- Kent State
- Bowling Green
- Miami (OH)
- Central Michigan
- Western Michigan
- Eastern Michigan
- Northern Illinois
- Ball State
Player of the Year: Chris Fowler, Central Michigan
Coach of the Year: Keno Davis, Central Michigan
Rookie of the Year: Nick Rogers, Toledo
All-Conference 1st Team
C/F Pat Forsythe, Akron
F Jimmy Hall, Kent State
G/F Ray Lee, Eastern Michigan
G Eric Washington, Miami (OH)
G Chris Fowler, Central Michigan
All-Conference 2nd Team
C/F Nathan Boothe, Toledo
F Connar Tava, Western Michigan
G/F John Simons, Central Michigan
G Zak Denny, Bowling Green
G Jonathan Williams, Toledo
All-Conference 3rd Team
C/F Antonio Campbell, Ohio
F Tucker Hammond, Western Michigan
G/F Sean Sellers, Ball State
G Aaric Armstead, Northern Illinois
G Noah Robotham, Akron
C/F James Thompson IV, Eastern Michigan
F Tahjai Teague, Ball State
G/F Marshawn Wilson, Northern Illinois
G Nick Rogers, Toledo
G LaMonta Stone II, Eastern Michigan
1. Central Michigan (1st in West)
Key Losses: None
Key Returners: Chris Fowler, Rayshawn Simmons, Braylon Rayson, John Simons, Josh Kozinski
Key Newcomers: Corey Redman
C Luke Meyer, So.; (5.5/2.8/0.4/0.3/0.5)
F John Simons, Sr.; (12.3/6.5/0.7/1.1/0.5)
G Rayshawn Simmons, Sr.; (9.1/3.7/4.1/1.1/0/.1)
G Braylon Rayson, Jr.; (11.0/3.0/1.1/0.9/0.0)
G Chris Fowler, Sr.; (16.2/3.1/6.1/1.5/0.2)
Reserves: Josh Kozinski, Austin Stewart, Blake Hibbitts, DaRohn Scott
Postseason Prediction: 12 Seed (Auto-Bid)
Not since the time of Chris Kaman in the days of yore (2003) have the Chippewas been so back baby. This team is the cream of the crop in the West side of the MAC and is the odds-on favorite to secure the conference auto-bid in 2015-16. Coming off a season where he led his team to 23 wins, Coach Keno Davis returns literally almost everyone – all 5 starters and 8 total guys who each played over 15 minutes per contest.
CMU is led by potential MAC POY Chris Fowler, a 6’1’’ point guard who is hilariously listed on kenpom.com as being 101 lbs (I’m so sorry for poking fun of kenpom, its literally my favorite website in the entire world – please forgive me Ken). Fowler was super-efficient last season doling out 6 assists per game (36.1 assist rate – 22nd nationally) while converting 54.8% of his shots inside the arc and getting to the line at a torrid rate. Fowler turned the ball over only 18.6% of the time while sporting a usage rate of 28.4% (93rd in the country) – impressive. The guard should only grow in his senior season and 18 ppg could be well within his wheelhouse.
Joining Fowler in the starting lineup will be four guys who started every game last season in 5’9’’ junior guard Braylon Rayson, 6’4’’ senior wing Rayshawn Simmons, 6’8’’ senior stretch forward John Simons, and 6’11’’ senior big man Luke Meyer. Simmons is a solid secondary ball handler and perimeter defender who had a knack of getting to the line where he shot a successful 74.7% last season. Rayson, a 5’9’’ firecracker, shot 90.3% from the charity stripe (8th nationally) while hitting 48.7% of his twos and 34.2% of his threes. Meyer was uber-efficient finishing in the post (51/72, 70.8%) but left some rebounding and shot blocking ability to be desired.
While each of Rayson, Meyer, and Simmons were extremely efficient in their own rights, none was more (in fact no one in the country was more) efficient than John Simons, who led the nation with an incredible 141.8 O-Rating. Now granted Simons’s usage was only 14.8%, but this dude was ridiculous. Simons shot 68.4% from two (26/38), 46.2% from three (86/186, 19th nationally), and 85% from the line (68th nationally). He led the country in true shooting percentage (71.5%), turned the ball over 8.5% of the time (19th), and even rebounded pretty well on the defensive end. I’m gushing a bit, but I just love awesome shooters. Ok moving on.
The Chippewas are deep and will rely on three main bench guys in Josh Kozinski, Austin Stewart, and Blake Hibbitts. Kozinski led the nation in turnover rate (2.2% - holy shit), though he is mostly a catch-and-shoot perimeter player (62/169, 36.7% from three in 2014-15) – he attempted FOUR two point field goals last year. Stewart and Hibbitts are good-sized wing players who should provide solid depth for CMU. Corey Redman, one of the team’s few incoming freshmen should add even more depth to the wing/guard spot.
Looking at CMU, we see a pretty good team that should be in the field of 68. Offensively, the Chippewas were 25th in the nation efficiency-wise, while only 242nd defensively. They make shots, do not turn the ball over, and finish at the line. If Davis can somehow find a way to sharpen focus on the defensive end – particularly not allowing easy buckets inside – the Chippewas should take the conference and might sneak into a top 11 seed.
2. Akron (1st in East)
Key Losses: Nyles Evans, Deji Ibitayo
Key Returners: Pat Forsythe, Noah Robotham
Key Newcomers: Josh Williams
C Pat Forsythe, Sr.; (10.0/4.9/1.0/0.6/1.3)
F Kwan Cheatham, Jr.; (7.9/5.0/1.5/0.4/1.1)
G/F Jake Kretzer, Sr.; (5.6/4.0/1.1/0.8/0.1)
G Reggie McAdams, Sr.; (7.0/2.0/0.6/0.6/0.4)
G Noah Robotham, So.; (9.9/2.7/3.3/1.3/0.0)
Reserves: Aaron Jackson, Isaiah Johnson, Antino Jackson, Josh WIlliams
Postseason Prediction: NIT
Zippity doo dah! It’s time to preview the Zips! I was curious about the origin of such a ferociously intimidating name as the “Zips” and this is what I found: the name comes from “Zippers” which were rubber overshoes made by the BF Goodrich Company that were popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Thanks Wikipedia!
