CLEVELAND -- The Mid-American Conference announced today that Akron (East Division) and Toledo (West Division) have been chosen as preseason favorites to win their respective divisions in men’s basketball. Voting was conducted by members of the MAC News Media Association. The MAC announces the top six teams in each division and the tournament winner in its preseason poll. The Zips were also tabbed to win the MAC Tournament.
Akron finished last season with a 23-10 record, the most wins in the program’s Division I era. The Zips also notched the school’s first D-I postseason victory in the form of an 80-73 overtime win at Temple in the NIT. Akron returns its top four scorers and four starters from last season’s squad. Highlighting that group are seniors Romeo Travis and Dru Joyce. Travis led the Zips in scoring (13.5 ppg.), rebounding (6.8 rpg.) and field goal pct. (52 Pct.). Joyce led the team in assists (5.0 apg.) and was third in scoring (10.0 ppg.). Travis was named to the NABC All-District 10 second team as well as to the All-MAC first team, while Joyce was picked as an all-league honorable mention. The Zips received 35 first place votes and 26 votes to win the FirstEnergy MAC Tournament.
Ohio was picked to finish second in the East Division after posting a 19-11 record and received two votes to win the FirstEnergy MAC Tournament. The Bobcats will return three starters from last year’s squad, including point guard Antonio Chatman, wing Sonny Troutman and 2006-07 preseason All-MAC selection Leon Williams. Williams received All-MAC honorable mention honors last season after scoring 11.0 ppg., and 6.9 rpg.
Kent State was picked to finish third after winning the MAC regular season and tournament championship last season, while Miami was selected to place fourth after appearing in the NIT last season. The Golden Flashes have qualified for postseason play in each of the past eight seasons, with four NCAA Tournament bids and four NIT appearances. Miami received four votes to win the FirstEnergy MAC Tournament, while KSU garnered two votes. Buffalo was picked to finish fifth and Bowling Green rounded out the East Division.
Toledo will welcome back four starters this season after finishing as runner-up in last year’s FirstEnergy MAC Tournament. 2005-06 All-MAC second team selection Justin Ingram returns after averaging 14.6 ppg. and 3.2 rpg. last season. Ingram will be joined by senior forward Florentio Valencia (12.0 ppg., MAC-best 65.9 FG%) and senior guard Keonta Howell (11.3 ppg., 4.3 rpg.). UT will also bring back junior point guard Kashif Payne (8.4 ppg., 4.3 apg.). The Rockets also received four votes to win this year’s FirstEnergy MAC Tournament.
Northern Illinois was selected to finish in the second in the West after winning the division last season. The Huskies will welcome back two starters from last season, including 2005-06 MAC Defensive Player of the Year and preseason All-MAC selection James Hughes. Hughes is currently the school-record holder for career field-goal percentage (57.6 %) and will be joined by 2004-05 All-MAC honorable mention selection Mike McKinney.
Western Michigan was selected to finish third, while Ball State and new head coach Ronny Thompson were picked to finish fourth. Eastern Michigan was selected to finish fifth and Central Michigan and new head coach Ernie Zeigler rounded out the West Division in sixth.
The MAC regular season gets underway on Wednesday, November 8 as Central Michigan faces Youngstown State in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic in East Lansing, Mich. Conference action begins on Saturday, January 6 as all teams will start to fight for position in the FirstEnergy Men’s Basketball Tournament that will welcome all 12 teams to Cleveland on March 7-10 at Quicken Loans Arena.