Getting into the MACtion mood, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Women’s Basketball Tournament starts in about 24 hours. As we close in, here are some keys for the Cardinals if they want to win the whole darn thing.
As I write this, I am thinking to myself, ‘Well yeah, no duh. If you create turnovers you are going to set yourself up to win,’ and yes, that is mostly correct. That being said, as I look at the top teams in the tournament, they have a higher efficiency in creating said turnovers.
Starting with the No. 1 seed Toledo, the Rockets are forcing 14.9 turnovers per game. No. 2 seed Bowling Green is scoring 23.4 points off turnovers compared to only 10.1 for its opponents. Oh and another short bit of information, the Falcons average 21.9 forced turnovers. 21.9!
No. 3 seed Ball State has forced 16.3 turnovers per game before the tournament. On the other hand, the Cardinals are averaging 13.6 per game. Reporting for Ball State for this year, it has been especially true that slow and sluggish periods of play come off of these turnovers. If the Cardinals are hoping for a deep tournament run, limiting those turnovers against great defensive teams like Bowling Green and Toledo is essential.
Everyone loves a 3-pointer, but winning in the paint wins games
The simple phrase “winning in the paint” has a heavy impact. Offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds and points-in-paint all are within the category.
With the 3-point shot being used more and more as the game of basketball progresses into a shooting-heavy game, it is still more vital than ever to secure a win in the paint. For example, Ball State sophomore Marie Kiefer single-handedly kept Ball State within striking range of Bowling Green March 1 with her 22-point and 11-rebound night.
From what I have noticed of every MAC team I have watched, the ones that are dominant in the paint for all three aspects of the game have been able to easily beat their opponent or keep it close regardless of their field goal percentage. So if it is a bad shooting night, turning around and focusing in the paint and being able to score that way is vital to winning the game. In this tournament, it is going to be essential to adapt to the competition.
Surviving the Huskies
It is something Northern Illinois does better than any other team in the tournament. The Huskies have shot 702 threes, more than any school, and made 242, one more than their first-round opponent, Kent State.
The Huskies played Toledo and Akron once this season and beat them both. Winning over the MAC regular season champions Toledo has not been easy this year since the Rockets beat No. 14 ranked Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Northern Illinois also split games against Ball State and Bowling Green, going 1-1 in the two-game series with each.
Almost going against my last point, Northern Illinois has been able to really just shoot the ball as much as possible from beyond the arc. While it is a strategy that is one-sided when the Huskies are really hitting their shots it makes them an incredibly tough team to beat.
For Ball State, MAKE. FREE. THROWS.
With Ball State losing two of its last three, there is one thing that sticks out to me. Free throws.
In those two games, they were against highly-ranked teams in Toledo and Bowling Green.
Against Toledo, the Cardinals shot 11-17 (64.7 percent), and although that’s not that bad on paper, Ball State desperately needed more of those to drop. Toledo hit double the amount of free throws––22–– and only missed seven.
Ball State ended up losing 72-70, and I am sure the Cardinals were wishing for a few of those to go in. The Cardinals had to think, ‘If we only hit a few more free throws it would be over.’
If Ball State wasn’t thinking that against the Rockets, the Cardinals were most definitely thinking it four days later after losing to Bowling Green in overtime.
The Cardinals went 11-25 from the free throw line, an abysmal 44 percent. Oddly enough, Bowling Green did the same thing to Ball State as Toledo did, doubling the Cardinals up in free throws with 22.
The MAC this year has been extremely competitive, with the No. 1 seed often being a three-way tie or two teams fighting all year long. With it being tournament time, any team can beat any team, and in the MAC, that has happened all year long.
For what it is worth, Toledo (25-4, 15-2 MAC) has had an incredible regular season and has seemed to always scrape by wins against highly-ranked Bowling Green and Ball State. The Rockets are going to be a tough team to beat.
But hey, this is March after all.