MAC Tournament Preview: Team-By-Team Breakdown

By
Matthew Doyle

Dateline
Updated Sat, Mar 9, 2013 7:52 pm
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Let the real Mid-American Conference play begin.

With the regular season officially finished, it is time for teams to prepare themselves for an 11-team bracket, with the eventual champion being rewarded with a berth to the NCAA Tournament.

The seeds have been solidified, with the top two seeds belonging to Akron and Ohio, the Co-MAC Regular Season Champions.

According to the conference's tiebreakers, Akron received the top seed because of its head-to-head record over the Bobcats. As a result, Ohio is the No.2 seed in the tournament, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The Bobcats are a combined 7-0 against teams on their side of the bracket and defeated those teams by a combined 81 points, which averages out to 11.6 points a game.

Akron, on the other hand, was 4-2 against their side of the bracket. Their two losses came recently to Buffalo and Kent State. In their four wins, they won by a combined 27 points, which is 6.8 points per game. 

On the Akron's side of the bracket (shown below), teams were a combined 57-64 (.471), not counting the Zips. Ohio's side, also not counting the Bobcats, were 60-90 (.400). 

Here’s a look at the field in this year’s MAC Tournament:

1. Akron (24-6, 14-2 MAC)

Last 5 games: 3-2

Projected starting lineup: Carmelo Betancourt, Brian Walsh, Nick Harney, Demetrius Treadwell, Zeke Marshall

Shining spot: Treadwell has scored in double-digits in 13 of Akron’s last 14 games and leads the team in rebounds with 7.7 a game. He and Marshall have combined to form one of the best big men duo in the entire conference, and the Zips will rely on them to pick up their play tremendously in the tournament.

Cause for concern: The Zips are without Alex Abreu after the starting point guard was arrested for drug charges on Thursday. They now must rely on an inexperienced starter in either Betancourt or Deji Ibitayo. In his start against Kent State, Betancourt had five points, four assists, two steals and one turnover. The 27 minutes he played were the most of his career.

2. Ohio (23-8, 14-2 MAC)

Last 5 games: 3-2

Projected starting lineup: D.J. Cooper, Nick Kellogg, Walter Offutt, T.J. Hall, Reggie Keely

Bright spot: Cooper leads team with 14.2 points and 7.2 assists per game. In his last four games, the Ohio guard has averaged 19.3 points and 4.3 assists, including a 26-point outing against Akron.

Cause for concern: Kellogg has been extremely up-and-down this season, and Ohio is in a much better position if their sharpshooter is knocking down shots from beyond the arc. In his last four games, he had 16 points against Bowling Green, but only 11 points combined in the other games. He was 4-of-9 from beyond the arc against the Falcons, and just 1-of-9 in the other three.

3. Western Michigan (20-10, 10-6 MAC)

Last 5 games: 3-2

Projected starting lineup: Austin Richie, Brandon Pokley, Darius Paul, Nate Hutcheson, Shayne Whittington

Shining spot: Whittington has been one of the top big men in the MAC, averaging 8.9 rebounds a game. In Western Michigan’s last three games, Whittington has averaged 18.3 points and 12.3 rebounds. Also keep an eye on freshman Darius Paul, who recently had 28 points and 12 rebounds against Toledo.

Cause for concern: They lost to teams they should’ve beaten in Eastern Michigan and Ball State, which is not the way a team wants to enter a one-and-done tournament. Western Michigan went 0-2 against Akron and Ohio this season, and will have a tough time getting to the NCAA Tournament if they can’t step it up.

4. Kent State (19-12, 9-7 MAC)

Last 5 games: 5-0

Projected starting lineup: Randal Holt, Kris Brewer, Darren Goodson, Chris Evans, Mark Henniger

Shining spot: Evans has only been held to single-digit scoring twice this season and averages 16.6 points per game. He’s a scoring machine and should be a First Team All-MAC selection.

Cause for concern: Recently, there have been few concerns with the Flashes, but they have not had success against any of the top three seeds this season, going 1-4 against them, with their one win coming in the regular season finale against Akron.

5. Ball State (15-14, 8-8 MAC)

Last 5 games: 5-0

Projected starting lineup: Marcus Posley, Jauwan Scaife, Chris Bond, Matt Kamieniecki, Majok Majok

Shining spot: Scaife has been unbelievable in this five-game winning streak by the Cardinals, scoring 23.6 points per game. He’s one of the top scorers in the MAC and has been on fire recently.

Cause for concern: The Cardinals started 1-7 in the MAC this season and the only MAC East opponent they’ve beaten is Miami. Their winning streak has come against the MAC West, which based on combined overall record (99-84 for MAC East teams, 79-114 for West), the MAC East Division has greater competition.

