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2010 MAC Tournament Preview


1. Kent State (23-8, 13-3)

Star player: Justin Greene

X-Factor: Anthony Simpson

In Kent State’s biggest game of the year thus far, Simpson had his biggest. He scored 23 points on nine of 13 shooting and added nine rebounds. The senior is shooting a robust 50.8% from the field for the season and can create a potent tandem paired with Greene.

Strengths: Depth, high risk, high reward defense, assist/turnover ratio

Weaknesses: Field goal percentage

Kent State is not only the hottest team in the MAC; it is one of the hottest teams in the country. The Golden Flashes have won 13 of their last 14. Sophomore Justin Greene has become a primetime player. He has been absolutely phenomenal in MAC play and taken the Flashes to an elite level. Kent has an array of options outside of Greene, with Chris Singletary, Tyree Evans, Rodriguez Sherman and Simpson. Kent is in the middle of the pack in defense but makes up for it with its turnover creation. This is a tournament where the East’s top two appear to be well above the rest and after Friday night, Kent State is the definite favorite.

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2. Central Michigan (15-14, 9-7)

Star players: Robbie Harman and Jordan Bitzer (you can’t say one without the other)

X-Factor: Marko Spica

Spica has had a solid season coming back from injury. Where his X-factor area lies could be in providing an interior option to the guard duo. Spica had some big games earlier in the season but has been rather quiet since then.

Strengths: Best backcourt in the MAC, 3 pt. shooting, creating turnovers

Weaknesses: 3 pt. FG defense, FG shooting

Central showed issues closing out the game against Eastern Michigan but got the help it needed to go straight into the tournament’s quarterfinals. That guard duo of Harman and Bitzer is absolutely dynamic. It has been the play of these two that has elevated Central to its perch as MAC West champ. They lead a strong 3 pt. shooting attack that can muster a lot of points quickly. The two guards should be able to propel Central through its quarterfinal game but the semis will be a tough task.

 

3. Akron (22-9, 12-4)

Star player: Brett McKnight

X-Factor: Steve McNees

The senior can play an important role coming in at point guard or getting on a roll shooting from three. He is by no means an every game threat but if he gets going from beyond the arc, Akron should ride him.

Strengths: Field goal percentage offense and defense, depth, rebounding,

Weaknesses: Free throw shooting

Akron has lost both times to top seed Kent State. But that doesn’t mean the Zips, defending tournament champs, are still not fierce contenders. Akron does not do much poorly (besides its frightening problems at the line). They play good defense and spread the ball around on offense. They are not reliant on one guy every single night, which bodes well in a short rest situation. Look for Akron to make its way head first toward a third collision with Kent State.

 

4. Miami (13-17, 9-7)

Star player: Kenny Hayes

X-Factor: Nick Winbush

The sophomore has that ability to turn it on and spur Miami. The most memorable instance of this was his 26-point, eight made threes performance in giving Kentucky a real scare in Lexington. If he finds his stroke from downtown, it adds a valuable element to Miami’s offensive attack.

Strengths: Hayes’ experience, scoring defense, free throw shooting

Weaknesses: Rebounding margin, turnover margin

Miami has nailed down its game on offense (third in the MAC in FG %) and defense (second in the MAC in scoring defense). While Miami is near the top in those fundamental areas, it is struggling in others. The rebounding margin is a key stat where Miami is greatly struggling. The Redhawks are second to last in offensive rebounding. They need to pull down some more boards on the offensive side and keep possessions alive. Kenny Hayes will do his best to keep his collegiate career alive. But he needs help from Julian Mavunga and one of the other wings for Miami to make some noise.

 

5. Buffalo (17-11, 9-7)

Star player: Rodney Pierce

X-Factor: John Boyer

Filling the shoes of departed senior Greg Gamble did not look to be an easy task. But Boyer has carved out a solid niche. In ten of Buffalo’s 17 wins, Boyer has had five assists or more. When Buffalo is able to move the ball around in its offense, it is successful. At the point, Boyer is a key to that.

