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MARK MADNESS | Mark Adams previews the MAC Tournament

It's tournament time!

With all eyes on the conference tournaments this week, here's a look at the top contenders for the MAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Favorite

AKRON

  • Key question: Can 6-10 workhorse Isaiah Johnson lead his Zips to the NCAA Tournament? This team is talented but sometimes seems psychologically fragile. Can they pull together to finish what they started?
  • Key players: Johnson is a dominant inside presence at nearly 16.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Kwan Cheatham Jr has some size to see over smaller defenders and can score inside and out.
  • Record: 24-7, 14-4 MAC (No. 1 seed).
  • MAC tournament opener: Thursday vs. Monday's Eastern Michigan-Northern Illinois winner.
  • NCAA ranks: Isaiah Johnson No. 9 field goal (63.0%); No. 5 three-pointers made (10.5 per game).
  • MAC ranks: No. 1 assist-to-turnover margin (1.3); No. 2 field-goal percentage (47.1); No. 3 three-pointers made (10.5); No. 3 scoring defense (70.6); scoring margin (7.1).

Contenders

OHIO

  • Key question: The Bobcats lost MAC Player of the Year Antonio Campbell to injury, but they have enough weapons to make a run. Can Jaaron Simmons lead the Bobcats to the bid?
  • Key players: Simmons is a dynamic guard who makes everything happen for the Bobcats! Simmons drops seven dimes per game and can drop 40 points on a given night. Jordan Dartis and Kenny Kaminski can be deadly from behind the arc and Jason Carter is a budding freshman star.
  • Record: 19-10, 11-7 MAC (No. 2 seed).
  • Win vs power 5/Big East: Beat Georgia Tech, 67-61.
  • MAC Tournament opener: Thursday vs. Toledo-Bowling Green winner.
  • NCAA ranks: Jaaron Simmons tie-No. 4 assists (6.7); Jordan Dartis No. 8 in 3-point shooting (45.7%)
  • MAC ranks: No. 1 field-goal defense (41.4%); three-point percentage (39%); scoring defense (70.1 ppg); scoring margin (+7.7); three-point defense (31.8%)

BUFFALO

  • Key question: Can Buffalo duplicate last season’s run to the NCAA automatic bid?
  • Key players: · Blake Hamilton is a reliable 17 ppg scorer and C.J. Massinburg is a solid 14.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg second option. Willie Conner and Nick Perkins make this team hard to guard.
  • Record: 17-14, 11-7 (MAC No. 3 seed).
  • MAC Tournament opener: Thursday vs. Monday's Kent State-Central Michigan winner.
  • MAC ranks: No. 2 field-goal defense (41.6%); rebound margin (+4.8); blocks (4.0)

BALL STATE

  • Key question: Will the Cardinals continue to shoot and score well enough to get to the NCAA’s?
  • Key players: Tayler Persons is the leader for Ball State averaging over 15.0PPG, 5.0APG and 1.5SPG and Franko House adds 13.0PPG of scoring support.
  • Record: 20-11, 11-7 MAC (No. 4 seed).
  • MAC Tournament opener: Thursday vs. Monday's Western Michigan-Miami winner.
  • MAC ranks: No. 2 assists (15.7); field-goal defense (41.6%); three-point percentage (37.9%).

WESTERN MICHIGAN

  • Key question: Will the red-hot Broncos, winner of eight consecutive, games ride into the NCAAs?
  • Key players: The scoring duo of Thomas Wilder (19.2) and Tucker Haymond (15.0) lead the Broncos who have appeared to figure out their winning combinations.
  • Record: 15-15, 11-7 (No. 5 seed).
  • MAC Tournament opener: Monday vs. No. 12 Miami

KENT STATE

  • Key question: Can the Golden Flashes strike an upset? Kent State has won five of six, including a three-point victory against top seed Akron.
  • Key players: Jimmy Hall leads the team with double figures in scoring (18.2) and rebounding (10.5).
  • Record: 18-13, 10-8 MAC (No. 6 seed).
  • Win vs power 5/Big East: Beat Texas, 63-58
  • MAC Tournament opener: Monday vs. vs. No. 11 Central Michigan.
  • NCAA ranks: Jimmy Hall No. 4 offensive rebounds (4.19), T5 double-doubles (19) and No. 13 rebounds (10.5).
  • MAC ranks: No. 1 in rebound margin (6.0).

Darkhorses

NORTHERN ILLINOIS

  • Key question: Who can handle the pressure and score against the Huskies?
  • Key players: Marin Maric is the scoring (13.0) and rebounding (7.5) leader. Aaric Armstead contributes 6.0RPG & 1.5SPG to lead the Huskies’ tough defensive effort.
  • Record: 15-16, 7-11 MAC (No. 9 seed).
  • MAC Tournament opener: Monday vs. No. 8 seed Eastern Michigan.
  • MAC ranks: No. 2 points allowed (70.6).

CENTRAL MICHIGAN

  • Key question: Can Marcus Keene and Braylon Rayson score enough to send Keno Davis and the Chips to the dance?
  • Key players: Marcus Keene is the nation’s leading scorer (29.6). Braylon Rayson combines with Keene for 50 points a night! Josh Kozinski is a deep threat that feeds off of defenses focused only on those two dynamic scoring talents.
  • Record: 16-15, 6-12 MAC (No. 11 seed).
  • MAC Tournament opener: Monday vs. No. 6 seed Kent State.
  • NCAA ranks: No. 2 three-pointers made (12.3); No. 3 free-throw percentage (78.8%); No. 4 points per game (87.7). No. 1 scoring average Marcus Keene (29.6 ppg); No. 2 three-pointer per game made, Marcus Keene (3.74); No. 7 minutes Braylon Rayson (37).
  • MAC ranks: No. 1 points per game (87.7); three-pointers made (12.3); free-throw percentage (78.8%).

Other NCAA leaders

  • Individual: Steve Taylor, Toledo — T2 rebounds (12.5) and No. 3 double-doubles (23); James Thompson, Eastern Michigan — No. 2 offensive rebounds (4.73), No. 6 rebounds (11.0) and T9 double-doubles (18); Tim Bond, Eastern Michigan — No. 12 steals (2.23).

Tournament schedule

MONDAY

  • No. 8 Eastern Michigan vs No. 9 Northern Illinois, 7 p.m. ET
  • No. 5 Western Michigan vs. No. 12 Miami, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • No. 7 Toledo vs. No. 10 Bowling Green, 8 p.m. ET
  • No. 6 Kent State vs. No. 11 Central Michigan, 7 p.m. ET

THURSDAY

  • No. 1 Akron vs. Eastern Michigan-Northern Illinois winner, noon ET
  • No. 4 Ball State vs Western Michigan-Miami winner, 30 minutes after first game.
  • No. 2 Ohio vs Toledo-Bowling Green winner, 6:30 p.m.
  • No. 3 Buffalo vs. Kent State-Central Michigan winner, 30 minutes after first game.

FRIDAY

  • Semifinals: 5:30 and 8 p.m. ET.

SATURDAY

  • Championship: 7:30 p.m. ET.

Projected automatic bid

AKRON


Mark Adams is ASN's lead basketball analyst. Follow him on Twitter at @EnthusiAdams.




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