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2017 MAC Tournament Edition: 5 Good Minutes with Michael Reghi

Michael Reghi talks MAC Tournament Sleepers, What It Takes To Win, MAC coaching and much more

NCAA Basketball: MAC Conference Tournament-Akron vs Buffalo Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Reghi is a widely respected play-by-play broadcaster and radio talk show host. He was the Baltimore Orioles television play-by-play announcer from 1997-2004. He worked for Fox Sports Ohio and was the television voice of the Cleveland Cavaliers from 1993-2006. He has hosted multiple sports talk shows on ESPN Cleveland and also on television’s Sportstime Ohio. He also has called MAC basketball and football for Sportstime Ohio and the MAC television network. He will be calling this year’s night session of the MAC tournament quarterfinals on BCSN/Spectrum Sports at Quicken Loans Arena. On Sunday, he was kind enough to lend me his MAC insight and expertise in a special MAC Tournament edition of “5 Good Minutes with Michael Reghi.”

MAC Tournament Format

Q: Last year, The MAC changed their tournament format back to the way they originally had it. Are you happy with the new alignment compared to the way it was for those three years(2012-2015)?

Michael Reghi: Yeah I am, Brad, because I believe that competitive balance is something that the MAC has always shown to be very much a high-impact point of emphasis. The tournament is now in...a better format, for those three years that you referred to, you had the top couple of seeds going through to the semi-finals and I think that all the coaches, in fact I know all the coaches are very pleased...(with)... going back to this quarterfinal format, where the top seeds are going to have to play in the quarterfinal on the last few years...a one or two seed (is) not playing for a full week has kind of lost some of their edge. Kent State got bumped like that a couple seasons ago, so I like this much better.

I wish...the first round games would in downtown Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena too, but I understand...that turns into a travel situation and all the logistics that go with it...I like this very much though, where you have the four quarterfinals on Thursday and then the semifinals on Friday and the championship game. The top four seeds get that bye and I think that works for the MAC, that fits. Have them play the quarterfinals instead of getting the bye where the top two seeds go to the semifinals, is the right way to go.

What It Takes

Q: In your experience what qualities do teams that win the MAC tournament have in common?

Michael Reghi: To's about, do you have a foundation of toughness about your program? Do you have somewhat of a hardened mindset, where you can go win three days in a row against very strong competition, in a high pressure environment...and that really doesn't speak to any X’s and O’s. Are you tough mentally? Is your coach one who basically demands...these are our goals, we're going to get to Cleveland and then we're going to win three days in a row and we're going to do it because we're tougher than everybody else and I firmly believe that's got a lot to do with it. I think it’s paramount that...the head coaches don't get wayward during these three days as you're going to have to win to advance to the NCAA tournament...I do believe that teams that are hot coming down the stretch and teams that have solid point guard play specifically, usually do very downtown Cleveland. So I'm always going to lean to that but with an emphasis on how tough minded is a basketball overcome...some adversities...and win three days in a row. That's not an easy thing to do.


Q: You mentioned teams getting hot down the stretch. Western Michigan won eight straight to finish the season and Kent State finished winning 5-of-6 and 9-of-12. Those are two of the hottest teams in the MAC, both playing in the first round. Which of the teams playing on Monday has the best chance to win 4 games in 6 days and take the championship?

Michael Reghi: That's a mouthful there, when thinking about how I said three days in a row and you're right...Those teams that have to go and win four (games) in six (days) and then travel, maybe travel twice...if you didn't get a home game tomorrow...then having to shift gears...and then come to Cleveland. It's a very difficult thing to do.

Although, you mentioned two teams a moment ago that I think not hot at the right time in Western Michigan and Kent State....The have good coaches in Steve Hawkins and Rob Senderoff. I think they've got enough guard play and point guard play to be able to do it...That's something that's very important to me (at) tournament time.

I know they got a four seed but I think a lot of people are sleeping on Ball State a little bit too. They won 5 of their final 6. They've got two outstanding offensive players in Franko House and Tayler Persons. I think their head coach, James Whitford has been around the MAC long enough that he understands how he needs to put his program together. They've gotten much better defensively too.

So the two you mentioned...Western Michigan and Kent State could very well win tomorrow and then make that kind of run and I think the #4 seed Ball State...don't sleep on them because although you didn’t ask me this, I'm going to stay with Akron as the team to beat. However, with a caveat and I think Keith Dambrot...knows this...They dropped 4 of their last 6 after they started the year 12-0...They are not playing their best basketball. Now, with the win on Friday night, maybe (that) gets them back on track...We'll see if they can...flip that switch...and get back to the type of basketball they were playing in the beginning and middle of the MAC season.

Getting Two Teams In The NCAA Tournament

Q: What would it take for a MAC school to get an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament?

Michael Reghi: Yeah Brad, that's always a tough one and a point of contention for the conference. We've seen so many years and it mostly has been Keith Dambrot and Akron...look they have been to eight MAC championship games and lost a couple of heart-breakers and then you look and they're sitting at 26-6, 27-5 and of course they wind up in the end in the NIT.

