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East division dictates MAC play
In a single game of college basketball, there is more at stake than the final result. Rivalries run deep, meaning each contest comes with the enticing incentive of bragging rights.
Interdivisional games in the Mid-American Conference are no exception to rivalries. For six games each season, MAC teams take on less-familiar conference opponents in an effort to assert their division’s dominance. And though it doesn’t sound as catchy, it’s been the MAC East that has dominated the conference so far.
The division is 21-3 against the MAC West and Akron, Ohio, Buffalo and Kent State all have perfect records in interdivision play. The MAC East’s only three losses have come from Miami, which dropped two decisions, and Bowling Green.
While the division has some of the conference’s most skilled squads, its record is a result of consistency. Contributions from each team have shaped the division into the force it has become.
During MAC play, teams from the East have shown their ability to go to the hoop. Five of the conference’s six top-scoring teams in MAC play are from the dominant division. But while the MAC East only flirts with perfection in some categories, it is flawless in others.
In overall field-goal percentage and 3-point field-goal percentage against conference opponents, the top five teams are from the MAC East. Only Ohio is ranked among the MAC West squads in both categories.
The MAC East’s success is due in large part to coaching and individual leaders; two things one team has at its disposal.
Buffalo, led by forward Javon McCrea, has posted a 7-2 MAC record heading into Wednesday’s game at Central Michigan.
McCrea, whose 6-foot-7, 245-pound frame has helped him in the paint, leads the conference with a 58 percent field goal percentage. On the boards, the sophomore averages a conference-best 3.2 offensive rebounds per game.
Even with such a skilled player and a substantial cushion partway through the season, Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon does not take the interdivisional games any less seriously.
“It’s more difficult because you don’t know each other as well,” Witherspoon said.
“You only play each other once a year.”
When asked his opinion on the difference between the divisions, Buffalo’s coach was quick to downplay the East’s advantage, saying there was not much difference between the divisions in “quality or style.”
Each team in the West has fallen to a team from the East, though some have fared better overall. Eastern Michigan, which handed Bowling Green its lone loss to the West, leads its division with a 5-4 record despite losing to Akron by 30 points.
The Eagles’ defense has been the team’s strong suit, though its offensive struggles have been the domineering factor in conference games. Eastern Michigan is last in the MAC in scoring offense.