Morning Five: 03.12.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 12th, 2014

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  1. As we have mentioned before, we are going to start seeing more and more coaching spots open up in the next few weeks.  The biggest one thus far has been UNC-Wilmington firing Buzz Peterson. Peterson, who we will always remember from his role in Michael Jordan’s “Come Fly With Me” video (he was Jordan’s college roommate), only lasted four seasons going 42-80, but has a career record of 267-227 even though he never made it to the NCAA Tournament. In a Facebook post, Peterson thanked the fans for their support while noting the restrictions he had to deal with as the result of the school’s prior APR scores. Another relatively big opening came when Bowling Green fired Louis Orr after seven seasons. Orr, who is best known as a coach from his time at Seton Hall where he guided the team to two NCAA Tournament appearances, was 101-121 at Bowling Green. Even though his team finished tied for the MAAC regular season title in 2009 he was never able to get them to the NCAA Tournament and only led them to the NIT once. The final big opening yesterday came from Loyola Marymount where they fired Max Good. Despite being 72, Good, who went 77-117 at Loyola Marymount and is 319-340 overall, says that he still wants to coach. We suspect that there will be quite a few (relatively) big names interested in all three positions.
  2. None of those jobs would necessarily be considered premier jobs except when you consider the other spots that opened up yesterday. South Dakota fired interim coach Joey James yesterday after he went 12-18 in his one season as the team’s coach. James replaced Dave Boots, who won over 500 games at the school, after Boots retired abruptly in early September for reasons that remain unclear. The school has already announced that they have hired Fogler Consulting, a search firm founded by Eddie Fogler, to conduct a coaching search. Despite what the school says we suspect that the coaching search will be a little more difficult that the school claims it will be. The other job that opened up yesterday was at Tennessee State where they fired Travis Williams. Williams only lasted one season longer than James as he followed up a respectable 18-15 record in his first season with an abysmal 5-25 record this season. We wouldn’t consider Tennessee State a high-pressure job, but that is not the type of trend that lets you keep your job.
  3. If you are looking for potential replacements at these two schools or the likely dozens of others that will open up in the next month, Brian Hamilton has some candidates from the assistant coaching ranks. Many of these are names that you are familiar with and we have no doubt that they could get head coaching jobs if they wanted today particularly at the latter two schools that we mentioned, but will probably hold out for a top-tier job. Honestly, we wish that schools would be more willing to take a chance on individuals like these instead of simply hiring the safe retreads who failed at their previous job (or jobs).
  4. Sometimes organizations release information that we simply don’t understand. The NCAA’s statement that they would be monitoring Joel Embiid‘s recovery to help determine Kansas’ seeding is one such instance. Outside of it sounding a little too Big Brother-ish we have some questions about how they actually intend to do this. According to the NCAA, they plan to be communicating with Kansas regarding what Embiid’s status for the NCAA Tournament is and how his recovery is going. This seems nice in theory, but that assumes that Kansas will be completely upfront with the NCAA and that Kansas even knows what is going on in terms of Embiid’s back
  5. Wichita State has been getting a lot of media attention lately, but the one thing that seems to have been missing is a good feature story from a national writer. Luke Winn has just that as he followed the Shockers for four days culminating in their Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title. As Winn points out early in the piece, it is ridiculous to compare this team to the 1990-91 UNLV team outside of their unblemished records heading into the NCAA Tournament, but that does not make them any less compelling. They may lack the big name stars that other teams in their position have possessed in the past, but that does not make them any less intriguing.