Strengths: Shooting percentage, Ball distribution, assist/turnover ratio

Weaknesses: Overall defense, 3 pt. FG defense

It is tough to project the Bulls going too far with their spotty defensive performances. Teams that struggle to hold down the opponent’s scoring attack generally do not do well in a playoff situation in any sport. In eight of its nine MAC wins, Buffalo had held the opponent under 70 points. In all seven of its losses, the opposing squad has scored 70 or more. It’s a simple trend but one that has been a strong indicator of Buffalo’s result. It is hard to see Buffalo going far unless they figure out a way to play tight defense for a string of four games.

 

6. Eastern Michigan (16-14, 8-8)

Star player: Brandon Bowdry

X-Factor: Carlos Medlock

Medlock has become the Allen Iverson of the Eagles. He scores a lot but does it hoisting up a lot of shots. Scoring in double-digits has become the norm for Medlock. He has in the last 16 games. While he has taken ten or more shots in thirteen of those contests, he also earns opportunities at the line. In three of Eastern’s wins this month, Medlock’s numbers at the line: 10/12, 9/13, 11/17. Getting those easy chances at the charity stripe rather than an abundance of shots may be a good omen for the Eagles.

Strengths: The scoring trifecta of Bowdry, Medlock, Higgins

Weaknesses: 3 pt. shooting, FG defense

Eastern missed a golden opportunity to go straight to Cleveland, losing its final game to Central Michigan. The Eagles had multiple chances to get the win but failed to convert any of them. Now, Eastern has to win four games in a row, something it has not done at any point this season. It will have to quickly rebound from that heartbreaking loss. The Eagles shouldn’t have too much trouble with the skidding Huskies in the first round.


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7. Western Michigan (16-14, 8-8)

Star player: David Kool

X Factor: Donald Lawson

Lawson, the senior center, could provide Western with a rebounding spark. He averages 7.3 RPG. He has had nine double-digit rebounding games.

Strengths: The Kool Factor, free throw shooting, rebounding margin

Weaknesses: 3 pt. field goal percentage and threes made

It’s all about David Kool. This will be the senior’s swan song. Like Miami’s Kenny Hayes, Kool has been here many times before and would love nothing more than to finish his run with a tournament championship. Kool is averaging 21 PPG, 4 RPG, 2.6 APG and 1.7 assists per game. It is quite simple for the Broncos; they will go as far as Kool can take them. The first round matchup with Bowling Green will not be easy but a win here puts them in line to face Central in the quarters rather than Kent or Akron.

 

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

Star player: Jarrod Jones

X Factor: Randy Davis

The freshman has improved his play exponentially this season. He has gone from a 26.8 FG % to over 40% in 2009-10. However, there is always the fear that Davis will revert back to old ways and get cold in a given game, as in when he went 0-7 against Miami or 1-7 against UT-Martin. Davis has gone from taking four or five shots a game to seven or more in each of Ball State’s last nine games. The Cardinals cannot afford him to get cold if he continues to be more part of the offense.

Strengths: Overall defense, 3 pt. defense, rebounding margin

Weaknesses: Turnover margin, scoring slumps

Ball State has lost its last three, not a good way to go into the tournament. The 45-42 loss to Toledo was alarming and exposed Ball State’s biggest flaw, its offensive deficiencies. In that game Ball State shot 15.8 percent in the first half. One offensive breakdown like that now and the season is over. The potential is there for Ball State. The Cardinals showed it during their four game win streak against East division squads. They showed it in an overtime loss to Akron. But Jarrod Jones has to be a presence the whole way through for success to follow.

 

9. Ohio (17-14, 7-9)

Star player: D.J. Cooper

X-Factor: Tommy Freeman

When Freeman gets a hot hand from three, he has propelled Ohio to victory. He had a huge game-winning three against Miami and has given the Bobcats momentum with his threes. Freeman is the MAC’s most efficient three-point shooter, so it would be wise to get him involved.

