BX Mid American Conference Preview

BX Mid American Conference Preview
Oct 22, 2007, 11:49 am

-The MAC hasn’t had two teams in the NCAA Tournament since 1999, but they’ve had a team seeded #12 or better four times since 2001, so they are always on the brink of having a team on the bubble and who would be considered for an at-large if they needed it. The league appears to be very competitive this year. Kent State looks to be the best team on the surface, but they’ve got four or five teams that could end up winning it. They also have a few teams that may be able to play their way onto or even inside of the bubble and make the NCAA Tournament.

-Although this isn’t considered a major conference and the stage is somewhat smaller than that of the ACC, SEC, Pac Ten, etc, there are a lot of rivalries within this conference. Six schools in the league are from Ohio, and all are state schools. The conference tournament at the end of the year is always quite a show.

-Complaints and negative criticism is something I get plenty of, but a great deal of it comes from Miami Redhawks fans when I refer to their team as ‘Miami, OH.’ I guess they think I’m treating them like a mid-major. There are two Miamis, one is in Florida and the other is in Ohio. It’s not a dis. I have to distinguish between the two by calling one Miami, FL and the other Miami, OH. It could be worse. The name of the school could have been Loyola. There are three of those.


-KENT STATE has won 20+ games for the last nine years, and finished the season very strong last year. With four starters coming back, they look to be a team that could be an at-large caliber team for the NCAA Tournament. They did lose their two best players from last season in Omni Smith and Armon Gates, but they still have a ton of experience coming back. They also have three transfers that will play and contribute right away. Korey Spates (formerly of Purdue) should be a key factor at point guard, and Rashad Woods (formerly of De Paul) should be a good swing man. This is a very experienced team that has their eyes on the postseason this year. Some out of conference highlights include Xavier, Saint Louis, George Mason, North Carolina and a Bracket Buster game. If they can win a few of those and avoid too many slipups then they should be dancing this year.

-AKRON had an incredible year last year going 26-7 and many believed they were knocking on the door of the NCAA Tournament. A last second three-point shot in the conference championship game to Miami, OH ended their NCAA Tournament hopes, and as it turned out their NIT hopes. They didn’t have the resume to get in as an at-large, which was really unfortunate because they would have been a very tough first round opponent. Three starters are back this year, but Romeo Travis, who was the conference player of the year last year, isn’t one of them. Replacing him will be a factor. Forward Jeremiah Wood should be a huge contributor. He is one of the best players in the league at his position, and is good at both scoring and rebounding the basketball. Nick Dials is a big time perimeter player who can play some pretty good defense and shoot the ball well. A criticism of their resume last year was that their schedule was too weak, and that could once again be a factor this year. Other than the Bracket Buster, it doesn’t look like they’re playing any solid tournament teams, which means every loss would be considered a damaging loss and very few of the wins will be looked at as being impressive.

-MIAMI, OH got off to a sluggish start last year, but finished the season very strong and ended up winning the conference championship. In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, they put a big scare into Oregon, who eventually advanced to the Elite Eight. None of the teams Oregon faced the rest of the way gave them the kind of game that the Redhawks did. Three starters return, including forward Tim Pollitz, who shot the ball very well and averaged over 16ppg last season. He is one of the best players in the conference. They also have a pretty strong guard in Michael Bramos. This has always been a very tough defensive team, and things shouldn’t be any different this year. They don’t appear to have that many weapons, but they play very well as a team. Head coach Charlie Coles has always gotten the maximum output from the sum of his parts.

-WESTERN MICHIGAN was just 15-16 last year, but they were playing their best basketball at the end of the season, and they have all five starters coming back. Don’t be surprised if we see them at the top of the standings this year and in a position to make either the NCAA Tournament or the NIT. This is a well balanced team that doesn’t really have just one or two go-to guys because everyone contributes. Guard David Kool and Center Michael Rees are two of the better players they have, and both guys work very well together. Oregon, Davidson, San Diego State, Southern Illinois and a Bracket Buster game will give them plenty of opportunities to put quality wins on their NCAA Tourney resume.

-OHIO has had some very talented teams the past two years, and although they’ve won quite a few games, they still haven’t managed to match the success of the 2004-2005 team that went to the NCAA Tournament and nearly upset Florida. Three starters are back from a team that won 19 games last year, and it once again looks like they have a team that can contend for the title, but whether or not they’ll actually do it remains to be seen. Justin Tillman and Leon Williams make up a very strong frontcourt. Both averaged over 14ppg last season and did a good job rebounding the ball as well. If this team could find a strong point guard, then that may be the difference between them being an NCAA Tournament team or them being a team that doesn’t even make the NIT.

-TOLEDO got off to a sluggish start last season, but really heated up in conference play and ended up going 14-2. It wasn’t enough to make the postseason without an automatic bid due to the poor start, and their NCAA Tournament hopes came to an end when they fell to Miami in the semifinals. Only two starters are back from last year, and it looks as if they are in a rebuilding process rather than being able to challenge for the league title. Lots of new players are on the team this year, so it’s hard to say for sure how good or bad the Rockets will be.

-Lewis Orr (formerly of Seton Hall) takes over at BOWLING GREEN. In addition to losing their head coach, they also lost their leading scorer, and since the team only won 13 games last year they could be in for a long year. Guard Nate Miller is back, who averaged over 14ppg and close to 8 boards a game despite the fact that he was a guard. They also return some guys who contributed off the bench last year. They should be improved, but I don’t see them in the postseason.

-At one point BUFFALO was the doormat of the league. Then for about a two year period, one of which where they almost made the NCAA Tournament, it looked as though they had resurrected themselves and would be one of the better teams in the league. Now, it appears that they’re on their way back down. They were just 4-12 in league play last year despite showing signs of life during the OOC games. Head coach Reggie Witherspoon is still a great leader, but he just can’t seem to get this team back at the top of the standings. With two of their top three scorers gone from last year, it looks as though it will be a building year for the Bulls once again.

-CENTRAL MICHIGAN is a team that is on the rise. They won just 13 games last year, but their seven conference wins were a major improvement. With four starters coming back, that improvement should continue. Guard Giordan Watson is a tremendously talented player. He averaged close to 19ppg last year, and he can also pass the ball well and play pretty good defense. If his teammates can step it up and give the team some more weapons, they could really be dangerous this season. Either way it appears that head coach Ernie Zeigler has them moving in the right direction.

-EASTERN MICHIGAN has all five starters back from a team that was showing signs of life at the end of the season. Things were rough last year and appeared to be getting worse when starting guard Carlos Medlock was lost for the season, but they somehow managed to finish the season fairly well. Their confidence should be up, as should their experience. This is a team that hasn’t had much to celebrate, but this could be the year where they take a huge step forward.

-NORTHERN ILLINOIS has a new coach in Richard Patton, who did a great job at Colorado, but left because he felt he wasn’t getting the kind of administrative support he needed to continue to build the program. He has his work cut out for him at NIU. They won just seven games last year, and although three starters are back, they don’t appear to have the kind of weapons the teams at the top of the league have. Patton is a terrific coach, and NIU is serious about basketball, so things could turn around in a hurry, but even though I think they’ll be better this year I still don’t see them in the postseason.

-BALL STATE was one of the worst offensive teams in the country last year. Their shot selection was awful, and when they did take a good shot they generally missed. Head coach Rodney Thompson resigned over the summer due to what was alleged by some to have been racial hostilities and issues within the university. He has been replaced by Billy Taylor, and Coach Taylor has his work cut out for him. Three starters are back, one of which is Anthony Newell who is a very effective forward, but the team won just nine games last year and appears to be in disarray.

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