Checking in on… the MAC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 30th, 2010

Matt Giles is the RTC correspondent for the Mid-American Conference.

Standings as of 1/29

West Division

  1. Central Michigan            4-2       9-8
  2. Northern Illinois            4-2       8-10
  3. Ball State                               4-3       9-9
  4. Western Michigan          3-3       11-8
  5. Eastern Michigan            2-4       10-9
  6. Toledo                                     0-6       3-17

East Division

  1. Akron                                      4-2       14-6
  2. Kent State                             4-2       13-7
  3. Buffalo                                    3-3       10-6
  4. Bowling Green                  3-3       10-8
  5. Miami OH                              4-3       6-13
  6. Ohio                                          2-4       11-9


Team of the Week Ohio: After starting the conference season 0-4 against East Division foes, the Bobcats erupted from the three-point stripe in their only two games this week. In wins over Northern Illinois and Toledo, Ohio shot 46.7% from deep and dropped 99 points over both squads (it also helps that NIU and Toledo are two of the weakest defensive teams in conference play). Upcoming road games against Toledo and Eastern Michigan should prove whether Ohio is ready to blitz the conference in February; the road has been the Bobcats’ bugbear all season (3-6).

Player of the Week David Kool, Western Michigan: Not only does the 6-foot-3 guard lead the Broncos in PPG (20.1), three-point FG percentage with at least 25 attempts (38.2%) and offensive rating (121.9), the senior now also owns WMU’s career scoring record. In a loss to Akron Wednesday night, Kool dropped 30 and broke Manny Newsome’s 46-year old record. Kool currently has 1,790 points in his career and it’s conceivable he could break the 2,000 point barrier: five of WMU’s final 10 games are against teams allowing more than one point per possession.

Game of the Week Kent State 87, Akron 70: A grudge match between the top two East Division contenders? Check. A nationally televised game? Check. A 17-point loss … what? The last time a game between these two rivals was decided by 17 points or more was in the 2008 MAC championship game (won by the Golden Flashes). The Zips were outmanned on the boards, 38-28, and consequently, in a game where Akron suffered more than a few scoring droughts, Kent State’s 23-11 second chance points were too much to overcome.

Games of the Upcoming Week: Eastern Michigan at Miami, January 30, ESPNU, and Buffalo at Central Michigan, February 4. Central Michigan continues their East Division swing and will want to end the East Division’s dominance of the garnering the NCAA tournaments’ auto bid. A West Division team hasn’t made the Dance since 2005 (Central Michigan). One of the final ESPN-televised games on the MAC slate, the Miami-Eastern Michigan tilt will be the final chance — barring a run through the conference tournament — to see Miami’s Kenny Hayes live in action.

Superlatives: On January 20th, Miami’s Charlie Coles won his 217th game at Miami and is now the MAC’s all-time leader in career conference wins. Coles passed the record previously held by Darrell Hedric, who was a former coach at Miami.

Team Roundups

Central Michigan

Looking Back: The Chippewas had a topsy-turvy week. First, CMU hosted Northern Illinois and managed a win against an intra-divisional foe, 81-75. CMU ‘held’ NIU’s Xavier Silas to 26 points and Robbie Harman continued his impressive three-point turnaround, hitting 3 of 13 from deep. Harman is the best long-range shooter on the Chippewas this season and has upped his percentage from 34% to 42.8%. On Thursday, CMU started their East division swing with intentions of proving they are a contender in the conference, not just in their own division. Falling to Miami didn’t help their plans; CMU has held opponents to a scant 59.7 ppg in 2010 but the RedHawks managed to score 64 points  — four more than their conference average.

Looking Ahead: As previously stated, Central Michigan continues its play against East division foes, taking on Bowling Green, Buffalo, Kent State, Akron and Ohio. Second-place Northern Illinois is on a similar swing so if the Huskies struggle and CMU can finish the six-game trip with at least three wins, they could begin to distance themselves within the division.