Awesome nicknames aside, the Zips have had some of the most success among mid-major programs since 2005 (the year current coach, Keith Dambrot, took over). Over the 11 year span, Akron has appeared in three NCAA tournaments and has won over 20 games 10 times, winning “only” 19 in 2005. Last season the Zips finished 9-9 in the MAC, its worst performance in Dambrot’s tenure. This result was primarily due to a lackluster offense that struggled to get to the line and finish shots. Like most MAC teams, Akron loved shooting the three-ball, and the squad played the 3rd best defense in the conference.
The Zips return nearly everyone from its 21-win team a season ago. They lose head case Demetrious Treadwell (who appeared in only 2 games due to suspension), starter Nyles Evans, and second leading scorer Deji Ibitayo. Returning is a strong nucleus that possesses the one thing in basketball you simply cannot teach: SIZE. Akron’s front line consists of team leader and 6’11’’ center Pat Forsythe, 6’9’’ forward Kwan Cheatham, and backup 6’10’’ center Isaiah Johnson. On the wing, they go 6’7’’, 6’7’’, and 6’8’’ with Reggie McAdams, Jake Kretzer, and Aaron Jackson, respectively.
Forsythe will be the Zips catalyst on both the offensive and defensive ends. The senior center led the team in scoring last year, and is a deft finisher around the basket. He rebounds the ball well, particularly on the offensive end, and protects the rim better than anyone on the team. Cheatham, a stretch four type of player is a tough rebounder on the defensive end and also possesses solid shot-blocking ability. Off the bench, Johnson provides even more toughness and rim protection.
The backcourt will center on point guard Noah Robotham, a strong ball handler who was experiencing a productive freshman season before an injury derailed his year. Robotham is a good distributor and is also a three-point threat (37% last season) from the top of the offense. Joining Robotham in the starting lineup will be wings Jake Kretzer and Reggie McAdams. Kretzer, a senior, is a fairly good rebounder and a lights out shooter, posting a slash of .500/.368/.906 in 2014-15. McAdams is the Zips’ number one three-point threat, stroking 40% from deep last season on 155 attempts and should space the floor nicely for the Akron offense. Returning backcourt reserves include sophomore point guard Antino Jackson and sophomore wing Aaron Jackson, both of which will look to mature in their second season under Dambrot.
Akron has four incoming freshmen of note, one of which should make an immediate impact on the lineup. 6’2’’ point guard Josh Williams from LeBron James’s alma mater is a dynamic scorer and should provide a spark off the Zips’ bench. The other three freshmen are pretty raw and most likely will not see too much action; they are 6’6’’ forward Peter Agba, 6’8’’ forward Emmanuel Olojakpoke, and 6’6’’ forward Daniel Utomi.
The Zips will be competitive in 2015-16 (like most teams this year in the MAC). Their coach and pedigree coupled with superior size and shooting ability give them a leg up on their competition and could propel them to the Big Dance. Expect a top 3 finish in the East division of the MAC; they should be considered the favorites in the East with Buffalo’s stud Moss departing.
3. Kent State (2nd in East)
Key Losses: Derek Jackson, Devareaux Manley, Kris Brewer
Key Returners: Jimmy Hall
Key Newcomers: Xavier Pollard, Galal Cancer, Marvin Jones
C Khaliq Spicer, Sr.; (5.0/6.0/0.3/0.4/1.5)
F Jimmy Hall, Jr.; (15.9/7.7/1.5/0.5/1.0)
F Chris Ortiz, Sr.; (6.3/4.5/0.5/0.5/0.4)
G Galal Cancer, Sr.; (w/ Cornell) (9.6/3.4/3.0/1.0/0.3)
G Xavier Pollard, Sr.; (w/ Maine, 2013-14) (14.7/4.4/3.8/1.8/0.3)
Reserves: Jaylen Avery, Rosel Hurley, Deon Edwin, Marvin Jones, Raasean Davis
Postseason Prediction: CBI/CIT
Kent State is located in Kent, Ohio, which gives way to the University’s name. They are not named for, like I know somebody out there (me as a teenager) thought, “Kentucky State”. Clear? Clear.
The Golden Flashes have historically been a strong mid-major basketball program, yet have not reached the NCAA tournament since 2008 when they were a 9-seed under Jim Christian and led by current-NBA player Mike Scott. This year, the team will be without its entire starting backcourt from a season ago with the graduations of Derek Jackson, Devareaux Manley, and Kris Brewer. While this isn’t ideal by any means, the pain of losing such production won’t sting nearly as badly as it normally would thanks to the return of super stud Jimmy Hall.
Hall will compete for POY in the MAC this season and is a mortal lock for the first-team ballot. The 6’7’’ junior is a beast inside and a workhorse using 31% of his team’s possessions when on the floor. Hall rebounds well on both sides of the ball and provides enough rim protection for the Flashes to get by. His 52.9% FG% is more than acceptable for a high-volume shooter, and his 69.5% FT% isn’t a death sentence. If Hall limits his fouling this year, something that plagued him at times in 2014-15, he should improve on his 15.9 ppg / 7.7 rpg and provide yet another great season for Kent State.
Accompanying Hall in the frontcourt will be two vets: Khaliq Spicer and Chris Ortiz. Both big men played around 22 minutes per contest last season and were effective in their roles supporting Hall. Spicer is a mammoth on the boards and at 6’9’’ protects the rim about as well as anyone in the conference. Ortiz plays more of a stretch four / three-man role, occasionally stepping outside the arc to space the floor.
