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MAC East- What’s Next?


The Madness is over...for now. March is always a crazy basketball month and this one was no different. With MAC basketball now in its offseason, it’s time to take a look back at this season and a very, very early look at what’s ahead in 2010-11. Today, it’s the MAC East…


Ohio Bobcats

How they finished: On the shoulders of Armon Bassett and eventually D.J. Cooper, 9-seed Ohio tore down higher seed after higher seed in Cleveland, becoming the lowest seed to win the MAC Championship. They didn’t stop there though. The 14-seed Bobcats were the lowest seed to advance to the Tournament’s second round, getting the MAC some national recognition with their big upset of the Big East’s Georgetown. But the dream ended on the second day of action in Providence, as the long, athletic Volunteers controlled the paint and shut down the Bassett/Cooper combo.

What’s next?: Well, the big (but unofficial) news is that it appears Armon Bassett may be leaving the team to go pro. Bassett made an indelible mark in just a year in Athens and would be missed but certainly not be irreplaceable. D.J. Cooper was the Bobcats’ best player and earned All-Freshman honors both on the MAC and national level. Stephen Coleman will return from a hand injury that kept him out for all of MAC season. If his past production is any indication, Coleman should be able to fill Bassett’s scoring void and provide a more difficult matchup as a 2/3. Only one senior, Kenneth Van Kempen, leaves Ohio. The void inside will be filled by DeVaughn Washington and freshmen Ivo Baltic and Reggie Keely, along with Providence transfer Alex Kellogg. Alex won’t be the only Kellogg on the roster next year, as brother Nick is part of John Groce’s second recruiting class, which may be even better than his first. Kellogg and guard Ricardo Johnson are highly touted and could provide first-year impacts. Johnson is one to really watch. He could bring the Bobcats another asset at the 3, where they struggled this past season.


Miami Redhawks

How they finished: A final game victory over Buffalo secured the Redhawks a bye straight to Cleveland and the MAC Tournament’s quarterfinals. After another easy victory over the Bulls, Miami ran into Ohio, and saw its season end at the hands of its rival in a slow, defensive (or lack of offense) struggle.

What’s next: The fifth-year senior and team leader Kenny Hayes departs, leaving a big hole. Hayes was the team’s leading scorer and assist man. Rising sophomores Orlando Williams and Allen Roberts are good candidates to fill the void at guard. Inside, Julian Mavunga will be a junior and fill a bigger role. He has already proven himself but will need to be an even bigger part of the Miami scoring and defensive attack. Incoming freshmen Josh Sewell and Quentin Rollins could make themselves known quickly in Oxford.



Bowling Green Falcons

How they finished: With a final game loss to Ohio, the Falcons clinched their place in the MAC East’s cellar and 10 th overall in the conference. In their first round MAC Tournament game in Kalamazoo, they kept David Kool in check for the first half but his 15 points in the second half lifted Western Michigan to victory and ended Bowling Green’s campaign.

What’s next: Bowling Green will be without its three main interior presences, Otis Polk, Mark Larson and Erik Marschall. The biggest loss will be Polk, who was an efficient shooter, strong rebounder and good defender. The three returning upperclassmen are the only known quantities for the Falcons. Dee Brown and Scott Thomas were the Falcons’ leading scorers. Thomas, however, will have to improve his three-point shot selection. Joe Jakubowski is back at the point and should provide some stability there. But there will be many question marks for Bowling Green. Rising sophomores A’uston Calhoun and Danny McElroy have not played much but will need to replace the slack of the graduating big guys. If not, the guards will have more weight on their backs than they can carry.

Kent State Golden Flashes

How they finished: They looked unstoppable going into the MAC Tournament. Then, like much of the rest of the MAC East, they ran into the hottest team in the conference, Ohio. A commanding final game victory over Akron placed Kent State as the top seed and favorite going to Cleveland. But Kent State not only lost to Ohio in the MAC Tournament quarterfinals; they were handled in an 81-64 loss. However, as regular season MAC Champion, Kent State earned a berth in the NIT. There, they got a one-point home victory over Tulsa before finishing the season with a loss to Illinois in Champaign.

What’s next: While Chris Singletary and Tyree Evans have played their last collegiate games, a couple of key players will be back. Justin Greene emerged as not only Kent State’s best player throughout this season but one of the MAC’s best. He led the team in both scoring and rebounding and will be a valuable component in his junior season. Wing Rodriguez Sherman also comes back for his senior year. Kent State will need more consistent play and better shooting from him. But losing six of the nine regulars from the rotation will be a challenge for the Golden Flashes. A returner to pay attention to is Randall Holt, who saw a good deal of playing time as a freshman and will be asked to make up some of the lost output of Singletary and Evans. Guards can come into a program and make an impact right away, so watch for a pair of well-rated Illinois shooting guards, Carlton Guyton and Eric Gaines, to contribute come MAC time.


Akron Zips

How they finished: The three-seed in the MAC Tournament, Akron found itself in close battles throughout its run. In the quarterfinals, it took a Steve McNees buzzer-beater in the first overtime and two overtime periods to conquer Eastern Michigan. In the semifinals, it took a Chris McKnight putback with just over 6 seconds left to beat Eastern Michigan. But the close game heroics were not enough in the Championship game. Steve McNees made another end-of-game three to send it overtime. But there the magic dust ran dry and Akron again fell a game short of the NCAA Tournament. They did get a bid to the CBI but lost 70-66 in a first round home game to Green Bay.

What’s next: Akron will again be among the favorites to win the MAC. The Zips had solid depth and spread the scoring around, which will work in their favor going forward. Daryl Roberts, Jimmy Conyers and Chris McKnight will be gone but no one guy was needed to carry Akron. While Chris will be gone, brother Brett McKnight returns for his senior campaign and should be one of the MAC’s best players. Point guard Humpty Hitchens improved his ball handling in year two and looks to improve even more as an upperclassman. The cast of role players, including Nik Cvetinovic, Steve McNees and Brett McClanahan will continue to fit in nicely. The guy to really watch is Zeke Marshall. In his freshman season, Marshall showed glimpses of what made him the most highly-touted MAC recruit in awhile. If the 7-footer goes through a good offseason weight-training regime, he could become an imposing force on defense and the boards.


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Buffalo Bulls

How they finished: The Bulls could not figure out how to beat Miami in the month of March…and it meant the end of their season. After a loss to the Redhawks in the regular season’s final contest coupled with Akron’s loss to Kent State, Buffalo was forced to play on Sunday to earn a spot in Cleveland. They easily took care of 12-seed Toledo. But in Cleveland they ran into Miami again. And again Buffalo fell to the Redhawks, this time with no more chances on the table.

What’s next: Defensive shortcomings plagued Buffalo all season long and ultimately crushed them in their MAC Tournament defeat. The Bulls allowed Miami to shoot 57% from the field in that game, compared to their own 37%. Next year, Buffalo suffers a big loss with no more Rodney Pierce, their leader for the past two seasons. Just as key had been departing senior Calvin Betts, who was both a good scorer and rebounder. In fact, most of the Bulls’ veteran core will be gone, with John Boyer, Max Boudreau and Sean Smiley also graduating. The highest scorer returning to Buffalo is Titus Robinson, who averaged 5.8 PPG. Reggie Witherspoon has worked with young teams before and there may be some frustration with his players in 2010-11. Jawaan Alston is the lone senior and a bunch of rising juniors will be asked to carry weight they have not before. Young teams can be successful as shown by Ohio’s MAC Tournament run this past season but it may take time for it to come together.




By Connor Kiesel
VanDelay Sports Staff Writer