6. Bowling Green (13-18, 7-9 MAC)

Last 5 games: 2-3

Projected starting lineup: Jordon Crawford, Luke Kraus, Chauncey Orr, A’uston Calhoun, Cameron Black

Shining spot: Calhoun and Crawford are among the top ten scorers in the MAC – ranked sixth and seventh, respectively – and have the capability of putting teams away quickly in games.

Cause for concern: If Calhoun or Crawford aren’t scoring, there are not too many players that can step up to fill the void. After those two, the next highest scorer is Orr with 7.5 points a game. The Falcons have great athleticism, but their depth of scoring isn’t as strong.

7. Eastern Michigan (14-17, 7-9 MAC)

Last 5 games: 2-3

Projected starting lineup: Derek Thompson, J.R. Sims, Daylen Harrison, Glenn Bryant, Jamell Harris

Shining spot: Eastern Michigan’s 2-3 zone is one of the toughest to score on in the MAC. They are the top scoring defense in the conference, allowing just 59.7 points per game, including a game where they held Northern Illinois to 25 points.

Cause for concern: When their defense isn’t working, their offense can’t back them up. They’re second worst in the MAC with 57.0 points per game. Against high scoring teams like Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky, the Eagles lost by a combined 114 points, which is 38.0 points per game.

8. Buffalo (12-19, 7-9 MAC)

Last 5 games: 1-4

Projected starting lineup: Jarryn Skeete, Tony Watson II, Auraum Nuriankh, Will Regan, Javon McCrea

Shining spot: McCrea has had an incredible year for the Bulls. He’s been averaging career highs of 17.8 points and 7.9 rebounds. In his last six games, he has averaged 21.2 points and 8.0 rebounds, including a 32 point, 15 rebound and eight block performance against Kent State.

Cause for concern: The Bulls have been competing with the top teams in the MAC recently, but haven’t been able to seal the deal. They beat Akron by 14, but lost to Kent State and Ohio by a combined five points. And despite defeating Akron and becoming an improved team, they have lost four of their last five.

9. Central Michigan (11-19, 4-12 MAC)

Last 5 games: 2-3

Projected starting lineup: Chris Fowler, Kyle Randall, Derrick Richardson, Blake Hibbitts, John Simons

Shining spot: Finding Randall from UNC-Greensboro was a blessing for Central Michigan, as it’s a disappointing night if Randall doesn’t score in double-digits. He’s averaging 18.3 points a game this season, which is nearly double the next player on the Chippewas’ roster. In Central Michigan’s last two games, where they beat Eastern Michigan and lost to Western Michigan by three, Randall averaged 28.0 points on 20-of-40 shooting from the field and 12-of-21 from three.

Cause for concern: The fact that Randall nearly doubles his teammates’ scoring averages is a problem for Central Michigan. There are hardly any other scoring threats on this team, which makes it easy for opponents to put their focus on Randall.

10. Miami (OH) (8-21, 3-13 MAC)

Last 5 games: 0-5

Projected starting lineup: Quinten Rollins, Reggie Johnson, Will Felder, Jon Harris, Vince Legarza

Shining spot: Felder is second on the team in scoring with 11.6 points per game, but increased his scoring production against Ohio with 20 points. Jon Harris also had a big day, going for 13 points against the Bobcats. The RedHawks will need those two to play well if they are going to get past the first round of the tournament.

Cause for concern: Miami lost their leading scorer, Allen Roberts, to a knee injury and he’s out for the rest of the season. Roberts and Felder are the only players that average double-digits on the roster, and Roberts’ absence will hurt the quickly declining RedHawks.

11. Northern Illinois (5-24, 3-13 MAC)

Last 5 games: 0-5

Projected starting lineup: Travon Baker, Darrell Bowie, Aksel Bolin, Abdel Nader, Kevin Gray

Shining spot: Bolin, who averaged 7.3 points per game this season, boosted his scoring in the last three games to 11.3 a game, which has happened without leading scorer Nader, who has been dealing with personal issues. Nader sat out the final game of the season against Ball State, too.

Cause for concern: There are 347 teams in NCAA Division I basketball. Northern Illinois is 345th in scoring, 346th in assists and 346th in field-goal percentage. Their offense has struggled to get going this season, including a 25-point outing against Eastern Michigan.

The MAC Tournament begins Monday with the first round being played in the higher seeds’ home arenas. The games following the first round will be played in the Quicken Loans Arena. Ball State has a bye into the second round, while Kent State and Western Michigan have byes into the quarterfinals played on Thursday night. Akron and Ohio will play their first games of the tournament on Friday in the semifinals.

All tournament games will be broadcasted on SportsTime Ohio, except for Saturday’s MAC Championship, which will be on ESPN2 at 6:30 p.m.

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