MAC Hoops Report: And Then There Was One Print E-mail
Written by Dave Ruthenberg   
Tuesday, January 22 2008
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Buffalo is still looking to corral its first MAC win./Photo: Andrew Weber
It only took four games in the highly competitive world of MAC hoops to knock all but one team from the ranks of the conference unbeatens. Akron currently sits at 4-0 as the Zips sit atop the conference as the lone undefeated team in conference play. On the flip side, Buffalo is the only MAC squad without a conference win at 0-4. We have all of the latest MAC basketball news and updates right here.

Showdown in the East

The first real showdown of the early season takes place in northeast
Ohio as crosstown rivals Akron and Kent State meet Wednesday night when the Golden Flashes host the Zips at the M.A.C. Center. The Zips currently occupy the top spot in the East at 4-0 (14-3 overall) while Kent State sits one game back at 3-1 in conference play (14-4 overall).

The two schools have put up some pretty impressive numbers recently.

Over the past three seasons both schools have averaged better than twenty wins per season and have splt division honors recently as well with Kent State claiming the MAC East in 2005-2006 and Akron winning the divisional crown last season. Kent State also owns a MAC-record steak of nine straight seasons with twenty or more victories.

The series between Akron and Kent State has been extremely competitive over the years with Kent State holding a 62-60 edge in 122 all-time meetings between the schools but Akron may have history on its side.

The Zips have won four straight against Kent State. Their recent success includes their MAC East clinching win at Kent State in the season finale last year when the Zips upended the Flashes, 66-64 in overtime. Akron then followed that up by eliminating Kent State in last year's MAC Tournament Semifinals, 61-54. Kent State last defeated Akron at home on February 4, 2006.

Both teams have aspirations of making it to the NCAA Tournament but the Flashes will need to hold serve on their homecourt to avoid going down two games to the Zips and facing an uphill battle to the Big Dance. As we are all too familiar with, the MAC has not secured multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament since 1999 but with both squads apparently well on their way to surpassing twenty wins this season, each could make a case for an at-large bid with a strong showing during conference play and on into the MAC Tournament in March.

There's a lot on the line already in this early season showdown which should feature plenty of offense. Akron is averaging a league-best 74.1 points per game with Kent State fourth in the MAC, averaging 69.3 points.

A Third Postseason Tournament
Move over NIT, there is another postseason tournament option this season.

The College Basketball Invitational is slated to debut this year and will run concurrently with the NCAA Tournament and National Invitation Tournament which could be good news for the MAC, especially with the NIT field reduction from 40 to 32 teams which went into effect last season.

With the NIT, wholly owned by the NCAA by the way, reducing its field and being used as a backup to guarantee that a conference's regular season champion is ensured of no less than a berth in the National Invitation Tournament if it fails to win its conference tournament, things became increasingly difficult for the so-called mid-majors to gain entry into the postseason party. Just ask Akron which last season finished 26-7 but was left out completely since Toledo, which had won the MAC regular season crown, was slotted into the NIT when they lost in the MAC tournament. 

Hoping to offer an alternative to the NIT, and potentially issuing invitations to many of the same teams that could receive NIT bids, the newly devised College Basketball Invitational (CBI)will be a 16-team, single elimination event and will consist of teams not selected to the 65-team NCAA Tournament field. The new tournament's bracketing will be broken down into four geographic regions (East, West, South and Midwest). The opening round is scheduled to begin March 18 and the tournament will conclude with a best-of-three championship series. Click here for a sample bracket.

Tournament organizers have indicated that they will not wait for the NIT to announce their selections but will instead announce their field following announcement of the NCAA's field of sixty-five.

The CBI will be managed by the Gazelle Group, which currently operates several preseason tournaments such as the O'Reilly Auto Parts College Basketball Classic, the 2K Sports Hoops Classic and the Blue Ribbon Challenge.

Readers Choice:
Akron is the Beast of the East
Our second round of online poling of our readers has concluded and the readers have spoken, selecting Akron as the favorite to win the MAC East this year. We do suspect a fair amount of ballot-stuffing, but we appreciate the additional traffic. Last week our readers selected Central Michigan in the West.

The most recent results are below:

1. Akron
2. Kent State
3. Bowling Green
4. Ohio
5. Miami
6. Buffalo

This week we ask whether the MAC will receive multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament this season. The MAC has not received multiple bids since 1999. To vote in this week's poll click the box labeled "Polls" in the top right hand corner of this page.

Tracking the RPI and SOS
Checking in on the latest numbers...

For games played through January 21, 2008, the MAC has three schools (Ohio, Kent State and Miami) currently ranked within the Top 65 in RPI. Miami, Ohio and Toledo also have schedules rated as being in top 50 in terms of strength of schedule.

