The MAC Men's Basketball Tournament in Review

Updated 3/10/2000
CLEVELAND (March 10)(AP) -- Mickey Hosier wasn't being disrespectful. But the Ball State point guard may have best summed up the Mid-American Conference's first ever tournament at Gund Arena.

``It's better than it being in Toledo,'' he said.

The MAC played its conference tourney in Cleveland for the first time this year, hoping to showcase its competitive league on a bigger stage.

And, oh what a show the MAC put on.

The seven games were decided by a total of 18 points. On Sunday, the four quarterfinals were decided by a total of six points and two went to overtime. And of the seven games, just one didn't go down to the final possession.

It was the kind of event the MAC was hoping for when it moved its league offices from Toledo to Cleveland last summer. And it's why the league signed a three-year deal with Gund Arena to host the tournament.

``From a marketing standpoint we couldn't have asked for anything better than what happened on Sunday,'' said MAC commissioner Rick Chryst.

``We know we'll do some things differently after year one, but I know our players and coaches came away with a very positive feeling about how it went.''

Chryst said the league is in negotiations with Gund Arena to make a MAC team an annual participant in the Rock and Roll Shootout at Gund. Bowling Green played in it last year.

Chryst, who served as an assistant commissioner in the Atlantic Coast Conference for seven years before joining the MAC, said he's pleased with the strides the league has made in getting more national exposure.

He knows the MAC can find its own niche in Big Ten country.

``We're making some progress on the TV side,'' he said.

And games like Sunday's quarterfinal thrillers can only help.

Miami of Ohio coach Charlie Coles has been around basketball for most of his 58 years. But he had never experienced anything like what happened during Sunday's quarters.

``Tell me there has ever been a better day of basketball,'' said Coles, whose ninth-seeded RedHawks got the day started by shocking No. 1 seed Bowling Green. ``That was the best basketball I have ever seen. At one point during the day, I forgot what I was here for.

``I became a fan. I remember turning to someone in back of me during one of the games and saying, 'Is this great basketball or what?'''

More than 28,000 fans who attended the three-day tournament seemed to think so. And despite the early elimination of Akron and Kent, the two nearest MAC schools, Wednesday night's final between Miami and Ball State drew 7,204 _ a title game record.

Players and coaches also enjoyed their time in Cleveland, the MAC's home since last July. Unseasonably warm weather gave out-of-town fans a chance to take in some of the city's sights and the teams got a chance to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

``I loved it,'' said Ball State's Duane Clemens, the tournament MVP. ``I just wanted to get out of Muncie (Ind.) for a while. The only thing I didn't like was that the hotel didn't have enough cable channels.''

Cable TV, more specifically ESPN, played a part in Ball State earning its seventh MAC tournament title and an automatic bid to the NCAAs with a 61-58 win over Miami.

Cardinals coach Ray McCallum said his players were watching one of ESPN's college basketball studio shows when the subject of the MAC and how many NCAA tourney invitations it deserved came up.

``They said something like, 'Ball State doesn't deserve to get in if it doesn't win the championship,''' McCallum said. ``And I told our guys, 'See you guys don't get any respect.' It just really helped.''