Under the Radar Game of the Day: Kent State at Ohio, 9:00 PM Eastern, ESPNU
The UTR Game of the Day returns to the state of Ohio tonight and the always entertaining Mid-American Conference. With ten teams in this league sitting at or above .500 overall, and all but one team within three games of first place in their division, we seem to be setting up for a wild month of February. That is, unless one team can start to emerge from the pack and pull away from everyone else. The team most poised to do just that, for the moment at least, is Head Coach Rob Senderoff’s Kent State Golden Flashes.
Kent State enters play tonight with a record of 15-5, 6-1 in the MAC and one game up on Akron for first place in the East Division. The Flashes’ RPI is 85, though KenPom has then rated lower at 132. Kent State did not pick up any truly notable non-conference wins this season, although they also did not lose any head scratchers (a loss to Penn State in Las Vegas may be their worst of the season). Jimmy Hall has been leading the way for the Golden Flashes so far this season, including a 26 point, 16 rebound game against Bowling Green last week. His 16 rebounds were made even more impressive due to the fact that 9 of them were offensive boards. If he can be anywhere close to that dominant tonight, Kent State has a great chance to pick up what would already be their fourth road win in conference play.
Standing between Kent State and the win tonight is Head Coach Saul Phillips’ Ohio University Bobcats. Ohio is only 3-4 so far in MAC play, but does have a solid overall record at 12-7 and an RPI just outside of the top 100 (110). As with Kent State, the Bobcats failed to win any truly notable non-conference games this year but also did not lose any games they clearly should have won (a loss at St. Bonaventure may be their worst loss, and the Bonnies are always tough to beat on the road). Things have not gone as well since MAC play started, including suffering an 89-82 loss at Kent State on January 16. Antonio Campbell is the player to keep an eye on for the Bobcats. Just like Jimmy Hall, Campbell also has a 16 rebound game this season, having come against Western Michigan. 15 of his 16 in that game were defensive — setting up what should be a fun rebounding battle under Ohio’s basket tonight between these two players. If Ohio can get the victory, they will remain in the thick of things and draw Kent State back to the pack in the East Division. If not, the Bobcats may have an uphill battle the rest of the season if they want to finish at or near the top of the conference.
DAVID’S OTHER NOTABLE GAMES
-VCU AT DAVIDSON (Atlantic Ten). VCU is playing as well as anyone in the A10 today. Davidson has been somewhat disappointing this year, but they’ve still been tough at home, so it shouldn’t be easy for the Rams.
-MANHATTAN AT IONA (Metro Atlantic). This game has no tournament implications whatsoever, but it is one of the better UTR rivalries out there, so we’ll give it a mention.
-WRIGHT STATE AT OAKLAND (Horizon League). I highlight this game not because it’s particularly important, but because a year ago this game would be far more important than what it is this year. Valpo and Wright State are tied at the top of the standings, and last year that would have meant something because home court advantage in the conference tournament was on the line, which made the regular season very intriguing and very meaningful. This year, no matter what, it’s in Detroit, so Wright State isn’t nearly as amped up for it because the reward for finishing first isn’t nearly as big.