2009-10 Conference Primers: #19 – MAC

Posted by nvr1983 on October 18th, 2009

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Rush the Court currently does not have a correspondent from the MAC so if you would like to represent the conference and educate the rest of us, please e-mail us at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Predicted Order of Finish:

East

  1. Akron (12-4)
  2. Buffalo (11-5)
  3. Kent State (10-6)
  4. Bowling Green (9-7)
  5. Miami (OH) (8-8)
  6. Ohio (7-9)

West

  1. Ball State (8-8)
  2. Northern Illinois (7-9)
  3. Eastern Michigan (7-9)
  4. Central Michigan (6-10)
  5. Toledo (6-10)
  6. Western Michigan (5-11)

All-Conference Team:

  • David Kool (G), Sr, Western Michigan
  • Darion Anderson (G), Jr, Northern Illinois
  • Jarrod Jones (F), So, Ball State
  • Brandon Bowdry (F), Jr, Eastern Michigan
  • Zeke Marshall (C), Fr, Akron

6th Man. Brett McKnight (F), Jr, Akron

Impact Newcomer. Zeke Marshall (C), Fr, Akron

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What You Need to Know. To begin with this is the MAC not the MAAC. Sienadoesn’t play in this conference so if you came here expecting to see a preview for them you are in the wrong place (at least for a few days). This conference, the MAC, is ridiculously unbalanced. While none of the the teams in the MAC would be considered contenders for a national title there are four good teams in the East that might actually pique some interest when they played a decent BCS school as an “Upset Alert.” There isn’t a single team in the West you could say that about even if they were playing a cellar-dweller in any of the BCS conferences. In fact, last year the last-place team in the East (Ohio) would have been tied for first in the West. The winner of the automatic bid will almost definitely come from the East with Akron and Buffalo being the top contenders. The edge may go to the Zips who lose less of their championship team from last year (only Nate Linhart) and add a 7’0″ center in the middle with Zeke Marshall while the Bulls will not have Greg Gamble and Andy Robinson this year.

Predicted Champion.  Akron Zips (NCAA Seed: #13). Coming off a 20-win season and the MAC title/NCAA bid the Zips are loaded by MAC standards. The only significant player they lose is Linhart (the MAC tournament MVP), but the Zips should have more than enough to stay up at the top of the MAC with the McKnight brothers (Chris and Brett) leading the way. Even though Brett came off the bench last year, he still led the team in scoring and figures to do so again although I’m not sure if he will stay on the bench with Linhart’s departure. With the McKnights and Marshall controlling the inside, Daryl Roberts and his 39.6% from beyond the arc should get his fair share of quality looks. With so much returning talent, the key for the Zips will be how quickly Marshall adapts to the college game. Marshall, who FoxSports.com rated as the #13 impact freshman this upcoming season, could give the Zips something the MAC hasn’t seen in a long-time–a legitimate seven-foot center. His presence, even if tips the scales at a relatively svelte 218 lbs, could be just the boost that the Zips need to repeat in the MAC and scare some big-name school in the 1st round.

Top Contenders:

  • Buffalo. Much like the Zips, the Bulls return a lot of their lineup from last year with 7 returnees who averaged double-digit minutes. Unfortunately for coach Reggie Witherspoon, the Bulls will have to replace Greg Gamble at point guard this year and that was the one position that the Bulls didn’t have much depth at last season.  Witherspoon will need John Boyer or Byron Mulkey to step up if this Buffalo team wants to get into the NCAA tournament. If either of those guys develops into a reliable option, the other MAC teams should watch out because the Bulls have a plethora of options with Rodney Pierce (14.3 PPG) being the most explosive one on the offensive end. The Bulls have plenty of guys who can score with Pierce, Calvin Betts, and Northern Arizona transfer Zach Filzen, but they need to find somebody who can put the ball in their hands in a position to do damage.
  • Kent State. While the Golden Flashes aren’t the team that Stan Heath led to the Elite 8 back in 2002, they are a dark horse to win the MAC with senior guards Chris Singletary (12.1 PPG) and Tyree Evans (11.7 PPG) returning and Rodriguez Sherman returning from an injury last year to play point. The one thing that may hold the Golden Flashes back in the MAC this year is their inside play, which is solid, but not quite at the level of Akron or the other top teams in the MAC. If coach Geno Ford can get either of his junior college transfers–Justin Manns or Greg Avila–to step up, you might be seeing Kent State back in the NCAA tournament sooner than you expected.
  • Bowling Green. No top-tier team in the MAC got hit as hard by graduation as the Falcons did with the loss of their top 3 scorers in Nate Miller, Darryl Clements, and Brian Moten. Point guard Joe Jakubowski will have to find someone else to dish the ball to this year, but if opponents lay off him too much he might burn them as he is the Falcons leading returning scorer at 7.7 PPG. The most likely options for Jakubowski this season include Chris Knight, who averaged 10.7 PPG and 7.3 RPG as a freshman before going through a bit of a sophomore slump, and Darion Goins, who did not play last year a transfer from San Jose State. If Knight can return to his freshman form, coach Louis Orr might have a team that could pull off a few shockers in the MAC tournament.

RPI Boosters.

