November 24, 2008 2:42 pm ET by Kyle Whelliston
Miami (Oh.) at Wright State
Ervin J. Nutter Center - Dayton, OH
7:00 PM EST
You know that phrase, "Throw out the records?" It's such a clichÃ© that it's a Kenny Mayne clichÃ©, which means there's no farther it can go. But in mid-major college basketball, at this point of the season, you really can. They're useless at face value, and usually require contextual inquiry.
Here are two teams a year removed from conference tournament championships, which both look strong to make a play for 2009 titles. Miami of the MAC is 1-2, but those losses are to Pittsburgh and UCL-freaking-A. Anybody who stayed up late to watch the game out west on Nov. 13 could see what a stingy, relentless team the Redhawks are, and the close 64-59 loss was in range for a 1 a.m. upset alert e-mail until the very end. And even in the blowout loss at Pitt, there were glimpses of the beautiful shot of senior guard Kenny Hayes (18 points, all 9 foul shots converted), and a glimmer of hope for a closer result next time around if he stops being so darned streaky (4 for 12 from the field).
Wright, on the other hand, really would like you to mentally dispose of its 0-2 current mark. The problem so far can be summed up in one word: shooting. Brad Brownell has the Raiders playing fantastic ball-control hoops, but the team couldn't manage 40 percent from the floor against either Illinois State or Central Michigan. With all the returning talent from a squad that finished first in the Horizon League in 3-pointers during conference season (41.3 percent), that's not a trend that's likely to continue. (After 20 years of perfecting your shot, it just doesn't disappear suddenly.) Also expect a defense which has allowed 69.5 ppg so far to clamp down -- this is a team that left opponents bruised and bloody on its way to leading the conference in nearly every meaningful defensive stat. Coach Brownell won't stand for anything less.
However this comes out, prepare for a fingernail finish. The last two meetings in this ongoing annual series have been decided by the sum total of two points, with Wright State ekeing out 57-56 and 58-57 wins. Not since 2003 has one or the other cracked 60.
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