CLEVELAND - The MAC Men's Basketball Tournament begins this week in Cleveland and this will be a fun one to watch, as any number of teams can grab the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night.
Akron comes into Cleveland as the two time defending regular season champ and the number one seed in the tournament. Last week the Zips lost star point guard Alex Abreu when he was arrested on drug charges and has been suspended indefintely pending the outcome of a police investigation.
Keith Dambrot, the Zips head coach addressed the loss of one of his best players by saying "You have to rally yourself and get over the shock and once you do you can get back to normalcy"
The Zips will use at least three different guards at time to take the place of Abreu but what they really want to do is get the ball inside to the leagues defensive player of the year Zeke Marshall. Akron feels despite the loss of Abreu if the Zips shoot well and pound the ball inside the can still be dancing in March.
Without Abreu many MAC coaches feel Ohio, the number two seed and defending tournament champ is the team to beat. The Bobcats are led by the leagues leading scorer in D.J.Cooper. Cooper and Walter Offutt make up the best backcourt in the league and when they are on, they are lethal.
Western Michigan is the three seed and could be the possible matchup against Ohio in the semifinals. Shayne Whittington has been a double/double machine for the Broncos and leads the league in that catagory this year. With the help of MAC Freshman of the Year Darrius Paul, WMU is playing some of their best basketball for head coach Steve Hawkins.
Kent State has the fourth seed in Cleveland and if things go the Flashes way, they would face Akron in the semifinals, a team they beat last Friday in Akron. The Flashes are holding their breath on the health of Chris Evans who is nursing a sore ankle, they will need the ALL MAC guard to be at 100% in order to make a move, along with sharpshooter Randall Holt.
So who wins this thing? Your guess is as good as mine. Akron is on a mission and feels they can get it done without Abreu, if D.J.Cooper is on Ohio is tough and if Kent gets a head of steam going into the semis they could be dancing as well. It all begins on Wednesday in Cleveland.
Follow Mike Cairns on Twitter thru out the tournament @MikeCairns5