Conference Tournament Primer: Mid-American Conference

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 10th, 2014

Championship Fortnight continues with yet two more conference tourneys tipping off today, so what better way to get you through the next week of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s postseason events. Today, the MAC and the MEAC get started.

Dates: March 10, 12-15
Site: First Round: Campus sites; Second Round, Quarters, Semis and Championship: Quicken Loans Arena (Cleveland, OH)

MACBracket

What to expect: The MAC’s power pendulum has swung numerous times this season, so it’s difficult to tell which contender has the best shot in Cleveland. Buffalo came on strong in the second half of the year and might boast the league’s most dominant player in Javon McCrea, a double-double machine who recently set the school’s all-time scoring record, while Western Michigan enters the event having won 10 of its last 11 games. Toledo, meanwhile, set a school record with 26 overall wins and will get a triple-bye (yes, a triple-bye) all the way to the semifinals, along with the Broncos. More likely than not, one of those three clubs will emerge as champion. Still, don’t be surprised if one of the conference’s other up-and-down challengers – like recent NCAA Tournament representatives Ohio and Akron – put together a run and leave with a trophy.

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Postseason-Bound, Toledo’s Basketball Future is Bright

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 24th, 2014

A few things become immediately noticeable upon stepping foot in Toledo’s recently-renovated Savage Arena. For one, it’s pretty darn nice — complete with a new Jumbotron, luxury suites and a glass-enclosed dinner lounge, the school’s $30 million investment in 2008 has made the venue an enjoyable place to catch a basketball game. And then there are the banners. Plenty hang from the rafters, sure, but it takes some scanning — past the innumerable NIT and MAC West Division title flags — before your eyes arrive at the centerpiece, just to the right of the Stars and Stripes: ‘NCAA Tournament 1979-80,’ it reads. The fact that it’s been 34 years since Toledo last reached the Big Dance seems genuinely surprising, especially when you consider the current state of the program. Loaded with talent and backed by an energized fan base, the Rockets now look the part of an established MAC powerhouse, poised to compete for league championships and postseason appearances in the coming years. As to whether that multi-decade NCAA Tournament drought comes to an end in 2013-14? That depends on just how far their potent offense can take them.

Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk has turned things around in Toledo. (THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY)

Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk has turned things around in Toledo. (THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY)

Sunday night’s 85-74 victory over Ball State might have perfectly embodied both Toledo’s greatest strengths and most glaring weaknesses so far this season. On the one hand, the Rockets had no problem putting the ball in the basket, scoring 1.27 points per possession and shooting 56 percent from the field. On the other, Tod Kowalczyk’s club allowed one of the worst offensive teams in the MAC its most efficient game yet in conference play. “We didn’t have much energy on defense,” big man Nathan Boothe noted about his team’s effort for a chunk of the contest. But as it’s done so many times this year — it will set the school’s single-season record for wins if it beats Northern Illinois on Wednesday — Toledo’s score-at-will offense simply overpowered its deficiencies on the other end of the court, enabling it to run past the Cardinals in the final three minutes. That firepower is the prevailing reason the Rockets are now 23-4 and currently tied with Western Michigan atop the MAC West standings.

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Morning Five: 08.19.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 19th, 2011

