Mid-American Conference Tournament Preview

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Mid-American Conference Tournament Preview

Four out the top-four seeds in the MAC Conference Tourney were decided by the Kent State vs. Akron game on Friday night, in which the Golden Flashes won in convincing fashion, 74-61.  All though this was a closely contested conference all throughout the season, Kent's win at Akron makes them the team to beat at this point in the season.  Akron was relegated to the 3rd seed in the tourney, because the 2nd seed goes to MAC West Champion Central Michigan.  The MAC East is far and above the better division in this conference.

The Stakes

One automatic tournament bid to the NCAA tournament.  Uno.  This is what happens when almost your entire conference is hovering around a .500 overall record.

The Locale

First round at campus sites, quarterfinals start at Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH.

Names You Should Know

Chris Singletary, Kent State - Is the consummate senior leader at the point position for the Golden Flashes.  He is not only the best assist guy in the MAC averaging just over 4.1 apg, he's also the best at stealing the ball on defense at a rate of 1.9 spg.  Just for kicks, he also averages 11.7 ppg and 4.9 rpg.

Jimmy Conyers, Akron - The forward came out of nowhere and became the glue that the Zips were looking for to hold this team together throughout the season.  The hardworking senior almost averages a double-double for UA with 9.9 ppg and 6.8 rpg.

Kenny Hayes, Miami - Here's a guy that has been playing so long in this conference I'm almost certain that he's got a bit of grey in his stache.  Although the Redhawks have a losing record because of an impossible non-conference schedule, they are still a threat to make something happen with Hayes running the offense averaging 14.6 ppg and 3.2 apg.

Rodney Pierce, Buffalo - There may not be a single player that means so much potentially to a team's success in the tournament.  Pierce leads the Bulls with 19.1 ppg and 5.1 apg and could push the Bulls as far as he wants to take them.

David Kool, Western Michigan - The one-man wrecking crew for the Broncos has been making MAC teams look silly for years.  He leads the conference in scoring averaging 21.0 ppg, along with 4.0 rpg, 2.6 apg and 1.8 spg.  If things fall right for Kool, he could find himself in a semifinal matchup against Akron.

Tournament Outlook

The conference is beginning to look like it's Kent State looking over the head of all the other contenders to get the automatic bid.  They win games with an efficient offense, but the real feather in their cap comes in their toughness on the defensive end of things.  Offense comes and goes, but defense is where teams make their case when it comes to the MAC Tourney.

The lower bracket is pretty easy to figure out.  It's going to be #1 Kent over #5 Buffalo in the semifinals, because the Bulls don't play much defense.  The upper bracket is a bit more wide-open.  The three directional schools of Michigan (#2 Central, #7 Western, #6 Eastern) hope to make their claim, but won't bring enough to the table.  Whoever wants to win that division has to get through #3 Akron, who will decidedly have a home advantage in Cleveland.

In terms of experience, Akron and Buffalo matched up in the last championship game, with Akron getting the bid.  However, Kent's been to the tourney as recently as 2008 and was the conference's last Cinderella team making the Final Four back in 2002.

The darkhorse of the tournament would have to be #11 Northern Illinois.  If their talented yet underachieving offense can finally play together as a team and play even a speck of defense, they could sneak their way into the semifinals.  Watch out for Colorado transfer Xavier Silas (19.7 ppg) to take this team completely on his shoulders.

The Bracket

Sunday, March 6 - First Round (Higher Seed Campus Sites)
No. 10 Bowling Green at No. 7 Western Michigan, 2 p.m.
No. 11 Northern Illinois at No. 6 Eastern Michigan, 2 p.m.
No. 9 Ohio at No. 8 Ball State, 2 p.m.
No. 12 Toledo at No. 5 Buffalo, 2 p.m.

Thursday, March 11 - Quarter Finals (Cleveland, Ohio)
No. 2 Central Michigan vs. No. 7/No. 10 Seed Winner, Noon
No. 3 Akron vs. No. 6/No. 11 Seed Winner, 2 p.m.*
No. 1 Kent State vs. No. 8/No. 9 Seed Winner, 7 p.m.
No. 4 Miami vs. No. 5/No. 12 Seed Winner, 9 p.m.*

Friday, March 12 - Semi Finals (Cleveland, Ohio)
Semifinal No. 1, 7 p.m.
Semifinal No. 2, 9 p.m.*

Saturday, March 13 - Final (Cleveland, Ohio)
Championship Game, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)

Mike Breese covers the Northern Illinois Huskies at Red and Black Attack

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