Northern Illinois

Looking Back: Xavier Silas continues to rise up the MAC scoring ranks, totaling 57 points in two games (26 against CMU, 31 against Ohio). The junior transfer is now averaging 23.5 PPG – best in the conference – and the 6-foot-5 guard is tops in the conference in percentage of possessions used (32.0%) and percentage of shots taken (33.5%). NIU is not just a one-man team: Darion Anderson is 17th in the conference with a 12.0 ppg and the Huskies could become a dangerous team if sophomore Mike DiNunno emerges as a third option. The 5-foot-11 guard rang up 16 on Ohio. However, if Northern Illinois wants to unseat Central Michigan and run away with the East division title, the Huskies need to step up their defense. Sure, the Huskies are the second best at FG defense but they are the third-worst defensive team in the MAC, allowing opposing teams to drop 71.3 PPG. With Silas in the midst of a hot streak, NIU needs to focus on locking teams down.

Looking Ahead: NIU begins its East division swing and will take on the likes of Buffalo, Kent State, Akron and Miami. Look for at least three of the four games to be offensive affairs: Kent State, Buffalo and Akron all rank in the top five in terms of conference scoring offense while at the same time, ranking in the bottom half in scoring defense. If Silas continues to up his scoring average, he could be the first player to average more than 20 a season since John Bowler (20.1) of Eastern Michigan in 2005-06.

Ball State

Looking Back: For as long as Ken Pomeroy has kept his statistical database running, Ball State has cared little for defensive efficiency. In what technically should be considered Billy Taylor’s second ‘real’ season at the helm (don’t forget, he was dealt a rough hand when he took the job in 2007-08), Taylor has remade the Cardinals into the best defensive team in the MAC and overall as well (21st in the nation). Although their overall and conference records may not reflect their defensive superiority, Ball State has allowed only two teams to score above 70 points this season (Valparaiso and Tennessee Tech). Since scoring a meager 38 points against Central Michigan over two weeks ago, the Cardinals have been on a tear, winning four out of five games through defensive prowess. Just ask Miami and Buffalo (Ball State’s two wins this past week); the Cardinals held both squads under their season FG percentage (Miami 32.2%, normally at 42.6% and Buffalo 36.7%, normally at 41.7%).

Looking Ahead: Ball State is definitely the sleeper team in the West division (side note: should it really be surprising though? The Cardinals tied for the West division title in 2008-09) and will get a chance to showcase their defense when the Cardinals visit Ohio on Sunday. The Bobcats recently reeled off consecutive 99 point efforts and are the top scoring team in the conference.

Western Michigan

Looking Back: As we have already detailed, David Kool was RTC’s player of the week in the MAC. His 30-point effort against Akron wasn’t good enough for the win but the senior is on pace to break 2,000 points in his career. Even UA coach Keith Dambrot was impressed, saying he wanted a David Kool Western Michigan jersey. WMU did manage to get a win this week, defeating winless Toledo in Kalamazoo. Although the game was never in doubt, Bronco fans did get a chance to see what 2010-11 starting lineup will be; freshmen Nate Hutcheson scored 15 and Flenard Whitfield scored 11.

Looking Ahead: Western Michigan is in the middle of the pack in the West division and the MAC overall and they better start harvesting those wins quickly. Next season will undoubtedly be a rebuilding year as the Broncos will be losing David Kool, Donald Lawson and Martelle McLemore after this season (aka three of WMU’s top five scorers). If the Broncos want to send those seniors out with a memorable bang, they need to have a strong East division swing that starts Saturday at Kent State followed by a Monday affair at Buffalo.

Eastern Michigan

Looking Back: With Carlos Medlock completely healed from his injury that sidelined the guard the entire 2009 season, EMU was expected to compete in the MAC’s East division. Unfortunately, that hasn’t really happened. Medlock resumed his spot running the offense so EMU’s tempo has risen (62.4 possessions per game to 69.3) but for an experienced team, the Eagles have had their problems on the road – only two of their eight games on the road have been wins. However, since both games this past week were at home, EMU was not affected by the road jitters. Another disturbing trend, though, has emerged and that is the Eagles’ lack of defense. In their loss to Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan allowed the Falcons to connect on 49% of their FGs. In fact, opposing teams have shot well above 40% from the field in most of their nine losses. One positive to take from this past week: Brandon Bowdry is performing like a star. The junior is a rebounding machine, grabbing 28% of opposing teams’ misses and in the two-game span (a win over Ball State and the loss to BGSU), Bowdry averaged 7.1 RPG. The 6-foot-6 Bowdry does need to work on his free throw shooting though; Bowdry is fouled  just over 6 times per game but only shoots 50.4% from the stripe. One has to wonder if the team’s woeful FT percentage (65.9%) has contributed to some of their losses.

