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Preseason Thoughts and Rankings

MAC Pre-season Basketball
In honor of MAC media day, I figured it would be a good day to officially start this years blog on the college basketball season (plus I got a ton of time since I'm done with classes for the day). The Preseason Favorites were officially released today as well as the preseason All-MAC team. The All-MAC team is one that is very guard heavy but also represents 8 different schools in the MAC (Akron and Eastern Michigan being the only teams that has 2). Here is a list of the Preseason All-MAC team...

East Division All-MAC Preseason Team
Kenny Hayes, G, Miami
Brett McKnight, F, Akron
Rodney Pierce, G, Buffalo
Chris Singletary, G, Kent State
Anthony "Humpty" Hitches, G, Akron

West Division All-MAC Preseason Team
David Kool, G, Western Michigan
Jarrod Jones, F/C, Ball State
Brandon Bowdry, F, Eastern Michigan
Darion "Jake" Anderson, G, Northern Illinois
Carlos Medlock, G, Eastern Michigan

On to the more important matter...

The Preseason favorites/rankings is something that seems very familiar to all. The power of the conference is clearly in the East Division once again, and is shown by the picks for the MAC Tournament winner. Out of the 25 votes on who is predicted to win the MAC Tournament, only one of those picks given to a team from the west (Northern Illinois). 19 of those votes were given to the defending champs, Akron. The MAC's preseason poll is very similar to mine, but here is how I feel the Preseason poll should have looked...

1. Akron- With 4 starters returning (2 of them being named to the All-MAC team) and a 7 foot incoming freshman who was the 5th best center in the nation in high school, how do you not expect them to win the conference for the second straight year? With a very well rounded starting 5, the bench isn't all that impressive, but the top 7 or 8 players are clearly better than for any other team, and I don't expect them to go too much deeper than that. Ive seen Akron given a preseason rank as high as 52 in the country in some other polls, and with the experience and talent left over from last years team, expect them to move up higher than that. Of the 25 votes to win the MAC Tourney, 19 of them were given to Akron. Keith Dambrot knows how good his team is, and should be disappointed with anything less than another MAC Championship.

2. Kent State- Don't let last years 19-15 overall record fool you, Kent State is a very good basketball team that has proven that they know what they're doing. The loss of Al Fisher is a huge blow to this team, but don't think Geno Ford doesn't know how to fill those 15 points and 3.5 assists that is leaving his team in Fisher. Chris Singletary and Tyree Evans are 2 extremely good senior guards that have the leadership, experience, and skills to help lead Kent State back towards that 20 win plateau that they seem to always be at.

3. Buffalo- Ah yes, there is nothing like seeing Buffalo being ranked third in a preseason poll. Given the history of the city that were all so familiar with, you would expect that to mean a very large disappointment is soon to come...but I don't think that's the case this year. Personal bias since I love UB basketball wants me to have them 2nd, but Kent State always seems to know what they're doing, so UB is gonna have to settle with 3rd for now. Last year Buffalo led the conference in rebounding (like they always seem to do) but dramatically stepped up their game defensively. Greg Gamble and Andy Robinson were very good individual ball defenders, and their defensive presence will be greatly missed, but the progress of players such as Mitchell Watt and Titus Robinson should make up for it. Senior leadership, outstanding depth, what should be a confidence booster in having an easy non-conference schedule, and the ability to finally close out those close games could all be the keys to seeing their name show up on selection sunday.

4. Miami- The 4th straight Eastern Division team at the top of my preseason poll is the final team that I think has any real shot at winning the conference this year. Miami has a recent MAC Championship for those who don't remember with a team that wasn't so great on paper, just like this years squad. With Michael Bramos gone, points seem to be hard to come by for the RedHawks, but don't let that completely fool you. Kenny Hayes may very possibly be the best guard in the MAC, and will be slightly under the radar since he was only able to play in 8 games last year. With a 6'11" incoming freshman in Drew McGhee coming in and a wide array of talent at all positions, Miami seems to be one of those teams that you just cant tell where they'll finish. Having one of the tougher out of conference schedules in the MAC can help them prepare for mid-major competition. Hopefully for them the loss of Bramos wont impact their season too much.

5- Central Michigan- Picked to win the west this year, CMU is poised to hopefully be considered a really good team in the MAC this year, but the strength of the east isn't going to help their cause. Only playing the teams from the east once this year (just like every year) will help their conference record a good amount. With 3 returning starting guards in Bitzer, Harmon, and Weary they should have the best back court in the west. Its a shame their 4th guard Jeremy Allen (25.6 minutes, 8.5 points and 1 steal per game) had to transfer to FIU or else they would have had a real nice rotation of guys that are very reliable. Their best forward in Kellerman has been granted the right to come back for a 5th season because of a foot injury last year. This CMU squad should be able to surprise some people, and to me has the best chance of all MAC West teams to compete.