Below is the breakdown of each MAC squad's RPI and Strength of Schedule (SOS):

Kent State
Central Michigan
Western Michigan
Bowling Green
Eastern Michigan
Ball State
Northern Illinois
Overall the MAC is currently ranked 13th in RPI and 4th in non-conference SOS out of 31 conferences.

Players of the Week
The MAC announced its choices for players of the week for games played between January 15-21, 2008:

ohio_tillman_small.jpgMAC East Player of the Week:
Jerome Tillman, F, Ohio

For the second consecutive week, Ohio junior forward Jerome Tillman has been selected as the MAC East Player of the Week. Tillman continued his strong play this season by averaging 19 points and six rebounds in games this past week against Akron and Kent State. Tillman, who is fourth in the MAC this season in field goal percentage, also shot 56% from the field and connected on 9-11 free throw attempts. Tillman also currently sits fifth in the league in both rebounding and free throw percentage.


MAC West Player of the Week:
Giordan Watson, G, Central Michigan

Giordan Watson collected his third MAC West Player of the Week honor by averaging 26 points per game, including a season-high 29 points in Central Michigan's recent victory over Northern Illinois. Watson also connected on eight three pointers and hit a couple of career milestones as he became the only player in MAC history to record more than 1,500 points, 400 assists and 175 steals in his collegiate career. For the season, Watson currently sits in the top five in the MAC several categories, including scoring (2nd); assists (5th); steals (5th) and three point field goal percentage (3rd).

Infirmary Report:

**Buffalo junior F Vadim Fedotov has been lost for the season with a torn ACL that will require surgical repair. Fedotov started in the Bulls' first fourteen games this season and averaged 5.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

**Miami F Michael Bramos sat out the RedHawks' 64-57 victory over Buffalo after re-injuring his left ankle in the last seconds of Miami's game against Kent State. It is the same ankle that Bramos injured December 15 against Wright State and caused him to miss two games. Bramos is currently fourth in the MAC in scoring, averaging 15.9 points per game.

**Meanwhile, RedHawks sophomore G/F Antonio Ballard has elected to redshirt this season after struggling to overcome an injury that has kept him out of action this season. Ballard appeared in fifteen games last season.

**Ohio senior G Bubba Walther (11.1 ppg, 3.4 apg) sat out the Bobcats' victory over Kent State with a reported concussion suffered when his head struck the floor after attempting a three-point shot at the end of Ohio's loss at Akron January 20. He is listed as day-to-day.

Climbing in the Polls
Akron comes in fifth and Kent State ninth in the latest Mid-Major Top 25 Poll. Ohio also climbed into the Top 25 this week, placing 21st in the weekly coaches poll. Eastern Michigan head coach Charles Ramsey and Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins each have votes in the weekly poll..

Rough Starts
Buffalo's 0-4 start in conference play is its worst start since opening MAC play 0-5 during the 2003-2004 season. Last season the Bulls lost seven of their first eight conference games and are currently the only MAC squad without a conference victory.

MAC Individual Statistical Leaders (through January 20, 2008)


Tyrone Kent
Giordan Watson
Central Michigan
Tim Pollitz
Leon Williams
Michael Bramos

Michael Redell
Western Michigan
Michael Allen
Carlos Medlock
Eastern Michigan
Al Fisher
Kent State
Giordan Watson
Central Michigan

Leon Williams
Jeremiah Wood
Haminn Quaintance
Kent State
Joe Reitz
Western Michigan
Jerome Tillman
FG Pct.

Haminn Quaintance
Kent State
Leon Williams
Quade Milum
Jeremiah Wood
Tim Pollitz
Free Throw Pct.

Bubba Walther
Nick Dials
Mike Scott
Kent State
Michael Bramos
Jerome Tillman
3 Point FG Pct.

Justin Orr
Rashad Woods
Kent State
Giordan Watson
Central Michigan
Derek Drews
Western Michigan
David Kool
Western Michigan

Jonathan Amos
Chris Singletary
Kent State
Tyrone Kent
Haminn Quaintance
Kent State
Giordan Watson
Central Michigan

This Week's MAC Schedule

Tuesday, January 22
Ball State at Northern Illinois, 7:00 pm
Central Michigan at Western Michigan , 7:00 pm (ESPNU)
Toledo at Eastern Michigan, 7:00 pm (Comcast Local)

Wednesday, January 23
Akron at Kent State, 7:00 pm (Time Warner)
Miami at Bowling Green, 7:00 pm
Ohio at Buffalo, 7:00 pm

Saturday, January 26
Ball State at Ohio, 2:00 pm
Akron at Central Michigan, 2:30 pm (FSN Ohio)
Michigan at Miami, 4:00 pm
Buffalo at Toledo, 7:00 pm

Sunday, January 27
Northern Illinois at Bowling Green, 2:00 pm
Western Michigan at Kent State, 2:00 pm

Note: All times local

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