MAC deep-dive for the 2020-21 season

1. Buffalo Bulls
*Malik Zachery excluded due to off-season arrest clouding his spot on the roster*
Lineup
PG: Ronaldo Segu
SG: Jayvon Graves
SF: Jeenathan Williams
PF: Laquill Hardnett (Cincinnati)
C: Josh Mballa

Bench: Chanse Robinson, David Nickelberry, Tra’Von Fagan, Brock Bertram, Savion Gallion,

Additions Laquill Hardnett (Cincinnati), Chanse Robinson

Departures: Davonta Jordan, Antwain Johnson, Gabe Grant

Buffalo has sustained consistent success even with the change at the head when they lost Bobby Hurley they promoted Nate Oats when the Bulls lost Oats, they promoted Jim Whitesell. In his first season, Whitesell put together a far better season than many imagined. Losing C.J. Massinburg, Jeremy Harris, Nick Perkins left a lot of questions, and Whitesell made it work. This season losing just Davonta Jordan, there are much higher expectations. Jayvon Graves is the returning star of the team, the senior guard who went to the same HS as LeBron James is set to have a massive season. Graves is a talented scorer and knockdown shooter at 36% from a long-range look for Graves to be a potential POTY candidate. The 2019-20 MAC 6th man-of-the-year Ronaldo Segu will now start in place of Davonta Jordan. With Segu, you have a guy who’s a good athlete and a solid shooter. Jeenthan Williams is a player that took a massive jump in production with Jeremy Harris out-of-the fold last season. Williams had 11.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG last season while shooting 45% from-the-field. Josh Mballa was a sneaky player in the MAC last season after transferring in from Texas Tech Mballa nearly averaged a double-double for the Bulls. Jim Whitesell’s squad will be dangerous this season.

2. Bowling Green Falcons
Lineup
PG: Justin Turner
SG: Caleb Fields
SF: Trey Diggs
PF: Daequon Plowden
C: Matiss Kulackovskis

Bench: Dylan Swingle, Josiah Fulcher, Kaden Metheny, Davin Zeigler, Chandler Turner, Cameron Young

Additions: Josiah Fulcher, Kade Metheny, Cameron Young

Departures: Dylan Frye

The Falcons are just one season removed from winning 20 games. Early in the off-season things started to look bleak when all-time great Justin Turner entered the transfer portal. Turner kept the option open to returning along with considering Marquette and Iowa State. Then Turner opted to return for his fifth-season for BGSU. Turner last season had 18.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG while shooting 42% from-the-field, 36% from three. Turner has had a tremendous career for the Falcons, and that’ll continue this season. Daeqwon Plowden is one of the more under-the-radar players in the MAC. Plowden had 12.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG along with 47% from-the-field, 34% from-three while being able to play three positions. Trey Diggs adds a lot to the team with his elite shooting ability, notching an astounding 39% from three last season. Diggs is one of the key cogs of this team. BGSU could win the MAC this season.

3. Ohio Bobcats
Lineup
PG: Jason Preston
SG: Lunden McDay
SF: Ben Roderick
PF: Ben Vander Plas
C: Nolan Foster

Bench: Miles Brown, Mason McMurray, Jalen White, Colin Granger, Sam Towns

Additions: Jalen White, Colin Granger, Sam Towns

Departures: Jordan Dartis, Sylvester Ogbonda

The Bobcats had an underrated season though they went 17-15 their KenPom ranking of 167 shows that their record wasn’t indicative of how good the team was. My pick for pre-season MAC POTY is Ohio guard Jason Preston. Last season Preston put up eye-popping stats of 16.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 7.4 APG while shooting 51% from-the-field, 40% from long-range. Preston has tremendous passing vision, can drive with ease, and developed a good jump-shot making him a complete player on offense. Preston is a decent defender, but I think there’s upside there. Lunden McDay is a solid secondary scoring guard for this team with his above-average efficiency. McDay started all but two games as a freshman for the Bobcats. Ben Roderick, who was also a freshman last season showed his ability to hit three’s at 36%, but the rest of his game needs work for him to be a complete player. Ben Vander Plas had 15.7 PPG along with adding 6.9 RPG last season. The one thing that can change is that he shot 4.4 threes-per-game but made just 29% of them. Vander Plas shot 60% 2pt-range, but that 29% from long-range dropped his overall efficiency to 49%. The two stars of Preston and Vander Plas could carry this team to their first tournament bid since 2012.