Looking Ahead: Eastern Michigan could pick up a few games this week against Miami and Akron. We have already mentioned the rebounding force that is Brandon Bowdry. Miami and Akron both struggle with offensive rebounds and EMU could have a field day thanks to second-chance points as well as quick run-outs after missed shots.


Looking Back: According to Ken Pomeroy, the Rockets  — still winless in conference play – have a 40.5% chance of going winless in conference play. That is second-highest percentage among still-winless teams (Fordham leads with a 61% chance). The second half has doomed Toledo all season in conference play and it continued to hurt UT in losses to Western Michigan and Kent State this week. Although Gene Cross’ crew has struggled has never led after the first half either, they were outscored by a combined 15 points in the two games. Toledo is having a tough time breaking out of the cellar in most MAC offensive and defensive categories. The Rockets are last in scoring offense, FT and FG percentages, offensive rebounds, assists, steals, turnover margin and assist-to-turnover ratio. Basically, it has been a bleak winter in Toledo.

Looking Ahead: Tilts against Akron, Bowling Green and Ohio dot Toledo’s upcoming schedule and, barring an unforeseen upset, it doesn’t look like the Rockets will have enough offensive juice to keep these teams. Even Bowling Green, which ranks in the bottom half of scoring offense, still manages to average 12.2 more PPG than Toledo (61.2 to 49.0).


Looking Back: We have already mentioned that Akron lost this past week to Kent State due to their inability to corral defensive rebounds. In fact, this has been the Zips’ bugbear the entire season. Akron only grabs 22.8 defensive rebounds a game, good for ninth in conference play. Even though Zeke Marshall has helped on the glass, the Zips are still a smaller than average team. However, Akron is a deep team but will only succeed depending on how well the brothers McKnight (Brett and Chris) play. Against Kent State, Chris played well and scored 13 points while Brett struggled, connecting on only 1-6 from the field. In their win against Western Michigan, though, both Chris and Brett scored in double-digits.

Looking Ahead: According to Coach Dambrot, the MAC is becoming a balanced conference as well as developing into a much more competitive league. That being said, Akron’s next three games (against Toledo, Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois) are all at the James A. Rhodes H&PE Building so a four-game winning streak (counting last week’s win over WMU) is definitely not out of the question.

Kent State

Looking Back: Across the board, Kent State is a very good team. Whether it’s scoring (fourth in the MAC with 70.2 PPG) or defending the goal (third with 60.7 PPG), Kent State seems like an early favorite to make the MAC tournament championship game. A 87-70 win over Akron – a top team – confirmed that an auto bid could be waiting for the Golden Flashes after the season as they pounded the glass to a tune of 34-27. Then, Kent State handled Toledo, 60-49 – a team it should beat but could have become a trap game (especially after the big win over Akron).

Looking Ahead: Kent State is the second-best team in the MAC from the field, connecting on 44.6% in conference play. However, a Monday tilt against Northern Illinois could snakebite the Golden Flashes. Although we have noted NIU is not a good defensive team, they are the second-best team in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot a meager 39%.


Looking Back: Although Buffalo may not be the most offensively efficient team in the MAC (100.8 points per possession), the Bulls have phenomenal ball-handling skills. Buffalo leads the conference in assists (15.17) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.15) and is second in steals (8.0) and turnover margin (+1.83). So how did they lose both games (Ohio, 99-77 and Ball State, 75-69) this past week? The loss to Ohio is easy to explain: the Bulls turned the ball over 15 times (second most TOs by Buffalo in a conference game in 2010) and the fast play of the game also meant that leading scorer Rodney Pierce (18.1 PPG) would take a lot of shots. Problem is, he attempted 20 and only made six of them. Against Ball State, Buffalo didn’t turn the ball over nearly as much (six times) but apparently, on the way home from Athens, they forgot how to play defense. Ball State skewered Buffalo’s man D and connected on 55.5% of their shots.

