The latest RPI report had MAC member Toledo ranked No. 1 in the nation. Although it's a long way until March Madness, several MAC teams are gaining national prominence with wins over top ranked teams.
Toledo On Top
The RPI report of Dec. 18 had the Toledo Rockets ranked No. 1 and the Marshall Thundering Herd No. 12. Last year UT finished No. 81 and Marshall No. 96. As for the national polls, Toledo received seven points in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll of Dec. 18 while Marshall was tabbed for eight. In the A.P. poll, Marshall received 12 points and UT did not receive attention, however MAC member Kent State garnered three points.
MAC Triple Play
Mid-American Conference teams have three wins over ranked teams thus far in the 2000-20001 season after producing just one such triumph last year (Ball State over No. 24 Purdue). Miami topped then No. 17/15 (ap/espn) Temple on Nov. 30, 66-58 behind Jason Grunkemeyer's 20 points. Marshall won on the road at No. 24 (ap) Dayton on Dec. 2, 67-65 as Tamar Slay popped in 19 points. Miami then matched Marshall's road win with a stunning 73-64 triumph at No. 10 Notre Dame on Dec. 9 as Alex Shorts and Mike Ensminger scored 16 points each and Ensminger pulled down 10 rebounds.
The MAC has had its best early season success against teams from the Atlantic 10, compiling a 6-4 record with wins over Dayton, Duquesne (twice), Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure and Temple and losses to Dayton, Duquesne, St. Bonaventure and Xavier.
When asked "Which mid-major conference teams should fans keep in their minds come March based on games played in November or December?" several MAC teams received notice from ESPN.com's expert panel. Andy Katz tabbed Marshall and also mentioned that Toledo, Miami and Kent State have the potential in the tournament. Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps and Len Elmore also prominently mentioned the Herd. Phelps added notice for Kent State and Miami. Dick Vitale puts in a word - or two - for Miami, Central Michigan and Toledo.
Akron (2-4, 0-0 MAC East):
The Zips lone game last week was a 73-58 loss at Western Kentucky. A total of 25 turnovers was too much to overcome even though the Zips' defense forced 21 Hilltopper miscues. Sophomore Andy Hipsher set a career high with 28 points while adding four steals. Hipsher connected on 14-of-18 from the charity stripe and 7-of-14 from the field in 35 minues. Hipsher's all-around play has him with averages of 14.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.5 steals per game. His steals average of 2.5 per game is the best in the MAC. Akron opens a three-game homestand starting with Cleveland State (12/21) and following with Wyoming (12/23) and Purdue (12/27). The Zips then open league play with road games at Buffalo (1/3) and Kent State (1/6). The game at KSU will be televised on ESPN 2 with a 5 p.m. start time. The Zips are expected to have their backcourt depth improved with the addition of transfer point guards Rashon Brown (Western Kentucky) and Andre Sims (Kent State). With a true point guard in place, look for the Zips to improve on their current ranking of 12th in the MAC in assists-turnover ratio (85 assists/126 turnovers).
Bowling Green (3-3, 0-0 MAC East):
The Falcons dropped two games last week with games at Michigan 89-71 (12/13) and at Marist 86-69 (12/16). BG returns home, where they have an 18-game winning streak, for a game with Wilmington College (12/21) before taking on defending national champion Michigan State at The Palace of Auburn Hills (12/27). The usually accurate Falcons shot just 32.8% (19-of-58) from the field at Ann Arbor but found their touch at Marist, connecting on 50.9% (27-of-53). At home the Falcons are averaging 97 points per game and are 3-0. Overall BG is averaging a MAC-best 82.9 ppg and lead the league in field goal pct. (50.1%) and three-point field goal pct. (42.0%). BG's Len Matela is scorching the nets at a 57.5% (46-of-80) rate from the field to lead the MAC and his 18.3 ppg ranks second in the league. Brandon Pardon has a conference-best 7.14 assists per game (50 assists/7 games).
Buffalo (1-4, 0-0 MAC East):
A 95-74 loss at No. 15 ranked North Carolina, UB's first game aftyer a 12-day layoff, was the Bulls only action of last week and first road game of the year. . This week UB warms up with a pair of games at the South Florida Tournament versus Eastern Illinois (12/21) and either USF or Alcorn State (12/22). Jason Robinson, in his first year after transferring from Seward County (Kan.) Community College, popped in a career-high 21 points at UNC, including a sizzling 72.7% (8-of-11) from the field. Robinson, and fellow JUCO transfer Robert Brown (Schoolcraft JC, Michigan) are providing the numbers to make the Bulls into a up and coming team. Brown is posting team highs in points (17.4) and rebounds (6.2). Robinson's 14.4 ppg is second on the squad and his 6.2 rpg is third best.Guard Louis Campbell provides steady play with his 13.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg and 5.0 apg. The Bulls open MAC play with four of their first five games on the road, including a league-opener Dec. 30 at preseason MAC favorite Marshall.
