Mid-American Conference Tournament - First Round Recap
(12) NorEastern Michigan 52thern Illinois 55 (5)
Upsets in a conference tournament are nothing new, but what made the first round of the MAC Tournament somewhat shocking was the fact that first-round games are played at the campus sites of the higher seeds. Had the Northern Illinois Huskies defeated the Eastern Michigan Eagles on a neutral court, it would have been one thing, but the ability of NIU to defeat EMU on the Eagles' home floor in Ypsilanti, Michigan, rates as a considerable surprise. Northern Illinois had a miserable regular season, but the boys from DeKalb, Illinois, clearly rallied around the flag in the first round of their conference tournament. Making one final push in an attempt to save their season, the Huskies held Eastern Michigan to 34-percent shooting from the field. Northern Illinois missed the front end of a one-and-one with seven seconds left, giving Eastern Michigan a chance to tie, but the Eagles' last-ditch three-pointer missed the mark just before the final horn, and the No. 5 seed left the tournament far earlier than anyone anticipated.
(8) Western Michigan 69 (9) Ball State 63
The Western Michigan Broncos took care of the Ball State Cardinals in a matchup of MAC West Division teams. Western Michigan limited Ball State to 37-percent field goal shooting while posting a 49-percent shooting clip of its own. Flenard Whitfield was the star of the show for the Broncos, hitting 6 of 7 shots en route to 12 points. Ball State's bench excelled, scoring 38 points thanks to a 19-point effort from Jesse Berry, but Ball State's starters managed just 25 points as a group. Western Michigan received a little more balance, gaining double-figure scoring production from five different players. Western Michigan, due to Northern Illinois's upset of Eastern Michigan on Monday night, will get to face the 12th-seeded Huskies in the second round instead of the fifth-seeded Eagles. This gives the Broncos a very good chance to move to the quarterfinals on Thursday.
The Toledo Rockets fought off the Miami University Redhawks, advancing to the second round against 11th-seeded Central Michigan, which upset sixth-seeded Bowling Green. It was a great night for Toledo, then, but it was a sad night for the Mid-American Conference, because one of its best and most colorful head coaches, Miami's Charlie Coles, wound up coaching his last game. Coles announced after the game that he was retiring, effective immediately. Coles took Miami to the Sweet 16 in 1999 behind star player Wally Szczerbiak, leading the RedHawks past Washington and Utah before losing to Kentucky in the regional semifinals. He led Miami to three NCAA Tournaments and two NIT tournaments. He captured the attention of MAC fans and offered nary a dull moment on or off the court. One of the league's signature personalities, he made "MACsketball" fun for fans, the press corps, and basically everyone other than officials. His retirement leaves a considerable void in the MAC. Miami will face its first coaching vacancy in 16 years; Coles replaced Herb Sendek in 1996.
(11) Central Michigan 54 (6) Bowling Green 53
The upset pulled off by Northern Illinois at Eastern Michigan on Monday night was matched by Central Michigan's equally shocking takedown of Bowling Green on the road. The Chippewas went into the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio, and knocked off the Falcons to add to the craziness in the first round of the MAC Tournament. As was the case with Northern Illinois's unexpected win, Central Michigan did the deed with defense, holding Bowling Green to 35-percent shooting. Bowling Green hit just 4 of 20 three-pointers and generated no consistency at the offensive end of the floor. The Falcons, while shooting poorly from the field, were not able to make up the difference at the foul line, creating a modest 14 attempts. Central Michigan now plays Toledo in the second round, intent on trying to pull off yet another upset in a MAC Tournament that feels quite volatile at the moment.