Looking Ahead: The Bulls travel to Northern Illinois on Saturday and if UB against forgets how to play defense, it could be a long afternoon (and one guaranteed to keep the statisticians at the Convocation Center busy for a full two hours).

Bowling Green

Looking Back: It’s a miracle Bowling Green was able to pull out a win at Eastern Michigan (64-61). The Falcons have been the MAC’s best free throw shooting team in conference play (76.7%) but against EMU, their shaky FT shooting almost doomed them: 8-13 from the line. The 64-52 loss to Miami offered BGSU fans a glimpse of the future as sophomore Dee Brown scored 17 points off an impressive 3-5 shooting from deep. Three-point shooting has become Bowling Green’s forte; in 2009, the Falcons were third in conference play while in 2010, they have moved to first thanks to Joe Jakubowski (55%) and Brown (52.4%).

Looking Ahead: Expect a plethora of threes when Bowling Green matches up with Central Michigan on Saturday. The Falcons are eighth in the conference in guarding the long ball at 35.3% (but strangely, are the best when it comes to shooting from deep with a 40.4%) while the Chippewas shoot 37.5% from deep. If the statistics prove correct, CMU’s Robbie Harman, Brown and Jakubowski could all have career days. If BGSU does fall to CMU, at least they have Toledo next on the schedule.


Looking Back: Two wins and a loss are nice but even better was the milestone coach Charlie Coles reached. In a conference that is one of the oldest in college basketball, Coles’ feat is a testament to one of the better coaches in the game today whose teams continually thrive against BCS conferences.

Looking Ahead: Under Coles, Miami is a very good team at blocking shots. They lead the conference with over four per game and their block percentage is ranked 113th in the country (10.1%). Miami’s next two opponents, Eastern and Western Michigan, conversely, get blocked a lot (EMU 8.8% and WMU 10%) so the next two games should be fun times for Antonio Ballard and Adam Fletcher, who both rank in the MAC’s top ten for blocked shots.


Looking Back: Ohio was RTC’s team of the week in the MAC and we have already detailed the offensive juggernaut that the Bobcats have become. If their offensive onslaught continues, Ohio and Ball State could wind up the teams in the MAC tournament no one wants to face.

Looking Ahead: On Sunday, opposing basketball strategies will collide. The top ranked offensive team (Ohio) will take on the top ranked defensive team (Ball State) in what should be a widely-watched game … if only the game was televised.

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Checking In On… the MAC

Posted by jstevrtc on November 22nd, 2009


David Sanchirico is the RTC correspondent for the MAC.

Current Standings

East Division

Team Record

  1. Ohio   3-0
  2. Kent State   3-0
  3. Bowling Green   1-1
  4. Buffalo   1-1
  5. Akron   0-1
  6. Miami (Ohio)   0-2

West Division

Team Record

  1. Ball State   1-0
  2. Eastern Michigan   1-0
  3. Central Michigan   2-1
  4. Western Michigan   1-1
  5. Northern Illinois   0-2
  6. Toledo   0-2

The MAC continues to struggle during out-of-conference play as potential upsets slipped out of teams’ hands, others succumbed in blowouts, and teams that were expected to win, didn’t.

But there were also some good showings from a few surprise teams, including a club from Oxford, Ohio that almost pulled off the biggest upset in recent memory.  The first week of basketball really set the stage for what should be an intense and competitive season in the MAC.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking in on the… MAC

Posted by rtmsf on November 21st, 2008


Greg Miller of WPSD Local 6 is the RTC correspondent for the MAC.

Like most MAC pre-conference seasons, the majority of the league spent the first two weeks beating up on the Sisters of the Worthless Miracle.  But there were some MAC teams that took the time to play the big boys with mixed results.