  1. It’s official.  USC point guard and best returning player Jio Fontan will miss the entire 2011-12 season with a torn ACL in his left knee suffered during an exhibition game in Brazil earlier this week.  Fontan was flown back to the US for an MRI, but word leaking out of the USC camp all week indicated that this was a rather concerning injury rather than a simple sprain.  Fontan was to be the Trojans’ only returning starter from a team that snuck into the NCAA Tournament as a member of the inaugural First Four, and as the captain and floor leader, he was going to be relied upon to shoulder much of the responsibility in leading a young team.  Head coach Kevin O’Neill will now have to hope that incoming freshman guard Alexis Moore, a three-star player from nearby Long Beach, will be up to the task.  The only possible silver lining Trojan fans can draw from this is that next year’s team will develop considerable experience on the fly so that when Fontan hopefully returns in 2012-13, USC will be in a much better position to make another run at the postseason.
  2. Duke’s next great freshman made his debut in China this week during the Blue Devils’ exhibition tour, and although he did not manage to get into a chair-throwing brawl, he had his ups and downs.  In two exhibitions against the Chinese junior national team, Austin Rivers had 18 points (8-15 FG) and five assists in a 77-64 victory Wednesday, followed by a 12-point (5-16 FG), seven-turnover performance in a 76-66 victory on Thursday.  Duke won both games despite a herculean effort on the part of the Chinese referees (yes, we may have discovered the one place in the world…) — in their two games, China shot 72 free throws to a Duke total of 25, nearly a 3:1 ratio (you may recall that Georgetown got a little perturbed by a similar officiating pattern in its game on Wednesday).  Notwithstanding the choppy play of Rivers, it has been Duke’s junior forward, Ryan Kelly, who has looked fantastic thus far.  Kelly has averaged 17/11 while shooting a scorching 75% from the floor in the two games.  Considering that China has significant size in its lineup and that the frontcourt represents Mike Krzyzewski’s greatest area of concern heading into next season, Kelly’s play is tremendous news for Duke fans worldwide.
  3. Villanova rising junior and team captain Isaiah Armwood announced on Thursday that he will be transferring out of the program.  Although he started in every game on VU’s recent exhibition trip to Europe and is considered a key “heart and soul” type of player, it didn’t appear that the minutes were going to be there for him in a crowded frontcourt next season.  The Wildcats return an improved Mouphtau Yarou and adds freshmen Markus Kennedy and JayVaughn Pinkston (back from suspension), so Armwood perhaps saw the writing on the wall in deciding to leave.  He will have two years of eligibility remaining and is reportedly looking at schools such as Maryland, George Washington, Iowa and Texas Tech.  Armwood hails from the Baltimore/DC corridor and has ties to former VU assistant coaches now at Iowa and TTU.
  4. Thursday the MAC announced that it would be changing its 2012 MAC Tournament format to give its two best teams byes to the conference tourney semifinals in the hopes that one of its best teams will ultimately win the league and represent itself well in the NCAA Tournament.  This mirrors what the Horizon League has done for the better part of a decade, and although there’s no Butler in the MAC, five of the last seven MAC Tournament champions were seeded #4 or worse coming into the postseason.  The new format will give the top two seeds a significantly greater chance of winning the coveted automatic bid, and presumably, a better chance to do some damage in the NCAAs (although #9 seed Ohio still says hello, Georgetown).  We’re on board with this idea in principle — whatever these smaller conferences can do to make the regular season more meaningful is a good thing from our view.
  5. The Lapchick Character Award is given annually to coaches who “have shown the characterand coaching ability of [St. John's and New York Knicks head coach] Hall of Famer Joe Lapchick.”  This year’s trio is no exception, and well known to students of the game: former Princeton legend Pete Carril, former Mt. St. Mary’s head coach Jim Phelan, and former Virginia women’s head coach Debbie Ryan.  The three will be honored at a ceremony on November 17 at Madison Square Garden during the 2kSports Classic (of which St. John’s is a participant).  They collectively won over 2,000 games — Phelan, 814; Ryan, 739; Carril, 514 — and never ran afoul of any ethical behavior over their many years of coaching.  A deserving honor to three tremendous coaches.
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Morning Five: 08.12.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 12th, 2010

  1. Nothing is ever easy with this guy, who now may hold the honor for the longest short consultancy in the history of professional basketball.  Isiah Thomas announced on Wednesday that he would rescind his new contract with the New York Knicks, largely to avoid the conflict of interest inherent in coaching collegiate players while working for an NBA franchise.  Getting bored yet, Isiah?
  2. You may not be able to see LeBron James there anymore on a regular basis, but you can still see the MAC Tournament at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena.  The league announced yesterday that the tourney will be held there through 2017.  MAC faithful are no strangers to the venue, as the league has already held its marquee event there since 2000.  For a look at how the MAC looks heading into the 2010-11 season, check out our Summer School post on the league from this week.
  3. The UNC reclamation project began last night in Nassau, Bahamas, as Roy Williams’ team played its first of a two-game set in the Caribbean paradise.  The early return on #1 recruit Harrison Barnes — 21/8 on 8-15 shooting in 29 minutes of action.  He also fouled out of the game, so that’s something to watch in the coming months.
  4. Former Arkansas star Scotty Thurman joins his fellow Hawg All-American Corliss Williamson in taking up the coaching reins this summer.  Thurman is joining John Pelphrey’s staff at Arkansas just months after Williamson became the spanking-new head coach at Central Arkansas.  If either of those  nascent coaches can instill the all-out effort and tenacity in their kids that they both played with as Razorbacks, expect both to be very successful in this next step of their careers.
  5. Kansas State’s Frank Martin got philosophical yesterday during a motivational speech for Wichita-area teachers when talking about whether kids have changed from previous generations.  His essential take:  kids haven’t changed, but the expectations from adults for them has.  Check out the entire clip below…
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MAC Wrapup & Tourney Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2009

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

What in the world has happened to the MAC?  Check out Monday’s edition of bracketology and you’ll see Bowling Green as Joe Lunardi’s choice to be the MAC’s representative in the NCAA Tournament.  No problem with that, considering they edged Buffalo for the MAC regular season title on Sunday.  The problem lies with where they are seeded.  A #16 SEED!?!?!?  WHAT?!?!?!?  This conference is at maybe it’s lowest point in decades.  Scratch maybe.  This is rock bottom for the MAC.

With that being said, the play has been super-competitive within in the league.  Going into the final four game stretch, every team in the MAC East was alive for the league title.  We’re not even going to touch the West.  They were a flat debacle.  Nobody had a winning record.  Ball State had the most wins in the West and the Cardinals won 13 games.  Just sad.

The league did announce their postseason awards Monday.  Click here to take a look.

The league tournament starts on Tuesday and, if you throw out the West, the tournament should be wide open.

2009-mac-tourney-bracket

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