Who knew that middle America was hiding all kinds of hot? This preview was infinitely more fun to prepare than expected because I discovered that the Mid-American Conference, more than any other conference I looked at, has a ton of hotties. And I don’t say that lightly- because the Atlantic Sun and Big XII Conferences are no slouches… but the MAC might just take the hottie crown. At least they’ll have that honor to keep them warm, because it’s unlikely that more than one MAC team will make it to the Big Dance (although not impossible). More news and notes after the jump (with help from special correspondent/informant Suss)- but first, let’s get to the main attraction…
Toledo currently sits at the top of the MAC heap, edging out Akron for the #1 seed- and neither team has been to the Big Dance in the last 20 years, so it’ll be fun to see either one make it. Toledo has the better conference record, at 14-2 (to Akron’s 13-3) in the MAC West — but Akron’s overall 24-6 record beats Toledo’s 18-11, and Akron won the much tougher MAC East. Toledo is favored, but it would surprise no one if Akron is victorious in the end… especially since Akron beat both Oral Roberts and Niagara (two Dance-worthy teams) in regular, non-conference play. So even if Toledo wins as predicted, there is still a chance (though admittedly remote at this point) Akron makes the Big Dance as well.
Other tidbits about the MAC:
* Fear the Roo. No, really, this is no joke. The mascot of the Akron Zips is a happy kangaroo named Zippy, pleasant and relatively harmless. But after Zippy (allegedly) posed for the 2001 Akron student ID cards in manner Maverick and Goose used to “keep up foreign relations” (i.e. with the finger), a team of marketing folks were called in to go to town on Zippy. The result: the incongruous “Fear The Roo” campaign (along the lines of Maryland’s “Fear The Turtle”), a boatload of merchandise sales and a weirdly disturbing jingle. Try and get that one out of your head!
Heed this warning, MAC teams
* All of the Ohioans across the land would appreciate it if I mention that all 5 of the top seeded MAC teams are located in Ohio- which is pretty darned good, when you consider there are only 6 Ohio teams of the 12 in the conference.
* Michigan will see your seeds, Ohio, and raise you a bunch of hotties. By special request, I must specifically recognize the hotties on Central Michigan‘s squad (Let’s Go Chippewas!)- which is not to be confused with Western Michigan or Eastern Michigan, on pain of death from the students of said [Fill-In-The-Direction] Michigan schools. Apparently, Michigan has so much hotness, they must spread it around geographically to make sure the state doesn’t melt away into Lake Michigan.
Real names are unimportant, I call them:
Cutie Pie, Fine Specimen and Hunka Hunka
* Everyone loves NBA hottie LeBron James- and two of his high school teammates (forward Romeo Travis and guard Dru Joyce) are making what might be their last appearances in Akron uniforms in the tourney.
* Bowling Green is dead last in the conference at 2-12 (11-16 overall), and it’s unlikely we’ll see them after the first round of MAC tourney play (despite their snazzy uni’s and logo)- so let’s take this opportunity to relive one of the high points of their season: a last second three-pointer that gave them a victory at home over mighty Buffalo (next-to-last in the conference):
* Non-joke interlude: Toledo lost a basketball player during conditioning drills earlier this year, when he collapsed at practice and died from an acute heart condition. Haris Charalambous, from Manchester, England, was just 21.
* I confess growing up in the South, I never knew a second Miami existed- the non-thug variety. When I finally learned of its existence, I laughed at the silly little school with the big-sounding name- and grew to even dislike the school when a snobby Yankee bitch from my high school went there, and then again when I found out this total douche from law school went there for undergrad. I prejudged all Redhawks based on that small sample size, and for that I am sorry- because they are a fine institution, and they have lots of fine guys on the roster as well. Also, who doesn’t love “Redhawks” as a mascot? That’s just cool. Miami (OH), you’re all right. Miami (tha U)… not so much.
* And finally, saving the best for last- team unity is something that coaches carefully cultivate, because it’s an invaluable asset … something that turns a good team into a great team. However, there’s unity… and then there’s unity. Northern Illinois players Shaun Logan and Zach Pancratz demonstrate a little of the latter kind of unity.
They’re very close friends.
MAC Conference play tips off today, and you can catch the championship game on ESPN2 at 7:00 pm Eastern, March 10th. Also, check out MACdaddy Suss’s coverage of MAC goodness and other sporty bits- including his HollaMAC coverage of ladies bball (he picks hotties, too).