Kent State (5-2, 0-0 MAC East):
The Golden Flashes will play their first game in 11 days with a Dec. 20 date in the San Juan Shootout with a first-round game against Northwestern. The Golden Flashes had played five games in 11 days, going 4-1 from 11/29-12/9. KSU's most recent victims were Youngstown State, 76-55 (12/6) and Wisconsin-Green Bay, 64-47 (12/9). Kyrem Massey popped in a career-best 26 versus the Phoenix, including a sizzling 11-of-14 (78.6%) from the field. Massey (52.3%) is just one of six MAC players averaging five field goals a game and shooting over 50.0% from the field. Massey also became the 18th player in school history to score 1,000 points and has 1,012 at this point. KSU jumped to a 6-0 lead at UWGB and have not trailed at any point the last three games.
Marshall (5-1, 0-0 MAC East):
Marshall, ranked No. 12 in the latest (12/16)RPI, dusted off Winthrop, 73-50, last week in its only action. It was the Herd's 24th consecutive home non-conference victory. Marshall, which led the MAC in scoring last year (81.4 ppg), but ranked ninth of 13 teams in field goal defense (43.8%) is surprising this year with a league-best 37.2% field goal defense. The Herd has not sacrificed, maintaining its scoring offense at 80.5 ppg, second in the league. Joda Burgess' seven three-point goals versus Wnthrop marked a MAC-high this season. J.R. VanHoose, the MAC East Division Player of the Week, is averaging a double-double with 15.8 ppg and 10.5 rpg. Marshall has MAC leaders in scoring (Tamar Slay, 19.2) and assist-turnover ratio (Cornelius Jackson, 2.85) and the second leading player in blocked shots (Latece Williams, 3.53) and rebounding (VanHoose, 10.2). The Herd's game with IUPU-Ft. Wayne was postponed from 12/18 to 12/28. Marshall's 5-1 start is not unusual under head coach Greg White. Last year's team started 10-0 and White's 1996-97 squad went 7-1 out of the blocks and both of those teams went on to record at least 20 wins and win two conference tournament games.
Miami (4-4, 0-0 MAC East):
The RedHawks will play their first game in 10 days 12/19 at Wright State. One game after having its non-conference home winning streak snapped at 20 with a 55-54 loss to Dayton, Miami went on the road to topple No. 10 ranked Notre Dame, 73-64 on 12/9. Led by Alex Shorts' 16 points and Mike Ensminger's 16 points and 10 rebounds, the RedHawks won their second game this season versus a top-25 ranked club (No. 17/15 Temple, 66-58 on 11/30). Miami, which held a 44-26 rebound advantage, also improved to 5-6 versus top-25 clubs under fifth-year head coach Charlie Coles. Miami placed five players in double figures and won despite the loss of guard Doug Davis, who suffered a sprained left foot one day prior to the game. The three-guard starting lineup of Matt Jameson, Jason Grunkemeyer and Julius Johnson combined for 31 points, six assists, five steals and 106 minutes versus the Irish. Davis should return for Miami's game versus Wright State (12/19). Coles has 173 career wins as a MAC coach and could tie former Eastern Michigan mentor Ben Braun for sixth place all-time in league history with one more win.
Ohio (2-4, 0-1 MAC East):
The Bobcats are stuck in a four-game tailspin with losses last week to Duquesne 94-89 and Western Michigan 76-65 in what was the MAC opener for the season. It gets no easier as Ohio has West Virginia (12/19 at home) and Oakland (12/22 away) on the schedule before facing Arizona (12/29) and either Pepperdine or UNC Charlotte (12/20) in a tournament. Brandon Hunter dropped in career-high 27 at Duquesne but was held to eight points versus the Broncos. Hunter leads the team in scoring (15.1) and Anthony Jones is second (14.7), but Jones is shooting just 38.7% (31-of-80) from the field. Hunter's 50.8% (31-of-61) field accuracy is the fifth best in the MAC. Patrick Flomo's 22 blocked shots (3.67 per game) is best among all MAC players and he is on pace to compete for the school record of 99 in a season. Dustin Ford is averaging a team high 35 minutes per game but played just 22 minutes in the loss at WMU. Ford has a 2-1 assist-turnover ratio (18 a, 9 to).
Ball State (4-4, 0-0 MAC West):
BSU scored an important win on 12/16 with an 80-74 overtime decision over Indiana State to even its record at 4-4. The Cardinals will have a 14-day gap in the schedule with their next action 12/30 at home versus IUPU-Fort Wayne. In the triumph over the Sycamores, Josh Murray paced the attack with 20 points and 11 rebounds, thus earning MAC West Division Player of the Week honors. Murray is averaging 11.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Lonnie Jones continues his blocking prowess as he tallied five rejects against ISU. Already BSU's all-time leader with 154, Jones, a junior, could challenge the MAC career mark of 260. Jone already has two MAC shot blocking titles to his record and could be the first player in league history to lead the conference three straight years.
