October 21, 2009

League preview: Mid-American Conference

Today, we continue our conference countdown. We're working backward, from our No. 31 league to the top league in the nation.

We started with the low-major leagues, unveiling three per day, and the mid-major leagues, unveiling two per day. Starting today, each of the top 12 leagues gets a day to itself.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
East
1. Akron
2. Buffalo
3. Kent State
4. Miami
5. Bowling Green
6. Ohio
West
1. Central Michigan
2. Ball State
3. Western Michigan
4. Eastern Michigan
5. Northern Illinois
6. Toledo
PRESEASON PICKS
First team
F/C Jarrod Jones, 6-9/230, Soph., Ball State
F Brandon Bowdry, 6-6/235, Jr., Eastern Michigan
G Darion Anderson, 6-2/203, Jr., Northern Illinois
G David Kool, 6-3/213, Sr., Western Michigan
G Rodney Pierce, 6-2/200, Sr., Buffalo
Second team
F Brett McKnight, 6-6/245, Jr., Akron
F Chris McKnight, 6-7/225, Sr., Akron
G Armon Bassett, 6-2/180, Jr., Ohio
G Kenny Hayes, 6-2/183, Sr., Miami
G Chris Singletary, 6-4/220, Sr., Kent State
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
G David Kool, 6-2/213, Sr., Western Michigan
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
G Armon Bassett, 6-2/180, Jr., Ohio
AT A GLANCE
Regular-season winner last season: Bowling Green and Buffalo in the East; Ball State, Central Michigan and Western Michigan in the West
Tournament winner last season: Akron (lost in first round of NCAA tournament to Gonzaga as a No. 13 seed)
2010 conference tournament: March 7, 11-13. First round at campus sites, then Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland.
New coach: None.
Best frontcourt: Akron.
Best backcourt: Northern Illinois.
Coach on the rise: Ernie Ziegler, Central Michigan.
Last NCAA tournament win: 2003, Central Michigan won a first-round game as a No. 11 seed.
What the Mid-American Conference lacks in star power, it makes up for in balance.

Last season, five of the six teams in the East Division were separated by a single game. The West Division featured a three-way tie for first. But a league known for its competitive balance does feature one obvious tilt: All the best teams are in the East Division.

Last year, five of the six teams in the East went 10-6 or better within the conference. Four of them won at least 19 games overall. Every team in the West finished below .500 in conference play and overall. And all the first-team all-conference players were from the East.

That formula could hold true again this season.

PROGRAM ON THE RISE
Akron: Perhaps it's cheating a little to hand this honor to a team that already has compiled four consecutive 20-win seasons, but the Zips seem ready to separate themselves from the rest of the conference. Akron returns four starters from last season's tournament champions.

PROGRAM ON THE DECLINE
Bowling Green: The Falcons won a share of the East Division regular-season title last year, but they lose their top three scorers and don't return anyone who averaged more than 7.7 points per game last season.

COACH ON THE HOT SEAT
Charles Ramsey, Eastern Michigan: The Eagles had made steady progress in each of Ramsey's first three seasons in Ypsilanti, but they took a big step backward last season by going 8-24 and finishing the season with an RPI of 318th. Eastern Michigan owns a 42-81 record in Ramsey's four seasons.

BIGGEST SNEAKERS TO FILL
Forward Jerome Tillman, Ohio: Tillman ranked third in the MAC in scoring (17.9) and second in rebounding (8.1) as a senior, so his departure creates a huge hole in the Bobcats' frontcourt. Ohio will use a committee approach to replace Tillman, but DeVaughn Washington shoulders the biggest responsibility.

MOST OVERRATED PLAYER
Guard Tyree Evans, Kent State: Evans, a former four-star prospect, originally signed with Maryland before his off-court baggage caused the Terps to shy away from him. He instead enrolled at Kent and averaged 11.7 points per game last season. That's not bad, but we expected such a highly touted recruit to make more of an impact.

MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER
Guard Carlos Medlock, Eastern Michigan: Medlock failed to earn first- or second-team all-conference honors two years ago despite ranking eighth in the MAC in scoring (14.8) and fourth in assists (4.1). When he sat out the 2008-09 season with a broken foot, his turnover-prone team went 8-24.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.




 

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