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Big East M5: 03.13.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on March 13th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. The Big East named Otto Porter and John Thompson III Player of the Year and Coach of the Year, respectively, on Tuesday. Porter was the unanimous choice for POY among coaches, and had been the only unanimous selection on the All-Big East First Team roster that was released Sunday. Barry Svrluga at the Washington Post recounts how unlikely that feat would have seemed in early January, when Porter shot 7-of-19 and had nine total rebounds in consecutive losses to open Big East play. After turning the ball over seven times against Louisville, Porter notched 34 assists to just nine turnovers in the Hoyas’ final 11 games –– a staggering 3.8 A/TO ratio. The 6’8″ sophomore is the eighth Big East POY winner from Georgetown, making the it the most successful program in that category.
  2. Prized recruit Aquille Carr announced yesterday that he would forgo a college career at Seton Hall to play professionally abroad next year, prompting the Star-Ledger’ Steve Politi to question whether Kevin Willard is repeating the mistakes of his predecessors. While recruiting success offered some hopeful silver lining during Seton Hall’s miserable 3-15 Big East regular season, that optimism evaporated in the span of less than a week. Willard’s only other commitment, Illinois shooting guard Jerron Wilbut, was arrested last Thursday for robbery and will likely never step foot on campus. Now with no recruits in the fold for 2013, Politi says Willard “can’t afford an entire goose egg for a recruiting class” if he wants to avoid the fates of former Pirates coaches Bobby Gonzalez and Louis Orr.
  3. CBS New York’s Jon Rothstein maintains that Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti made the right choice in retaining coach Mike Rice, and believes the Scarlet Knights are poised to turn the corner. It takes time to try to build a program that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1991, and Rothstein cites Jay Wright-era Villanova and Mick Cronin’s Cincinnati as examples of programs that needed four or five years to do so. Moreover, “There is a distinct jump in production when a group of sophomores become juniors,” he says, and Rutgers’ roster boasts seven rising seniors, including leading scorers Eli Carter and Myles Mack.
  4. Cincinnati’s staff hopes to have Justin Jackson back in the fold against Providence tonight, after the 6’8″ junior missed the past three games with an ankle injury. Jackson has averaged 3.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, but Mick Cronin insists, “We need him. He’s an energy guy.  This time of year is when you rely on your veteran players.” On the topic of Cashmere Wright, Cronin admitted that his mercurial point guard is still hobbled by a tricky knee, which is preventing him from exploiting defenders off the dribble. “He’s giving us everything he can give us,” Cronin reiterated.
  5. UConn blog A Dime Back has been conducting a tournament-style bracket of the most historic Huskies in a feature dubbed “The Ultimate UConn Challenge.” The survey’s architects have given it a thoughtful treatment, having “researched, compiled, ranked and seeded 64 of the greatest players in Husky history” over the course of this season. Descriptions of each player display a level of research uncommon to the format, and contain some history that will appeal to inquisitive college basketball fans regardless of team allegiance. Ray Allen, Kemba Walker, Donyell Marshall and Emeka Okafor are the top seeds, while Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright are the only current players to make the field.
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Award Tour: Trey Burke Is The Best Player In The Country

