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MAC Notebook

March 11, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Mid-American Conference Notebook

by Adam Trumble

Tournament time is upon the Mid-American Conference as the bracket is set.

On Wednesday night, Central Michigan earned the No. 1 seed, and overall regular season crown when it knocked off Northern Illinois 73-57. The Chippewa victory combined with Ohio’s win against Miami (64-56) gave CMU the first round bye to Cleveland’s Gund Arena. On Saturday, the Chippewas exorcised some demons, knocking off Ball State 86-66 for their first win in Muncie in 18 years.

Kent State clinched its third straight MAC East Division title Saturday as Antonio Gates scored 24 points, including a jumper that put the Golden Flashes ahead for good in the second half in a 73-62 win over Ohio. Brandon Hunter led the Bobcats (12-15, 8-10) with 23 points and had 10 rebounds.

Marshall’s 17-6 run during the game’s final six minutes gave the Thundering Herd a 58-51 win over Miami, which booted a chance to claim a share of the East Division, but the RedHawks will settle for the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament, which earns them a first-round bye.

First-round contests

No. 10 Eastern Michigan won the only match-up between EMU and No. 7 Marshall earlier this season but that was at home where the Eagles have been a good team. Marshall should easily win this game and then fall to No. 2 seeded Kent State.

No. 6 Akron and No. 11 Ohio have had some battles this season as Ohio won at home 112-104 in four overtimes and then lost at Akron 86-82 in overtime. Look for this game to be more of the same, but the Bobcats will win behind another strong performance from Brandon Hunter. Hunter scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the loss and scored 30 and pulled down 26 rebounds in the four-overtime game. The winner will play No. 3 Miami. If Akron wins, look for Miami to walk all over the Zips having swept the season series but if the Bobcats win it could be the Bobcats pulling it out as the RedHawks have no answer to Hunter.

No. 8 Ball State hosts No. 9 Bowling Green and this could be the best game of the tournament, with the winner advancing to play Central Michigan. Ball State lost at Bowling Green but won by 15 at home, so look for Ball State to win. Neither team has been able to stop Kaman however and the quarterfinal game against CMU should be no different.

No. 5 Western Michigan hosts No. 12 Toledo. The Broncos and Rockets split the season series each winning at home. WMU should win this game if it shows up but the Broncos have been maddeningly inconsistent this year. The winner gets the winner of No. 4 Northern Illinois and No. 13 Buffalo.

If this game was at Buffalo, I would take the Bulls because they are starting to come together but it is at Northern Illinois so the Huskies — who have been faltering — should bounce back and win.

After Kent State defeats Marshall they should beat Miami or Ohio and advance to the finals where they should meet the Chippewas. However, the Chippewas have never won a game at Gund Arena, but with Kaman in the middle and the hot shooting by the guards this could be Central’s year.

If not, the Chippewas have locked up a NIT bid. Kent State also has a good resume for the NIT, but only the winner of the tournament will make the NCAA Tournament. If CMU loses in the finals, it might have a chance for an at-large bid, but will need some major help.

Hoopville’s MAC player of the week

Central Michigan’s seven-foot center Chris Kaman. Kaman averaged 29 points and 18 rebounds with 4 blocks a game, putting him in the driver’s seat for MAC Player of the Year. Against NIU, Kaman tallied 19 points, 14 rebounds, and five blocks. He followed that on Saturday at Ball State with 39 points, a career-high 22 rebounds, and three blocks.


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