The starting backcourt and most of the bench production will come from newcomers consisting of freshmen, JUCO transfers, and D1 transfers. The Flashes bring in three new freshmen, 6’0’’ point guard Jaylen Avery, a scoring guard with good distribution skills; 6’5’’ wing Rosel Hurley, an athletic wing with a sweet stroke; and Jaylin Walker, a 6’1’’ off-guard who will see the least amount of floor time out of the three. From the JUCO ranks, Kent State brings in 6’3’’ guard Deon Edwin and 6’10’’ big man Marvin Jones. Edwin is a solid defender with good touch from outside and should find time within the Flash rotation. Jones is primarily an athlete and shot-blocker and should find a comfortable role behind the Hall/Spicer/Ortiz trio. From the D1 ranks, the Flashes welcome former Maine point guard Xavier Pollard and former Cornell 2-guard Galal Cancer. Maine has been pretty much garbage the last few years, but Pollard was a bright spot for them averaging 14.7/4.4/3.8 as a junior. Cancer was a sharpshooter last season for Cornell where he averaged 9.6 points per game while shooting 38.1% from deep. Both guards should start this season for Kent.
Kent State will be competitive in the MAC in 2015-16. They lack the continuity of such powerhouses like Central Michigan, but Jimmy Hall gives them a chance to win every night and Coach Senderoff is a competent leader who’s used to meshing transfers into a new system. A top 5 finish overall in the conference is likely, with a top 3 finish in the East.
4. Western Michigan (2nd in West)
Key Losses: David Brown, Austin Richie
Key Returners: Connar Tava, Tucker Hammond
Key Newcomers: Bryce Moore, Joeviair Kennedy, Seth Dugan
C Drake LaMont, So.; (5.7/4.3/0.4/0.4/0.7)
F Connar Tava, Sr.; (12.3/6.2/3.3/1.1/0.3)
F Tucker Hammond, Jr.; (11.8/4.3/1.8/0.8/0.1)
F Taylor Perry, Sr.; (2.4/2.2/1.0/0.5/0.2)
G Thomas Wilder, So.; (7.2/2.5/1.6/1.0/0.1)
Reserves: Kellen McCormick, A.J. Avery, Bryce Moore, Joeviair Kennedy, Seth Dugan
Postseason Prediction: CBI/CIT
Steve Hawkins has had much success during his 12 years serving as the Western Michigan head coach. The Broncos have reached two NCAA tournaments and have won over 20 games seven times during his tenure. Last season, the Broncos had mild success in the weaker West side of the MAC, winning 10 games in the conference and 20 games overall led by a solid offense and hindered by a piss poor defense.
This season promises to be an interesting one for Hawkins and crew. The Broncos lose their best overall player in David Brown, in addition to starter Austin Richie, so that’s bad; but the Broncs do bring back a talented core and should compete with Central Michigan and Toledo in the West division this year.
Western Michigan will be led by two players in particular – forwards Connar Tava and Tucker Haymond. Tava is a deft finisher inside and at 6’6’’ 235 lbs. is a girthy fella in the post. While Tava does rebound well for his height, he offers little to no rim protection which is worrisome given the Broncos’ defensive difficulties and the fact he will likely start at power forward. Interesting fact about Tava; the girthy guy led the Broncos in assists last season with 3.3 per contest (24.4 Assist Rate – 268th nationally). Haymond should be WMU’s number one scoring option and playmaker this season, picking up the slack left by Brown. Haymond is a good shooter (.590/.363/.758) and gets to the line at an effective rate. If the junior swingman can offer more in the ways of defense and rebounding, it will go a long way in lifting the Broncos back to the Dance. Expect Tava and Haymond to both average around 13 to 14 points per contest and be a two-man wrecking crew for the Broncos on offense.
Western Michigan will also rely on two sophomores to step and produce this season – center Drake LaMont and point guard Thomas Wilder. LaMont is a big body at 6’10’’ 240 lbs. and should help at least partially soothe the open wound that is the Western Michigan interior defense with his rim protection. LaMont is also WMU’s best offensive rebounder (by a wide margin); his size will be crucial to the Broncos’ success this season. Wilder saw about 20 minutes per game as a freshmen and played well when given the opportunity. The point guard proved he could function as a decent distributor and scorer, but did suffer from turnover yips at times. In addition to his point guard duties, the sophomore should be a valuable defensive asset guarding quick guards on the perimeter. Returning swingmen / forwards Taylor Perry, Kellen McCormick, and A.J. Avery should add some nice depth to the frontcourt.
The Broncos bring in a few freshmen recruits of note, specifically guard Bryce Moore, wing Joeviair Kennedy, and big man Seth Dugan. Moore should function as a competent backup for Wilder at the point guard position, while Kennedy, a raw, uber-athletic swingman, should bolster the small forward spot. Dugan is a near-seven footer who possesses great shot-blocking ability and rebounding prowess. Though he is raw on the offensive end, the big should make an immediate impact behind LaMont and Tava down low.
Western Michigan will be right in the thick of things in the MAC once again. Expect a top 5 finish for the Broncos with a 3rd place ceiling and a 7th place floor.
5. Toledo (3rd in West)
Key Losses: Julius Brown, Justin Drummond, J.D. Weatherspoon
Key Returners: Jonathan Williams, Nathan Boothe
Key Newcomers: Nick Rogers, Steve Taylor, Jr., Chandler White
C Nathan Boothe, Sr.; (10.0/5.7/2.2/0.7/1.3)
F Steve Taylor, Jr., Sr; (w/ Marquette) (5.9/5.0/0.4/0.5/0.2)
G Jordan Lauf, Jr.; (4.3/3.6/1.1/0.9/0.1)
G Jonathan Williams, Jr.; (10.2/3.4/1.7/0.6/0.1)
G Nick Rogers, Fr.;
Reserves: Chandler White, Stuckey Mosley, Zach Garber
Postseason Prediction: CBI/CIT
Toledo basketball had “Great Expectations” in 2014-15 predicted by most to win the MAC and cruise to the Big Dance. Instead, the Rockets fell on “Hard Times” in 2014-15 and limped like Tiny Tim from “A Christmas Carol” to a 4th place finish in the MAC and experienced no postseason to speak of. Dickens references complete – nailed them all.
