In recent years the East Division has dominated the MAC, with the last nine winners of the automatic bid coming from that division. But the power was in the West this year, with Western Michigan and Toledo finishing with matching 14-4 conference records. As a result those two get byes to the semifinals, with three-seed Buffalo and four-seed Akron getting byes into the quarterfinals. The other eight teams begin play on Monday, and there could be a few surprises along the way to determining the league’s NCAA tournament representative.
The Rockets made some noise during non-conference play, winning their first 12 games before dropping a tough 93-83 decision at Kansas on December 28. Four starters are averaging double figures led by guards Julius “Juice” Brown and Justin Drummond and forward Rian Pearson. Toledo’s a very good offensive team but if there’s a concern entering the conference tournament it’s the fact that they’re 11th in the MAC in field goal percentage defense and tenth in defensive efficiency.
And if they lose?: Western Michigan
Few expected Steve Hawkins’ Broncos to grab the top seed in the conference tournament, but WMU managed to do just that. Shayne Whittington is one of the MAC’s best front court players and senior guard David Brown’s scoring 19.1 points per game. Western Michigan enters the tournament playing well, as they’ve won ten of their last 11 games with the lone defeat coming at Toledo on March 1. A possible concern for WMU: rebounding, with the Broncos ranked 11th in defensive rebounding percentage.
Buffalo: Senior forward Javon McCrea’s been one of the MAC’s best, and they’ve won five of their last six games.
Ohio: The Bobcats finished third in the MAC East, but they pick up a 66-50 win at Akron on February 22.
Akron: You can’t count out Keith Dambrot’s Zips, who have reached the last seven MAC tournament title games.
Studs: (three or four best players)
Javon McCrea, Buffalo: The preseason pick to win Player of the Year, McCrea’s averaging 18.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
David Brown, Western Michigan: Brown’s averaging a MAC-best 19.1 points per game, and he also leads the conference in made three-pointers per game (2.7).
Demetrius Treadwell, Akron: Treadwell’s averaging 16.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game in conference play, and he’s also posted ten double-doubles against MAC foes this season.
CBT Prediction: Toledo outlasts Akron in the title game, avoiding what would be an excruciating wait to see if they can get into the NCAA tournament field as an at-large.
Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.
On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.
One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.
As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).
And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.
While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.
And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.
St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.
Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.
St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.
The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?