32 Conferences, 32 Previews, 32 Days: MAC

By Kevin Sweeney

The MAC has turned into one of the most competitive conferences in college basketball, and last season was a perfect example of its strength. 9 out of its 12 teams finished over .500 for the season, with 5 teams recording 20 wins.  Buffalo, which finished T-3rd in its division, won the conference tournament and took Miami to the final buzzer before eventually falling 79-72.  This is a perfect example of why the MAC was 10th in conference RPI last season, per realtimerpi.com.  One thing can be certain in the MAC: there’s never an easy game.

Picks:
East Division

  1. Ohio
  2. Akron
  3. Buffalo
  4. Bowling Green
  5. Kent State
  6. Miami (OH)

West Division

  1. Eastern Michigan
  2. Ball State
  3. Northern Illinois
  4. Western Michigan
  5. Central Michigan
  6. Toledo

Champions: Ohio- The Bobcats have an explosive, multi-faceted offensive attack that can score with any team in college basketball.  They bring back their top 3 scorers from a season ago, including reigning MAC Player of the Year Antonio Campbell, who averaged 17.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game last season.  Campbell, along with “stretch 4” Kenny Kaminski are a lethal frontcourt combo that is made better by Jaaron Simmons, one of the best passers in college basketball.  Simmons, who averaged nearly 8 assists per game last season, along with 15.5 points per game, is the engine driving the Bobcats, creating lots of open looks.  Every major contributor can knock down a 3, with junior guard Jordan Dartis knocking down nearly 48 percent of his shots from downtown last season.  The Bobcats should be an exciting team to watch, and if they get some stops on defense, they could be the class of the MAC.

Dark Horse: Ball State- Strong guard play is usually a recipe for success in college basketball, the the Cardinals should have the one of the best guard units in the MAC.  Transfer guard Tayler Persons, who led all A-Sun freshmen in scoring as a freshman at Northern Kentucky in 2014-15, enters an already-deep stable of guards, including Ryan Weber, Jeremie Tyler, and Francis Kiapway.  However, the Cardinals are very thin up front. Franko House, the team’s leading scorer from last season, is just 6-6, and forward Bo Calhoun, who led the Cards in rebounding last year, graduated.  Thin in the frontcourt, Ball State will look to sophomore center Trey Moses to step up.  Another option at center is graduate transfer DouDou Gueye, a graduate transfer from South Carolina State.  If those two can help solidify Ball State’s frontcourt, the Cardinals have a chance to repeat as West Division champs.

Preseason First Team:

  • F: Jimmy Hall-Hofstra
  • F: Antonio Campbell-Ohio
  • F: James Thompson IV-Eastern Michigan
  • G: Thomas Wilder-Western Michigan
  • G: Braylon Rayson-Central Michigan

Player of the Year: Antonio Campbell- Campbell has the type of talent not usually found at the mid-major level.  Even at 6-9, 250 pounds, Campbell is able to knock down 37% of his 3-point attempts while also punishing defenses down low, averaging a double double of over 17 points and 10 rebounds per game.  I see no reason why Campbell won’t repeat as MAC Player of the Year, and he could be a candidate to be drafted come June.

Newcomer of the Year: Nick Madray (Eastern Michigan)- After sitting out for the Eagles last season following transferring from Binghamton, Madray is hoping to contribute to a loaded Eastern Michigan team. After a fantastic freshman season in which Madray averaged in double figures in scoring, things didn’t go as well in his sophomore campaign.  Madray battled injuries and averaged just over 7 points per game in 13 games.  Madray profiles as a floor-stretching big man who will perfectly compliment center James Thompson IV, who averaged a double-double last season. If Madray can be a strong contributor for the Eagles, they should be in excellent position to contend for the MAC Championship.

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