Unfortunately for Toledo, the MAC is a pretty good conference now and given the Rockets lose their three most prolific scorers, including leader Julius Brown, an improvement from last year’s record and finish is a bit of a reach. Despite losing Brown and talented starters Justin Drummond and J.D. Weatherspoon, however, the Rockets return a couple major contributors with big upside and add some promising newcomers, giving them the ability to compete this season in the suddenly competitive Mid-American Conference.
Leading the way for Toledo in 2015-16 will be 6’3’’ junior guard Jonathan Williams and 6’9’’ senior center Nathan Boothe. Both men averaged double figures as starters last season for the Toledo offense and both are expected to increase on those scoring numbers this year. Williams is the Rockets’ best returning long-range shooter; he connected on 36.1% of his 144 attempts last season. Williams’s usage rate was just under 20%, so it will be interesting to track how his efficiency numbers hold up as he takes more control of the offense in his junior campaign. Boothe had a similar usage rate to Williams and posted extremely effective shooting numbers – 88.9% from the line and 51.7% inside the arc. The big man did not get to the line enough to take advantage of his stellar foul shooting, so a more aggressive attitude in the paint would be appreciated by head coach Tod Kowalczyk this season. Boothe was a good defensive rebounder for Toledo last season and protected the rim nicely, turning in a 5.2% Blk %. The center had issues staying on the floor last season however, committing 4.7 fouls per 40 minutes. Look for Boothe and Williams to take big leaps in production this season and make All-MAC teams.
Support for Boothe and Williams will come courtesy of swingman Jordan Lauf, guard Stuckey Mosley, and a host of new blood. Lauf was the Rockets’ top reserve a season ago; the junior posted an insane 121.1 O-Rating (though he used only 12.8% of the team’s posessions). Lauf can pull it from deep, but he is most valuable attacking the rim and getting to the foul line, something he did better than almost everyone on the team last season. Look for Lauf to step into a starting role this season and be looked upon as a tertiary option on offense. Mosley’s minutes fluctuated throughout his freshman season, but he will be forced to play more this season due to Toledo’s lack of depth. Mosley honestly wasn’t great when he did see the floor, posting a shooting slash of .413/.275/.625, but Kowalczyk won’t have many options in 2015-16 and the guard will need to step up his game.
The new blood for the Rockets will be the biggest key for their postseason aspirations in 2015-16. Toledo will look to get major production out of Marquette transfer Steve Taylor Jr., and freshmen Nick Rogers and Chandler White. Taylor should start alongside Boothe in the frontcourt and will give the Rockets a strong rebounding presence, both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Taylor is a strong finisher around the tin and also started to show the ability to shoot from range during his junior year at Marquette. Rogers is a skilled point guard that should share ball-handling duties with Williams and help relieve some pressure off the junior leader. Chandler White is a sharpshooter who should provide a scoring spark immediately when he comes off the pine.
The Rockets will be a solid team this season, but given the amount of talent they lost and the amount of talent the other top 5 or 6 MAC squads retained, it will be a dogfight finishing in the top 3 of the conference.
6. Eastern Michigan (4th in West)
Key Losses: Mike Talley, Karrington Wood, Anali Okoloji
Key Returners: Ray Lee,
Key Newcomers: James Thompson IV, Lamonta Stone II, Ty Toney, Willie Mangum
C James Thompson IV, Fr.;
F Jodan Price, Jr.; (4.3/1.9/0.4/0.5/0.6)
F Tim Bond, So.; (6.1/2.6/1.1/0.7/0.8)
G Ray Lee, Jr,; (16.7/1.9/1.5/1.4/0.2)
G Ethan Alvano, So.; (3.4/1.4/1.8/0.8/0.1)
Reserves: Brandon Nazione, LaMonta Stone II, Ty Toney, Willie Mangum
Postseason Prediction: None
Eastern Michigan University is located in scenic Ypsilanti, MI, which if you know how to pronounce that you can get the eff out of here. Ypsilanti is home to 20,000 people and Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase!
I don’t have any good ideas of how to segue off my unfunny comments on the city of Ypsilanti, so I’m just going to dive right into the preview and talk about the RISING Eastern Michigan Eagles. EMU has loads of potential this season despite losing three key cogs in Mike Talley, Karrington Wood, and Anali Okoloji to graduation. In addition to leading scorer Raven (Ray) Lee, the Eagles return a motley crew of reserves ready to make their mark on the EMU program.
Before talking about the motley crew, we should first and foremost discuss Ray Lee, who will be the heart and soul of the Green Eagles this season. Lee used the 18th most of his team’s possessions (31.4%) and attempted the 29th highest percentage of his team’s shots in the country during 2014-15. But this was a good thing – Lee didn’t miss too often. The guard shot 37.5% from three on 184 attempts, cashed in 49.5% of his shots within the arc (good for a guard), and connected on 79.6% of his charity attempts. Though his number of attempts suggest a volume scorer, Lee was actually quite efficient at putting the ball in the hole. I would expect no decline in usage for the junior, who only should mature in his third season under Coach Rob Murphy.
The key returners for EMU aside from Lee (a.k.a. the motley crew) include 6’6’’sophomore Tim Bond, 6’7’’ junior Jodan “no R” Price, 6’8’’ senior Brandon Nazione, and 6’1’’ sophomore Ethan Alvano. Each of these men played at least 14 minutes per contest for the Eagles last season suggesting that this will be a deep and experienced team in 2015-16. Though none were terribly efficient last season, Price showed he at least thought he should be shooting threes (32/113 28.3%). The Eagles were the 290th best team at hitting threes last season (31.4%), a terrible mark magnified by the fact they shot the 75th most in the country. Expect Price to improve on his numbers in a larger role this season and for Bond and Alvano (each 30 attempts) to experiment from deep as well.
