February 13, 2013

Chippewas host MAC title contender Ohio

A brutal stretch for Central Michigan continues on Wednesday night when they host the Ohio Bobcats, the second best team in the Mid-American Conference. The young Chippewas have lost their last six games and eight of their last nine. Ohio is 17-6 and has an 8-1 conference record. They have played a fairly weak schedule, but they are still one of just two MAC teams that are ranked in the KenPom top 100 at No. 67.

Akron is undefeated in conference play, but Ohio is only one game back in the loss column. The Bobcats only conference loss was at Akron and the two teams play again in Athens on February 27. They have had the best offense in conference play and the fourth most efficient defense. The Bobcats have the No. 68 tempo in the country and have had the fastest pace in conference play.

Other than an unexplainable home loss to Winthrop and another early defeat to Robert Morris, all of Ohio's losses have been on the road to solid teams, including Oklahoma and Memphis. The Bobcats did beat No. 93 Richmond at home by 25.

The Bobcats bread and butter on defense is forcing turnovers. They are fifth in the nation in defensive turnover percentage, behind only VCU, Louisville, Southern Miss and Denver. Senior point guard D.J. Cooper, who is a returning All-MAC first team performer, is a big reason that Ohio is able to force turnovers. Starting big man Reggie Keely also does a great job of forcing turnovers, along with backup forwards Ivo Baltic and Jon Smith. All three do a great job of getting steals and blocks.

The Bobcats have done a good job on opponents shooters, with a defensive effective field goal percentage ranked 82nd in the country. In conference play, they have excelled at keeping teams from scoring inside, but have allowed opponents to hit 31 percent from three-point range, seventh in the MAC. They struggle on the defensive glass and with foul trouble. Ohio is 305th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage and 336th in the nation in defensive free throw rate.

The offense also revolves around Cooper, who leads the Bobcats in touches, scoring and assists. He is an unbelievable playmaker, with the nation's best assist rate. Walter Offutt, who was All-MAC honorable mention last year, is the top perimeter option after Cooper, averaging 11.2 ppg in conference play. He can score inside and outside, as well as from the free throw line. The top post option is Keely, who has averaged 13.9 ppg in MAC play. T.J. Hall, who has started the last two games at forward has also been getting perimeter touches as well.

Keely and Smith are the team's best offensive rebounders. Ohio gets a ton of production from its top bench guys. Smith does not get a lot of touches, but he has the highest individual offensive rating in the country. Baltic is first guy off the bench and he was also All-MAC honorable mention last season. The Bobcats take a ton of three-point shots and also do a great job moving the ball around. They are first in the country in assists-per-field goal attempt

Ohio is one of the most experienced teams in the country. The top nine guys in their rotation are all juniors or seniors and they are fifth in the nation in KenPom's experience metric. The Bobcats are not a huge team, but they have enough post production to survive and they have a bunch of athletic guards, which creates a lot of mismatches. KenPom gives CMU a 17 percent chance at pulling off the home upset and predicts a 78-67 win for Ohio.

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