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Mid-American Notebook

February 10, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Mid-American Conference Notebook

by Jeremy Speer

As the MAC season begins to hit its stretch run, as many as four MAC teams may qualify for postseason play.

Western should be an NCAA lock

Even if it does not capture a MAC tournament title, chances are good the Broncos will reach the NCAA Tournament this season. At 16-2, Western is eyeing its second consecutive 20-win season ever. The team continues to put itself among the MAC’s best, with a balanced offense including a shooter (Ben Reed), a slasher (Mike Williams) and a strongman (Anthony Kann).

Coupled with the heady play of sophomore Brian Snider and long-range contributions of Rickey Willis and Levi Rost, the Broncos are at the head of the class in the MAC. Steve Hawkins deserves a good look at not only MAC Coach of the Year, but also national coach of the year.

Kent State flashing toward NCAA bid

Like always, the Flashes are in good position for an at-large birth. They are 16-3 overall and 10-1 in the conference, including a crucial victory against Western Michigan. What separates the Flashes from Western may be experience. While Eric Haut is a tested three-point bomber, Kent State relies on a host of young players to carry the load. Bryan Bedford, Jason Edwin and DeAndre Haynes all have limited experience, while seven-footer John Edwards is receiving the largest workload of his career. Despite these questions, Kent State continues to win. With four more victories, they will become the first MAC team in conference history to reach six consecutive 20 win seasons. A dynasty certainly has been created in Kent.

Johnson the main cog in Miami’s offense

On paper, the team does not look all that good, but Miami just gets it done.

For example, they held Toledo, one of the MAC’s highest scoring offenses to 57 points in a crucial victory Saturday in Oxford. The offense continues to run around Juby Johnson, the MAC’s leading active scorer. In Miami’s past three games, Johnson has been the only RedHawks player to reach double figures. Over the past week, Charlie Coles, who also coached at Central Michigan, became the MAC’s third winningest coach in conference history. The RedHawks have a pair of winnable games against Akron and Ball State this upcoming week.

Toledo’s fuel comes from unlikely source

They took a hit with the Miami loss, but the Rockets have made one of the best turnarounds in the MAC this season, and should have a hold on at least an NIT bid. While the Rockets do boast Keith Triplett’s 20-point average and one of the best sophomores of the MAC in Sammy Villegas, the team is fueled from an unlikely source, freshman Justin Ingram. Ingram hails from Lansing (Mich.) Waverly High School, home of another collegiate point guard, former MSU Spartan Marcus Taylor. Unlike Taylor, Ingram is making the most of his opportunity. When he came to Toledo this summer, coach Stan Joplin had considered redshirting him, but his hard work and dedication landed him a starting spot. His consistent play at the point has helped with Triplett and Villegas’s surging play.

Three unlikely teams making noise

They were not expected to be that good, but Buffalo, Eastern Michigan and Ohio have caught fire. Ohio came up with back-to-back overtime victories this past week and now the Bobcats have claimed four straight MAC wins. They are led by guard Jaivon Harris and center Delvar Barrett, and with a 5-6 conference mark, are tied for third in the MAC East.

Buffalo continued its hot streak and now has won five of six games. Heady point guard Turner Battle, who not only was the MAC Player of the Week last week, but also was the MAC Scholar Athlete of the Week, leads the Bulls.

Eastern also has won three of its last four. The Eagles have benefited from inserting James Douglas in the starting lineup and have received unlikely contributions from big men John Bowler and James Jackson. Bowler leads the MAC with seven double-doubles while Jackson had 25 points in a win against Akron Saturday.

Shakeups in DeKalb

Frustrated with his team’s fleeting play, NIU coach Rob Judson has benched starters Anthony Maestranzi, Todd Peterson and Marcus Smallwood.

The biggest shock is Smallwood, who was considered as the favorite for MAC Player of the Year. While he is posting the MAC’s best rebounding numbers, his scoring average of 14 points per game is below expected.

Maestranzi and Peterson both enjoyed strong freshman seasons last year, but have struggled to find their shots. Each player is shooting a dismal 37 percent from the field.

1,000 point scorers

Two MAC players reached the 1,000 point milestone this past week – Akron’s Derrick Tarver and Bowling Green’s Kevin Netter.

Tarver’s accomplishment is simply amazing, as he reached it in just 47 games. That is the fastest player to reach the mark in school history.


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