Monday, March 7, 2005

MAC Tournament Preview

The MAC Conference may have been the best mid-major conference, top to bottom, in the country. They had nine teams with at least 10 wins within the league, as well as nine teams above .500 overall. From start to finish, the league was wide-open, as evidenced by last-place Marshall's victory over first-place Miami (Ohio) on the last day of the season. With a chance to tie for the league title, several teams lost on the final day of the year, leaving a logjam at 11-7. Since there are so many teams capable of running the table and grabbing the automatic bid from the MAC, there are not really any favorites or sleepers. Therefore, we are going to take a look at every team that has a chance to win the tournament.
Miami (Ohio) was the outright league champ after the frenzy on the last day. They are the league's best defensive team, but are also loaded on offense. The Redhawks have perhaps the league's best inside-outside combo in Chet Mason and Danny Horace, two of the top three rebounders in the conference. Horace is arguably the best player in the league. William Hatcher is another double figure scorer. Buffalo is the league's highest scoring team. They have won six of seven and nine of their past twelve. Turner Battle and Mark Bortz are a solid duo, although they have six other players that average at least five points per contest. Akron had won 10 of 12 before losing 2 of their final 3 games. Romeo Travis and Jeremiah Wood are a solid post combo (15.5 rpg), while Darryl Peterson is the team's leading scorer and the main threat from the perimeter. Dru Joyce is one of the league's top passers. Kent State seemed done after a three-game losing streak in mid-February, but they have won three of their final four since then. They have a solid 8-man rotation with great balance on offense. Jason Edwin and Kev Warzynski are the lone double figure scorers, while DeAndre Haynes leads the conference in assists. Ohio is yet another 11-7 team from the East division, and they have won nine of their past twelve games to finish the season. Sonny Troutman and Leon Williams are a very solid forward tandem, while leading scorer Mychal Green can fill it up in a hurry and has been hot lately. Western Michigan has lost 8 of their past 13 contests, yet still finished first in the West Division. They have one of the top duos in the league in two of the MAC's top 5 scorers, Ben Reed and Levi Rost, who combine for 34 points and 12 boards a contest. The Broncos are in the Top 5 in the league in both offense and defense. Toledo has won 9 of their past 12, but their statistics do not jump out at you. They are not in the top 5 of any major categories as a team, and the Zips do not have a single player in the Top 5 of any major individual category. What they do have, however, is a deep, balanced club with 5 guys averaging at least 9 points per game, in addition to Keith Triplett. He goes for 15 points and almost 3 steals every night out. Bowling Green is not hot lately, losing three of their last four to end the year. They still have the league's top scoring combo in John Reimold and Josh Almanson, two of the league's top three scorers. John Floyd is second in the MAC in assists. Ball State won three of their last four after a five-game losing skid, but they will be without second-leading scorer Dennis Trammell, who ended his career with an injury aganist Northern Illinois a few games back. Peyton Stovall and Terrance Chapman (31 ppg combined) will have to pick up the slack. Chapman is second in the conference in rebounding.
Prediction: The MAC Tournament is going to be the most wide-open in the nation. With so many teams in the hunt for an automatic bid, it is hard to differentiate who is going to win it. Nearly all the teams have a very good one-two punch; when you have that, it comes down to the supporting cast when you have to pick a club to be victorious. Akron seems to have a very good group of role players, but I think that Miami (Ohio) has the best inside-outside duo in Horace and Mason. Horace can't be stopped. In addition, the defense and the multitide of weapons that the Redhawks have will lead them to a conference tournament championship and an automatic bid.

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