Posted by DCassilo on February 8th, 2013

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

After weeks and weeks of coming close, Trey Burke has finally broken through and grabbed the #1 spot. It’s a long time coming, as Burke embodies everything you want in a player. He’s a scorer that can take over the game. He’s an unselfish player that likes to get his teammates involved. He’s a leader, who steps up in big moments and keeps his team focused. Look no further than his block of Aaron Craft’s potential game-tying shot on Tuesday as to why there’s nobody like him in the country. Michigan is in good hands come March.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Victor Oladipo – Indiana (Last Week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 13.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.3 SPG

The Hoosiers can beat any team on any given day if Victor Oladipo has a good game.

The Hoosiers can beat any team on any given day, if Victor Oladipo has a good game.

I’ll reluctantly include Oladipo, partly because there’s no one better and partly because you almost have to at this point. I don’t blame him, but the hype surrounding him has really surprised me. I just don’t see why people say he’s better than some one like Otto Porter Jr., who puts up equal if not better stats, when Oladipo has Zeller down low and Porter Jr. lost his second-best player to suspension. This week: February 10 at Ohio State, February 13 vs. Nebraska

9. Nate Wolters – South Dakota State (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 22.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.5 APG

I don’t care what conference he’s in and how good his team is, Wolters is without question one of the 10 best players in the country. In case you missed it, he scored 53 points against IPFW on Thursday night. And as his numbers above show, he’s well-rounded too. This week: February 9 at Oakland, February 14 vs. IUPUI

8. Otto Porter Jr. – Georgetown (Last Week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 14.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG

Porter Jr. played just once this week and had 11 points and seven rebounds in a win over St. John’s. He’s shot at least 50 percent from the field in five of his last six games. This week: February 9 at Rutgers, February 11 vs. Marquette

7. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 16.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG

It was a rough week for Kansas, but McLemore was only partially to blame. He had 23 points, his second-most in Big 12 play, in the loss to Oklahoma State, so he can be absolved for the game. Against TCU, though, his 0-for-6 3-point shooting was part of a dreadful night for the Jayhawks. This week: February 9 vs. Oklahoma, February 11 vs. Kansas State Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 10.17.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 17th, 2012

  1. News like that which came out of Bowling Green, Ohio, yesterday is nothing less than extremely disappointing from a societal standpoint. Ignorance, of course, knows no bounds, and it’s clearly alive and well in northwestern Ohio. The Toledo Blade reports that a swastika along with the words “white power” were written in chalk sometime Saturday night outside the home of Bowling Green head coach Louis Orr, an African-American. A former star at Syracuse in the 1970s, Orr has been the head coach at the MAC school for the last five seasons, owning a 76-82 record. A city police representative stated that no direct threats were made against Orr and his family nor where they in danger of “immediate harm,” but that’s more or less like putting fancy lipstick on a pig. Much like the pig, these actions by a coward (or group of them) are disgusting and have no place in modern American society. 
  2. How about some better news, like cancer research and treatment? UCLA and Texas yesterday announced the naming of a double-header between its men’s and women’s basketball teams that will be called (get ready for this mouthful) the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Showcase. Even thought it sounds more like a theoretical physics convention than a basketball extravaganza, the Longhorns and Bruins will meet under this moniker on December 8 of this season at Reliant Stadium in Houston, with plans to make this an annual event featuring other prominent programs from around the country. Anderson’s Proton Therapy Center touts itself as one of the leading cancer treatment centers in the world, and attaching its name to this game will no doubt increase awareness to all of the innovative and impressive radiation therapies they’re successfully utilizing there
  3. While on the subject of UCLA this season, the LA Times‘ Bill Plaschke writes that the black cloud hanging over Ben Howland’s program while waiting on the NCAA to rule on the eligibility of Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson is pervasive around the joint. As he put it, it’s “never a good sign” when “the team’s media day [is] monitored by the school’s vice chancellor for legal affairs.” In the weeks prior to the big unveiling of a statue of John Wooden and a renovated Pauley Pavilion in anticipation of what many pundits believe will be a renaissance year in Westwood, we’re instead left with a group of fab freshmen who are off limits to reporters and a testy coaching staff habitually checking for any contact from Indianapolis. Unfortunately for every school involved with elite recruits these days, this is the world we live in.
  4. A little recruiting news leaked out about Jabari Parker last night, but not the kind anyone wants. After narrowing his list to five schools a couple of weeks ago — BYU, Stanford, Duke, Michigan State, and Florida — there was some hope that the nation’s top prospect in the Class of 2013 (according to some) would be ready to make his choice during the November 14-21 signing period. Alas, no dice, according to his father. Parker is planning on taking all five of his official visits in coming weeks, with his final trip to Provo ending on November 20. With just one day to then narrow his list from five schools to one, the 6’8″ forward has decided to put off his verbal commitment until December at the earliest — meaning, of course, that no pen will touch paper until next April. Also, the recent decision by the Church of Latter-Day Saints to allow its members to begin serving their missions at the age of 18 could also play a role in Parker’s (a practicing Mormon) recruitment. Although we can’t imagine that the talented young player would preclude his manifest destiny into the NBA for an additional one or even two years, it must be considered as a factor in the analysis.
  5. The Colonial Athletic Association held its Media Day in Arlington, Virginia, on Tuesday, and it is certainly strange to not see VCU represented among its now-11 members. Without the Rams to get in the way, the league’s coaches and media voted Bruiser Flint’s Drexel Dragons as the top team in the league, with Delaware, George Mason, and Old Dominion following behind. Junior point guard Frantz Massenat, an all-CAA first teamer last season when he averaged 14/3/5 APG while leading the Dragons to a 29-7 overall record (16-2 CAA), was selected as the preseason CAA Player of the Year. Delaware in the second slot in the preseason standings is surprising because the Blue Hens have been so bad for so long since joining the CAA in 2001 (only two winning conference seasons) that it’s hard to believe that they may have finally turned the corner (they probably have). Good for them.
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The Argument for the 96 Team Tournament? 31 Fewer Hot Seats