EMU will certainly be relying on some fresh faces this season, namely 3-star recruit LaMonta Stone II, 6’10’’ James Thompson IV, and JUCO transfer guards Ty Toney and Willie Mangum. The 5’9’’ Stone is ranked as the 8th best prospect out of the state of Michigan by ESPN and should compete with Toney, Alvano, and Mangum to replace Mike Talley as the team’s starting point guard. Stone averaged 21 points, 6 assists, and 4 steals in high school; Coach Murphy would be thrilled to get even half those numbers out of him this season. Toney is a built off-guard at 225 lbs. and should provide toughness in the EMU backcourt. The guard had a year-long stint at Appalachian State where he averaged 6 points games before throwing in 17 per contest as a JUCO star. Mangum, a little less stocky than Toney at 180 lbs., is a pure scorer who should provide a spark off the pine. The big man, Thompson, likely will step into the starting center spot on day one given the lack of size the Eagles possess. Thompson was a double-double machine in high school, and though a bit skinny, should be able to provide good rim protection for EMU down low.
I’m high on Eastern Michigan, but I’m high on the MAC as a conference too. Pre-season EMU falls somewhere in the middle of a good MAC league with the potential to rise up into the top 4 or 5 by season end.
7. Buffalo (3rd in East)
Key Losses: Justin Moss, Shannon Evans, Bobby Hurley
Key Returners: Jarryn Skeete, Lamonte Bearden
Key Newcomers: Ikenna Smart, David Kadiri, Blake Hamilton, Willie Conner, CJ Massinburg
C Raheem Johnson, Sr.; (2.8/2.5/0.1/0.3/1.1)
F David Kadiri, Jr.; (JUCO)
G/F Rodell Wigginton, Sr.; (7.3/4.3/0.9/0.8/0.5)
G Jarryn Skeete, Sr.; (9.1/3.2/1.5/1.1/0.1)
G Lamonte Bearden, So.; (8.3/2.8/4.4/1.4/0.3)
Reserves: Ikenna Smart, David Kadiri, Blake Hamilton, Willie Conner, CJ Massinburg
Postseason Prediction: None
The State University of New York – Buffalo is in a state of crisis. What appeared to be a promising year for the Bulls now looks to be one that promises frustration and flirtations with mediocrity. The Shannon Evans (Buffalo’s 15.4 ppg point guard) transfer to Arizona State (along with former coach Bobby Hurley) hurt, but at least it was expected and not too detrimental considering Justin Moss, reigning MAC POY would be back in town. Flash forward to August when Moss was expelled from the University and dismissed from the team after he and teammates Raheem Johnson and Mory Diane were caught stealing money from a dorm room, and now there’s trouble in the Empire State. Moss averaged 17.5 points per game and 9.2 rebounds and was the hands-down favorite to repeat as MAC POY while leading the Bulls to a second straight tourney berth. Now, with Moss and Evans gone, Buffalo all of a sudden looks like a middle-of-the-pack MAC team.
With Moss and Evans gone, the scoring/leadership burden will fall on backcourt members Lamonte Bearden, Jarryn Skeete, and Rodell Wigginton. Skeete is the returning leading scorer at 9.1 ppg as well as the best outside shooter the Bulls have to offer (38.6%). Skeete made his living last year on catch-and-shoot threes, but will be forced to become more of a playmaker with the studs of yesteryear now gone. Bearden will likely take over most of the ball handling duties; the sophomore showed poise last season as a rookie posting an assist rate of 26.9 (175th nationally). Bearden has a great knack for getting to the foul line (where he shoots 73.6%), but his field goal shooting could use a serious tune-up. Wigginton too must improve his shooting, but the wing does offer some perimeter defense and good size at 6’5’’ 215 lbs.
Buffalo is in trouble inside without Moss. 6’10’’ Raheem Johnson is the only returning forward who actually played last season, and he’s suspended as of now (see aforementioned “stealing money from dorm room” debacle). Given this, Buffalo will need to rely heavily on JUCO transfers and freshmen to fill the voids. Six newcomers have the potential to make big impacts on the Bulls lineup this season.
On the JUCO transfer side, the Bulls bring in three forwards, 6’6’’ Blake Hamilton, 6’5’’ Willie Conner, and 6’8’’ David Kadiri. Kadiri has big-time rebounding and shot-blocking potential and should be active in the frontcourt for the Bulls on defense; the forward likely slides into Moss’s spot in the starting lineup this season. Hamilton and Conner are both wings that will push Wigginton for a starting role and playing time. A three-man rotation of the trio on the perimeter is probable.
Three freshmen impacting the Bulls this season will be 6’10’’ redshirt freshman Ikenna Smart, 6’8’’ forward Nick Perkins, and 6’3’’ guard CJ Massinburg. Smart should back up Johnson at the center position (or potentially start if Johnson’s suspension goes into the season); the big man, like Kadiri, should eat the glass like a weird fat kid who likes to eat glass, and is sure to be an asset protecting the rim. Perkins is a skilled four-man from Ypsilanti, MI, home of Eastern Michigan, and should contribute immediately competing with Kadiri for PT. Massinburg will see minutes spelling Skeete and Bearden, but don’t count on either to spend too much time on the bench with the limited depth at guard.
What could have been another nice year for Buffalo will probably end in disappointment. A stupid decision by the star player of the league will put a little more pressure on new coach Nate Oats as he struggles to fight out of the middle of the MAC.