  • As always, Miami’s schedule is murderer’s row.  The Redhawks first six games are on the road, including the 2K Coaches v Cancer Classic at UCLA.  Miami gave the #4 ranked Bruins all they could handle before falling 64-59Michael Bramos (MAC Player of the Year candidate) scored 22 points to surpass the 1000-point mark in his career.  The Redhawks left Pauley Pavilion feeling pretty good about themselves after the near-upset.  Unfortunately that feeling didn’t last long.  Just four days later, the Redhawks were humbled at #6 Pitt 82-53.  Bramos had just two points in this loss.  Miami was within three early in the second half before the much more physical Panthers just took over.  The gauntlet continues for Miami the next two weeks.  Road games at Wright State, Xavier and Temple loom.  This early season schedule should, without question, have the Redhawks ready to compete in the MAC.
  • Western Michigan is supposed to challenge in the MAC West.  The Broncos’ first three games this year were minor disappointments.  They lost to TCU by four, Hofstra by three in OT and then handed SIU-Edwardsville their first-ever division one victory by 11.  Not the start the Broncs were hoping for.  A silver-lining was David Kool.  He averaged over 24 points in those three losses.  But it’s obvious, he’s going to need help if WMU is going to be a serious MAC title contender.  They did fare better with a 13-point win over Detroit.  Road games at talented Sam Houston State and VCU the next two weeks will tell us a lot about this team.
  • Eastern Michigan suffered a serious setback before the season even started.  Senior point guard and pre-season All-MAC performer Carlos Medlock was lost for the season with a broken foot.  It’s the same foot he broke during the 2006-07 season.  He’ll apply for a medical hardship, but that won’t help the Eagles this year.  EMU had high hopes for their first winning season in a long time.  Medlock’s departure could hurt those chances.  His absence was felt in their blowout loss to Purdue where the EMU point guards combined for 13 turnovers.  Eastern would never had beaten Purdue with Medlock, but he certainly was missed.   EMU did bounce back nicely with a near upset of Georgia, losing 61-60 after leading by double-digits in the second half.  Not sure what this says about Georgia, but it’s certainly a confidence boost for EMU.
  • Toledo’s dance with the big boys was anything but memorable.  The Rockets were rocked by Florida 80-58 and stomped by Xavier 81-65.  Good news, Tyrone Kent smoked the Muskies for 37 in the loss.
  • Northern Illinois is supposed to bring up the rear again this year in the MAC.  But a sign of life was found in a win over Missouri Valley foe Indiana State.  The Sycamores ain’t exactly SIU or Creighton, but it’s still a nice win for Ricardo Patton’s club.
  • Ohio, as expected, easliy won their opener over William & Mary.  Jerome Tillman picked up where he left off last year notching his sixth straight double-double.  Tillman is a serious Player of The Year candidate in the MAC.
  • Kent, a favorite in the MAC East with Ohio and Miami, is 2-0 under new head coach Geno Ford.  They picked up an impressive road win against St. Louis and head coach Rick Majerus 76-74 in overtime.  Reigning MAC Player of the Year Al Fisher was tremendous in the win.  Fisher tallied 35 points, including 16 of Kent’s 17 overtime points.  Oh, and he hit the game-winning layup with less than :02 left.  No word on whether he drove the team bus home too.

The MAC has some big games to make a name for themselves the next two weeks, including match-ups with powerhouses like Kansas, Connecticut, Illinois and Marquette.  Here are some games to keep an eye on these next two weeks:

  • Bowling Green at Ohio State (11/24)
  • Kent State at the South Padre Invitational (starting vs. Illinois 11/28)
  • Ohio at George Mason 11/29
  • Temple at Buffalo 11/29
  • Miami at Xavier 11/29
  • Kent at Kansas 12/1
  • Central Michigan at Marquette 12/2
  • Tulsa at Ohio 12/3
  • UMass at Toledo 12/3
  • Miami at Temple 12/3
  • Northern Illinois at Air Force 12/3
  • St. Mary’s at Kent 12/4
  • Western Michigan at VCU 12/4
  • Connecticut at Buffalo 12/4


