MAC Basketball Primer

The Men's Basketball season is finally upon us with regular season games starting on November 15 when Northern Illinois competes in the NABC Classic. Broncos Illustrated takes a look at the state of men's basketball within the Mid-American Conference for the 2002-'03 season.

The Mid-American Conference is loaded with talent, and is eager to prove that the conference deserves more then one team in the NCAA tournament. For the past two seasons only one team has made the 64-team "March Madness" and Kent St. was that team both of the last two years. The pride of the MAC last year set a MAC record with 30 wins in the season that was capped with a 17 game winning streak that was ended in the NCAA Elite 8 by Indiana. Other teams in post-season action were Bowling Green and Ball State, who both participated in the NIT tournament.

Some of the happenings this summer include Kent St. losing its head coach Stan Heath to Arkansas after the NCAA tournament, the Broncos of Western Michigan went to Europe for a couple weeks of games, and Dan Dakich signed a 5-year contract extension at Bowling Green. BGSU along with having to replace 4 senior standouts from last year has to also cope with the loss of Erik Crawford who has quit the team.

Here are some of the things to look for in the upcoming season. The Huskies of Northern Illinois will be playing its games in the brand new 10,000-seat Convocation Center. 2001-'02 MAC freshman of the year Ben Reed of Western Michigan has recovered from leg surgery after a season ending ACL injury. Look for Eastern Michigan's Ricky Cottrill to make a bid against Brandon Hunter and Theron Smith for MAC. Bowling Green, who represented the MAC in the 2001 NIT along with Ball State, will be in rebuilding mode this year, but don't expect them to be a pushover. Miami of Ohio and the University of Ohio should duke it out for the east division title with Kent State close behind. In the west Ball State is the clear favorite to win that division, but Western Michigan and Toledo will have a lot to say about that, as all three teams are solid with great leadership.

One of the new thing to look for in the first ever Bracket Buster Saturday with televised competition between several of the nations mid-major athletic schools. Ball State, Bowling Green, Marshall, and Kent State, will compete in this event from the MAC. 18 teams from 7 conferences will participate in the day of competition, which was created to give more exposure to the mid-major schools playing. The ultimate goal of the Bracket Buster Saturday is to get more mid-major schools into the NCAA field of 64 teams by giving the selection committee a chance to see some of these teams play head to head.

Schedule highlights for the upcoming season include a chance that Western Michigan may play #3 Oklahoma in the Sooner Invitational on November 23. Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Western Michigan, and Bowling Green all play games at Michigan in non-conference action. Central Michigan takes on Valparaiso on December 23, and Toledo visits Michigan St. on December 30. Miami takes on Cincinnati, Kent State plays Boston College, and Bowling Green plays Cleveland State all at Gund Arena in Cleveland on December 28. Also on that Saturday Marshall will travel to Massachusetts. The remaining non-conference highlights happen when Indiana hosts Ball State on December 31, and Ohio plays Kentucky on January 4.

MAC tournament time begins on March 10 with games played at campus sites. The action then moves to Gund Arena in Cleveland for games on March 13, 14, and 15. The championship game on March 15 is slated for a 7pm start with coverage by ESPN2.

Preseason All-MAC teams:

East
F, Brandon Hunter (6' 7", 260 lbs., Sr.) Ohio
F, Antonio Gates (6' 5", 240 lbs., Sr.) Kent State
F, Andy Hipsher (6' 8", 209 lbs., Jr.) Akron
G, Ronald Blackshear (6' 5", 210 lbs., Jr.) Marshall
G, Juby Johnson (6' 5", 203 lbs., Jr.) Miami

West
F, Theron Smith (6' 8", 225 lbs., Sr.) Ball State
C, Chris Kaman (7' 0", 255 lbs., Sr.) Central Michigan
G, Ricky Cottrill (6' 3", 195 lbs., Jr.) Eastern Michigan
G, Nick Moore (6' 1", 188 lbs., Sr.) Toledo
G, Robby Collum (6' 1", 205 lbs., Sr.) Western Michigan

Preseason MAC Media Poll:

(#) = First place votes.

East:

1 - Ohio (22) 199
2 - Miami (5) 166
3 - Kent State (7) 155
4 - Marshall (1) 94
5 - Akron (1) 89
6 - Buffalo 58

West:

1 - Ball State (33) 249
2 - Western Michigan 191
3 - Toledo (3) 155
4 - Northern Illinois 126
5 - Bowling Green 117
6 - Central Michigan 113
7 - Eastern Michigan 50

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