8. Bowling Green (4th in East)
Key Losses: Richaun Holmes, Jehvon Clark, Anthony Henderson
Key Returners: Zak Denny
Key Newcomers: Wes Alcegaire, Malik Hluchoweckyj, Antwon Lillard, Rasheed Worrell
C Josh Gomez, Sr.; (2.0/1.6/0.1/0.2/0.4)
F Spencer Parker, Sr.; (7.8/3.7/0.9/0.6/0.1)
G Wes Alcegaire, Jr.; (JUCO)
G Zak Denny, Jr.; (9.2/5.2/0.9/1.6/0.2)
G David Joseph, Sr.; (4.2/2.5/3.3/0.9/0.0)
Reserves: Wes Alcegaire, Malik Hluchoweckyj, Antwon Lillard, Rasheed Worrell, Garrett Mayleben
Postseason Prediction: None
Last season Bowling Green (or Bowling Green State University) turned in its best basketball season since 2002 when the team was captained by “legendary” coach and Three-Man-Weave pariah Dan Dakich. Three Asides: 1. Listen to Dan Dakich do commentary for a basketball game and try to not think he is a moron, try it! You can’t because it isn’t possible! 2. The Bowling Green vs. Bowling Green State name is confusing. 3. You would think Bowling Green’s colors would involve the color green, but they don’t, perhaps too obvious?
Asides aside, Bowling Green is one of the few MAC teams due for a decline this season, and perhaps not just a small one. The Falcons lose their best two players in Richaun Holmes and Jehvon Clarke and arguably their third best in Anthony Henderson. The trio takes with them 51% of the team’s scoring from 2014-15, leaving big holes in the offense.
Bowling Green will be heavily reliant on junior guard Zak Denny this season. Denny was the team’s third leading scorer last year and shot a remarkable 40.3% on 124 three-point attempts last season. Denny isn’t a one trick pony, the guard gets shots consistently inside and is a superb rebounder for his 6’2’’ frame. Returning to the starting lineup with Denny is senior forward Spencer Parker. Parker didn’t leave a huge impact on most games he played last season, but the 6’7’’ wing has decent scoring ability and will be forced into a much larger role this year.
The three other returners (all primarily reserves last season), include 6’0’’ point guard David Joseph, 6’10’’center Josh Gomez, and seldom-used 6’9’’ forward Garrett Mayleben. Joseph was a formidable passer last season turning in an assist rate of 29.4 (95th nationally), though he did have his fair share of turnovers. The guard was a brutal shooter from the field (.351/.192) which will have to change if Bowling Green wants to cling to mediocrity in the MAC. Gomez has potential as a rebounder and he will likely start in the middle for the Falcons this season.
BGSU will be forced to rely on several newcomers this season. Freshmen Malik Hluchoweckyj (good lord), also a big football recruit, and Antwon Lillard will bolster the Falcon backcourt and each could contribute immediately. Inside, freshman Demajeo Wiggins and redshirt-freshman Rasheed Worrell should see the floor a decent amount based solely on the lack of bodies BGSU has inside. The most promising newcomer is JUCO transfer Wes Alcegaire who has the best shot at starting from day one and aiding Denny in shouldering the scoring load.
Bowling Green will struggle to win games this season in a packed MAC; after a strong 21-win season that saw the Falcons finish 3rd in the East, they likely fall to 4th (saved by the inept Ohio and Miami (OH)), and more than likely finish below .500 in conference play.
9. Northern Illinois (5th in West)
Key Losses: Jordan Threloff, Anthony Johnson
Key Returners: Aaric Armstead, Travon Baker, Darrell Bowie
Key Newcomers: Marshawn Wilson, Jaylen Key, Andrew Zelis
C Marin Maric, So.; (4.9/4.0/0.5/0.3/0.4)
F Darrell Bowie, Sr.; (9.8/5.4/1.2/1.3/0.5)
G Aaric Armstead, Jr.; (11.1/4.7/0.6/1.4/0.4)
G Michael Orris, Jr.; (3.7/1.6/2.1/0.8/0.0)
G Travon Baker, Sr.; (8.0/1.7/3.1/1.5/0.0)
Reserves: Marshawn Wilson, Jaylen Key, Andrew Zelis, Chuks Iroegbu
Postseason Prediction: None
After beginning his D1 collegiate basketball coaching career with 10 total wins in his first two seasons, Head Coach Mark Montgomery finally turned the page and entered the realm of mediocrity. The Northern Illinois Huskies were winners of 14 games in 2014-15, following a 15 win performance in 2013-14. This is good considering this is a program that has won 17 games (and finished over .500) only twice in the past 19 years (20 years ago they reached the NCAA tournament). This season promises to bring more mediocrity to the bustling city of Dekalb, IL.
NIU loses two of its top four scorers from a year ago in Anthony Johnson, and big man Jordan Threloff. The 2014-15 version of the Huskies did four things really well – they killed the offensive boards (23rd nationally), they got to the line at a savage rate (8th), they forced turnovers (35th), and they stole the shit out of the ball (24th). Great right? Unfortunately for the Huskies and Coach Montgomery, the departed Threloff was the main catalyst for the torrid free throw rate (he was 3rd in the nation) and the offensive boarding (51st nationally), but the key returning trio of Aaric Armstead, Travon Baker, and Darrell Bowie should keep NIU flying high in the steal department.
The aforementioned “three musketeers” will be the source of all that could be good for the Huskies in 2015-16. Aaric Armstead, a junior guard with good size, led the team in scoring a season ago and should be the go-to guy once again this year. Armstead wasn’t a particularly good shooter last year and did most of his scoring from the free-throw line where he shot 68.6%. Darrell Bowie, a 6’7’’ senior wing, was forced to miss time last season due to a shoulder injury. Bowie was the Huskies’ best all-around defender and second-leading rebounder last season and will be an x-factor in NIU’s push for a Cinderella conference run. Travon Baker, a 5’10’’ point guard, returns for his senior campaign to run the offense. Baker submitted an impressive 28.1 assist rate and was fairly successful at limiting his turnovers relative to his ball control.
A slew of returners supporting the core group include 6’2’’ guard Michael Orris, 6’10’’ center Marin Maric, and 6’4’’ wing Chuks Iroegbu. Maric is the lead candidate to replace Threloff in the starting lineup and Orris should regain his spot in the backcourt alongside Baker.
