ohio, he was the RedHawks star player, graduating with a degree in marketing. He finished as Miami’s all time leading scorer (1,847 points), was a two-time All American, and reached the Sweet 16 in the 1999 NCAA tournament. I’m not quite sure what he is up to now, but I hope all is well with Szczerbiak, even if I’ll only remember him for being one of the random veterans that were used to keep LeBron from leaving Cleveland.

Player of the Week: D.J. Cooper, Guard, Ohio: Cooper was clutch down the stretch against St. Bonaventure, scoring a late three pointer to seal the game. He had a team high sixteen points against the Bonnies, and moving forward, he will probably win this award time and time again.  He is the best player on the best team, sure, a player like Rian Pearson from Toledo could win this award with a big performance against a big-name team. But week in and week out, look for Cooper to be the star of the MAC. He was the darling of the MAC tournament, and he could do it again, if the ‘Cats go dancing again.

It’s been a slow week for MAC, so here are five things I think about the MAC and five things I think about college basketball as a whole.

  1. I am bummed that Memphis has already lost to Minnesota and Virginia Commonwealth.  If the ‘Cats beat Memphis, it is still a big win – just not as big as it could have been.
  2. I like Jon Smith, not the 50,461 that are in the world as of 2008, the Ohio Bobcats leading rebounder Jon Smith.
  3. I really don’t think Ball State has a shot against Butler, but bigger upsets have happened.
  4. Princeton plays Kent State on Saturday. If you have the time, I think it will be a sneaky good game. It could be a big notch in Kent State’s belt.
  5. I hope Ohio, Kent State, and Akron can enter MAC play nearly undefeated, if not fully undefeated. A three-team race could make a very interesting race for fans of MACtion.
  6. Duke and Indiana are the best teams in the nation, and I do not even think that it is close.
  7. UCLA has not quite figured out to play with Shabazz Muhammad. When they do, watch out.
  8. Even though Duke throttled Ohio State, the Buckeyes still have a chance to be among the NCAA elite.
  9. I think Louisville will get a number one seed – and they could win it all if they can find a consistent number one scoring threat.

10. Kevin Ollie was an average NBA point guard and he is an average NCAA coach. I don’t think he is the right guy to succeed Jim Calhoun.

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