Chris Fowler, Xavier Ford
Chris Fowler, AP Photo

MAC Preview: Can Central Michigan make a run?

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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the MAC.

The MAC enters the 2015-16 season with one clear favorite and a lot of teams fighting to form an identity. The two-division conference has some interesting candidates emerging from both sides of the equation, but one team stands out above the rest.

Central Michigan and head coach Keno Davis are coming off of a 23-win season and return all eight players who averaged at least 15 minutes a game last season, when the Chippewas made the NIT and won the West Division. Now the goal is the NCAA tournament as they have the pieces and experience to try to make a run. Led by MAC preseason player of the year favorite Chris Fowler at point guard, all eight of Central Michigan’s returning players can hit 3-pointers and they can space the floor in any lineup.

After a .500 finish in the MAC in 2014-15, Akron comes in as a major player thanks to the return of four starters and a solid backup guard in Antino Jackson. Senior center Pat Forsythe is a load to handle at 6-foot-11 and the Zips will ride his post touches and double-figure scoring as far as it can take them. Akron is coming off of a 21-14 season and the key could be the return of guard Noah Robotham, who tore his ACL in February.

Kent State checks in right behind Akron in the East Division thanks to the return of its three frontcourt starters and All-MAC junior power forward Jimmy Hall. The 6-foot-8 Hall is joined in the starting group by Chris Ortiz and Khaliq Spencer while Maine transfer Xavier Powell and redshirt guard Kellon Thomas, a former starter, could become the new starting perimeter tandem.

Similar to the Flashes in backstory is second-place in the West Division: Western Michigan. The Broncos lost some experienced guards but get back potential All-MAC forward Connar Tava for his senior season along with wing Tucker Haymond and 6-foot-10 sophomore Drake LaMont. With the addition of 7-foot recruit Seth Dugan and talented guard Bryce Moore, the Broncos could be a team that could make a surprise run.

Trailing Western Michigan in the West Division is Toledo, who has to replace the dynamic senior trio of double-figure scorers that are gone. Senior center Nathan Boothe returns and he’s joined by junior guard Jonathan Williams, so two double-figure scorers remain, but from there it will be interesting to see who takes over at point guard for the Rockets.

Things were looking very positive for Buffalo this summer, even with the loss of head coach Bobby Hurley to Arizona State. But then new head coach Nate Oats had to deal with the dismissal of MAC Player of the Year Justin Moss, which leaves the Bulls with a huge hole. Talent is still around, especially on the perimeter, where senior Jarryn Skeete and versatile sophomore Lamonte Bearden are back. But can the program withstand the loss of Hurley and the talent he took with to the Aztecs?

One team to keep tabs on is Miami (Ohio), as the RedHawks return four starters and six scholarship seniors, led by potential all-league selection Eric Washington. Miami is looking for its first winning record since 2009, but they have the potential talent of a postseason team. Northern Illinois has trended upward since head coach Mark Montgomery took over and the Huskies hope that three returning starters and three top rotation players gives them a winning record. Seniors Travon Baker and Darrell Bowie have both started a ton of games while junior Aaric Armstead has All-MAC potential.

It’s hard to say how Ball State will look but the addition of Youngstown State transfer Ryan Weber, graduate transfer center Nate Wells and the return of guard Jeremie Tyler will certainly help. MAC Freshman of the Year Sean Sellers also returns and he’s a threat to hit shots from all over the floor. Ohio has some talent in potential All-MAC center Antonio Campbell, but the Bobcats have to rely a lot on transfers for big production as former Houston point guard Jaaron Simmons and former Michigan State forward Kenny Kaminski earn primary roles.

Questions marks also fill the lineup of Rob Murphy’s Eastern Michigan squad. Junior guard Raven Lee is an All-MAC talent, but he’s the only returning starter to a team that will ask a lot of role players and recruits. Bowling Green brings back a starting backcourt, but loses a player to the NBA in Richaun Holmes. With a new head coach in Michael Huger and a five-man recruiting class, there are a lot of people acclimating to new roles in Division I basketball.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


  • Favorite: “When you return that much of your team like Central Michigan did, it’s hard to argue with the success they already had with 23 wins and the NIT appearance. Fowler and Simons are such a solid one-two punch.”
  • Sleeper: “Miami has a core of seniors that really wants to win and Eric Washington is a solid playmaker at guard. I could see them having a good season.”
  • Star to watch: “Chris Fowler is the ultimate leader and winner. He makes everyone else on Central Michigan better.”

PRESEASON MAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Chris Fowler, Central Michigan

Central Michigan enters the 2015-16 season as the most complete returning team in the MAC and Fowler is the engine that makes them go. An experienced guard with over 1,000 career points and loads of assists, the 6-foot-1 senior averaged 16.2 points and 6.1 assists per game last season while he helped lead the Chippewas to 23 wins and a NIT appearance.


