Brendan Bowers will be in Cleveland all week covering the MAC Tournament for CollegeHoops.net.
The quarterfinals of the Mid American Conference tournament are set to tip-off at Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday, and the 8-team field is set. A profile of those participating in the playoff that will inevitably send one team to the largest of all collegiate dances is below. My initial thoughts and predictions on the tournament are included as well, however, as my credentialed coverage of the games get underway this weekend, I do reserve the right to change my predictions in accordance with the actual outcomes.
That said, the teams, conference records, and profiles – in order of match-ups / game times – are below:
#7 Western Michigan (8-8) vs. #2 Central Michigan (9-7) - 12 pm on Thursday
Western Michigan: The Broncos are led by Senior, and Conference POY, David Kool who led the MAC in scoring with 22 ppg. He also had four games of 30 or more, and is currently the leading scorer in school history…so he’s good. Martelle McLemore and Flenard Whitfield also average double figures in scoring at 11.7 and 10.2 per game respectively and Donald Lawson leads the team on the glass (7.2 rpg). Western ended their season winning three of their last four while playing some of their best basketball of the season at just the right time.
Central Michigan: The Chippewas, winners of the MAC West Division, are paced by senior guard Robbie Harman who’s definitely a guy that needs to be paid attention to on the perimeter. Harman has hit an average of 3.5 three-pointers per game this season, totaling 101 on the year. His 17.8 ppg lead CMU, and his backcourt mate Jordan Bitzer comes in averaging 15 points and 5 rebounds per game in conference as well. But while the MAC West title is certainly an accomplishment, it’s worth noting that CMU’s 9-7 mark would have been good enough to tie them for third with two other teams out East.
Prediction: If an 8-8 team beating a 9-7 one isn’t exactly worthy of an upset nod, a seven seed beating a two during the opening round of a tournament would be. So call it a big upset …I guess… as Western Michigan moves on past Central behind a big night from Kool.
#6 Eastern Michigan (8-8) vs. #3 Akron (12-4) - 2pm on Thursday
Eastern Michigan: Senior Guard Carlos Medlock was amongst those receiving votes for the conference POY award this season, and his 16 points per game total only one more (500 total points) than the 499 scored by teammate Brandon Bowdry who also averages 16 per. Bowdry also leads the team in rebounds at 10 per game, and those two guys were the main reasons why EMU had a look at the MAC West title down the stretch, as their Eagles narrowly lost out by one game.
Akron: Senior Forward Jimmy Conyers was named the MAC’s Defensive POY and offensively, there’s a lot of different ways these Zips can beat you. Three guys - Chris McNight, Brett McNight, and Jimmy Conyers - average between 10 and 12 points respectively in conference, with Conyers leading the way at 12. All three though, including Anthony Hitchens and Steve McNees, are capable of having a big night for Coach Dambrot’s club at any time. Conyers also leads the way on the glass, averaging 7 per game, and don’t be surprised if the Zips find a way to win this whole thing, and punch their ticket.
Prediction: Some people said that the loser of last week’s Akron – Kent State game would actually put themselves in a better position for this tournament with respect to the quarterfinal and semi-final match-ups, and for the second time this season, Akron did lose to Kent. Not saying seeding’s the reason why, but the Zips certainly don’t find themselves in all that bad of a spot as a result. Look for Akron to take care of Eastern Michigan in this one, and move on to Friday.
#9 Ohio (7-9) vs. #1 Kent State (13-3) - 7pm on Thursday
Ohio: Bobcat Guard DJ Cooper was named Freshman of the Year for the regular season by way of 13.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. It would be through his youthful direction that the Bobcats will look to follow their opening round win with a ‘biggest in school history type upset’ of the Golden Flashes on Thursday. Armon Basset (15.5 ppg) and Steve Coleman (11.3) will be critical as well if the lowest seeded team in the field has a shot to up-stage the highest.
Kent State: Golden Flashes Coach Geno Ford earned COY honors and Chris Singletary (11.7 ppg) was edged out in the POY race by 7 votes. Teammate Justin Greene (13.9 ppg) finished third in that same balloting, and those two make up four of the KSU starters that average between 10 and 14 points per game. Rodriguez Sherman and Tyree Evans round out that group with 10 points apiece per game. Anthony Simpson was the 6th MOY, and on paper this squad should have been the regular season champs that they were.
Prediction: Kent Coach Geno Ford will match-up against his alma mater in his opening round attempt towards adding a tournament title to the 4th regular season crown in school history they earned this season. His Flashes should have no trouble with this Bobcat group he once ran the point for, and Kent will cruise here in probably the most lopsided game of the tournament.
#5 Buffalo (9-7) vs. #4 Miami (9-7) - 9pm on Thursday
Buffalo: Senior guard Rodney Pierce leads the charge for Buffalo and his Bulls will go as far as his 18 points per game scoring can take them. He’ll be aided in his efforts by teammate Calvin Betts who’s scoring and rebounding at rates of 11 and 7 per night. This team was 18-11 overall, and their conference mark would have won the division had they been out West. Not a team to sleep on to be sure.
Miami: Despite a losing record overall (13-17), the Redhawks turned in solid conference effort to earn the four seed in this tournament. They’re paced by Kenny Hayes at over 14 points and 3 assists per contest and Julian Mavunga also boast a double digit average with 10. Junior Guard Nick Winbush (9.8 ppg) will return home to Cleveland for this one, where he was a two-time All Ohio Selection during his prep career at Shaker Heights.
Prediction: As much as I’m thinking to say that Charlie Coles’ club edges out Buffalo in a tight one, I’m picking the Bulls to advance. Rodney Pierce will prove to be too much as the Bulls get the win, and a shot at Kent State next time out.
Overall Tournament Predictions:
· Sleeper Team: Western Michigan
· Finals Match-Up: Kent State vs. Akron
· Tournament Champs: Akron
Look for more blogs, sound bites, recaps, and predictions on all MAC tournament action right here as the games get underway on Thursday. For the latest also feel free to follow me on Twitter @StepienRules… I promise I’ll follow you back.