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2010

Since the whispers started about the NCAA expanding March Madness to 96 teams opinion on the issue has been divided into camps: the traditionalists (bloggers) and the radicals (coaches). Wait a minute. What?!? Yes. That’s right. Bloggers want to stay old school and coaches want to throw a wrench into the established system. . .

While coaches like to pontificate about expanding tournament to let more “deserving” teams in and give more players a chance to play in March Madness it is pretty clear to most neutral observers that the real motive is quite clear–keeping their jobs. With the recent spate of firings the coaches will continue to lobby hard for expansion. Since the season ended just a few days ago the list of coaching unemployed has grown to 6 coaches (and growing. . .):

  • Ernie Kent, Oregon (235-173 overall, 16-16 this season)
  • Jeff Lebo, Auburn (96-93, 15-17)
  • Todd Lickliter, Iowa (38-58, 10-22)
  • Bobby Lutz, Charlotte (218-158, 19-12)
  • Bob Nash, Hawaii (34-56, 10-20)
  • Kirk Speraw, UCF (279-233, 15-17)

Although a NCAA Tournament bid would not have guaranteed that these coaches kept their jobs, it would have most likely kept the boosters off their backs for some more time. And that’s all that a coach wants, right? Another year or two to collect a paycheck doing a substandard job and hoping to reach the longevity bonuses before they decide to get the booster funded golden parachute. Basically think of a college basketball version of investment bankers wanting to tweak the scoring metrics (adjust earnings in that case) to make themselves look better. Everyone knows how that turned out for the financial markets and the entire country.

Credit: Joel Pett (Lexington Herald-Leader)

You may see some familiar faces in the unemployment line

Now you’re probably asking yourself why the big-name coaches would care and that is a perfectly reasonable question with a perfectly reasonable answer. While the Mike Krzyzewskis and Jim Boeheims of the college basketball world will never have to worry about getting fired they have are plenty of their friends who are not quite as successful and that is not even talking about the dying branches on their coaching tree. Let’s take a look at some of their most famous branches:

  • Krzyzewski: Mike Brey, Tommy Amaker, Quin Snyder, Tim O’Toole, Bob Bender, Chuck Swenson, Mike Dement, and David Henderson
  • Boeheim: Rick Pitino, Tim Welsh, Louis Orr, Wayne Morgan, and Ralph Willard

Outside of Brey and Pitino that is a pretty mediocre group of coaches. Some of the others have had a modicum of success too, but overall that group has used more than its fair share of U-Haul trucks. And if the coaches don’t get their way they might be following in the footsteps of the late ODB.

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #19 – MAC

Posted by nvr1983 on October 18th, 2009

seasonpreview

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.

