Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mid-American Conference Tournament Preview

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The Mid-American Conference had yet another very solid season, including a very tight conference race that came down to the final game of the season. Kent State won the league title by one game over West division champion Western Michigan, who went 12-4 in conference play, and by two games over Akron. The Golden Flashes went to Akron on the final day of the season and defeated the Zips by three, clinching the title. Like the regular-season, expect a competitive conference tourney.

Favorite: Coming into the season, the MAC was relatively wide-open. However, Kent State established itself as the team to beat in the conference quickly, as they beat both Illinois State and George Mason in non-league play and jumped out to a 6-1 conference record. Al Fisher is one of the best players in the conference; he can do-it-all from the perimeter. Mike Scott is a very good scorer and rebounder, while Haminn Quaintance is solid at both ends of the floor. Chris Singletary is another double-figure scorer in the backcourt.

Contenders: Akron has struggled down the stretch, losing six of its last 13 games to drop out of the conference title race. What is more troubling is the fact that the Zips have lost three of their last four home games – they are simply not finishing late in games. Jeremiah Wood is the leader on this team; he’s a 15-10 threat every night out. Nick Dials and Cedrick Middleton are solid scoring guards. Western Michigan had a bloated conference record because it plays in the weaker division, but the Broncos have won six of their last seven, including three of four road games. They have arguably the best inside-outside combo in the conference in guard David Kool and big man Joe Reitz. When those two are on their games, WMU is tough to beat. Ohio looked like it would be a legit contender all season long in the MAC, but the Bobcats lost five of their last nine to fall out of the at-large and conference title hunt. Still, they have one of the better inside tandems in the mid-major world in Leon Williams and Jerome Tillman. Williams has been dominant lately. Bubba Walther provides balance from the perimeter. Miami (Ohio) seemed like an at-large contender earlier in the year, but the RedHawks struggled during the middle part of the campaign. Michael Bramos is a very good scoring guard, while Tim Pollitz is one of the best players in the conference. Kenny Hayes is solid on the perimeter.

Sleeper: Although it had not won a game away from home until the last contest of the season, Toledo might have the horses to pull an upset or two. The Rockets are led by wing Tyrone Kent, one of the best all-around players in the conference, and guard Jonathan Amos, another player that can do a variety of things on the court. Jerrah Young anchors the frontcourt.

Prediction: It seemed all season long like Kent State was poised to lose its grip on the conference lead, but every time someone stepped up to push the Golden Flashes, they knocked them off and held onto the crown. It might be the same way in the conference tournament. There are plenty of teams that can compete with Kent State, but I’m not sure they have what it takes to take-down the Golden Flashes when it counts. Western Michigan has been playing well lately and will make a run to the title game, but won’t be able to beat Kent State.

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