Strengths: Cooper’s playmaking, 3 pt. shooting, assist/turnover ratio

Weaknesses: Inexperience, lack of a consistent interior presence

Ohio is a team that has flashed signs of greatness and then fallen back to being average. They’ve lost a bunch of halftime leads and ultimately, close games. Eight of its 14 losses have been by five or less. The Bobcats only have one senior, KVK and their youth and depth issues have caught up at points. The loss of Steven Coleman has really depleted their depth at the 3. Two freshmen, Reggie Keely and Ivo Baltic, have been asked to provide quality minutes inside. The Bobcats’ guard play is the strength, with Cooper and Armon Bassett. But two juniors, DeVaughn Washington and Freeman will play a profound part in Ohio’s outcome. If Freeman gets hot from three and Washington can continue his post-suspension play, the Bobcats could pull an upset or two.

 

10. Bowling Green (14-15, 6-10)

Star player: Dee Brown

X-Factor: Scott Thomas

Thomas is the Falcons’ leading scorer but his 25.4% three-point shooting is concerning. He takes way too many three attempts (130) for the amount he hits. But Thomas is more important to Bowling Green as another rebounder and in drawing contact to get himself to the line.

Strengths: Field goal percentage

Weaknesses: 3 pt. shooting and defense

Bowling Green went from MAC regular season champion in 2008-09 to 10 th seed in this year’s tournament. The Falcons won at Kent State but that was back in January. They have a manageable first round matchup but must get Dee Brown the ball and get production inside from Otis Polk, one of the conference’s most efficient shooters.

 

11. Northern Illinois (10-19, 6-10)

Star player: Xavier Silas

X-Factor: Mike DiNunno

After a good freshman season, DiNunno has been a disappointment in his sophomore campaign. He has gone from 11.9 PPG to 6.8 PPG this season. His shooting percentages have dropped. He has become a better point guard though, improving his assist/turnover ratio. DiNunno has been off a bunch this season but if he rekindles the magic now maybe Northern Illinois can get a game.

Strengths: Assists, blocked shots

Weaknesses: Free throw shooting, field goal percentage offense and defense

After starting out as one of the MAC’s hottest teams, Northern Illinois didn’t just go cold; it froze. The Huskies started conference season 4-0. Then, ten straight losses, in four of which they allowed 90 or more points. Xavier Silas has proven to be Ricardo Patton’s best move yet. But his scorer’s touch cannot overcome poor defense, free throw shooting and sloppy play.

 

12. Toledo (4-27, 1-15)

Star player: Justin Anyijong

X-Factor: Jake Barnett

Some good scoring performances have been hindered by 37.2% shooting from the field and trouble holding onto the ball. Barnett has 2.9 turnovers to 1.6 assists per game. You never know how the freshman will react in this do-or-die format.

Strengths: No pressure, 3 pt. defense

Weaknesses: Youth, execution, rebounding, turnovers

It has been a long season for Gene Cross and the Rockets. A team made up of predominantly underclassmen has showed it. They finally got off the schneid for a conference win against Ball State but the Rockets’ fundamental flaws are still present. They have only won four games all season for a reason. However, they have nothing to lose in this tournament and probably got the best matchup they could have asked for in a Buffalo team they played close in the regular season.

 

2010 MAC Tournament Predictions

While the conference has seen parody and bunching within the middle of its standings, I think this tournament will go rather according to form.

1st Round

#9 Ohio over #8 Ball State

#5 Buffalo over #12 Toledo

#7 Western Michigan over #10 Bowling Green

#6 Eastern Michigan over #11 Northern Illinois

 

Quarterfinals

#1 Kent State over #9 Ohio

#2 Central Michigan over #7 Western Michigan

#3 Akron over #6 Eastern Michigan

#4 Miami over #5 Buffalo

 

Semifinals

#1 Kent State over #4 Miami

#3 Akron over #2 Central Michigan

 

MAC Championship Game

#1 Kent State over #3 Akron

 


For historical MAC Tournament winners, locations and venues check out the main MAC Basketball Tournament page here at VanDelay Sports!

 

 

By: Connor Kiesel
MAC Basketball Correspondent

 

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