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October 29, 2013

MBB 2013-2014 Season Preview; Part 3: All-MAC Awards

In this three-part series, the BroncoBlitz.com staff takes a look into the crystal ball previewing the 2013-2014 Mid-American Conference men's basketball season. Keith Dambrot and the Akron Zips look poised to defend their MAC title, however several other programs look to be gaining ground. Expect to see more league-wide parody this season, as a handful of MAC teams appear to be solidly in contention.

MBB 2013-2014 Season Preview; Part 1: MAC East

MBB 2013-2014 Season Preview; Part 2: MAC West

In part three of our series, we'll provide in-depth analysis and breakdowns of projected All-MAC selections. We'll take a glimpse into the future and speculate which incoming MAC players could have the biggest impact, as well as look at potential tournament seeding and implications. We examine below in our predictions.


Projected 1st Team All-MAC

Julius Brown (Toledo)
Rian Pearson (Toledo)
Javon McCrea (Buffalo)
Demetrius Treadwell (Akron)
Shayne Whittington (WMU)

The Toledo Rockets possess the most talented backcourt in the conference, and my projected First Team All-MAC selections reflect that. In my opinion, PF Javon McCrea and C Shayne Whittington are the leaders at their respective positions in the MAC as well.

Treadwell rounds out the group here as he's expected to have an increased workload and help carry the Zips to another MAC East title. Will Felder, Jesse Berry, and Kris Brewer nearly cracked the list and are safe assumptions to garner at least Second Team All-MAC Honors.

Projected All-MAC Freshmen Team

Dontel Highsmith (NIU)
Quinten Payne (Ball St.)
Tucker Haymond (WMU)
Antonio Campbell (Ohio)
Isaiah Johnson (Akron)

Tucker Haymond has a legitimate chance to give Western Michigan its second straight MAC Freshman of the Year award, due to his college-ready body and raw athletic ability.

However, it's Akron's Isaiah Johnson that is the one to watch in this class, according to Hustle Belt's Brandon Hickey. Johnson is a staggering 6-foot-10, 285 lbs. and fills an immediate void for the Zips in replacing Zeke Marshall. Pat Forsythe is expected to begin the season starting at center, but it may not be long until Johnson cuts heavily into his minutes.

Word out of Akron is that Johnson has been nothing short of impressive thus far, and is living up to the hype he received coming out of Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati. Johnson has already garnered the nickname "Big Dog".

Other freshmen to keep a close eye on are Zavier Turner (Ball St.), Nick Carlos (CMU), Joshua Oswald (Miami), D.J. Wingfield (Ohio), and Wadley Mompremier (Ohio).

Projected All-MAC Newcomer Team

Nyles Evans (Akron)
Joshua Freelove (Buffalo)
Justin Drummond (Toledo)
J.D. Weatherspoon (Toledo)
Maurice Ndour (Ohio)

It was tough to only keep it to five players, as the MAC will be loaded with incoming transfers looking to make their presence felt immediately. Of the players mentioned on this list, Ndour might be the most intriguing. The highly skilled big man passed on several high major offers to have an opportunity to play right away at Ohio. At 6-foot-9, 205 pounds, he will be a difficult matchup for most players in the Mid-American Conference.

Besides Ndour, this group (along with others not mentioned) is expected to be a strong class of incoming players and will only help to elevate the MAC's national status further. All five players on this list have a shot at breaking into their respective teams' starting lineups. Derek Jackson (Kent State), Mike Talley (EMU), Karrington Ward (EMU), and Olalekan Ajayi (EMU) also figure to play prominent roles this upcoming season.

Projected All-MAC Defensive Team

Chris Bond (Ball St.)
Quinten Rollins (Miami)
Richaun Holmes (BGSU)
Javon McCrea (Buffalo)
Shayne Whittington (WMU)

It should be no surprise that three of the four leading returning shot-blockers in the conference make this list in McCrea (2.6 bpg), Holmes (2.3 bpg), and Whittington (1.7 bpg). Bond led the league last year in steals averaging two per game, and Rollins returns as the league's second-best pick-pocket behind him with 1.7 spg. An argument could probably be made for Ball State's Majok Majok or EMU's Da'Shonte Riley.

Projected Sixth Man of the Year

Quincy Diggs (Akron)

After sitting out last season due to suspension, it appears that Diggs has been replaced on the starting roster by Nick Harney. Diggs has actually earned Sixth Man of the Year honors in the past (2011-2012)
and there's a chance he could repeat this year with the Zips.

With Forsythe likely to start at center and Treadwell getting the nod at power forward, I don't see how Diggs breaks into the starting lineup. Despite potentially coming off the bench, I expect head coach Keith Dambrot to get creative with rotations and find a way to get Diggs involved in some significant capacity.

Don't sleep on Ohio State transfer J.D. Weatherspoon (Toledo) either. It will be hard for Weatherspoon to break into an already impressive Rockets starting lineup. Weatherspoon played limited minutes at Ohio State, but showed occasional glimpses of greatness on the court in the short amount of time he had. He is likely to appear on the MAC highlight film at the end of the season more than once.

Projected Coach of the Year

Tod Kowalczyk (Toledo)

Because of the success I see Toledo having this year, Kowalczyk is the logical choice here. If the Rockets live up to all of the hype, they could become the first MAC West team to go dancing since Western Michigan did it in 2004.

Projected MAC Player of the Year

Javon McCrea (Buffalo)

I was in the minority last year when I gave my vote to McCrea. This season, he will not be competing for votes against the likes of all-time MAC greats D.J. Cooper and Zeke Marshall. This year should pretty much be a four horse race between McCrea, Pearson, Treadwell, and Whittington, assuming each stays healthy.

Although McCrea might not be the sexiest selection, I believe he is the MAC's most valuable player and the most NBA-ready in this class. If Buffalo has the kind of season that some people are expecting, then McCrea should be a lock to post big numbers and carry the Bulls deep into the MAC Tournament.

Projected MAC Tournament Seeding

1. Toledo (Bye)
2. Akron (Bye)
3. Buffalo (Bye)
4. Eastern Michigan (bye)
5. Ohio
6. Kent St.
7. Western Michigan
8. Ball St.
9. Central Michigan
10. Miami
11. Bowling Green
12. Northern Illinois

MAC Tournament Finals: Toledo def. Buffalo
MAC Regular Season Champions: Toledo
MAC Tournament Champions: Toledo
MAC Tournament MVP: Rian Pearson

I see this year being a three-horse race between the Toledo Rockets, Akron Zips, and Buffalo Bulls. Ultimately, the Toledo Rockets are the most complete team (and maybe the most athletic too) in the Mid-American Conference when it comes down to it.

The Rockets have proven talent and returning experience at nearly every position on the floor. They have the size inside to compete with the likes of Akron, Buffalo, and others, but might have a bigger advantage than anyone at guard play.

Toledo was slow out of the gates in 2012-2013, due to NCAA sanctions that limited their practice time. This season, they are back to full strength and will have the proper time to gel and reach their potential.

This looks like a 20-win year and a potentially special season for Tod Kowalczyk and the Toledo Rockets.

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