6. Eastern Michigan- I know people are going to think having EMU this high on the list is absolutely insane, but you gotta hear me out on this one. First of all, they're returning all 5 starters from last year, and were clearly the best team in the MAC West down the stretch last season. They have always been plagued by injuries some way or another, and it seems like the first time in forever that the team is actually healthy. Medlock and Bowdy are 2 outstanding players leading the way on the Preseason All-MAC team, and have really nice compliments in Cooper, and especially in the 245 pound Justin Dobbins. As a sophomore Bowdy racked up 14.8 points a game to go along with his 7.2 rebounds, and he should be able to improve upon that this season. As bad as it may sound, I'm really looking forward to seeing what Eastern can do this year, especially against Ohio State in December.

7. Bowling Green- Although 19-14 doesn't seem like too great a year in 08-09, but from the end of January on they were clearly the best playing team in the MAC. If it wasn't for the awful performance they put on against Akron in the conference tourney they very might have been the ones losing to Gonzaga in the NCAA tourney. Its a shame that last year wasn't the year for them, because they only have 2 returning starters from a team that wasn't very deep to begin with. Marc Larsen should do a very good job stepping into the starting rotation at forward, but losing 92 minutes!!!! from the starting line-up is difficult to replace no matter who you are. Its very hard to see where a consistency of point scoring is going to come from with the top 3 scorers all gone.

Western Michigan, Northern Illinois, and Ball Sate are all teams that haven't proven to be all too great. In my mind, the 3 of them are all just about on the same level, and having only seeing one of those teams live, its hard to judge who is the better out of the 3.

Ball State- The only reason I have them written down first is because they're the only of the 3 schools that beat Buffalo last year. They also made UB look awful in our own home arena 2 years ago. With only 2 returning starters (neither of them being seniors) its hard to imagine Ball State making much noise. For a team that doesn't have too much size, losing your best re bounder in Anthony Newell (9.4 boards a game)despite him only playing about half of last year is gonna be really hard for the Cardinals to compete this year. If I had to give them a spot, they would probably have to be about 10th best in the conference.

Northern Illinois- Having to face 3 different big 10 opponents, as well as very good mid-majors in Temple and Northern Iowa, NIU seems doomed to come into MAC play with an awful record. That being said, the luxury of returning 4 starters can be hue towards their development to being a good team this year, as well as next year since only one of them is a senior. Make no mistakes, Darion Anderson is one of the best guards in the entire conference, and his 17 points, 5.4 boards from last year should continue to increase as he gets older. Although it doesn't seem likely for them to be at the top of the conference, I would hate to have to play this team when the MAC tournament comes around.

Western Michigan- With a very deep roster last year, WMU proved to be a tough victory for a lot of schools last year, so don't let last years 10-21 record fool you. Because of much they played a bunch of players last year, its hard to figure out whose going to be starting for the Broncos this year. 10 different players had 10 or more minutes per game last year, with preseason All-MAC selection in David Kool leading the way with 34 mpg. Clearly he is the best player on the team, and has the size that's hard to find in other MAC school guards. At 6'3" 215, he should help the Broncos get off to a good start with a fairly easy non-conference schedule, but its hard to see this team having the firepower to compete with the big boys of the conference.

11. Ohio- To many MAC writers it would seem very sad to have to put Ohio this low in the polls, but since im in love with UB basketball it excites me to put the #11 spot next to Ohio's name. When you look at the roster, there aren't any of the terrifying big name players that just used to tear up against Buffalo. This years Freshman and Junior heavy squad doesn't seem to have any sort of "wow" factor that you can usually associate with Bobcat Basketball. Their only 10+ point scorers in Tillman and Orr have graduated, and for a team that wasn't very deep last year, this year looks like some of the freshman will get some nice playing time. At 6'8" and 225 pounds of good athleticism I think Devaguhn Washington can have an outstanding season for the Bobcats, but all in all I think the voters got it right by having them as the worst team in the MAC East. The students down in Athens Ohio shouldn't have the pleasure of singing their notorious "Winning team, Losing team" chant at the end of victories this year, since there shouldn't be too many.

12. Toledo- Luckily many of the readers were present as I was when the country saw how bad this Rockets team is when they put on a terrible performance on ESPN2 last year in Buffalo. Although Ive been staring at my laptop for a very long time now, and would like nothing more than to skip writing about toledo, it is only fair to point out some of their positives. Almost pulling off the shocker against the conference champs (Akron) in a 1 point loss in the MAC tourney seemed to be the only highlight of their 7 win season. Only 1 of their top 4 minutes leaders will return this season, but having one of the better/deeper incoming freshman classes should help provide them with a few sparks here and there. I expect their talented big man duo in Muohamad Lo and Justin Anyijong to lead the way in points for the Rockets this season.

Even though I am confident in this list being very accurate, anything can happen to anyone. Just look at Brittney Spears. She went from being completely hot and talented, to being the worlds biggest train wreck just like that. And then, for some reason shes back again, and really close to the top, and has her new songs all over the radio again (even some of her old songs). On my way to campus this morning I got to hear "Toxic" which completely made my day. Mostly because I was picturing her in what she wore in the music video, but that's besides the point...

Anyway, please feel free to comment whether you agree, disagree, have your own thoughts and input, whatever it may be. I'm a mere 21 year old college bball fanatic like many people out there, and I don't have the inside information Andy Katz may have, but I, like many of you, have watched pretty much all these teams in action. But all in all, comments and thoughts are greatly appreciated.