Little guys worth large look

Mar 8, 2005 1:43 AM

College basketball saw a wild ending to the regular season over the weekend, including previously unbeaten Illinois losing at Ohio State.

Now comes slate after slate of conference tournament games. Here’s our elite from the Mid-American and Western Athletic.

MAC:

Miami, Ohio (18-9): has strong defense and a tough senior punch of 6-6 Danny Horace (15 ppg, 9.4 rpg) and guard Chester Mason (13 ppg, 7.8 rpg). The duo leads the Redhawks in scoring and rebounding, and Horace leads the MAC in rebounding. A physical defense is their calling card, leading the MAC in points allowed (62 pg). Miami plays "under" games, going 17-8 on the year (11-3 on the road).

Buffalo (19-8) is a wide-open offense that led the MAC in scoring (74.8 ppg) behind senior guard Turner Battle (15.5 ppg). Buffalo also plays good ”˜D’, is second in the MAC in steals and allows 43% shooting (third). Buffalo is 8-6 SU, 9-5 ATS on the road (and 10-5 "under" the total away from home).

Akron (18-9) plays stingy defense allowing 65 ppg, second best in the conference, and 41% shooting by opponents (No. 1). The 67 percent charity stripe shooting is a weakness, ranking second to last. Akron is 13-1 SU at home, but just 5-8 SU away.

Kent State (19-11) is a well-balanced team with a swarm of five players who average over four rebounds per game. Kent allows 66.6 ppg (third) and is 15-10 "under" the total with that defense. One weakness might be that they won when they were supposed to (12-3 as a favorite), but went just 2-7 SU as a dog.

Ohio (17-10) has a solid offense that shoots .467% from the field. The Bobcats were best against the number at 16-7 against the spread. Ohio comes into the tourney 12-5 SU/ATS in the last 17 games.

W. Michigan (18-11) has a strong team led by senior G Ben Reed (17.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg). The Broncos have excellent balance, averaging 73.7 ppg offensively (third) and 67.6 ppg allowed (fifth). They also play strong ”˜D’ (43 percent shooting allowed), but come into the tourney on a poor 3-7 SU/ATS run.

Bowling Green (17-10) has a fine frontcourt, anchored by John Reimold (18 ppg), who leads the MAC in scoring. This team shoots 49 percent from the field (No. 1). One concern is that they are just 4-11 ATS the last 15 games. This MAC tourney is as wide-open a race you’ll find.

WAC:

Nevada (24-5) gets its done with a brilliant frontcourt of 6-11 sophomore Nick Fazekas (12.5 ppg, 9.4 rpg) and 6-9 senior Kevin Pinkney (12 ppg, 7.6 rpg). Nevada allows 60.9 points and 38 percent shooting by opponents, both tops in the WAC. They also led the league in rebounding.

Texas El-Paso (24-7) has a wide-open offense behind senior Omar Thomas (20 ppg) and the Miners are No. 1 in scoring (74.3 ppg), three-point shooting and free throw shooting (79 percent). They can play defense, too, allowing 64.6 ppg.

Rice (18-10) wins with offense (74 ppg), leading the WAC in shooting (48 percent) behind 6-6 senior Mike Harris (20 ppg) who shoots 60 percent. Rice is on a 5-0 SU, 4-1 ATS run.