2009-2010 Mid American Conference Basketball Preview
The Mid-American Conference (MAC) features a dozen teams in two divisions: East and West. The East Division looks to be the more vital of the two with the Akron Zips and Kent State Golden Flashes being the primary national contenders in 2009- 2010. Both teams are on the upswing after finishing in the middle of the division last year. In the West Division, the Ball State Cardinals and Central Michigan Chippewas should repeat last year’s performance as the number one and two teams.
Along with Akron and Kent State, the East Division includes the Buffalo Bulls, Miami (Ohio) Redhawks, the Bowling Green Falcons and the Ohio Bobcats.
The Akron Zips (23- 13 overall, 10- 6 MAC) finished fourth in the division and then went on to meet Gonzaga in round one of the NCAA Tournament. The club led at the half but lost to the Zags 77-64. This year, the Zips should be stronger but they will still be a precarious team in terms of exactly how they will perform.
Akron features the McKnight brothers, Chris and Brett, in the frontcourt. Junior forward Brett McKnight (11.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG) returns as the team’s leading scorer and second highest rebounder, and senior forward Chris McKnight (9.2 PPG, 4.7 RPG) is back as the leading rebounder and second highest scorer. Brett seems always ready to be a powerful part of the mix. With front man Nate Linhart (10.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG) gone, it will be important that Chris step it up a notch. He needs to develop his inside shot and aggressiveness in the paint. Also, sophomore forward Nikola Cvetinovic (4.5 PPG, 2.7 RPG) will need to come to the forefront. The point and two spot are both in good hands and offer fine depth. Look for the Zips to be in the NCAA mix again, but once again, to lose in the first round.
The Kent State Golden Flashes (19- 15 overall, 10- 6 MAC) are a team on the rise. Last year they were fifth in the division and earned a berth in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament where they lost to Oakland 80- 74 in round one. They enter this season with six seniors, including two guards: Tyree Evans (11.7 PPG) and Chris Singletary (12.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.9 APG). Both of these guys will be asked to step up even more as the Golden Flashes look to be a team that scores from outside. Singletary is one of the best and most versatile players in the conference. The frontcourt requires players like senior Anthony Simpson (6.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG) to achieve a new level of play. There’s a fine new class coming in that includes some experienced junior college transfers. This will be a make or break season for Kent State. A second-place finish and NIT bid look to be in the cards.
Last season, the Buffalo Bulls (21- 12 overall, 11- 5 MAC) fooled everyone by turning their predicted last-place finish into a first-place reality. This club still has some fine talent including top guard Rodney Pierce. First could be a reality again but most likely the Bulls will be in third. The Miami (Ohio) Redhawks (17- 13 overall, 10- 6 MAC) were the division’s fifth-place club in 2008- 2009. This season, even with the loss of 2008- 2009 MAC Player of the Year Michael Bramos, the Redhawks could put a solid team on the floor. That is, as long as some guys like junior swingman Antonio Ballard step-up. With the loss of its three top scorers, the Bowling Green Falcons (19- 14 overall, 11- 5 MAC) drop from third to fifth this season. The Bobcats of Ohio (15- 17 overall, 7- 9 MAC) continue to rebuild and will once again be in the final slot of the East.
Not one team in the West Division earned a winning record last season and so the best of the West is the worst of the MAC. Ball State was the top team in the West Division and yet their 7- 9 MAC mark matched that of the East’s worst and their 14- 17 overall record was worse than the East’s last-place club. Here’s a quick consideration of the team’s in the MAC West.
The Ball State Cardinals (14- 17 overall, 7- 9 MAC) and coach Bill Taylor will contend for the top prize in the West. There’s a good group of talented recruits who will help upgrade the team. Central Michigan Chippewas’ (12- 19 overall, 7- 9 MAC) coach Ernie Zeigler sees some of his top players return and has recruited three junior college guys to ensure his team is competitive. Last season, the Eastern Michigan Eagles (8- 24 overall, 6- 10 MAC), who were fourth in the West, scored a meager 57.3 PPG. Coach Charles Ramsey went and brought in some premium shooting transfers to help in the effort to produce points. Still, the new guys can’t do it all. Consistency is needed from all on this club.
The final three in the West and in the entire league include the Western Michigan Broncos (10- 21 overall, 7- 9 MAC), Northern Illinois Huskies (10- 20 overall, 5- 11 MAC) and Toledo Rockets (7- 25 overall, 5- 11 MAC). Western Michigan’s David Kool, a senior who can do a bit of everything, will mainly man the wing. Kool, who averaged 17.9 PPG, will be the go-to, leader of the Broncos. The Huskies of Northern Illinois see just about every important player from last season return and also enjoy an infusion of talented transfers. But can they step it up enough and solidify as a team to be competitive? In what is his second season with Toledo, head coach Gene Cross will continue to build his team. The frontcourt is solid but the guard spots are questionable.
This year’s MAC will see four or five clubs, probably all from the East, play highly competitive ball. If any team from the West can be a difference maker then it’s most likely Ball State.
2009-2010 Mid American Conference Basketball Predictions
1. Akron Zips
2. Kent State Golden Flashes
3. Buffalo Bulls
4. Miami (Ohio) Redhawks
5. Bowling Green Falcons
6. Ohio Bobcats
1. Ball State Cardinals
2. Central Michigan Chippewas
3. Eastern Michigan Eagles
4. Western Michigan Broncos
5. Northern Illinois Huskies
6. Toledo Rockets