NIU actually brings in a fairly strong recruiting class headlined by 4-star recruit Marshawn Wilson. Wilson is a point guard, but at 6’3’’ could slide in nicely alongside Baker if Coach Montgomery opts to bench the seldom-used Orris. I’m not checking this statement out of laziness but Wilson might be one of NIU’s biggest recruits in recent memory. In addition to Wilson, 3-star forward Jaylen Key, and 7-foot JUCO transfer Andrew Zelis should bolster the reserve group. Interesting fact about Zelis – he is the #2 rated JUCO center nationally despite putting up a laughable 4.0 points and 2.8 boards per contest.
NIU is getting better and maybe could pull off a 9-9 record in the Western side of the MAC. Anything higher is unlikely, but not out of the question.
10. Ball State (6th in West)
Key Losses: Zavier Turner
Key Returners: Jeremie Tyler, Sean Sellers, Franko House
Key Newcomers: Tahjai Teague, Ryan Weber, Nate Wells
F Bo Calhoun, Sr.; (9.6/6.0/0.6/0.4/0.5)
F Franko House, Jr.; (10.3/5.5/2.4/0.9/0.5)
G/F Sean Sellers, So.; (12.0/2.9/1.2/0.3/0.3)
G Francis Kiapway, So.; (6.6/1.8/1.0/0.4/0.0)
G Jeremie Tyler, So.; (12.0/3.8/1.3/1.3/0.3)
Reserves: Jeremiah Davis, Nate Wells, RoccoBelcaster, Ryan Weber, Tahjai Teague
Postseason Prediction: None
Ball State was easily the worst team in the MAC last season turning in a 2-16 conference record while going 7-23 and losing 17 straight games to end their 2014-15 campaign. Despite this inept ability to win, the outlook for the Cardinals this season is actually pretty rosy. The Cardinals were one of the youngest teams in the nation last season and it showed through their awful ability to not give the ball to the opposing team every time down the floor. Prior to the 17 straight losses, Ball State showed some potential with good wins over Central Michigan (by 18), Eastern Michigan, and Indiana State. With essentially everyone returning from a young squad and the addition of some solid newcomers, Ball State could actually be competitive in 2015-16.
We will start the Ball State roster preview with the backcourt led by sophomores Jeremie Tyler and Francis Kiapway, and 5th year senior Jeremiah Davis. Tyler played in only 9 games for the Cardinals last season before being declared academically ineligible for the second semester. In those 9 games Tyler was the team’s leading scorer and proved to be a solid three point threat from the 2-guard spot (41.7%). Davis’s season was limited to 20 games due to a foot injury. The guard is a stout defender and should be looked upon as a leader and role model for the younger group. Kiapway is a one-trick pony (three-point shooter). The guard shot 39.7% last year on 126 attempts while attempting only 35 twos during the year. Ball State as a team relied heavily on the three ball last season, attempting the 16th most in the country.
The wings and frontcourt will consist of come combination of 6’6’’ sophomore Sean Sellers, 6’6’’ junior Franko House, 6’6’’ senior Bo Calhoun, 6’7’’ senior Rocco Belcaster, 6’8’’ freshman Tahjai Teague, 6’6’’ transfer Ryan Weber, and 7’1’’ grad transfer Nate Wells. The incumbent starters are Sellers, House, and Calhoun, but given Ball State’s lack of size, Wells could join the lineup at center some nights replacing Calhoun, or bumping the aforementioned Kiapway and shifting the positions down a level. Sellers is a lights out shooter, stroking 42.9% from deep and 80.5% from the line. He should provide ample space on the court for the guards to attack and big men to work. House and Calhoun are both hardnosed rebounders for their size, particularly Calhoun who turned in a 21.2% DR% (110th nationally) a season ago. Both forwards finish at a high rate at the rim. Weber and Wells are highly anticipated transfers (Youngstown State and Bradley, respectively). Weber averaged 12 ppg during his sophomore season at Youngstown, shooting a .438/.440/.847 clip. The forward should add yet another deadly option outside to the Cardinals roster. Wells started at the end of the year for Bradley and averaged 7.0/3.3 and 1.4 blocks over his last nine games. Tahjai Teague is an exciting freshman prospect. Teague is 6’8’’ 175 pounds, so he roughly has the girth of that of a pencil; but the frosh is a good rebounder and pick and pop player who should contribute immediately for Ball State.
All-in-all I’m pretty high on the Cardinals, though they likely still finish last in the West. They should have a deadly shooting attack with okay rebounding to boot. If they can limit their turnover issues (Davis should take over more point duties this season) and improve their porous defense (Wells should help), this team could upset a few higher-ups as the season progresses.
11. Miami (OH) (5th in East)
Key Losses: Will Sullivan
Key Returners: Eric Washington, Geovonie McKnight, Willie Moore
Key Newcomers: None
C L.J. Livingston, Sr.; (4.4/2.9/0.1/0.1/0.9)
F Chris Bryant, Sr.; (4.4/3.2/0.5/0.4/0.3)
G Geovonie McKnight, Sr.; (10.5/3.4/1.3/1.4/0.2)
G Willie Moore, Sr.; (7.3/2.8/1.1/1.5/0.1)
G Eric Washington, Sr.; (14.2/3.2/5.5/1.4/0.0)
Reserves: Zach McCormick, Logan McLane, Kalif Wright
Postseason Prediction: None
The Miami (OH) Red Hawks were a mid-major pseudo powerhouse in the 1990s with tournament appearances in ’92, ’95, ’97, and ’99, the latter of which was a Sweet 16 run led by hunk Wally Szczerbiak. I remember that team vividly, so I was a bit surprised to find that it was back in 1999 when I was a tubby nine year old wearing a backwards, fitted UNC Tar Heels hat. Anyways, since then, the Red Hawks have appeared only once in the tournament (2007) and have fallen on hard times finishing under .500 for the past six straight years.
