Updated Wed, Jan 11, 2012 4:28 pm
Ohio men's basketball is currently on a two-game slide, highlighted (or lowlighted) by poor shooting from three, a high opponent shooting percentage and being dominated on the glass. The Bobcats are a combined 7-46 shooting on three-point field goals in the last two losses. While the box score has featured a low shooting percentage from deep for Ohio (11.5 percent against Robert Morris and 20 percent at Bowling Green) the opponents field goal percentage has been much higher.
The Colonials shot 53 percent in Ohio's first loss of 2012, which was also the first home loss this season. It was basically the same script at Bowling Green in the conference opener on Saturday, when the Falcons shot 52 percent from the field. Ohio has also been out rebounded 79-57 in this two-game losing streak.
Even if Ohio had muscled through those struggles and won the past two games, which was certainly possible, it may not matter.
Don't go. Let me finish.
The MAC loss is important because conference play is where Ohio's most important games are since the MAC typically doesn't get any at-large bids.
For the sake of argument pretend Ohio beat Robert Morris and Bowling Green and are sitting at 14-1 entering tonight's game against Buffalo.
The problem for the Bobcats is their quality games are rapidly being tarnished.
The first one that grabbed a lot of attention was Ohio's five-point loss at Louisville. The Bobcats took the then-seventh-ranked Cardinals to the wire and even led 49-43 with 3:55 to go. Although there really is no such thing as a "quality loss," (not to the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee or to John Groce) this was the first game that put the Bobcats in the national spotlight.
Louisville is far from the seventh-best team in the country right now. Since entering Big East play, the Cardinals are 1-4 including a 90-59 beat-down at Providence, which gave the Friars their first conference win.
Take Louisville off the resume.
Oh well, Ohio didn't beat Louisville, no big deal, it wasn't a big notch on the accomplishment belt anyway. How about Oakland?
The Bobcats marched into the O'rena on Dec. 7 and beat the Golden Grizzlies 84-82. Oakland had won 41 of its last 43 home games, including a win over Tennessee in Rochester, Mich. on Nov. 28 before the Bobcats knocked them off. It was an impressive win at the time, and it appeared that this year's team could live up to the "road warriors" title coach Groce had been preaching.
Oakland's season has gone south in a hurry. The Grizzlies own a losing record at 9-10 and are 3-7 since Ohio visited Rochester. Oakland just snapped a six-game losing streak with a win on Saturday over IUPUI, but the Golden Grizzlies look more like the Aluminum Grizzlies (precious metals joke) as they own an RPI of 136.
Highlight and delete Oakland off of the resume.
"But Matt, Ohio smacked Northern Iowa in its own building."
Yes it did. That was a statement game on Dec. 20. Unfortunately for Ohio and Bobcats' fans alike, UNI's loss to Ohio sparked a three-game losing streak for the Panthers who are now 12-5 and 2-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Northern Iowa is still Ohio's best win with an RPI rating of 21, but the Panthers' stock is definitely trending down.
So what is the point?
The point is that early on this Bobcats' squad was talked about as a potential at-large bid into the NCAA tournament if it rolled through conference play but slipped up late in the MAC tournament. Now, at 12-3, and their quality wins suddenly become less impressive, the Bobcats will most likely have to punch their ticket to the Big Dance the old-fashioned way, win the MAC tournament in March.
This isn't anything new for teams in the Mid-American Conference. The MAC hasn't sent two teams to the NCAA Tournament since 1999 when Kent State and Miami (the at-large bid) made the field.
So forget about the non-conference season, the team has put it behind them. Ohio is one game in-the-hole after its loss to Bowling Green on Saturday, and has 15 conference games left before the MAC Tournament (the most important part of the season) begins.
Buffalo is good. The Bulls give the 'Cats a chance to see how well they stack up with the quality teams in the conference. Tip off for tonight's game is at 7 p.m. at the Convocation Center.