The MAC Basketball Freshman of The Year Might Surprise You

Even with the flashiest, splashiest freshman recruit in years, Trey Zeigler might bow down to Javon McCrea as the MAC's top young'un. (Photo via buffalobulls.com)

Coming into the season, Conventional Wisdsom felt that Central Michigan's Trey Zeigler, the super recruit who could've gone to Michigan or Michigan State, might not just be the best freshman in the MAC, but the best MAC player period. The inverse maybe the case. He's obviously not the best MACthlete (yet), but it's not even a foregone conclusion that he's the best freshman.

In fact, here's my off-the-cuff freshman rankings:

1. Javon McCrea, Buffalo
2. Reese Holliday, Toledo
3. Matt Stainbrook, WMU
4. Trey Zeigler, CMU
5. Juwan Howard Jr., WMU
6. Alex Abreu, Akron

This is subject to change (probably as soon as after tonight's games) but these are probably the six you'd fight over.

Something tells me Zeigler has the best chance to win the Freshman of the Year, mostly because total points are held in a higher regard over efficiency. (Not trying to stir up a stathead debate here.) Look, scoring 17 points a game is hard and admirable. But give many Division I scholarship kids 16 shots a night and he'll wind up with about 17 points. Ernie Zeigler has apparently given his son the green light to fire at will, and as a result he leads the MAC in field goal attempts. So the fact that he's fourth in the MAC in scoring as a freshman has him in the discussion.

Let's look at Ken Pomeroy's Offensive Rating, a complicated formula which measures a player's worth per 100 offensive possessions. There were 37 players who were "used" for at least 20 percent of a team's possessions, and here are their rankings and ratings:

1: McCrea: 117.9
4: Stainbrook: 111.3
15: Howard: 103.3
31: Holliday: 90.2
32: Abreu: 89.0
35: Zeigler: 87.6
37: Delino Dear, Toledo: 85.4

McCrea is doing it with fewer shots per game (about six), meaning he's more efficient (over 10 points per game) and is also rebounding, blocking, and defending like an upperclassman.

There are two others to watch who are starting to heat up during MAC play: Nick Kellogg from OHIO (another hoops pedigree!) who's gradually seeing more playing time at guard, and Ball State's Chris Bond, a hustleforward whose high field goal percentage and increased minutes have given him about 11 points in each of their last four games. Delino Dear also has some growth potential, but his minutes have gone down as the season aged and he's been erratic on the offensive end.

Okay ... let's not wait until tonight. Here's my freshman starting five. I'll put Abreu at the point, with Zeigler at shooting guard, and McCrea/Stainbrook as my forwards. My small forward is either Juwan Jr. or Holliday. Hell of a team that would be. Might even win the MAC West.

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