In Ohio around this time, you can feel the fall weather in the air. College Football is in full swing, as is the NFL. Then, last night out of nowhere, it seemed like every single Division I basketball team played their first game of the 2021-22 campaign. While it’s always fun and exciting to watch the blue bloods of college basketball, some of the best basketball on the planet can be found in the smaller conferences of Division I. Perhaps the most exciting non-Power 5 conference is MAC basketball
Some of the best players of the ’90s and early 2000s went on to make names for themselves in the NBA. Players such as George Gervin, who was nothing short of dominant at Eastern Michigan. In 1999, Wally Szczerbiak took his Miami RedHawks team to the Sweet 16.
There has also been some great tournament runs from the MAC. Most recently, in 2012, when Ohio University made it to the Sweet 16. One of the greatest postseason runs in MAC basektball history was Kent State’s Cinderella ride to the Elite Eight of the 2002 NCAA Tournament. As for this year, Ohio and Buffalo once again look like the two favorites, while Kent State and Toledo will be there to take over if either of those to slip up. Let’s take a look at the Mid American Conference.
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MAC Basketball Standings Predictions
- Ohio University
- Kent State
- Bowling Green
- Miami (OH)
- Ball State
- Central Michigan
- Western Michigan
- Northern Illinois
- Eastern Michigan
MAC Basketball Preview | The Contenders
The Buffalo Bulls have grown into a solid MAC basketball contender year in and year out. New head coach Jim Whitesell has some big shoes to fill, considering the previous two coaches were Bobby Hurley and Nate Oats. However, the Bulls do return four starters. Three of those starters are now seniors and were the top three players on the team in scoring. Ronaldo Segu runs the floor while wing JeeNathan Williams fille in the driving lanes. On top of that, big man Josh Mballa also returns and will have to carry a lot of the rebounding workload. While Whitesell is new to Buffalo, the Bulls will still be very good and have a great shot to make it back to the Big Dance.
There’s no doubt about it that the loss of guard Jason Preston to the NBA will sting. However, from early indications, it seems like the Bobcats will be right on track this season. Mark Sears will now have to be the floor general and leader on and off the court. He rarely got time on the court, as he was Preston’s backup, but this year could be a big one for him. On top of all of that, even though the Preston situation sucked, the Bobcats still return their four other starters from last season.
The Golden Flashes are a tricky case every year. However, head coach Rob Senderoff just seems to keep the program winning. One of the most underrated coaches in the country, Senderoff welcomed in some transfers this offseason, including Cleveland native Sincere Carry. VonCameron Davis, a former Mr. Basketball in Ohio, is now a sophomore, so he could have a breakout season.
The Zips may have been a bit angry after being picked to finish outside the top five of the tournament this year. Former Ohio head coach John Groce had his team overachieving last year, so another bid to the tournament is expected. Watch out for Ball State transfer K.J. Walton. The 6-3 guard averaged over 16 points per game (ppg) last year, and he also pitched in nearly six rebounds. Akron can get hot at any moment, and with a good head coach like Groce, that makes them all the more dangerous.
Is this the year the Rockets finally make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1980? It’s definitely not out of the question. Toledo had a hell of a year last season, finishing with 15 wins in the MAC. However, they fell short of the NCAA Tournament and had to settle for the NIT. On offense, Toledo loves the long ball. They had the most three-point attempts in the conference last year. Finally, be on the lookout for guard Ryan Rollins. He averaged nearly 14 ppg last year and can shoot with the best of them.
What is going on with the Falcons? They’ve been picked to win the MAC each of the last two years. However, they have failed to meet their ultimate goal of playing in the tournament. Head coach Michael Huber heads into his seventh year, with the feel around the program being a bit disappointed. However, the Falcons have continued to rise up in the KenPom Rankings year after year. Wing Daeqwon Plowden returns as the leading scorer on the squad, kicking in 14 ppg last year.
MAC Basketball Preview | The Challengers
It was a pleasantly good season last year for the RedHawks. On top of that, everyone is back from last year’s overachieving squad. Head coach Jack Owens has a veteran team. Guards Dae Dae Grant and Makhi Lairy are the heart and soul of this team. They combined to average nearly 26 ppg last season. The RedHawks are definitely a team you do not want to see late in the season.
Head coach James Whitford has a lot of work ahead of him this season. Luckily, Tyler Cochran joined the team from Northern Illinois. Cochran averaged over 15 ppg with the Huskies. Last year, the team finally cracked the KenPom top 100 teams and will look to build on that this year.
The Chippewas decided to part ways with former head coach Keno Davis at the end of last season. Speaking of last season, it was a bummer for Central Michigan. They finished 3-13 in MAC basketball play en route to an 11th place finish. However, the Chippewas did lure in guard Jermaine Jackson from LIU. There will definitely be some speed bumps this year, but if they can take the knocks early, they will be very good down the line.
Every program around the country struggled through the Pandemic last year. However, Eastern Michigan may have been hit the hardest. They only managed to play 18 games last year, and even the young players who were involved didn’t get any real experience. After such a tough season, they fired former head coach Rob Murphy. Stan Heath is now in charge of the Central Michigan hoops team, but he will have to deal with some difficult problems while there.
MAC Basketball Preview | See You Next Year!
It really is kind of sad that Michigan has three MAC schools that continually underachieve. However, maybe this is the year everything changes. With that being said, they still have a lot of work to do. They only won eight games against Division I competition last year. Guard B. Artis White is the captain of the team and distributes very well. While this season might not go as well as fans would hope, there is a bright future for Western Michigan.
Two years ago the Huskies had an 11-7 record in MAC play, and since then they haven’t won much. They parted ways with former head coach Mark Montgomery, and now Rashon Burno is here to run the show. Losing Tyler Cochran was a big blow, but the Huskies still should be able to compete. Keep an eye on guard Trendon Hankerson, he averaged 14 ppg last year and will look to help rebuild this program.