University at Buffalo senior Damien Foster wasn't going to be consoled Tuesday night. It didn't matter that the Bulls had wiped out a 22-point deficit before eventually falling at Canisius, 62-60.
Foster was disgusted his team was behind by 19 points at halftime. His reasoning: "We're from the Big MAC, they're from the Little MAAC and that never should have happened."
Hmmm. We'll ignore the fact that UB came into the game 2-16 and Canisius was 11-8. In a normal season, Foster would have a point. The Big MAC -- the Mid-American Conference -- has proven to be a strong mid-major league with more national prominence than the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
This year, however, the MAC rates as one of the nation's biggest disappointments.
It's only ranked 14th among conferences according to CollegeRPI.com, down from its No. 9 ranking last season. And, remember, even that showing produced no at-large teams to the NCAA Tournament as both Kent State and Bowling Green were snubbed. This year, the MAC holds no at-large hopes.
No MAC team is above No. 70 (Toledo) in the Ratings Percentage Index entering the weekend, unheard of in recent years. Central Michigan is 90th and Marshall 96th. East Division-leading Kent State is 112 -- it was No. 36 last year.
Last year's MAC had seven teams in the top 100 of the index, the primary tool used by the NCAA to determine postseason teams. There were six in the '98-99 season with a top-100 RPI and two of them (Kent and Miami) made the NCAAs.
So what's gone wrong? For starters, the top MAC schools have suffered heavy graduation losses the last few years. The star power that included players like Miami's Wally Szczerbiak is not prevalent in the league this year.
Another problem is that UB is far from alone in being on the RPI outpost. Sure, the Bulls are a lowly 295th out of 319 schools, but look at these MAC RPIs: Western Michigan (260), Northern Illinois (280), Eastern Michigan (288). Those three and UB were a combined 5-31 in non-league games.
When Eastern comes to Alumni Arena on Monday night, it will be a battle of two of the nation's bottom 35 teams. No way a Toilet Bowl like that was on the league's master plan to keep up its high profile.
The Metro Atlantic, meanwhile, is improving. After a No. 20 showing in the RPI last year, it's up to 15th this year. One problem is that Iona is its top team at No. 111, meaning it's likely this will be just the third time in the last 20 years that no MAAC school will get a bid to the National Invitation Tournament.
MAC schools won't be alone in getting shut out of NCAA at-large bids. This isn't going to be a good year for the mid-majors.
Heading into the weekend, the only one in solid RPI range is Missouri Valley contender Creighton (ranked 28th and owning wins over Providence, Nebraska and Georgia State).
Also in the mix are Georgia State (41st, with a win over Georgia), Utah State (45th, with a win over Utah), Richmond (47th, with wins over Mississippi State and UMass and a loss to Wake Forest) and Butler (48th, with a win at Wisconsin and a loss at Arizona). But most teams from lower-rated leagues need to get their RPI into the 30s to have a solid shot and that's tough to do playing weaker league opponents.
From UB to UAB
Remember Will Campbell? Ex-UB coach Tim Cohane raved about the former Elmira Free Academy star when he played for the Bulls two years ago and averaged 12 points and six rebounds before being declared academically ineligible.
The 6-foot-9 Campbell has resurfaced at Alabama-Birmingham and is having a big year. He was named Conference USA Player of the Week on Monday after tying the school record with 20 rebounds and scoring 18 points in a 65-53 win Jan. 31 win over Houston. Campbell is averaging 7.5 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
Campbell played last year at Chipola (Fla.) JC under former UB player Ryan Cross and averaged 15 points, 14 rebounds.
Around the rim
Weekend watch: Georgia Tech has another big chance to improve its status as a bubble team Sunday when it hosts No. 6 Virginia. Same for Missouri, which hosts Iowa State on Sunday, and Temple, which meets Xavier today at noon (ESPN). . . . Folks in Pittsburgh are growing restless with Duquesne coach Darelle Porter, whose contract runs out after next season. Wednesday's loss at St. Bonaventure was the Dukes' 10th in 11 games. They finished the last two years with slumps of 1-20 and 1-13. Rumors of a departure from the Atlantic 10 have been met with howls of protest from alums, including former NBA all-star Norm Nixon. During last week's 19-point home loss to Dayton, a fan held up a sign that read, "Dr. Murray, How Long Must We Suffer? Upgrade Now." The message to university president Dr. John Murray was immediately removed.