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2008-09 Season Primers: #15 – MAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2008

Greg Miller of WPSD Local 6 is the RTC correspondent for the Mid-American Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:

MAC East

  1. Kent  (22-9, 12-4)
  2. Miami (OH) (16-13, 11-5)
  3. Ohio  (20-9, 10-6)
  4. Akron  (16-15, 8-8)
  5. Bowling Green  (16-13, 7-9)
  6. Buffalo  (12-17, 6-10)

MAC West

  1. Western Michigan  (18-12, 10-6)
  2. Eastern Michigan  (16-14, 10-6)
  3. Central Michigan  (14-15, 9-7)
  4. Toledo  (13-17, 6-10)
  5. Ball State  (10-19, 4-12)
  6. Northern Illinois  (7-22, 3-13)

WYN2K.  The MAC’s new logo is just a small part of the change that the Mid-American Conference is hoping will push their league to the next level.  Seven of the league’s twelve head coaches are either in their first or second year, a sign that it really is a new era in the MAC.  The league is hoping to make the leap that leagues such as the Missouri Valley have made over the past decade.  It’s been ten long years since the MAC has had two teams in the NCAA Tournament.  That was back in 1999 when Kent earned the automatic bid while Miami (OH) picked up the league’s last at-large bid.  They proved very worthy as Wally Szczerbiak carried the RedHawks to the Sweet 16.  But the MAC has not since been able to recapture the glory of 1999.  Yes, they did watch Kent make a run to the Elite Eight in 2002, but it’s been quantity rather than quality that has plagued the MAC in the new century.  Since that multiple bid year of 1999, the league has sat back and watched a number of conferences do what they’ve been unable to do.  We mentioned the Valley, who has been a multi-bid league eight times in the interim.  Additionally, the Mountain West (8), WAC (7), West Coast (5), Horizon (2), CAA (2), Sun Belt  (1) and Big West (1) have all been a multi-bid league at least once.  In order to make that leap to a multi-bid league, the MAC must schedule better and most importantly take advantage of the opportunities they do get against the major conference teams.

Predicted Champion.  Kent (#13 NCAA).  As it’s been 7 of the past 10 years, the winner of the MAC will come from the East.  Just what team from the East remains to be seen?  Miami, Kent and Ohio all should make serious runs at the title, but none would be anything higher than a #12 seed in the Big Dance. 

  • As long as Jim Christian was at Kent, the Flash were guaranteed a 20-win season (ten straight).  But Jim Christian left for TCU.  Kent assistant coach and former MAC superstar Geno Ford (Ohio ’97) takes over the bench for the Flashes, but he will have some familiar faces to help him in his first season.  Guard Al Fisher (13.9 ppg, 4.0 apg) is the first returning MAC Player of the Year since 2002.  Fisher leads a group of eight returners that made up 65.1% of the KSU attack.  Chris Singletary and Jordan Mincy help Fisher solidify the backcourt.  The frontcourt is where Kent will have to fill some holes.  Gone are  Hamminn Quaintance and Mike Scott, both All-MAC performers who averaged over 23 points and 13 rebounds per game. 
  • Miami (OH) has veteran leadership on their side.  Charlie Coles, the dean of MAC coaches, is back for his 13th season with the RedHawks and he returns four starters and eleven letterwinners.  The most significant is Michael Bramos, a POY candidate.  Bramos (16.3 ppg) is a sharp-shooter who has the ability to light it up at anytime.  He went for 30+ points four times last year.  His scoring and the RedHawks always-frustrating defense will keep Miami in the hunt all year.  Miami has to find someone to replace the production of All-MAC frontcourt star Tim Pollitz. 
  • Ohio might be the longshot of these three, but don’t sleep on the Bobcats.  Like Kent, they have a new head coach in John Groce who comes from Ohio State where he played a big part in the recruiting of Greg Oden and Mike Conley.  It will take Groce some time to work his recruiting magic in Athens, but he does have some talent to work with.  Jerome Tillman (13.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg) might be the best player in the league.  He’s been very solid the past three years for the ‘Cats, posting 18 double-doubles.  The only question with Tillman is can he do it without his tag-team partner of the past two years?  Gone is Leon Williams, who garnered double and triple teams throughout his career in Athens.  Williams opened things for Tillman, but with him gone on the inside, how will Tillman handle the bulk of the attention?  The Bobcats also return senior starter Justin Orr in the frontcourt, a player who has yet to tap into his full potential.  Michael Allen is the only other senior on the team.  He’ll be asked to be a leader on the floor from the point guard spot where he showed flashes of brilliance last year.  The Bobcats must find a way to win on the road if they want to be a serious contender.  They were 7-1 at home in the MAC, 2-6 on the road last season.

