Big East M5: 03.14.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on March 14th, 2013

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  1. C.L. Brown at the Courier-Journal (KY) took a tour of Russ Smith Sr.’s barbershop in Harlem, and the short video is worth a watch. The elder Smith, known simply as “Big Russ,” has appointed his shop from wall to wall with memorabilia, photos and mementos spanning the Louisville junior’s career. He tells Brown that his favorite souvenir is a framed photograph of him with his son following Louisville’s Big East 2012 championship –– in his own high school playing days, Big Russ says, his teams always lost before they could reach a Madison Square Garden tournament. The father’s pride in that particular accomplishment; the way it resonated with a personal and cultural icon of his own youth, is a somber reminder of what made the Big East Tournament such a special institution.
  2. Speculation that Jamie Dixon is USC’s top choice to replace Kevin O’Neill ramped up on Tuesday when The Big Lead reported that Pittsburgh resident and Dixon acquaintance Jed Hughes is the consultant taking point at USC’s search firm. It seems like the kind of attenuated connection that has spawned many a premature proclamation of “done deal” during coaching searches (has Dixon bought a house in LA yet?), but it’s certainly plausible. Dixon is a California native, a Ben Howland protégé, and probably anxious that Pitt’s move to the ACC could jeopardize the recruiting pipelines Dixon has built in Big East country. As Cardiac Hill points out, the coach’s vague statement after the USC job opened up “generally amounts to a ‘no comment.’”
  3. Notre Dame outlasted a persistent challenge from Rutgers in last night’s Big East Tournament nightcap, carried by Pat Connaughton’s 21 points and six three-pointers. This ran counter to Notre Dame’s game plan, which Brian Hamilton points out had emphasized getting Jerian Grant, Eric Atkins and Jack Cooley going. But the 39 combined points from Connaughton and former reserve Tom Knight were all separated the Irish from a second-round loss, as Grant and Cooley went 4-of-16 from the field. With their first game jitters behind them and some reassurance that they can win without prolific scoring from their stars, Notre Dame can bring some newfound confidence to its third-round game with Marquette tomorrow night, as they strive to avenge an early March loss in Milwaukee.
  4. Seniors James Southerland and Brandon Triche found their offense yesterday, and lifted Syracuse in explosive spurts over Seton Hall, 75-63, to advance to face No. 4 seed Pittsburgh in today’s BET semifinals. After shooting 15-of-52 over his last five games, Triche scored 17 on an efficient 6-of-9 field goal attempts against the Pirates, while Southerland led the way with 20 points and six threes. Sophomore Michael Carter-Williams didn’t turn the ball over once and tied a Big East Tournament record with 14 assists. This comes just days after Boeheim said his seniors would have to play better if they had any chance at becoming a good NCAA Tournament team.
  5. USF blog Voodoo Five described the Bulls’ overtime loss to Seton Hall in the first round as “a horrid, unwatchable mess that would be hard to distinguish from the dozens of other horrid, unwatchable messes USF basketball presented us for most of the last eight seasons. Except that this time they wore Mello Yello uniforms.” Ouch. Yes, Tuesday night’s loss concluded a season of thorough regression. More importantly, the author questioned whether USF basketball has made any appreciable advances in their time in the Big East, or if the culture of the Big East had any positive impact on the neglected Tampa basketball program. It has struggled to capture the interest of its community even after last year’s Cinderella season and a beautiful Sun Dome renovation, which begs the question: “When are [students and locals] ever going to buy in again? When they’re playing Tulane and East Carolina and Memphis and Houston all over again?” It’s a bleak prospect right now.
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Checking in on the… MAC

Posted by rtmsf on December 21st, 2008

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

As 2008 winds down, the MAC is looking more and more like a one-bid league (again).

The league still has yet to beat a ranked team and is 0-17 against the BCS leagues (Pac-10, Big Ten, Big XII, SEC, Big East & ACC).

If there is any good news, despite their stuggles the league still has four teams in the RPI’s top 100; #20 Miami, #85 Buffalo, #88 Bowling Green, #98 Akron.

Unfortunately a deeper look into the numbers shows us there are only two teams that falls in between #100 and #200 (#103 Ohio & #147 Ball State).

The rest of the league falls at #229 or worse.

