KENT, Ohio - Before his team traveled here last night, Curt Miller spent some of yesterday talking with Bowling Green State University administrators about the logistics involved in possibly hosting a Women's NIT game.
The coach of a 24-2 team did what?
Despite playing a more difficult schedule this year that has allowed the Falcons' ratings percentage index (RPI) to rise into the top 25, Miller will not allow himself to believe BGSU is a lock for the NCAA tournament until his team wins a Mid-American Conference tournament title.
After spending three years building a reputation and what looks like an iron-clad NCAA tournament portfolio, even a juggernaut in the mid-major MAC can't ever feel too comfortable.
"When Western Kentucky had a 19 RPI last year and didn't get in, there's not an RPI high enough that would make me feel safe," Miller said.
If the Falcons, ranked 18th in the Associated Press poll, lose to any MAC team other than Ball State, it is considered a "bad" RPI loss because no team other than the 19-5 Cardinals is ranked in the top 100. That makes a night like tonight, when BGSU plays Kent State, particularly nerve-wracking for Miller and the Falcons.
The M.A.C. Center is traditionally known as a tough place to visit. The Golden Flashes have won 27 of their last 29 games there over the past two years. But Kent State, at 13-11 and 9-4 in the MAC, is rated 127th on www.RPIRatings.com.
"We fear that every night out, this could be the loss that doesn't allow us to get an at-large bid," Miller said. "This could be the loss that now, we have to turn around and win the tournament. We face the pressure of not having a bad RPI loss."
Miller said every morning when he wakes up, the first thing he thinks is, "where are we?" in the RPI. Currently the Falcons sit at 21, with three wins over top 50 opponents (Indiana, Temple, and Delaware).
"Not that major programs aren't looking at the RPI every day, but the first thing a coach of a successful mid-major program does when they walk into the office is check the RPI," Miller said. "It's tough every day to know that one loss could change your whole outlook.
"There is not one other two-loss team in the country talking about the WNIT other than us. Because we still know we have work to do."
BGSU has ripped apart its past two MAC opponents, winning both games by more than 40 points to improve its league record to 13-0. The teams, Akron and Buffalo, are the two worst in the league, but the Falcons needed little contribution from most of their core players to take care of business.
"During the Akron game we were sitting on the bench watching our 'second unit,' and it was fun to be able to see them be successful," senior Liz Honegger said.
The first time the Falcons and Kent State played, on Jan. 10, BGSU won 74-52, its second straight drubbing of the Flashes. But KSU, sitting at second place in the MAC East, is still in line for a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament.
"Kent's a tough game. The environment makes it a tough place to play in," Honegger said. "With the rivalry we've established with them, it will be tough. We know their defensive pressure is going to be tremendous, and they've been on a roll."
MEN'S TIME CHANGE: The Mid-American Conference has announced that the starting time of Bowling Green's men's game against Miami on Sunday, March 4 at Anderson Arena has been moved to noon. The game will be on Fox Sports Ohio.
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