For the first time since coach Bob Boldon’s first year at Ohio, there’s going to be a new Mid-American Conference regular season champion.
Two weeks ago, Ohio was wrapping up the toughest part of the schedule with Central Michigan ahead and Kent State the following Saturday. Ohio lost both those games — the first one against the current leaders in the MAC.
Those consecutive losses put Ohio out of contention for the top seed heading into the tournament. The loss to Kent State, put them out of the No. 1 seed in the MAC East Division.
- Ohio has dropped both regular season games against Central Michigan (21-7, 13-3 MAC) and Kent State (17-11, 11-5 MAC)
- Ohio hasn't played well against top MAC West teams (1-3) this year — Ball State, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan
- Ohio has dropped four of the last seven games, worst ratio since 2013-14 season
The team that was once the team to beat, has now been beat and things will change in the tournament this year.
“The league has gotten much, much better,” Boldon said a couple of weeks ago. “Our kids have competed and as the league’s gotten better, it’s become more competitive and your margin for error’s become smaller and a couple things that maybe didn’t hurt us last year because we were a little bit better, were enough to get us beat this year.”
Like Boldon said, the conference has gotten significantly better than it has been the past few years.
This year, Ohio is struggling against teams it was cruising past, the two years it won the regular season conference title. In the MAC West Division, Central Michigan, Ball State and Northern Illinois are Nos. 1, 2, and 3, respectively, in the conference standings.
A large part of the MAC West’s growth this year is the change of pace it plays. With an exception to a couple of outliers, the MAC West play a more up-tempo pace to the game, while the East plays a slower, half-court tempo and looks to set up the offense.
The top-3 teams in the conference average about 80.5 points per game, while the top-2 MAC East teams are averaging around 70.
So, the gameplan for Ohio changes slightly as it sits in the No. 5 spot in the MAC with two games left in the season.
Though it’s not likely, Ohio (19-8, 10-6 MAC) is going to have to win out and hope Kent State lose for the Bobcats to regain the top spot in the MAC East and claim the No. 4 spot in the conference. That would allot them a bye, and the first game to be in Cleveland.
Boldon said adding the extra game for them March 6 changes how he will play his players. It changes the fact that his team will have a tougher route to getting to the MAC Championship game than it has in the past.
Thought it’s not the year Ohio expected, with the MAC Tournament coming up in just a few days, there’s a lot Ohio has to reflect on this season and how for the first time since the year everyone wants to forget, it has struggled during the regular season against conference opponents.
“You’re gonna play a lot more kids because you’re gonna have a little bit longer grind and things of that sort, but I think we’re in good shape for that kind of stuff,” Boldon said.