4. Toledo Rockets
Lineup
PG: Marreon Jackson
SG: Spencer Littleson
SF: Keshaun Sanders
PF: Seth Millner
C: Jonathan Komagum

Bench: Charles Jones, Luke Maranka, Mattia Acunzo, Ra’Heim Moss, Ryan Rollins, A.J. Edu

Additions: Jonathan Komagum, Ryan Rollins, Ra’Heim Moss, Mattia Acunzo

Departures: Willie Jackson, Luke Knapke, Dylan Alderson

The Rockets return an All-MAC first-teamer in Marreon Jackson. Last season Jackson had 19.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 5.4 APG while shooting 36% from three. Jackson’s overall efficiency is something that could be improved along with his defensive consistency. Jackson is a fantastic player and a possible pre-season POTY at the conference. Spencer Littleson is one of the top pure-shooters in the MAC shooting a blistering 39% from-three. Littleson spent one season at Duquense before spending the last two for Toledo. Losing Luke Knapke will prove to be a devastating loss for the Rockets as it’s nearly impossible to replace his level of production. Knapke had a smoldering 15 PPG, 8 RPG last season. The Rockets look to piggyback off the production of elite guard play from Marreon Jackson.

5. Akron Zips
Lineup
PG: Loren Cristian Jackson
SG: Bryan Trimble Jr (St John’s)
SF: Michael Wynn (Wake Forest)
PF: Maishe Dailey (Iowa)
C: Camron Reece

Bench: Mikal Dawson, Greg Tribble Jr, Tre Edwards, Garvin Clarke, Taylor Currie, Jermaine Marshall, Ali Ali, Aziz Bandaogo

Additions: Bryan Trimble Jr (St John’s), Michael Wynn (Wake Forest), Garvin Clarke, Maishe Dailey (Iowa), Jermaine Marshall

Departures: Xeyrius Williams, Tyler Cheese, Chanel Banks, Deng Riak

The Zips were the best team in the MAC last season with a 24-7 record while having the conference POTY team in Loren Cristian Jackson on the team. While Cristian Jackson is back, losing Xeyrius Williams, Tyler Cheese, Deng Riak, who all were starters last season is a massive blow. Loren Cristian Jackson broke-out this past season posting numbers of 19.8 Points-per-game, 4.5 assists-per-game. The massive jump Jackson made was becoming one of the top 3pt-shooters in the country at 42% from three. Many diminish what Jackson does due to his smaller 5’8 150 LBS frame, but he does what he does and had proved time-and-time again height is irrelevant. Having a transfer coming in like Bryan Trimble Jr, who sat this past season, while his stats for the Red Storm may not look like much he has a smooth jumper that I think will go-down more thus making his shooting percentage better. Another high-major transfer incoming is Michael Wynn from Wake Forest. Wynn didn’t do much in his two seasons for the Demon Deacons, but going from the ACC to the MAC should allow him to show off his talents. Camron Reece had a sneaky good season for the Zips last season putting up 5.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG with a solid 60% from-the-field. John Groce’s squad won’t replicate last year’s success, but with Loren Cristian Jackson, back anything is possible.

