Men’s basketball picked as preseason favorite

Thomas Gallick

The Kent State men’s basketball team was chosen by the Mid-American Conference News Media Association yesterday as the preseason favorite to win the MAC East and the MAC Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Kent State finished one first-place vote ahead of Miami, on the strength of five returning starters and new depth on the bench. Kent State also finished one vote ahead of Western Michigan in the poll to predict the winner of the MAC Tournament.

Kent State coach Jim Christian said this announcement did not make Kent State the team to beat in the MAC East and pointed to Akron’s and Miami’s success in last year’s MAC tournament and regular season as proof.

“Miami’s the defending champion of the MAC Tournament, and Akron’s the defending champion of the MAC East,” Christian said. “Until someone beats them, they’re the teams to beat.”

Senior forward Tim Pollitz of Miami, last year’s MAC Tournament MVP and Miami’s scoring leader, returns to bolster his team’s chance at another tournament championship and NCAA tournament berth.

Senior forward Mike Scott, named preseason All-Mac First Team said the preseason hype does not affect the way the team will begin the season.

“We can be picked to finish first or last,” Scott said. “We’d still be doing the same things.”

Ohio finished one first-place vote behind Miami to take the predicted third-place spot in the East. The frontcourt combination of junior forward Jerome Tillman and senior center Leon Williams, both of whom averaged over 14 points per game last year, return for Ohio.

Christian said he did not know which players would emerge to lead the Flashes this season, as the team has a great deal of depth.

“We don’t have one great player, but we have a bunch of good players,” Christian said.

The MAC News Media association overwhelmingly picked Western Michigan to finish first in the MAC West, as they received more than double the first-place votes of second-finishing Toledo. Senior center Joe Reitz, who averaged 13.9 points per game last season, returns to lead the Broncos.

Christian said a successful season, and the goal of a 10th-consecutive 20-win season, has to begin with senior leadership from Scott and senior forward Haminn Quaintance.

“It (a successful season) begins with the two seniors, Scott and Quaintance, two guys who have really dedicated themselves to getting better,” Christian said.

Christian said he was also looking forward to seeing what Kent State’s three junior college transfers can do on the basketball court. He said he has been pleasantly surprised by the talent of guard Al Fisher and forward Rashad Woods.

Gabe Garcia, the 7-foot center who transferred from Brazil, is still learning, and his size is something Kent State basketball teams have never had in the past, Christian said.

The men’s basketball team plays its first regular season game against the University of Detroit Mercy on Nov. 10 in Detroit. They will play a home exhibition game against Hiram College on Nov. 3.

Contact sports reporter Thomas Gallick at [email protected].