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10.08.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 8th, 2009

Like the first trickles of a flash flood, the verbal barrage about our beloved sport really started picking up this week.  There’s a lot more previewing, interviewing, writing, talking and salivating going on around the college hoops blogosphere.  Let’s take a look at some of the items that are catching our interest…

  • Dissecting Duke’s Recruiting.  Gary Parrish wrote an interesting article last week about Duke’s recruiting over the past five seasons and we had to comment on it because it fairly accurately depicts what the substantive problem with Duke has been in the postseason (i.e., away from CIS).  We’re on record as saying that Duke hasn’t had a true game-changing stud since Luol Deng graced the gothic campus with his presence for one season in 2003-04.  This is not to say that Duke has been without very good players during that time.  Shelden Williams, JJ Redick and Gerald Henderson all come to mind as great collegians.  But none of those players, and certainly none of the laundry list that Parrish mentions as some of K’s other ’top’ recruits (McBob, Singler, etc.), are the kinds of elite NBA-level talent that gets teams through the regionals and into the Final Four.  There are of course notable exceptions (George Mason in 2006 is the most obvious), but this is Duke, and Duke is always taking a team’s best shot.  They’re going to be very well coached, but Coach K and his staff know that well-coached moderate talent will lose out to elite talent more often than not.  This is why when Parrish says that Duke needs to secure commitments from Harrison Barnes and Kyrie Irving in order to compete with UNC, Kansas and now Kentucky on the national stage again, he’s right.  The Jon Scheyers of the world are great to have on your team, and will win you a lot of games over four years; but they’re not the players who can carry a team through rough spots en route to the Final Four.  If you don’t believe us, check out who was the MOP of the 2004 Atlanta Regional, leading the team in scoring in both regional games and literally saving the team on more than one occasion with clutch buckets (hint: it wasn’t the more celebrated upperclassmen).    Box scores here and here.  If Duke is serious about getting back to the big stage again before Coach K retires, he needs players like Barnes and Irving to get it done.  Fundamentally, Duke fans probably realize this, which is why each of these visits makes for tense moments in Durham.
  • Midnight Madness.  So we’re only eight days away from the start of basketball practice, and thankfully the NCAA closed the loophole that meant we were having these things all month of October, like last year.  But ESPNU will be back with coverage from 9pm to 1am EDT next Friday, with a simulcast from 8:30-9pm EST on ESPN.  There will be coverage from nine schools this year, including Kansas’ Late Night in the Phog, Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness, UNC’s Late Night With Roy, and several others (Michigan St., Duke, Washington, Georgetown, UConn and North Dakota St.).  RTC will hopefully provide live coverage in some fashion, but we’re still working out what that will be.  Make sure to check back early next week for more details. 
  • Prodigious Previews, Batman.  From Goodman, the Big Ten, the SEC, the ACC and Big East.  From Parrish, his final Top 25 (and 1) and his preseason all-americans.  Some players getting early-season pub are Gani Lawal, Isaiah Thomas, Alex Stepheson, Lance Stephenson, and the entire Mississippi St. frontline.  Mike DeCourcy answers five questions about his season preview.   
  • Quick Hits.  Patrick Patterson: his junior year at UK will be his last.  Kevin Laue:  great to see things working out for him at Manhattan (RTC flashback).  Contract Extensions: Ed DeChellis at Penn St. and Louis Orr at Bowling Green (Parrish calls BS on these).  Zach Spiker: the new head Cadet at Army.  James Keefe: UCLA F injured shoulder, out 4-6 weeks.  Len Elmore: has UNC, Michigan St., Kansas and Michigan in his F4BinghamtonNancy Zimpher was listening to us after allCAA: silver anniversary teamSeth Davis: an interesting read on overworked college officialsChris Taft: remember himRivals Team Recruiting Rankings: early list for 2010 is out

 

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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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Conference Primers: #15 – MAC

Posted by rtmsf on November 6th, 2007

Season Preview Banner 3

Predicted Order of Finish:

