ESPN Experts Praise MAC Basketball

Updated 12/18/2000
An ESPN.com article over the weekend examined some early men's basketball Cinderella possibilities, and the conference most talked about was the Mid-American.

"I've always said that, year in and year out, the MAC is one of the most underrated conferences in the country," said Dick Vitale. "You've seen how dangerous they are in some of their matchups already this year. Miami (Ohio) has already beaten both Temple and Notre Dame and Central Michigan beat Purdue.

"They are a dangerous conference with some very good teams. Toledo is another example with underrated point guard Terry Reynolds leading the way. Come March this conference could send a few teams to the NCAA Tournament."

Digger Phelps echoed Vitale's enthusiasm for the MAC. "This year look for Marshall to win the conference tournament. They've already beaten the surprise team out of the Atlantic-10, Dayton. Tamar Slay is one of the premier players in the conference, if not the country. More MAC teams than just the Thundering Herd should make noise in the tourney come March," he said. "Last year the MAC was upset that only one of their teams was tabbed for the Big Dance. This year they're making a statement early in the season -- 'Don't forget us again.'"

The panel of experts are high on Marshall as the class of the MAC. However, major nonconference wins by other schools in the league have opened eyes across the country to the strength of the MAC league wide.

Len Elmore is impressed by Marshall's talent, especially "Tamar Slay, a 6-foot-9 junior shooting guard who led the MAC in scoring. However, he's not the only horse coach Greg White has in the stable. Marshall had a close loss to Cincinnati and beat Dayton. They can beat good major conference teams."

"Marshall took out Dayton and has two of the best mid-major talents in Tamar Slay and J.R. VanHoose," wrote ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz "Toledo, Miami of Ohio and Kent all have potential to be trouble if they can get out of the MAC."

However the rest of the pre-conference season goes, the conference race and the MAC Tournament at Gund Arena in Cleveland are sure to provide enough excitement to quench any fan's thirst for outstanding basketball leading up to the madness known as the NCAA Tournament.