Central Michigan (5-3, 0-0 MAC West):
The Chippewas ended a nine-day layoff when they faced Detroit on 12/18, suffering a 74-60 loss. Nevertheless, CMU has already assured itself of a non-conference winning record for the first time since the 1988-89 campaign. The return of Mike Manciel, who missed last year with a broken foot, and the addition of Chris Kaman, a 7-foot freshman, has transformed the Chippewas. Manciel is averaging 12.7 points and a team-high 5.1 rebounds per game, and has 17 3-point goals after just 13 his freshman season. Kaman has blocked at least one shot in each game, including six against Northern Iowa, and is third in the league with 2.57 rejects per game. Kaman's six stuffs are the most by a MAC player this year versus a Division I opponent. Junior David Webber is averaging a team-high 17 ppg and needs just 82 points to reach 1,000 for his career.
Eastern Michigan (1-5, 0-0 MAC West):
A game Wednesday (12/2) versus Chicago State will be the Eagles first action in nine days. Head coach Jim Boone picked up his first win as the Eagles' mentor in a 67-64 tussle with IUPUI (12/6). Melvin Hicks led four scorers in double figures with a game-high 22 points and EMU grabbed an impressive 47-29 rebounding edge. C.J. Grantham, a member of the league's all-freshman team last year, leads EMU in scoring (11.8) and assists (4.2 apg) and is third in rebounding (4.3) despite his 5-foot-9 inch status. Senior Tyson Radney has started only one game but is averaging 25.5 minutes per contest and has a MAC-leading 12.7 rebounds per game. Most recently he grabbed 14 caroms in the 70-57 loss to Iona.
Northern Illinois (1-6, 0-0 MAC West):
Following a 17-day layoff, the Huskies travel to face DePaul on 12/23. Head coach Brian Hammel turned in his resignation, effective immediately, following the Huskies' 121-88 win over Rockford on 12/6. Hammel ended his nine-plus year career with a 117-138 mark at NIU. Huskie first assistant Andy Greer was named interim head coach and will make his debut 12/23 when the Huskies face DePaul. Greer, a 1984 graduate of Brockport State University of New York, previously served as head coach for the U.S. Merchant Marines (51-52, 5 years) and in 1997 his squad earned at at-large berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament. A Huskie head coach hasn't won their debut since Tom Jorgensen in 1966, a span of five different mentors. The Huskies' 121 points against Rockford fell two shy of the school record. Junior Leon Rodgers did set a school record by going 13-of-13 from the field, which also established a MAC record (12-of-12 set twice - CMU's Jeff Tropf 1/4/78 versus NIU; and KSU's John Whorton 2/28/98 versus Akron). Seven players scored in double figures as NIU snapped its six-game losing streak to start the season.
Toledo (6-1, 0-0 MAC West):
UT ended an eight-day loayoff with an 83-77 triumph over Oakland on 12/16. This week the Rockets, ranked No. 1 in the latest RPI (as of 12/18) travel to Fresno State to face the Bulldogs in the opening round of a tournament. A second round UT opponent will be either Samford or La.-Lafayette. Toledo has two of the top six scoring leaders in the MAC - Greg Stempin (4th at 17.9) and freshman Terry Reynolds (6th at 17.1). Stempin also is among the MAC pace setters in FG pct. (4th at 51.5%) and rebounds (9th at 7.1). Reynolds, subject of a column in the 12/11 Sporting News (the one with former MAC player Randy Moss on the cover), ranks among league leaders in assists (3rd, 6.0 apg), steals (6th, 1.71 spg) FT pct. (12th, 76.5%), 3-point FG (t-11th, 1.86 per game) and assist-turnover ratio (7th, 1.83).
Western Michigan (1-7, 1-0 MAC West):
WMU snapped its 11-game losing streak, including seven this year, in a timely fashion with a MAC-opening 76-65 triumph over Ohio (12/16). The Broncos top scorer was K.C. Cavette, who in 20 minutes off the bench provided 16 points. Cavette scored eight of his points in the last two minutes and was 8-of-11 from the line for the game. The Bronco bench provided 32 points in 79 minutes of play in handing head coach Robert McCullum his first career head coaching victory. Robby Collum, a transfer from Kankakee JC in his first year with the program, nailed 3-of-4 three-point attempts and now leads the MAC in 3-PT FG pct. at 56.05 (14-of-25). Steve Reynolds, another newcomer to the Bronco program, leads the team in scoring at 15.8 ppg, the 11th highest total in the MAC. Following home games against Detroit (12/21) and Oakland (12/30), WMU returns to MAC play at Marshall (1/3).