Miami (OH) won 8 conference games last season which is really pretty astounding given the fact they were 13-17 overall and were rated as the 208th best team in the country per kenpom.com. In other words, the Red Hawks vastly overachieved in conference play and despite most of their core returning, I have to think they’re due for a slight regression with the improvements of teams around them (I mean they lost to Ohio by 30 in their final regular season game last year).
The Red Hawks lose only one major contributor in second leading scorer Will Sullivan, and return their other four starters including their core of Eric Washington, Geovonie McKnight, and Willie Moore. Ok so as bearish as I am on Miami (OH), Eric Washington is a little stud. The 5’10’’ point guard made his living last year at the free throw line going 152/192 (79.2%, 268th nationally) – the guy drew nearly six fouls per game. He also sported a 49.1% FG% inside the arc while owning the 7th highest assist rate in the country (39.1). His return is enormous for the Hawks and his presence has “shut the fuck up Ky, Miami won’t finish with a worse record than Ball State” written all over it. McKnight and Moore are two inefficient 6’3’’ guards who like to give the ball to the opposing team. Moore is this team’s only returning three-point threat (I will not apologize to sophomore Zach McCormick who shot 25% last season) and McKnight is strictly a slasher.
The Hawks have issues inside. They basically play a committee of big men about 15-20 minutes per game each and really don’t get a whole lot from them. Biggest candidates for the starting lineup are 6’10’’ senior L.J. Livingston, 6’8’’ senior Chris Bryant, 6’9’’ sophomore Logan McLane, and 6’7’’ junior Kalif Wright. They all are so-so rebounders and only Livingston knows that you are allowed to block an opponent’s shot.
Fun Fact: the Miami (OH) Red Hawks have ZERO freshmen on their roster, making this an easy preview. Thanks Coach Cooper!
Miami (OH) may not be as bad as I’m making them out to be, but I frankly don’t see how this roster, which is pretty awful outside of Washington, wins more than 6 conference games this season in the MAC, and even that may be too many.
12. Ohio (6th in East)
Key Losses: Maurice Daly Ndour, Javarez Willis
Key Returners: Antonio Campbell
Key Newcomers: Jordan Dartis, Ellis Dozier, Doug Taylor, Jaaron Simmons, Kenny Kaminski
C Antonio Campbell, Jr.; (10.0/7.6/0.6/0.5/0.9)
F Treg Setty, Sr.; (5.1/3.3/0.9/0.5/0.2)
G/F Kenny Kaminski, Jr.; (w/ Michigan St.) (4.9/1.5/0.4/0.3/0.3)
G Mike Laster, So.; (3.8/1.7/0.3/0.3/0.0)
G Jaaron Simmons, Fr.;
Reserves: Wadly Mompremier, Jordan Dartis, Khari Harley, Ellis Dozier, Doug Taylor
I’ll be honest – I really had no idea how successful (relatively) the Ohio basketball program has been in recent years. Since 2008, the Bobcats have won over 20 games five times, suffered only two losing seasons, made the tournament twice, and even went to the Sweet 16 under John Groce in 2012. Last year, the bliss and glee the program had been experiencing came to a screeching halt when the Bobcats went 10-20 (5-13) in a suddenly solid MAC conference.
Unfortunately, the road back to success may be a long one for the Bobcats as the team loses four starters (3 from graduation) including its two leading scorers Maurice Daly Ndour and Javarez Willis. The one returning starter, Antonio Campbell, will be relied upon to be the leader and backbone for a team that will struggle in the guillotine that is the MAC. Campbell is a 6’8’’ 260 lb. junior who excels at rebounding (26.4% DR%, 18th nationally) and provides solid rim protection. The big man is a proven finisher (55.4% inside the arc) and even showed the ability to knock down the three last season (34.1% on 82 attempts). The offense should go through Campbell, at least early, but the big man will need a lot of help.
That help will come in the form of a slew of talented newcomers and former reserves who will be asked to step into a larger role this season. First the reserves; Ohio returns four bench players who received meaningful minutes a season ago – 6’8’’ forward Treg Setty, 6’8’’ wing Khari Harley, 6’4’’ guard Mike Laster, and 6’10’’ forward Wadly Mompremier. Setty is poised to start alongside Campbell in the frontcourt this season. The senior averaged 5.1 ppg and 3.3 rpg in just over 18 minutes per contest while finishing consistently and showing a bit of range. Laster could see the biggest growth this season as he enters his sophomore season as the only experienced guard on the roster. Harley should provide good depth on the wing and seldom used Mompremier will be counted on to play bigger minutes inside (where he needs to grow a pair and rebound like a 6’10’’ guy instead of a 6’2’’ guy).
Aside from the aforementioned players, the Bobcats will be heavily reliant on a stable of newcomers, specifically three 3-star recruits in Doug Taylor, Jordan Dartis, and Ellis Dozier, and transfers Kenny Kaminski (Michigan State) and Jaaron Simmons (Houston). Dozier is a 6’9’’ stretch four who possesses a smooth stroke and offers length and athleticism on the defensive end. Dartis is a combo guard that could start at the point for Ohio out of necessity; he shoots well and defends the perimeter well for his 6’2’’ size. Taylor is a 6’8’’ center who should provide Campbell and Setty with solid depth. Simmons appeared in 32 games for Houston his freshman season but struggled with turnovers as the main ball handler off the pine. Simmons will compete with Dartis for point duties and will likely have the upper hand early with his past experience. Kaminiski offers the most potential to make an immediate impact of all the newcomers. The 6’8’’ forward shot a scorching 49.4% from three as a freshman for Sparty and he was about as efficient as players come in his 12 mpg as a Spartan.
Ohio will be a young team this season and will struggle to win games in a competitive MAC. This team likely finishes last in the conference and likely doesn’t get watched a lot by Three-Man-Weave contributor Ky.