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Published: Tuesday, 3/7/2000

Some random thoughts on the MAC tourney

CLEVELAND - Scattergunning the Mid-American Conference Tournament:

Most college basketball coaches are control freaks, so I understand why Toledo's Stan Joplin called a timeout in the waning seconds of regulation play Sunday.

However, what happened illustrates why coaches should sometimes just let the players play.

With the clock approaching 0:05 and UT trailing Ball State by two points in the MAC quarterfinals at Gund Arena, Joplin called time at the exact instant Chad Kamstra let fly a long, high-arching, 3-point shot that found nothing but net.

The timeout nullified the basket and, although the Rockets managed to get the game into overtime, their championship bid ended five minutes later.

I realize hindsight often makes it far too easy to criticize.

But here are the facts: UT needed a 3-pointer to win, had the ball in the hands of its best 3-point shooter, its lone senior, the player whose offense had carried the Rockets throughout an 11-game winning streak, and Ball State's defense was on its heels, unorganized, scrambling to get back and cover in what amounted to a transition situation.

What could Joplin have possibly hoped to draw up during a timeout that would have created a better scenario for the Rockets than the one that existed?

Bowling Green's coaches and players can do nothing but wait to see whether the NCAA selection committee says RPI or RIP.

The NCAA Tournament takes 64 teams and, entering MAC tourney play, BG was believed to have a power rating (RPI) in the mid-40s. A quarterfinal loss to Miami in overtime may not have decimated that, but it certainly lowered the Falcons onto the bubble.

The thought here is that BG still has a better chance of going to the dance than Kent, although the Flashes had a higher RPI before losing to Ohio in the quarterfinals.

While the Falcons, who won 10 road games this season, finished strong to win the MAC regular-season championship, Kent lost three of its last five games.

As BG coach Dan Dakich said after the loss to Miami, if winning the regular-season title means anything, then the Falcons belong in the NCAA Tournament.

It rarely has meant much in the past, but sooner or later the NCAA has to recognize the vast improvement in MAC basketball and reward the conference accordingly.

It is unlikely any conference will produce a better single day of tournament basketball than the MAC did on Sunday. Eight teams played 170 minutes, and four emerged victorious by a combined total of six points.

Adding to the excitement was a big-time tournament atmosphere, almost an NCAA atmosphere, in Gund Arena. The MAC event enjoyed its best-ever attendance day with more than 15,000 on hand for two sessions.

The outcomes of three of the four games, however, were not in the best interest of the conference.

The two largest fan contingents, from Bowling Green and Kent, hit the road after their teams lost in the quarterfinals. The next largest contingent, probably, was UT's and those folks also had no reason to return for last night's semifinals.

Bad news for a conference that had already lost significant ticket revenue when Akron, one of the local schools, was upset in a first-round game and never even made it to Gund.

We've said it before, we'll say it again. The MAC should not hire officials who do not work conference games on a routine basis during the regular season to work its tournament. These guys come with attitudes.

The technical foul on UT's Kamstra for so-called taunting after a solid defensive play was ludicrous considering the emotions of a conference tournament.

A regular MAC official would have been smart enough to get in the player's face and issue a stern warning. This one instead made sure everybody knew he was there and in charge.



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