As expected the East is king in the MAC with five of their six teams in the top 103.  The only team outside the top 103 is Kent State, a pre-season favorite.  The Flash have played a weak schedule, but should still be a factor come conference play.

Strangely enough, the league is ranked #17 in the RPI and has a #7 strength of schedule ranking.  Too bad they don’t have many wins over the strong part of that schedule.

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Checking in on the… MAC

Posted by rtmsf on November 21st, 2008

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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

LINKS FOR HIGHLIGHTS:

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After the Buzzer: UCLA Escapes

Posted by rtmsf on November 13th, 2008

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Game of the Night.  UCLA 64, Miami (OH) 59.  Considering there was only one game of consequence tonight (no, Weber St. over Prairie View 78-68 doesn’t count), the GOTN was the second-round battle of UCLA and Miami (OH) in Westwood.  We just knew this would be a good game, and although once again, we couldn’t see the damn thing, all indications are that Charlie Coles’ Redhawks gave the Mighty Bruins everything they wanted.  Just how close was this game?  The largest lead by either team was 5 pts either way, and the majority of the game was played within one possession.  Whereas last night UCLA was led by its Fab Five freshmen, tonight the Bruins looked to their upperclassmen to secure the victory.  The rooks produced only 10 pts and 5 rebounds, while seniors Darren Collison and Josh Shipp accounted for 32 of the remaining 54 pts (including the last two pairs of FTs to seal the game in the last twenty seconds).  This will be a recurring theme for UCLA this year – when the young’uns produce, UCLA will be able to play with anyone in America; when they don’t, things will get dicey for Ben Howland’s club.  As for Miami (OH), they were led by Michael Bramos’ 22/4, but they were never able to create enough separation from UCLA to truly put the pressure on the Bruins.  We would have loved to have seen this game (leave comments below if you were lucky enough to do so), but we suppose this is a standard-issue Miami team, and they’ll have more than a few more opportunities to frustrate the hell outta some major conference squads in the next two months (@ Pitt, @ Xavier, @ Temple, @ WVU). 

CvC Semifinals.  The Gazelle Group got the F4 it wanted with the host school ‘top seed’ from each regional advancing to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals on Nov. 20.  UCLA will play resurgent Michigan, while Duke will play S. Illinois.  Clearly the tourney was set up to get the top five matchup between Duke and UCLA, but we’re not so sure about that.  By our calculations, UCLA, for instance, is only 1-2 in the eastern time zone on the eastern seaboard during the Howland era, and the single win was a one-point victory at Drexel a couple of years ago.  UCLA just doesn’t seem to travel east very well, and given their struggles tonight against a game Miami (OH) team at home, Michigan might be poised to spring the upset.  The UM Hoops blog encourages us to dampen the hype a little, and we get that sentiment given the Wolverines’ recent history, but with UCLA’s seemingly constant offensive struggles, Michigan could ride Manny Harris to a big upset next week.  In the other half of the bracket, we don’t expect Duke to have much trouble with S. Illinois simply because those are the types of teams that Duke feeds off of.  SIU just doesn’t have the athleticism that is required to close out on Duke’s shooters and finish plays over its defense.  Oh well – that’s why they play the games.  We’ll talk more about this next week.

On Tap Friday (all times EST) – must-see games in red:

  • Florida (-23) v. Toledo (ESPNU) – 6pm
  • Kentucky v. VMI (ESPN FC) – 7pm
  • Stanford (-12.5) @ Yale – 7pm
  • Connecticut (-26.5) v. W. Carolina (ESPN360) – 7:30pm
  • Pittsburgh v. Fairleigh Dickinson – 8pm
  • Maryland v. Bucknell – 8pm
  • Kansas St. v. Florida A&M  (ESPN FC) – 8pm
  • Villanova v. Albany – 8pm
  • Texas v. Stetson (ESPN FC) - 8pm
  • Oklahoma St. v. UT-San Antonio (ESPN FC) – 8pm
  • Oklahoma v. American  (ESPN FC) – 8pm
  • Purdue (-23) v. Detroit (ESPN360) - 9pm
  • Clemson (-18) v. Hofstra  (CSS) – 9pm
  • Texas Tech v. St. Francis (PA) (ESPN FC) – 9pm
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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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