Updated Wed, Nov 2, 2011 2:39 pm
Ohio men's basketball was tabbed third in the MAC East by a 24-member news media panel Wednesday. The 'Cats sit behind Kent State and Akron, the only two teams in the division to receive any first place votes.
Ohio finished last season 19-16 overall, and 9-7 in the MAC, good for fifth place overall (third in the East). Ohio was bounced from the conference tournament in the quarterfinals by Ball State. The Bobcats return three starters - guards D.J. Cooper and Nick Kellogg and forward Ivo Baltic - as well as forwards Reggie Keely, T.J. Hall and guard Ricardo Johnson, three players who averaged at least 10 minutes last year.
A third-place preseason ranking will not serve as any extra confidence or motivation for the Bobcats, but the polls aren't even on head coach John Groce's radar.
"We don't play around with that stuff," Groce said. "I think all 345 of us haven't played a game yet and we're all sitting in the same spot. I think it's fun for fans and for the media and for people that follow college basketball, for us that stuff is irrelevant."
D.J. Cooper had similar feelings on the rankings.
"I take it as a compliment," Cooper said. "We're just trying to win the MAC, that's the first goal for me, to come and win the MAC and win the MAC tournament."
The 'Cats are looking up at Kent State in the poll; the Golden Flashes nabbed 16 of the 24 first-place votes, were selected to win the MAC Tournament and will welcome back two key players. The reigning MAC "Player of the Year" Justin Greene will return for the Golden Flashes as will the conference's Defensive "Player of the Year" Michael Porrini.
Defending West Division champion Western Michigan was picked to repeat this year. The Broncos return all five starters including two West Division preseason All-MAC Team members in Demetrius Ward and Flenard Whitfield.
East Division Predicted Order of Finish
1. Kent State - 132 points (16)
2. Akron - 104 points (8)
3. Ohio - 94 points
4. Miami - 80 points
5. Buffalo - 62 points
6. Bowling Green - 32 points
West Division Predicted Order of Finish
1. Western Michigan - 128 points (14)
2. Ball State - 111 points (9)
3. Central Michigan - 92 points (1)
4. Toledo - 76 points
5. Northern Illinois - 59 points
6. Eastern Michigan - 38 points
Cooper given MAC honor
While Ohio was picked third in the MAC East, junior guard D.J. Cooper was selected to the division's preseason All MAC-Team.
Cooper led the Bobcats in just about every major statistical category: starts, minutes played, field goals, attempts and points. The guard was named to the All-MAC First Team following the 2010-2011 season, he averaged 15.8 points, 7.5 assists and 2.3 assists per game last year.
East Division Preseason All-MAC Team
D.J. Cooper, G, Ohio
Justin Greene, F, Kent State
Zeke Marshall, C, Akron
Julian Mavunga, F, Miami
Javon McCrea, F, Buffalo
West Division Preseason All-MAC Team
Randy Davis, G, Ball State
Jarrod Jones, F, Ball State
Demetrius Ward, F, Western Michigan
Flenard Whitfield, F, Western Michigan
Trey Zeigler, G, Central Michigan