Economic conditions forced the Mid-American Conference to return the first round of the men's and women's basketball tournaments to campus sites for the next two years, but commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said the conference is committed to having all 12 teams play at one site in 2012.
The MAC has a contract to keep the men's and women's tournaments at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland for the next two years. Steinbrecher said the MAC wants to sign another agreement to extend the men's tournament time in Quicken Loans Arena and is in talks to make that happen.
"Everything I've been told from our membership is that Cleveland is a wonderful host site for our event," Steinbrecher said. "Certainly the attendance numbers would seem to indicate that."
Steinbrecher said the conference would like to find another arena to host the women's tournament after 2012.
"We've reached out and [are] in process of reaching out throughout our footprint," Steinbrecher said. "[We] don't have enough info collected that we're anywhere near that decision."
The logistics of hosting two 12-team tournaments in a week and at least one Cavaliers game have proved difficult since the MAC expanded the tournament to include all 24 teams in Cleveland three years ago. Last year's women's championship game had to be played on the Cavs' floor instead of the MAC's.
Teams in the MAC East Division will likely make use of their talented freshmen early and often this season.
University of Akron center Zeke Marshall has the potential to be a difference maker in the conference for years to come, but coach Keith Dambrot is unsure of how good his 7-footer is a week into practice.
"I really don't know," Dambrot said. "We'll take it on a day-by-day basis."
Marshall was a top-50 recruit nationally and is regarded as one of the best recruits in MAC history.
Miami University coach Charlie Coles said in the MAC height does not always translate to success.
"Height is good, but those guys have to be able to move," he said. "They have to be strong enough to get post position and agile enough to guard ball screens."
Other teams will have freshmen contributing early.
Eight of the 14 players on Ohio University's roster are newcomers this year. Kent State University may have to rely on freshman point guard Randal Holt until they can get junior Rodriguez Sherman healthy. Sherman has a dislocated elbow.
"I thought [Holt] would have a chance to play right away and he has not disappointed," coach Geno Ford said. "He has not shot the ball great, but we know that will come."
Kent State had the benefit of taking a trip as a team to Italy in August.
The Golden Flashes spent 20 days in Italy with their returning players. Ford said it was a valuable experience for the team.
"It was a great time," he said. "The games are a lot more relaxed. It's good competition, but it has a little more of an exhibition feel. It was a great bonding experience."
Breaking it down
Coles is the longest tenured coach in the MAC and has spent 18 seasons as a head coach in the conference.
He agrees with the media's prediction of Akron to win the MAC East and the MAC Tournament.
"Looking on paper it's hard not to think the Akron Zips," Coles said. "They're returning so many players, they're returning players from other teams on their team. I understand if someone says Akron, Akron, Akron all the way."