  • Eric Washington, Miami (Ohio): If Fowler is the MAC’s top lead guard, then Washington is right behind him. The 5-foot-10 senior put up 14.2 points and 5.5 assists a game last season.
  • Jimmy Hall, Kent State: Coming off of a breakthrough sophomore season, the 6-foot-8 Hall will look to somehow improve on 15.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game on 53 percent shooting.
  • Raven Lee, Eastern Michigan: A scoring guard coming off of a big sophomore season, the 6-foot-3 guard averaged 16.7 points per game and was a second-team All-MAC selection last season.
  • John Simons, Central Michigan: The talented running mate of Chris Fowler, Simons is a lethal shooter, hitting 91 treys last season at a 45 percent clip. Averaging 12.3 points and 6.8 boards as a junior, the 6-foot-8 forward could be in line for a big senior season.



1. Akron
2. Kent State
3. Buffalo
4. Miami (Ohio)
5. Ohio
6. Bowling Green
1. Central Michigan
2. Western Michigan
3. Toledo
4. Northern Illinois
5. Ball State
6. Eastern Michigan

Report: Three Buffalo players, including MAC Player of the Year Justin Moss, suspended after theft

Buffalo's Justin Moss (AP)

MAC Player of the Year Justin Moss is among three Buffalo players who were caught stealing money from members of the football team in June, according to a report from The Buffalo News.

Moss, a senior forward, fellow senior forward Raheem Johnson and sophomore guard Mory Diane took $650 from two victims in a second-degree burglary on June 2nd in which they illegally entered. The players later returned the money after the issue was brought up by members of the Buffalo coaching staff. No charges were filed in the matter, which was handled by University Police.

According to the Buffalo News report, citing the campus police report, all three players have been suspended from the basketball team since June 5.

The fate of the players will be decided by the Student-Wide Judiciary, which conducts hearings on student misconduct matters. The Buffalo News report states that the hearing could happen in the next two weeks. Possible punishment includes expulsion from school, or possibly being deemed ineligible for the first semester of the season.

If Moss were to miss any time for Buffalo, it would be a devastating loss, as he averaged 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game last season. Johnson is a reserve forward who played around 11 minutes per game last season, while Diane hardly played during his freshman season.

Report: Ohio sophomore guard will transfer

(Michael Pronzato | Ohio Athletics)
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Ohio is losing a returning starter from last season, as sophomore guard Ryan Taylor is transferring, according to a report from Jason Arksley of the Athens Messenger.

The 6-foot-5 native of Gary, Indiana started 28 games last season for the Bobcats and was fourth on the team in scoring at 8.1 points per game. Taylor also put up 2.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game on 43 percent shooting.

According to Arksley’s report, Ohio head coach Saul Phillips felt that this transfer came out of nowhere.

“I’m feeling a little puzzled, a little baffled,” Phillips said to Arksley. “We weren’t given any kind of reason other than that.”

“I really didn’t see it coming, and that’s what hurts the worst. I still don’t know quite why it happened,” Phillips continued. “We’ve tried to communicate, but at some point it always came back to we couldn’t get any more answers other than it was a gut feeling.”

The loss of Taylor certainly hurts Ohio down the road. As a young player, he was already playing heavy minutes and a bout with mono towards the end of last season made his production dip a little bit.

Former Marquette forward finds new home in the MAC

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Toledo picked up a transfer from the Big East as forward Steve Taylor Jr. will finish his career with the Rockets. The news of Taylor’s transfer was first reported by Chicago Hoops.

The 6-foot-7 Taylor will have to sit out the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer rules but he gives Toledo an experienced forward who will have one season of eligibility remaining.

During his junior season, Taylor averaged 22.1 minutes per game and was occasionally an impact player for the Golden Eagles. Taylor averaged 5.9 points and 5 rebounds per game while shooting 48 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range.

The Rockets also landed a solid mid-major spring commitment in former Buffalo commit Nate Navigato this spring and they’ve added some good pieces for the future with these moves.

All-MAC guard Shannon Evans to transfer from Buffalo; is athletics director Danny White at fault?

(Getty Images)
source: Getty Images
(Getty Images)

Second-team All-MAC selection Shannon Evans is transferring from Buffalo, according to multiple reports. The 6-foot-1 sophomore had a breakout season under former head coach Bobby Hurley in helping the Bulls reach the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance. But with Hurley leaving and former assistant coach Nate Oats taking over, Evans will seek a fresh start.

Evans was seventh in the MAC in scoring at 15.4 points per game and was third in the league in assists at 4.6 per game. The talented guard also averaged 3.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals and shot 41 percent from the field, 38 percent from the 3-point line and a shade under 80 percent from the free-throw line.

According to a report from Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News, Evans wanted the chance to play in front of more professional scouts and it’s a primary reason for his desire to transfer elsewhere. Although Evans seemed okay with Oats, he was clearly not pleased with athletics director Danny White not taking time to speak with him on his future.

Earlier on Monday, Evans sent out a tweet that implied that he couldn’t meet with White to discuss his future. That tweet was later deleted, but Evans spoke with Gaughan about the athletics director not taking time to meet with him.

