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Mid-American Notebook

March 2, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Mid-American Conference Notebook

by Jeremy Speer

It was a black weekend for the top teams in the Mid-American Conference, as the top three teams in the conference fell to lesser opponents.

The losses especially hurt Western Michigan and Kent State, who were looking at potential NCAA Tournament at-large bids, if they were not to win the upcoming MAC Tournament.

With Western’s loss to Toledo and Kent State’s to Akron, both teams may now have to win the tournament in order to be included in the field of 65, even despite the MAC’s recent solid track record in the tourney.

Buffalo continues to be the best story in the conference, and with its victory against Miami, the Bulls now are still alive to secure second place in the MAC East.

This is coming in an era of mediocrity in Buffalo. The Bulls had only won 14 conference games the past four years combined, but carry a 9-7 MAC record into the conference’s final week.

Williams injured in Broncos loss

Western’s disappointing defeat to Toledo in a game at Savage Hall may not be the Broncos biggest loss of the weekend.

During the first half of the game, MAC Player of the Year front-runner Mike Williams suffered an ankle injury. His status is unknown for this week’s games against Bowling Green and Northern Illinois.

Western obviously was affected by Williams absence, and the Rockets took advantage with a 93-84 victory.

Keith Triplett, the MAC No. 3 scorer, was limited to just eight points in the first matchup between the teams, a Broncos’ victory. Triplett avenged his performance Saturday, putting up 29 points. The Rockets shot 58 percent in the game.

Western’s second-leading scorer, Ben Reed, attempted to pick up the pace with 26 points. The junior reached the 1,000 point plateau in the game.

Western and Kent State are now deadlocked with identical 13-3 MAC records. What happens the next two games will determine which team receives the No. 1 seed in Cleveland’s MAC Tournament. Both have clinched first round byes.

Toledo jumped into the front-runners’ seat for the third and final first round bye of the tournament. With an 11-6 record, Toledo is a half game ahead of Miami for the important spot.

All seeds higher than the top three must win a play-in game at a campus site in order to receive an invitation to Cleveland. Seeds four through eight will have home first round play-in games.

The Rockets close the season Wednesday at Central Michigan, looking to secure the bye.

Miami falls in crucial contest

At the beginning of the week, the Miami RedHawks thought they may receive a first round bye. This may be not be the case now, however.

Buffalo took care of the RedHawks 87-73 victory in Oxford, Ohio – one of the toughest places in the conference to spring a victory.

Reserve Calvin Cage netted 22 points on four triples to lead UB’s cause. Junior leader Turner Battle added 18 points in the victory.

All-MAC candidate Juby Johnson pitched in 27 points to lead the RedHawks.

Miami could help itself with wins this week at Kent State and Ohio. If the RedHawks win both games, they would receive the bye, as they defeated Toledo earlier this season.

Any Miami loss coupled with a Toledo win against Central Michigan would give the bye to the Rockets.

With its recent surge, Buffalo is looking at a home play-in game, something it has not had since joining the MAC six seasons ago.

Having won five consecutive games, the Bulls enter the MAC Tournament as a potential darkhorse who could ruin the Tournament hopes of Western Michigan or Kent State.

Zips flash past Kent State

Kent State was on the verge of hopping into the Top 25 last week, but now may be on the verge of an NIT bid if it does not win the MAC Tournament.

The Flashes came short in a disappointing 64-61 loss to Akron Sunday.

Derrick Tarver, the MAC’s No. 2 scorer was the Zips catalyst all game, netting 33 points. His lay-up late in the game put Akron ahead for good.

Dru Joyce III and Tarver combined to 6-for-6 from the foul line late in the game to seal the victory.

Tied with Western, Kent State still could clinch the No. 1 with victories against Miami and Ohio. The Flashes earlier victory against Western gives them the tie-breaker.

The rest of the seeds

If the MAC Tournament were to start today here’s how the seeds would fall.

No. 1 Kent State, No. 2 Western Michigan and No. 3 Toledo would have first round byes.

No. 4 Miami would host No. 13 Central Michigan

No. 5 Buffalo would host No. 12 Northern Illinois

No. 6 Ball State would host No. 11 Ohio

No. 7 Bowling Green would host No. 10 Eastern Michigan

No. 8 Akron would host No. 9 Marshall

Play-in games are Monday March 8 with the quarterfinals beginning Thursday, March 11 at Cleveland’s Gund Arena.

     

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