Monday, March 6, 2006

MAC Tournament Preview

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The Mid-American Conference did not have one of their better season this year. Normally, there is at least one at-large candidate. However, this season saw nothing like that. Kent State won the East Division and the overall league title at 15-3. Miami (Ohio) and Akron both finished one game back at 14-4. Preseason favorite Ohio was a disappointment, going only 10-8. In the West Division, Northern Illinois was the champion, at 12-6. Toledo and Western Michigan tied for second, both going 10-8.

Favorite: Kent State gets the nod here as a result of the fact that they won the league title and have won 16 of 19. The only questionable loss is a defeat at home to Bowling Green, a team that finished 7-20. The Golden Flashes have the 2nd highest scoring offense in the league, thanks to one of the best backcourts in the MAC in Jay Youngblood and DeAndre Haynes. Both are good scorers who also contribute in other areas. Kent State is a deep team that gets production from several players, including frontcourt player Kevin Warzynski.

Contenders: Obviously, Akron and Miami (Ohio) are the main threats to the Golden Flashes for the title. Akron takes excellent care of the ball on the offensive end and owns one of the MAC's best scoring defenses. They have lost three of their last five to end the season. Romeo Travis is a very solid post player, while Dru Joyce and Nick Dials provide balance from the perimeter. Rob Preston and Darryl Peterson are also productive on the interior for the Zips. Miami (Ohio) has won 9 of their last 10, with the lone loss coming to Kent State. They are the best defensive team in the league, holding teams to less than 59 points per game in league play. The Redhawks have arguably the league's best forward duo in Nathan Peavy and Tim Pollitz. Both are solid scorers and rebounders up front. They are led, however, by guard William Hatcher, one of the best all-around backcourt players in the MAC. Outside of that trio, though, there isn't much on the offensive end for the Redhawks.

Sleeper: Buffalo came into the league season with a 9-1 record, and looked like a contender for the MAC title. But they have lost 8 of their last 11 to finish at only 8-10 in the conference. However, they have a win over Akron and took Kent State to OT before losing. The Bulls are also the highest-scoring team in the league. Guard Calvin Cage was one of the MAC's best scorers, while Roderick Middleton and Mario Jordan are also very solid perimeter players. Yassin Idbihi is one of the conference's best inside players.

Prediction: There are several teams capable of taking the conference tournament crown and the automatic bid. Akron might have the most talent in the conference, but I'm going with Kent State. Other than a questionable loss or two, they have been solid all season and I like the way they have been playing lately, even with the defeat at Akron. They have the great backcourt of Youngblood and Haynes, and I think that will carry them to a tournament win. On the other hand, if they can't defend Travis in the title game against Akron, the Zips could knock them off. But I think that the Golden Flashes will find a way to get the win.

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