6. Ball State Cardinals
Lineup
PG: Ishmael El-Amin
SG: K.J. Walton
SF: Jarron Coleman
PF: Brachen Hazen
C: Ben Hendriks

Bench: Luke Bumbalough, Zach Gunn, Reggie Jones, Kani Acree, Teemu Suokas

Additions: Teemu Suokas

Departures Tahjah Teague, Kyle Mallers

The Cardinals were the top defensive team in the MAC last season. Losing Tahjah Teague is a massive loss being he was the teams leading scorers, but there is a lot of returnees for Ball State. Ishmael El-Amin is the returning leading scorer who had 13.8 PPG in his breakout season, where he shot 39% from-three. El-Amin is another player that entered the transfer portal shortly after the end of the season but decided to stay in Muncie. Jarron Coleman is a talented two-way player that will play a significant role and helped the Cardinals cement that stout defense last season. Fifth-year senior K.J. Walton played just ten games in 2019-20, which afforded him the chance to receive a hardship waiver to return this season. Walton is a solid defender and a good athlete but offers no versatility on offense due to the lack of shooting. Luke Bumbalough is a player I think will have a breakout season. Bumbalough was forced into the starting lineup as a freshman when Walton got hurt, and I think that may have stunted his development a bit. If Bumbalough could’ve hidden under-the-radar a bit longer that could’ve proven to be beneficial. The Cards should continue to be a stout defensive team along with being able to knock down three’s setting up for a potential upset of some of the higher-end teams in the conference.

7. Kent State Golden Flashes
Lineup
PG: Michael Nuga (Portland State)
SG: TK Smith
SF: Tervell Beck
PF: Danny Pippen
C: Justyn Hamilton (Temple)

Bench: Malique Jacobs, James Jordan, Giovanni Santiago, Evan Bainbridge, VonCameron Davis, Jeremiah Hernandez

Additions: Michael Nuga (Portland State), Justyn Hamilton (Temple), Jeremiah Hernandez, VonCameron Davis

Departures: Anthony Roberts (St Bonaventure), Antonio Williams, Phillip Whittington, Troy Simons

The Golden Flashes lose a lot of their production from last season with Roberts, Williams, Whittington, Simons. The lone returning starter is senior forward Danny Pippen. While Pippen had a great season, he took a fairly sizeable step-back in terms of his 3pt shooting from 35% to 32%. Pippen looks to be the star of the team once again this season. Two key transfers coming are Michael Nuga from Portland State and Justyn Hamilton from Temple. Starting with Hamilton, he’s a 6’10 big-man who’s a good defender but never done a whole lot on offense in his three-year career with the Owls. Nuga spent one season playing for Portland State, where he averaged double-figures last season. TK Smith is a sneaky player for the Flashes this season. At Polk State CC, Smith had 19.4 PPG and nearly shot 40% from-three. The guard play has a lot to prove, but there’s potential there. The Golden Flashes will take a step back from last season

8. Northern Illinois Huskies
Lineup
PG: Zaire Mateen
SG: Trendon Hankerson
SF: Anthony Crump (MTSU)
PF: Adong Makuoi
C: Nathan Scott

Bench: Tavon Jones, Darius Beane, Tyler Cochran, Justin Lee, Keenon Cole, Chinedu Okanu, Zool Kueth, Adong Makuoi

Departures: Eugene German, Lacey James, Noah McCarty

The Huskies lose all-time great Husky in Eugene German who had had 20 PPG the past two seasons. A player that’ll be given an increased workload is Trendon Hankerson. Last season Hankerson shot an astonishing 46% from-three along with playing solid defense. An underrated commodity in the MAC this season. The other guard Zaire Mateen the Queens, NY native, looks to have a stellar junior season. Mateen is a solid shooter who looks to expand on his offensive game this season and will be given the chance without German. There’s many questions concerning the play on-the-post for the Huskies with losing Lacey James and Noah McCarty that will give opportunities to others such as Adong Makoui and Nathan Scott among others. Matt Montgomery has a solid team, but some questions remain.

9. Eastern Michigan Eagles
Lineup
PG: Bryce McBride
SG: Darion Spotsville
SF: Noah Morgan
PF: Ty Groce
C: Axel Okongo (Missouri)

Bench: James Love (Kansas State), Chris James, Miles Gibson, Thomas Binelli, Derek Ballard Jr, Luis Pacheco

Additions: Bryce McBride, Axel Okongo (Missouri), James Love (Kansas State)

Following a season in which EMU was weird, ranking 318th in terms of offensive efficiency on KenPom, while they ranked 80th on defense. Having the best defense in the MAC but the worst offense cancels itself out in-a-sense. One of the biggest issues is that the Eagles couldn’t shoot if their life depended on-it shooting a startling 26% from-three which was fourth-worst in the entire country. There’s a player that can change that scary trend this season, JUCO guard Bryce McBride. Last season McBride had 24.2 PPG while shooting a phenomenal 45% from-distance which if you’re a math guy, means he made nearly half of the three’s he took. If McBride can bring that kind of efficiency to Ypsilanti, Coach Rob Murphy found an absolute gem. Ty Groce is an enigma he’s one of the top defenders in the MAC but is remarkably inefficient shooting wise. Groce is talented but way-too inefficient to garner consistency. Adding a 7-footer from Mizzou in Axel Okongo could prove to be a significant addition this season. EMU is talented but needs to figure out the offense.

