Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Mid-American Conference 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. In the conference tournament, Ohio outlasted the rest of the teams and gained the league's automatic bid. They then went to the NCAA Tournament and came thisclose to knocking off Florida in the first round. Buffalo should have joined the Bobcats in the Field of 65, but they were the last team left out of the field. Ohio could repeat as MAC Champion again.

Favorite: Ohio is one of the best mid-major teams in the country, and is a candidate for a Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament. Leon Williams is a dominant force down low, and is unstoppable within the MAC. He is also an excellent rebounder. Mychal Green is another first-team all-conference pick. He is a good shooter and defender and is one of the best scorers in the conference. The backcourt of Jeremy Fears and Sonny Troutman could have two all-conference players, as well. Fears is one of the better point guards in the league, and provides scoring and passing. Troutman is a scorer on the wing. He is an excellent third option. The lone starting spot left open will go to Boston College transfer Johnnie Jackson. He will team with Williams in the frontcourt, but spends most of time on the perimeter.

Contenders: Akron has one of the top two frontcourts in the league, as well as a solid point guard in Dru Joyce. The 5-7 Joyce is a good assist man and provides quickness. They basically line up four forwards next to Joyce. Romeo Travis, high school teammate of Joyce and LeBron James, is an all-conference pick. He is a very good scorer and rebounder inside for the Zips. Darryl Peterson is another scorer in the frontcourt, averaging 13 points per game. Jeremiah Wood missed most of last season with an injury, but should start this year. He is a double-double threat every night out. Matt Futch also returns as a starter in the frontcourt. If they decide to go more conventional, guards Bubba Walther and Cedrick Middleton could start. Northern Illinois is one of the favorites to win the West Division. Mike McKinney, a first team all-conference candidate, is an excellent scorer and an above-average rebounder. He leads a very good perimeter trio. Anthony Maestranzi is one of the more solid point guards in the league, while Cory Sims is the best playmaker on the team, as evidenced by his 10-point, 5-assist, 4-rebound averages. Iowa transfer Ben Rand should make an impact. In the frontcourt, Todd Peterson returns to provide a nice inside-outside duo with McKinney. James Hughes could develop into a star big man in the MAC with more playing time. Toledo loses Keith Triplett, but return a deep and talented team capable of making a run. Justin Ingram and Sammy Villegas form a very good backcourt, with Ingram one of the best point guards in the conference. Kashif Payne comes off the bench and produces solid numbers, while Keonta Howell is an excellent swingman. Forward Florentino Valencia is expected to have a big year, and returning starter Anton Currie is also back. Allen Pinson will most likely start at center for the Rockets.

Sleepers: Kent State returns three starters and three other players who saw extensive playing time. Guard DeAndre Haynes might be the best pure point guard in the conference, averaging 5.5 assists per game to go with 10 points and 3.4 rebounds. Jay Youngblood is a solid scorer on the wing, while forward Kevin Warzynski rounds out the starters. He will be the go-to-guy in the frontcourt. Guard Armon Gates is expected to start after providing excellent depth last season. 6-9 Nate Gerwig will also likely start and could become a dependable inside option. Marcus Crenshaw will give the backcourt a breather. Buffalo loses their heart and soul in Turner Battle from a team that should have made the NCAA Tournament, but they will be back in the hunt. Forward Yassin Idbihi is a good offensive player, capable of scoring from the mid-range as well as in the low post. The backcourt of Calvin Cage and Roderick Middleton should be the one of the better ones in the league, even though neither of them started a season ago. Parnell Smith and Mario Jordan could start at the forward spots for the Bulls, although freshman Vadim Fedotov is expected to compete for a starting job. Ball State could make a run at the title this season if everyone is healthy. Peyton Stovall heads the group. He had ACL surgery in March, but should be ready for the start of the season. He will be a first-team all-conference selection if he plays. Darren Yates joins him in the backcourt. Skip Mills could be one of the best forwards in the conference if develops into a go-to-guy. Charles Bass didn't play at all last seaosn due to injury, but should be able to make a significant contribution in the frontcourt. Anthony Kent and Tom Howland will fight for the center spot in the starting lineup. Western Michigan returns a solid inside-outside combo in guard Brian Snider and post player Joe Reitz. Both should have big seasons. Forward Stane's Bufford and guard Silver Laku will contribute from the wing to give the Broncos some offensive balance. Andrew Hershberger will also expand his role after riding the bench last season.

Rounding Out the Pack: Miami returns three starters, but loses two of the best players in the MAC from a season ago. William Hatcher is a solid scorer that runs the team well. Josh Hausfield needs to produce right away once he gets into the starting lineup after coming off the bench last year. Nathan Peavy and Monty St. Clair return as starters up front. Peavy needs to live up to his potential, while St. Clair needs to stop spending all of his time on the perimeter. Bowling Green lost a slew of players from last year's team and will need to rebuild. Steven Wright could develop into a top-of-the-line player for Dan Dakich, but he hasn't proven that yet. John Floyd is an excellent distributor in the backcourt next to Wright. Also in the backcourt is newcomer Martin Samarco, who could compete for a starting job. Mawel Soler needs to take on more of an offensive role this season in the frontcourt. Eastern Michigan has one of the best forwards in the league in John Bowler, who has a nice offensive game to complement his rebounding skills. JC transfer Chris Knaub could start next to him in what would be a pretty sizeable MAC frontcourt. Danny McElhinny is the lone returning contributor to the backcourt. Freshman Carlos Medlock could start at the point. Central Michigan has a bright spot in perimeter duo Giordan Watson and Sefton Barrett. Barrett is a good rebounder and will become the main option on offense. Watson is a decent point guard who can pass fairly well, but also turns the ball over too often. Eddie Spencer is expected to take over in the starting lineup and become an immediate go-to-guy if he can handle it. 7-1 Drew Walker also figures to factor in the starting lineup.

Prediction: Ohio can make a Sweet 16 run in this year's NCAA Tournament, and I wouldn't be surprised if they did. The Bobcats are far too talented on offense for anyone within the MAC to slow down, with Leon Williams, Mychal Green, and co. scoring at will against opponents. Akron has the frontcourt to hang with Ohio, while Northern Illinois has good balance. The Mid-American conference has several teams capable of making a run at Ohio and the league crown, going as far as Kent State, who will likely finish third in the East Division. Any team can beat any team in this league, as last year showed. Anticipate another season like last year's for this season's MAC campaign.

Player of the Year: Leon Williams, PF, Ohio

All-Conference Team:
G- Mike McKinney, Northern Illinois
G- Peyton Stovall, Ball State
F- Mychal Green, Ohio
F- Romeo Travis, Akron
F- Leon Williams, Ohio

Second Team:
G- Jeremy Fears, Ohio
G- DeAndre Haynes, Kent State
F- John Bowler, Eastern Michigan
F- Sonny Troutman, Ohio
F- Jeremiah Wood, Akron

1 comment:

  1. How is it possible that Buffalo's Yassin Idbihi is not on the 1st or 2nd All-MAC team?