The MAC tournament has one of the ugliest brackets you’ll ever see. Explaining the twisted branches of that tree would be pointless and boring, so just look at it and know that you don’t have to care until the first round – played at campus sites – is mercifully completed and we get to the more carefully pruned portion of the postseason.
Thanks to the A-10 and Mountain West, the MAC has flown largely under the radar this season. Sleep on this league no longer, my friends, because it’s loaded at the top. The Akron Zips tore through the league schedule, seeming unbeatable during an epic 19-game win streak. If all goes as planned, they’ll face the Ohio Bobcats in the final game. It’s a shame both teams can’t go to the Dance, but we’re likely looking at a last-team-standing kind of situation here. The No. 1 seeded Zips and No. 2 seeded Bobcats get double-byes and don’t have to play until Friday.
Where: QuickenLoans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio
When: March 11-16
Final: March 16, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2
It’s no wonder the Zips handled the MAC so easily this year. Man-mountain Zeke Marshall seems like he’s been around forever, and he turned in a stellar senior year, averaging 13 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game as Akron romped. To make things tougher on opponents, 6’7″ Demetrius Treadwell has played sidekick to perfection, kicking in 11.2 points and 7.7 boards per game as well. They had the backcourt locked down as well until… well, read on.
And if they lose?:
If they lose, it will be because Alex Abreu (allegedly) did a bad, bad thing. The junior point guard, who was averaging six assists per game, recently pleaded not guilty to marijuana trafficking, but he’s suspended until further notice. Without him, the Zips have looked very beatable, losing rather badly at Buffalo and then dropping their final game of the season at home to the always-dangerous Kent State Golden Flashes.
Sleepers: Ohio is probably more than a sleeper at this point, since they’ll likely be facing an Abreu-less Akron for the first time this season if the two meet in the final. The Bobcats are loaded with talented upperclassmen, led by the triumvirate of D.J. Cooper, Walter Offutt and Reggie Keely. Kent State never goes down without a fight, either.
– D.J. Cooper, Ohio: You may remember him from such films as “Triple-Double”, “Upsetting Michigan” and “Sweet Sixteen!”, the latter two released in late March, 2012. This year, he starred in the critically-acclaimed but little-watched “I’m really good at everything a guy can do on a basketball court“. There’s absolutely no reason the sweet-passing Cooper can’t get his team back to the second weekend, though he has to lead them to the auto-bid first.
– Zeke Marshall, Akron: Marshall can score, grab the loose ball for a putback, and start his team’s break with a defensive board or two. The thing that makes him even more meaningful to the Zips is his ability to block shots.
– Shayne Whittington, Western Michigan : The 6’10” junior from the delightfully-named Paw Paw, Michigan is a double-double waiting to happen. He came on strong at the end of the regular season, sharing Player of the Week honors with Cooper in the final week.
CBT Prediction: Sans Abreu, Akron isn’t the team we saw dominate the MAC all season long. Ohio, with a solid core of experienced players who have seen the second weekend of the Big Dance, will prevail.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.