10. Miami (OH) Redhawks
Lineup
PG: Mehki Lairy
SG: Dae Dae Grant
SF: Milos Jovic
PF: Dalonte Brown
C: Elijah McNamera

Bench: Isaiah Coleman-Lands, Josh Brewer, Precious Ayah, James Beck, Devon Grant, Myja White, Luke Eller, Javin Etzler, Bryson Tatum, Jackson Ames

Additions: Luke Eller, Javin Etzler, Bryson Tatum, Jackson Ames

Departures: Nike Sibande (Pittsburgh), Bam Bowman

For most teams, when you win just 13 games and subsequently lose your best player things usually get worse. However, I don’t see it that way for the Redhawks there’s tons of talented guards on the team to take that role. As a freshman, Dae Dae Grant proved to be a talented scorer as the 2nd guy behind Sibande, this season Grant, is the lead-guy. Grant shot 34% from three last season, but I envision that improving. Mekhi Lairy is doubted due to his relatively small-stature being 5’8 140 lbs, but Lairy can flat-out score. Lairy shot 45% from-the-field, 34% from three, and will continue to rise. Dalonte Brown is another guy who can score, but isn’t quite efficient enough but has the talent. Isaiah Coleman-Lands is talented enough to start, but a lineup of three guys 6’2 and under isn’t ideal so Coleman-Lands will play starter bench-minutes. The Redhawks should improve this season.

11. Western Michigan Broncos
Lineup
PG: Brandon Artis-White
SG: Rafeal Cruz
SF: Jason Whitens
PF: Titus Wright
C: Greg Lee

Bench: Adrian Martin, Jaylon Holmes, William Boyer-Richard, Kawanise Wilkins, Chase Barrs, Patrick Emilien, Daylon Hamilton, Josiah Freeman

Additions: Daylon Hamilton, Josiah Freeman

Departures: Michael Flowers (South Alabama), Brandon Johnson (Minnesota)

After what was a forgetful season in Kalamazoo, the Broncos made a coaching change getting rid of Steve Hawkies and moving on to Thomas Kelley. Shortly after the coaching change, Michael Flowers entered the transfer portal while leaving the option of returning to WMU. Flowers ended up transferring to South Alabama and had his waiver denied initially, Flowers said that his scholarship wasn’t held for him while mulling his decision to possibly return to Kalamazoo. Now with Flowers out of the fold, things will be focused on Rafael Cruz Jr and Brandon Artis-White. Things don’t look promising this season in what is no doubt going to be a rebuild.

12. Central Michigan Chippewas
Lineup
PG: Devontae Lane
SG: Dischon Watson
SF: Caleb Huffman
PF: Travon Broadway
C: Braden Burke

Bench: Caleb Hodgson, Malik Muhammed, Matt Beachler, Aundre Polk, Rashad Weekly-McDaniels, P.J. Mitchell Jr

Additions: Caleb Hodgson, Aundre Polk, Caleb Huffman

Departures: David DiLeo, Dallas Morgan, Rob Montgomery, Kevin McKay

The Chippewas won just 14 games this past season and lose four key contributors from last season’s squad. Now Devontae Lane is one of the few returnees who played a lot this past season. Lane had 9.1 PPG while shooting 43% from-the-field, 35% from three in his first season as a member of Central Michigan. Lane could be a sneaky All-MAC guy this season. A lot of JUCO guys will be relied on like Dischon Winston and Caleb Huffman. Keno Davis’ squad is trending in the wrong direction, and he’s entering year 8 of his tenure.

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