“I wanted to talk to Danny White today,” Evans said to Gaughan. “I saw him. He said, ‘I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do this. Talk to Nate Oats, I told him everything.’ . . . It’s like he was in a rush.”

White clearly felt compelled to respond to this allegation from Evans, but did not specify Evans — or the men’s basketball team — by name in a tweet later on Monday.

To make the transfer look even worse for Buffalo, they’re blocking Evans from looking at other schools he might want to attend.

From the Gaughan report:

Evans said Oats informed him that UB would allow him to transfer but would block a move by Evans to go to Arizona State, Virginia Commonwealth, Old Dominion or another MAC school. Evans is a native of Suffolk, Va.

“They’re basically going to block all the schools I want to talk to,” Evans said. “I just feel like they don’t want my best interests and what’s best for me personally, and I really don’t like that. I feel like if I want my release, OK, any MAC school, I understand. But they shouldn’t block me from any school in a higher conference than Buffalo.”

“That’s giving me a chance to potentially play in the NBA one day, and I want to have that opportunity,” Evans said. “It hit me real hard today. That’s when I decided I’m not going to stay.”

To restrict Evans from going anywhere is terrible treatment of a player trying to enhance his career choice by going elsewhere to challenge himself. It’s tough to say what really happened in the Evans and White situation, but for both sides to say something publicly about it doesn’t bode well.

UPDATE 4/21: According to’s Jeff Goodman, Evans will receive a full release and have the opportunity to transfer anywhere.

MAC Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Buffalo's Justin Moss (AP)
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source: AP
Buffalo’s Justin Moss (AP)

 READ MORE: NBC Sports’ latest Bracketology | The updated top 25

All 12 of the MAC’s members lost at least six conference games during the conference’s 18-game league schedule. So, in other words, this is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable conference tournaments of 2015. The top four seeds in the field — Central Michigan, Buffalo, Kent State and Toledo were all within a game of each other in the standings this season.

The Bracket


When: March 9-14

Where: Campus sites for first round, Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland for the rest

Final: Saturday, March 14, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2

READ MORE:’s 2015 Conference Tournament Previews

Favorite: Buffalo

Winners of six consecutive games entering the MAC Tournament, the Bulls have a potent duo in forward Justin Moss and guard Shannon Evans and Bobby Hurley’s team appears to be peaking at the right time. It also helps that Buffalo doesn’t have to play until the tournament’s semifinals and they swept potential semifinal opponent Kent State during the regular season.

And if they lose?: Central Michigan

While the Chippewas aren’t as hot as Buffalo, they are the No. 1 seed in the tournament and also get the advantage of not playing until the semifinals. Central Michigan also owns a pair of season sweeps over the Bulls and Toledo during the season, the two teams they could face in the MAC Tournament if the bracket holds to form.


  • Kent State  – If any team in the field is used to playing — and winning — in close games, it might be the Golden Flashes. Kent State had 12 games decided by five points or less this season and went 8-4 in those games.
  • Toledo – Looking to end a 35-year NCAA Tournament drought, the Rockets won 27 games last season and were the preseason favorites to win the league. They still have a chance to make a run here in a wide-open field.

Player of the Year: Buffalo junior forward Justin Moss

Entering 2014-15, the Bulls had the unenviable task of replacing senior forward Javon McCrea, the MAC’s reigning Conference Player of the Year. Enter Moss, who led the league in scoring (18.4 ppg) and rebounding (9.3 rpg) this season in an increased role after only playing a little over nine minutes per game last season. Remarkably consistent, Moss scored in double figures in all but three games during the regular season.

Coach of the Year: Central Michigan’s Keno Davis

The Chippewas were a MAC afterthought entering the season, as they were picked to finish fifth in the West Division in the preseason coaches’ poll. Central Michigan defied preseason expectations by finishing as the No. 1 overall seed in the conference tournament. With the league’s top offense and a much-improved defense — from last season’s last-place defense — Central Michigan went from 10-21 to 22-7 in one season.

All-MAC Team:

  • Moss
  • Julius Brown, Toledo – Efficiency was a key for the senior as Brown improved his field-goal shooting (46% FG, 41% 3PT) while also being tied for second in scoring (16.4 ppg) and fifth in assists (4.3 apg)
  • Maurice Daly Ndour, Ohio – The imposing 6-foot-9 senior was fourth in the MAC in scoring (15.6 ppg), second in rebounding (8.2 rpg) and second in blocks (2.2 bpg).
  • Chris Fowler, Central Michigan – Leading the MAC in assists (6 apg) was the junior point guard of the Chippewas. Fowler was also seventh in the league in scoring (15.3 ppg) and fifth in steals (1.5 spg).
  • Richaun Holmes, Bowling Green – The senior led the league in blocks (2.7 bpg) while also finishing second in field-goal percentage (55 percent). Holmes also averaged 14.7 points per game and was fourth in the MAC in rebounding (8 rpg).

CBT PREDICTION: Buffalo over Toledo