|Mid-American Conference Quarterfinals Preview|
Preview by Jeremy Speer
Eight teams will participate in a battle for an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament during the MAC Tournament beginning Thursday at Cleveland’s Gund Arena.
Western Michigan, the No. 1 seed, is the only team with a legitimate shot at an at-large bid into the tourney if they were not to win the tournament.
The Broncos are hoping not to leave it to the committee and stand as the favorites for the three-day competition.
No. 1 Western Michigan vs. No. 8 Marshall
On the verge of reaching the top 25 two weeks ago, the Broncos went into Huntington, W.Va. and left with a crushing 82-76 loss that put a damper on Western’s dream season.
Marshall (12-16, 8-10) will have its hands full in an attempt to spring its first quarterfinal victory since 2000.
Mike Williams has been the MAC’s best player this season and will attack the Herd defense with his mid-range game. Williams averages 18.4 points and 7.3 rebounds on the season.
Junior Ben Reed has been the conferences best outside threat, and posts 16.5 points per game behind 47 percent three-point shooting.
Thick-skinned senior Anthony Kann presents a strong presence in the middle. Kann put up 12 points and seven rebounds per game this season.
Western (23-4, 15-3) also has a solid collection of role players, including steady point guard Brian Snider and three-point specialists Reggie Berry and Rickey Willis.
Senior forward Marvin Black, who carried the Herd into the quarterfinals with a victory against Eastern Michigan Monday, leads Marshall. Black posts 14 points and seven rebounds per game.
Point guard A.W. Hamilton is among the MAC’s leaders in assists while Ronny Dawn stretches defenses with his three-point shooting.
The game will feature a matchup between first year coaches – Western’s Steve Hawkins and Marshall’s – Ron Jirsa.
No. 2 Kent State vs. No. 7 Bowling Green
KSU (20-7, 13-5) struggled mightily throughout the final portion of the season with four consecutive losses.
They will look to reverse the trend against Bowling Green, another team that struggled in the latter part of the season with three straight losses.
MAC Defensive Player of the Year John Edwards leads Kent. The seven-footer leads the team with 13 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game.
Senior Eric Haut also contributes to the Flashes’ balanced offense. Haut puts up 12 points per game on 41 percent three-point shooting.
Sophomore point guard DeAndre Haynes leads the MAC with 5.9 assists per game.
Ron Lewis carried the Falcons on his back during the team’s Monday victory against Ohio. Lewis scored all of his 19 points in the second half and had two blocked shots in the final two minutes to preserve a 56-54 victory.
Lewis is the team’s leading scorer at 17 points per game.
John Reimold’s outside shooting and Kevin Netter’s inside play give BG (14-16, 8-10) solid complementing players.
No. 3 Miami vs. No. 6 Ball State
The quest begins Thursday against the balanced Cardinals.
Coles’ crew employs stifling defensive pressure, spearheaded by senior captain Juby Johnson. Johnson, one of the MAC’s best all-around players, also averages 17 points per game.
Despite standing less than 6-foot-5, Chet Mason and Danny Horace form one of the MAC’s best rebounding tandems. The two combine to average 20 points and 14 rebounds per game.
Miami’s key could be the streaky outside shooting of Josh Hausfeld, whose percentage dipped as the season went along.
Ball State coach Tim Buckley trusts his fortunes in the hands of an even six-man rotation.
Dennis Trammell leads the team on the stat sheet with 13 points a game, but Cameron Echols, Robert Owens, Matt McCollom, Terrance Chapman and Peyton Stovall also provide key contributions.
Stovall, the point guard, was named to the MAC’s All-Freshman team.
Miami won the previous meeting between the teams 62-55 on the road.
No. 4 Toledo vs No. 5 Buffalo
Coach Reggie Witherspoon has completed a miraculous turnaround in Buffalo this season. After finishing last in the MAC East last season, Buffalo posted 17 overall wins and 11 in the conference.
A darkhorse to supplant Western Michigan, the Bulls have won eight straight games heading into the Toledo game.
Junior Turner Battle leads a solid seven-man rotation with 14 points and four assists per game.
Freshman Yassin Idhibi (9.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg) has been a force inside, as has junior Mark Bortz.
Mario Jordan and Daniel Gilbert are valuable swingmen while Jason Bird and Roderick Middleton provide deadly and accurate three-point marksmanship.
Toledo (19-9, 12-6) is no slouch. All-MAC candidate Keith Triplett who posts 20 points and five rebounds per game leads the Rockets.
Sophomore Sammy Villegas averages 14 points and had a career-high 28 points in UT’s narrow play-in victory against Central Michigan Monday.
Freshman point guard Justin Ingram was named the MAC’s Freshman of the Year and posts 10 points and 3.5 assists per contest.
Toledo won the only meeting between the teams, 88-83 in January.
The winner will likely lock horns with Western Michigan in the semifinals.