East

  1. Kent St. (22-6) (13-3)
  2. Miami (OH) (16-10) (11-5)
  3. Akron (17-12) (9-7)
  4. Ohio (12-15) (7-9)
  5. Bowling Green (12-16) (6-10)
  6. Buffalo (7-19) (4-12)

West

  1. Western Michigan (19-11) (11-5)
  2. Central Michigan (16-11) (10-6)
  3. Toledo (14-14) (9-7)
  4. Eastern Michigan (14-13) (8-8)
  5. Northern Illinois (9-19) (5-11)
  6. Ball St. (6-22) (3-13)

MAC Logo 

WYN2K. We went back and forth on where to rank the MAC because conveniently pigeonholing this league into low- or mid-major status is very difficult to do. Historically, the league hasn’t been more than a one-bid league (since 1985 the MAC has received two NCAA bids only five times), but it has consistently done well with the teams that it puts into March Madness, ranking among the top five conferences in terms of exceeding its expected number of NCAA wins (aka overachieving). Using historical measures of success by seed, the MAC (as an average #12.0 seed) should have won only 12.04 NCAA Tournament games over the last 23 years – instead it has won fifteen. So given this dichotomy in its character, we started looking at recent history to gain a deeper understanding of where the MAC should fall on the ladder. We’re probably going to upset the MAC folks out there, but ultimately we were swayed by the fact that the league has been a one-bid league with no first round wins (losing by an average of 8.8 pts) over the last four seasons (despite having a winning record of 192-186 against OOC opponents the last three years). That was enough to convince us to keep the MAC (for now) at the top of the low majors. But it was a very close call.

Predicted Champion. Kent St. (#12 seed NCAA).  The Golden Flashes are our choice to win the MAC this year (again, shamelessly unoriginal).  But what’s not to like with this team?  They return all five starters from a team that went 12-4 in conference last year, and a program under the tutelage of Jim Christian who has never had an under-20 win season at the school (KSU has had nine straight 20 win seasons).  No one player stands out offensively on this defensive-minded club (#22 nationally in defensive efficiency last year), but 6’7 forward Haminn Quaintance is the man shoring up the team D from the inside (#15 in stl% and #33 in blk% nationally).  Kent St. has a difficult, but not insane (see: Miami (OH) for that), nonconference schedule, featuring games against mid-majors Xavier, St. Louis and George Mason at home, while going to Chapel Hill in early January to play UNC. 

Others Considered. We like Western Michigan to win the West Division, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we think they’re the second-best team in the conference.  Like Kent St., the Broncos also return all five starters, but the 2007 version of WMU simply (16-16) wasn’t as good as Kent St. (21-11).  Their ultimate destiny may depend on the offseason development of the most excellently-named guard David Kool, last year’s MAC FrOY, a player who seems to do a little bit of everything.  Last year’s miraculous champion Miami (OH) was also considered simply because they have Charlie Coles still at the helm and you know you’re going to get a hardnosed defensive team (#28 nationally in eFG% defense; MU didn’t allow a single opponent to score 70 pts last seaon) that tests itself with an extremely tough nonconference schedule every year – this year’s includes five NCAA teams, one NIT team + Cincinnati on the road.  Akron getting left out of both the NCAA and the NIT last year despite 26 wins has to still sting coach Keith Dambrot. But if he’s to become vindicated with a MAC championship this year, he’ll have to do so without conference POY (and former Lebron HS teammates) Romeo Travis and team leader PG Dru Joyce. Can the Zips find point guard play to support another run? They do return five of the top 500 most efficient offensive players in the country (contributing to a #12 raw offensive efficiency), so there is a fair chance of another great season.  Another team that is probably still a year away from competing for the MAC title but is worth watching is Central Michigan.  CMU went from 4-24 in 2006 to 13-18 in 2007, and the pieces are beginning to align for former UCLA assistant coach and current head man Ernie Ziegler.  He returns four starters including Giordan Watson, the leading returning scorer (18.8 ppg) in the MAC this season.   Last year’s league regular season champ, Toledo, lost its top three scorers and is expected to drop off somewhat despite returning the league’s DPOY Kashif Payne

Games to Watch.  The MAC has a fair number of televised games this year, so you can actually watch some of these, as opposed to watching for them.  Keep in mind the unbalanced sixteen-game schedule.   

