March Looms Large (Blog Post 2/21/2012)
by SportsTime Ohio's/ESPN Cleveland's Michael Reghi
Have always loved the final two weeks of MAC regular season play, as February turns into March! No exception this year, as game importance becomes more magnified with the new format for seeded teams in the MAC Tournament kicks in beginning the week of March 5th.
As a quick refresher, the top 4 seeds earn byes into tournament play, with the two top seeds, ( 1 and 2 ), heading right to the semifinals on Friday the 9th @ Quicken Loans Arena, while seeds 3 and 4 avoid first round games on campus sites, and begin play on Thursday the 8th, or the quarterfinal round. I am a proponent of the move, as it places heavier weight on the 16 game regular season schedule, and rewards the top 4 records.
As we begin play this week, Akron has a two game lead with four to go for that coveted top seed. While the Zips were bested in Tulsa by 24 win Oral Roberts in BracketBuster action over the weekend, they are going to be tough to unseat for that top seed. Although, they still have to travel to Ohio and Kent State in the final two weeks. The Golden Flashes are currently the second seed, although tied with Buffalo at 9-3, behind Akron's 11-1. Ohio's Bobcats sit fourth, remember, that's highly coveted as well, at 8-4, while Bowling Green today holds down the fifth seed at 7-5. First MAC West squad to show up? Eastern Michigan. The Eagles currently the 6th seed, at 6-6 in league play, and with a 1 game lead over 5-7 Western Michigan.
Keep close tabs on Kent State's trip into Oxford tonight, Sportstime Ohio at 7pm. Steve Mix joins me courtside at Millet Hall on the call. Charlie Coles squad, paced by the February burst of underclassmen Quinten Rollins, Jon Harris, and sweet shooting frosh Brian Sullivan, have won 3 of their last 5 MAC encounters, as Sullivan has been scorching! The true freshman is 4th in the NCAA, burying 49 % of his 3's! Even better in February, as he's connected on 55% from distance in the last 7 MAC games. That's scalding! This trio will need to augment the continued strong play of 6-8 senior Julian Mavunga, who leads the MAC in both points per game and rebounding, at 16.8 with 9.4 boards per. Last time a MAC player led the league in both? How about Gary Trent, just unstoppable in the '94-'95 season with averages of 22.9 points per, and 12.8 rebounds.
The Kent State story, and MAC legend, continues to shine! A win tonight would give the Flashes their thirteenth 20 plus win season in the last 14 years! While a tremendous accomplishment to be sure, were you aware that should the Flashes win 1 of their final 4 in MAC play, they would join Kansas from the Big 12, Gonzaga from the West Coast, and Creighton from the Missouri Valley, as the ONLY four programs in the NCAA to win 10 plus conference games in EACH of the last fourteen seasons! Superb in this era of college hoops!
Still armed with a 7 game MAC win streak, Kent State leads the league in conference play, averaging 74.5 points per game, while shooting 48% from the floor, on 16.8 assists per night. The guard play has been tremendous, as Michael Porrini, Randall Holt, an Carlton Guyton are veteran, tough, can apply pressure all over the floor defensively, and are diverse in their skillsets on the offensive end. Holt's been on blazing away in the win streak, averaging 13 points per, on 45 % from deep, while 6-7 junior Chris Evans is an offensive highlight machine off the Flashes bench, averaging 13 points per game, on 63% shooting, in just 24 minutes per! That's impacting the game, with alot of his work of the 'coming out of the attic', electrifying above the rim, size! The young fella has crazy hops!
Added bonus tonight from Oxford! We'll be joined by former Miami All American Wally Szczerbiak on the telecast. Miami has been bringing back their players from the programs history to be saluted by their faithful. Who better then 'Wally World', who was phenomenal in leading the RedHawks to the 1999 Sweet Sixteen by averaging 30 points per game, on his way to becoming the second leading scorer in program history! Will be good to visit with Wally, and all of you tonight from Southwest Ohio! See you then!