  • Nov. 17, 2009: Bowling Green at Xavier at TBA
  • Nov. 20, 2009: Akron at North Carolina State at 3:30 PM
  • Nov. 20, 2009: Bowling Green at Iowa at 7 PM
  • Dec.4, 2009: Kent State at Xavier at TBA
  • Dec. 4, 2009: Akron at Texas A&M at 8 PM
  • Dec. 12, 2009: Kent State at Pittsburgh at 2 PM
  • Dec. 28, 2009: Bowling Green at Temple at TBA

Key Conference Games:

  • Jan. 9, 2010: Bowling Green at Akron at 7 PM
  • Jan. 14, 2010: Buffalo at Bowling Green at 7 PM
  • Jan. 17, 2010: Bowling Green at Kent State at TBA
  • Jan. 17, 2010: Akron at Buffalo at TBA
  • Jan. 20, 2010: Buffalo at Kent State at TBA
  • Jan. 23, 2010: Akron at Kent State at TBA
  • Feb. 13, 2010: Kent State at Buffalo at TBA
  • Feb. 17, 2010: Bowling Green at Buffalo at TBA
  • Feb. 24, 2010: Kent State at Bowling Green at 7 PM
  • Feb. 24, 2010: Buffalo at Akron at 7 PM
  • Feb. 27, 2010: Akron at Bowling Green at 2:30 PM
  • Mar. 5, 2010: Kent State at Akron at 8 PM

Digging Deeper:

  • Although everybody associates this conference with Wally Szczerbiak (and Ben Roethlisberger) the conference has actually produced several other solid players such as Nate Thurmond, Earl Boykins, Dan MajerleRon Harper, Gary Trent(aka “The Shaq of the MAC”), Bonzi Wells, Antonio Daniels, and Chris Kaman.
  • Miami (OH)is by far the winningest program in MAC history with 21 conference titles and 562 conference wins (.636 winning percentage), but that distinction would surely have gone to Cincinnati had it remained in the MAC. During its 7 seasons in the MAC, Cincinnati won 5 conference titles and had a .791 winning percentage.
  • Many people might consider winning the MAC title last year and advancing to the NCAA tournament the pinnacle of Zips coach Keith Dambrot‘s coaching career, but we would have enjoyed watching that Zips team play the last high school team that Dambrot coached. That team featured a young man named LeBron James. Dambrot’s official Akron biography refers to James as “a key component to those squads”. We think that might be a slight understatement.
  • Dambrot also starred at Akron as a college athlete on the baseball diamond. He graduated with the dubious distinction of being the school’s all-time hit-by-pitch leader.

Fun With KenPom. We mentioned it earlier and we don’t like to pick on the little guy, but even KenPom thinks that the MAC West was awful last year. While none of the teams in the East would be considered to be elite (Akron came in the highest at 92nd), all of the teams in the MAC East finished at 180th or better. Meanwhile in the West, no team finished higher than 235th (Central Michigan). One other interesting statistic from the conference was just how mediocre their non-conference schedules were last year, which is surprising if you look at the RPI Buster above for this season. Outside of Miami (OH)and Toledo, which had the 11th and 40th ranked non-conference SOS respectively, no MAC team had a non-conference SOS above 102nd. In fact, out of the 4 contenders for the conference title this year, Buffalo had the toughest non-conference SOS last year coming in at an embarrassing #122.

NCAA Tournament History. The MAC has been around since the 1946-47 season when it consisted of Butler, Cincinnati, Ohio, Western Reserve, and Wayne State. Today, only one of those teams (Ohio) is still in the conference.  Over the 60+ years of its existence, the MAC has compiled a record of 27-66 (.290) in the NCAA tournament. The conference has received 5 at-large bids with the most recent being the Szcerbiak-led Miami (OH) team in 1999. The furthest a MAC team has ever advanced is the Elite 8, which has happened on two occasions: Ohio in 1964 before losing to Michigan and Kent State in 2002 before losing to Indiana.

Final Thoughts. While it will never be confused for a BCS conference, the MAC might end up being one of the most interesting conference tournaments in the country this March with 4 teams that could legitimately win it and all 4 needing the conference title to make it to the NCAA tournament. Although we don’t want to go back to the “old days” where only 1 team per conference–the conference tournament champ–was allowed in the NCAA tournament doing so adds a certain appeal to the conference tournament and also eliminates some of the ridiculous theatrics that ESPN and CBS try to shove down our throats with players, coaches, and families praying for the Selection Committee to save them when they weren’t up to the task (earning a bid) themselves. In the MAC, we suspect that bid will come down to Akron and Buffalo with freshman Zeke Marshall being the determining factor. The question is whether or not the freshman will be ready for prime time.

nvr1983 (1263 Posts)


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3 Responses to “2009-10 Conference Primers: #19 – MAC”

  1. Dave says:

    Al Fisher is no longer on Kent State. I’m pretty sure he graduated. I think Nate Miller is gone too.

  2. RecoveringHillbilly says:

    “something the MAC hasn’t seen in a long-time–a legitimate seven-foot center.”?

    Is 6 years a long time? Kamen graduated in 2003.

    Looking at other pre-season previews, you have the MAC rated lower than most. Most have the MAC ahead of the MAAC. Toledo should not finish that high, and Miami may be a notch higher. Otherwise, IMO, a good preview.

  3. nvr1983 says:

    While 6 years isn’t an eternity it is a pretty long time when you use the definition of legitimate seven-foot center. I’m not talking about the conference turning out a Tim Duncan every year (I know he is listed at 6’11″; don’t get me started on height measurements for centers). I’m just looking for guys at the level of Brendan Haywood instead of being Casey Sanders. It’s amazing how “small” the players in this conference are (coming from a guy who generously lists himself at 5’10″) so if Marshall can even be the MAC equivalent of Brendan Haywood he could be a real force for Akron.

    As for team rankings, what would you propose? I have Toledo ranked 5th out of 6 teams in the weaker of the two divisions so you can’t get much lower than that (ok, I could have ranked them 6th).

    *ACC references to help the casual CBB reader.

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