Others Considered.  Eastern Michigan hasn’t been dancing since 1998 and hasn’t had a winning season since 1999-00.  So why would we mention the Eagles?  Well, they could be a darkhorse in the West.  All-MAC guard Carlos Medlock returns as well as 2006-07 All-MAC freshman forward Brandon Bowdry who missed all of last year with a stress fracture.  The Eagles did finish second in the West last year at 8-8, so a winning season in 2008-09 is not out of the question.  Western Michigan will be considered the West favorite thanks to the return of All-MAC guard David Kool.  Along with having one of the best names in the MAC, he averaged over 16 points per game.  The Broncos will struggle trying to find a replacement for inside workhorse Joe Reitz.  In the East, Bowling Green and Buffalo could be sleepers.  BG returns almost everyone and has a talented coach in Louis Orr.  Buffalo was only 3-13 in the MAC last year, but they return all five starters and ninth-year head coach Reggie Witherspoon has won in this league before.

RPI Boosters.

The MAC does have a number of games against the BCS schools.  But overall, the league has done a pretty poor job of scheduling.  They’re aren’t nearly enough key games at home.  It’s been an ongoing problem for years in the MAC in trying to get bigger schools to come on-campus and play.  This year is no different.  But with that being said, there are chances to make some noise in the non-conference season.  The league plays quite a few mid-majors including a handful of teams from the MVC and Atlantic 10.  Here is a list of the top 25 games where the MAC really has a chance to put themselves on the map.  The italicized games are the rare times a big school has agreed to play at a MAC school.  If the MAC is able to pull a few upsets in these games, then what those teams do in conference will go a long way in earning them a possible at-large bid. 

  • Miami at UCLA  (11.13.08)
  • Toledo at Florida  (11.14.08)
  • Miami at Pitt  (11.17.08)
  • Toledo at Xavier  (11.17.08)
  • Eastern Michigan at Purdue (ESPN2)  (11.17.08)
  • Akron at Pitt  (11.21.08)
  • Bowling Green at Ohio State  (11.24.08)
  • Kent vs. Illinois (South Padre Invitational)  (11.28.08)
  • Kent vs. Texas A&M/Tulsa (South Padre Invitational)  (11.29.08)
  • Miami at Xavier  (11.29.08)
  • Kent at Kansas (ESPNU)  (12.01.08)
  • Central Michigan at Marquette  (12.02.08)
  • UMass at Toledo  (12.03.08)
  • St. Mary’s at Kent (12.04.08)
  • UConn at Buffalo  (12.04.08)
  • Ohio at Louisville  (12.07.08)
  • Purdue at Ball State  (12.09.08)
  • Ohio at Xavier  (12.10.08)
  • Eastern Michigan at Michigan  (12.13.08)
  • Western Michigan at UNLV  (12.14.08)
  • Southern Illinois at Northern Illinois  (12.17.08)
  • Miami at WVU  (12.20.08)
  • Houston at Toledo  (12.20.08)
  • Western Michigan at Southern Illinois  (12.22.08)
  • Eastern Michigan at Illinois  (12.28.08)
  • Central Michigan at Kentucky  (12.29.08)

The league is set up for teams to open with five division games, six cross-division games and then five division games to finish.  So we’ll have a good idea of the front-runners in both the East Division and West Division by late January.  It also sets up for some potentially big games in late February/early March to decide the division races.  On paper, the East Division is again stronger than the West Division.  The Michigan directional schools will all get their cracks at the East to prove otherwise in late January.