  • Kent St. @ Miami (OH) (01.17.08) & Miami (OH) @ Kent St. (03.04.08)
  • Western Michigan @ Kent St. (01.27.08)
  • Miami (OH) @ Akron (01.05.08) & Akron @ Miami (OH) (02.19.08)
  • Central Michigan @ Western Michigan (01.22.08) ESPNU & Western Michigan @ Central Michigan (03.04.08)
  • ESPNU Bracketbusters (02.23.08)
  • MAC Championship Game (03.15.08) ESPN2

RPI Booster Games.  Like the Big West, the MAC doesn’t play a lot of BCS teams, largely because they want home-and-homes and the higher profile schools aren’t willing to risk a loss when they get a Southland or Sun Belt team to take the one-game lump payment along with their whipping.  Last year the league was 4-25 (.138) against BCS teams, and there are 21 such games on the schedule this year (along with quite a few mid-major games).  Oh, and who does Ohio U. know at ESPN – they’re scheduled to be on the family of networks at least nine times this year!

  • New Mexico St. @ Ohio (11.09.07) ESPN FC
  • Western Michigan @ Oregon (11.10.07) ESPN FC
  • Vanderbilt @ Toledo  (11.13.07)
  • Davidson @ Western Michigan (11.21.07)
  • Central Michigan @ Minnesota (11.24.07) ESPN 360
  • Eastern Michigan @ Notre Dame (12.01.07)
  • Miami (OH) @ Louisville (12.01.07) ESPN FC
  • Ohio @ Kansas (12.15.07) ESPN2
  • Western Michigan @ S. Illinois (12.18.07)
  • Kent St. @ UNC (01.02.08) ESPN 

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. There’s always a reasonable shot for the MAC to get multiple bids, but we wouldn’t call those odds good this year.  Looking at what happened to Akron last year suggests that the only team that would have a shot at an at-large would be Miami (OH) if they had a great record and lost in the conference tournament.

Neat-o Stat.  There are three new and somewhat accomplished coaches coming into the MAC this season – Ricardo Patton (Northern Illinois), formerly of Colorado where he took the Buffs to 2 NCAAs and 4 NITs in eleven seasons; Louis Orr (Bowling Green), formerly of Seton Hall where he took the Pirates to 2 NCAAs and 1 NIT in five seasons; and Billy Taylor (Ball St.), formerly of Lehigh who is taking over from the troubled tenure of Ronny Thompson there. 

64/65-Team Era.  As we alluded to above, the MAC can make a reasonable case for inclusion into the mid-major category (we define a mid-major conference as one that consistently competes for and receives at-large NCAA bids, minus the BCS conferences).  Despite overachieving when MAC teams make the NCAA Tourney with four teams making the Sweet 16 or better (Kent St. in 2002), it still only has had five years of multiple bids (two each time – 1985, 1986, 1995, 1998, 1999) in this era.  And as you can see, none have occurred during the 2000s.  For now, let’s enjoy the ending of last year’s MAC Championship game.  Bedlam. 

Final Thought.  The conference is very balanced, as five different programs have tasted the NCAA over the last five years, and only twice has a school had the good fortune to go B2B in winning the conference crown (Ball St. – 1989 & 1990; Kent St. – 2001 & 2002).  So it should be no surprise if someone besides Miami (OH) steps up and takes the title this year.  Befitting a conference that has quality depth, we see no fewer than six teams that could make a legitimate run at the conference championship, and a couple more who could easily act the role of spoilers.  As always, the MAC plays quality basketball and is worth catching when you get a chance.       

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