February 8, 2008 11:28 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
Western Michigan at Ohio (Mid-American)
Convocation Center - Athens, OH
7:00 PM EST
You might think the East-West thing in the Mid-American Conference is just some random divisional fabrication of convenience. You're forgetting something -- this is Ohio on one side, and Michigan on the other. Folks from both places talk about the opposite state as if people on the other side of the line were descended from gophers, and we hear there's a collegiate American-style football game every fall that gets Ohioans and Michiganders pretty riled up.
OK, so having Toledo in the West makes it a little more complicated, but look at the current situation in the MAC. The top four East teams are basking in national love, playing televised BracketBusters, while the three directionals from Water-Winter Wonderland leading the obscure and "weak West." So Ohio and Michigan have all sorts of new reasons to hate each other. And no team is in better position to salvage Michigan's MAC pride than West leader Western (7-2), the hottest offense in the conference (75.9 points per game in 2007-08) and destroyers of Akron on Wednesday. The Broncos, winners of three straight, now set their sights on another Eastern power on Saturday: Ohio.
The 6-3 Bobcats are still smarting from a 63-56 loss at Eastern, but still hold the second-highest RPI in the conference (52), five spots behind Kent. Ohio's defense has become rock-solid and consistent since MAC play began, but extreme swings in offensive efficiency have dictated whether the team wins or loses on any given evening -- for instance, in the loss at EMU, no Bobcat scored in double figures. The winning formula may be simpler than that: when powerful senior forward Leon Williams gets the ball a lot, they win. The Bobcats are 7-1 when he takes at least 10 shots.
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