  • Kent at Ohio  (01.11.09)
  • Ohio at Miami  (01.14.09)
  • Miami at Kent  (01.17.09)
  • Eastern Michigan at Kent  (01.27.09)
  • Kent at Western Michigan  (01.31.09)
  • Miami at Eastern Michigan  (01.31.09)
  • Eastern Michigan at Ohio  (02.07.09)
  • Ohio at Western Michigan  (02.11.09)
  • Bowling Green at Toledo  (02.11.09)
  • Western Michigan at Miami  (02.14.09)
  • Miami at Ohio  (02.16.09)
  • Ohio at Kent  (02.17.09)
  • Eastern Michigan at Western Michigan  (02.18.09) 
  • Eastern Michigan at Central Michigan  (02.28.09)
  • Kent at Miami (03.01.09) (could decide East champion)
  • Central Michigan at Western Michigan  (03.08.09)

Neat-O Stat.  If history is any indicator, Kent will be there in the end.  They’ve played in the MAC Tournament title game 7 of the last 10 years, winning five of them.

Hello, My Name Is…

The league has 7 coaches who are either in their first or second years.

First-Year Head Coaches

  • John Groce – Ohio
  • Geno Ford – Kent
  • Gene Cross – Toledo

Second-Year Head Coaches

  • Louis Orr – Bowling Green
  • Ernie Ziegler – Central Michigan
  • Billy Taylor – Ball State
  • Ricardo Patton – Northern Illinois

Veteran Coaches

  • Charlie Coles – Miami (13th year)
  • Reggie Witherspoon – Buffalo (9th year)
  • Keith Dambrot – Akron (5th year)
  • Charles Ramsey – Eastern Michigan (3rd year)
  • Steve Hawkins – Western Michigan (6th year)

65 Team Era.   There’s a reason every coach gets a lump in his throat when the brackets first come out and he sees a MAC team opposite his sqaud, and it’s not necessarily because he thinks they’re going to lose.  Rather, if history is any indication, he’s likely to win the first-round game, but he’s in for an all-out war in doing so.  Despite an average seed of #11.9 throughout the era, MAC teams play their first-round opponents very tough, losing by 12 pts or less in all but seven of their first-round matchups.  The overall conference record of 15-29 (.341) with four trips to the Sweet Sixteen isn’t too shabby either.  Unfortunately for MAC fans, however, the conference is on a five-year streak of first-round losses, which is the longest such streak of the era.

Final Thoughts. 

  • While the MAC desperately wants to make the move to the next level and earn multiple NCAA bids, the reality is, this might not be the year for that to happen.  The league lost a lot of star power from last year and with a ton of new coaches, it might be a year or two before this league really starts to take off and maybe even return to the form of the late 1990s where they were not just earning NCAA bids, but winning NCAA games.  2008-09 will be like most years in the MAC.  Once they get to conference play, it will be an all-out war with teams beating up each other.  That makes it tough to earn an at-large out of this league.  Despite the top-heavy league records, the MAC is a tough league to win within, especially on the road. 
  • On a more positive note, this league is getting better.  You will see some budding coaching stars in Geno Ford, John Groce and Gene Cross.  Not to mention a few coaches who have been around the block that know a thing or two about winning like Charlie Coles, Ricardo Patton and Louis Orr.  They do have stars to replace, but there are stars ready to shine.  Keep an eye on Jerome Tillman (Ohio), Michael Bramos (Miami), Al Fisher (Kent), Carlos Medlock (EMU), Tyrone Kent and Boomer Tucker (Toledo) and David Kool (WMU).
  • This might not be a league who earns multiple NCAA bids in 2008-09, but they will make noise out of conference.  Miami always gives people fits.  Ohio is usually good for an upset.  Kent has been rock-solid for the last decade.  And with the much-improved Bowling Greens, Eastern Michigans and Toledos of the world, the MAC could jump up and surprise a big boy or two if they’re not careful.
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