Yeah it's a very difficult call right now to be able to say that's going to change anytime soon. The NCAA Tournament Committee, they factor in...schools that are perennial powers in the game...what type of name association they have around the country. Does that translate to dollars at the gate...television following and television dollars? Unfortunately, that is some of the battle you're fighting.

There was a couple of years back in the late 90’s early 2000’s where we did get a second MAC team in and for that you have to go back to Wally Szczerbiak and Earl Boykins with that Eastern Michigan (team). Western Michigan got in as an at-large, I think in 2002 and won a (NCAA Tournament) game in Chicago...But we haven't had one since then. It's a difficult goal, and I wish I had a definitive answer to how that the MAC schools can better their lot. You do have to continue to schedule non-conference as difficult as you can and that means going to the power five programs...You’ve got to open eyes by getting a road win or two. And this is not easy. Is it fair? Probably not, but that's the landscape and the climate that the MAC is in. Unfortunately all the coaches know that. That's why it puts such a big onus on having to have the toughness to be able to win a MAC championship.

Q: Do you think the inability of the MAC to get multiple teams in the NCAA tournament has affected the conference in that coaches may be quicker to move on or take another job?

Michael Reghi: Yeah, that's another good question. But it is a valid point. So what you're asking is are there some innate frustrations there. Yeah, I mean you know we could look at John Gross, a couple years ago and he won MAC championships twice at Ohio and got to the (NCAA) tournament and then was offered the Illinois job.

So bottom line, I say yes that there are frustrations there for coaches...let's take a look at a couple of those cases...with Keith Dambrot, a 13 year veteran, he is set. I would be surprised if Coach Dambrot ever left...And I think he'll retire there and then he'll go out on his terms...That being said, look at the times that he's been 26-6...27-5. You know...we got beat...(on) a buzzer-beater, like last year in the MAC championship game...when Willie Conner hit the jumper for Buffalo...and just like that you chance to go in the NCAA (tournament). Now you've got to go to the NIT. So yeah there's frustration there.

I do think...some of the coaches...have that mindset. Can you win quick? Come in and win the MAC Championship...get to the NCAA tournament and parlay that into something bigger and better.

I mean listen we've seen it done. We've seen Herb Sendek do it at Miami. I mentioned John Gross did that as well...Bobby Hurley at Buffalo. They won two years ago and (he) got the Arizona State job off of that. So...I think that's a very valid question on your part...

I mean it's...a power five school and you think of Tom Izzo, what do you say? Well that's Michigan State, that's a big basketball program that goes to Final Fours every other year and won a national championship...Does that give you some boost in credit? Sure is that fair to the conferences like the MAC and the Mountain West and the Sun Belt...again there are going to be some teams that finish second or third with 22, 23, 24, 25 wins and they're going to the NIT. A lot of people would say that's the way it should be...A team that has a great year and doesn't happen to win their conference tournament...I've got to believe that there should be a spot for a couple of them whether that will become reality year in and year out. I don't think so.

Q: It just seems like it would do the conference a lot of good as far as retaining some of that coaching and not feeling the pressure to constantly move on. Now, obviously Keith Dambrot is that exception. It would be nice to see more coaching talent stick around.

Michael Reghi: For recruiting too...I mean a kid's going to see...Hey...Akron wants me, Kent State wants me, Ohio wants me, Western Michigan wants me...But oh wait a minute now, what if I don’t win the conference championship, I'm not able to see the NCAA tournament. So...if they have any other choice. Maybe they...had another program...that was interested in them, maybe even as a preferred walk-on. You never know how...a young person is going to feel about that.

Biggest Surprise

Q: What was the biggest surprise in the MAC regular season this year?

Michael Reghi: I would say the biggest surprise...was is that Ohio...lost the reigning MAC player of the year, Antonio Campbell in the world are they going to be able to overcome this.

Because again I mean this guy was elite player...he's a difference maker and 6-9, you're big man...Saul Phillips did a remarkable job and they did overcome that and he was able to...defy the odds...They wind up with the second seed overall...they had a fantastic year after he went down.

They kind of restructured...Their point guard Jaaron Simmons is a first team all MAC performer. He...developed...more of a scoring mentality too. So I give Coach Phillips and and his program a lot of credit for...not just saying, well we can't win now, deflating (the) basketballs and going home...because they certainly could have. When you have that type of dramatic loss to your top player and arguably the best player in the MAC in Antonio Campbell...what they were able to accomplish in my mind was pretty incredible.

Calling The Game

Q: So the entire tournament is televised this year. What is your scheduled like as far as broadcasts go? Will you be at Quicken Loans Arena? Are you calling the quarterfinals on Spectrum Sports?

Michael Reghi: Yeah, I'll be in Cleveland. I'm doing the quarterfinals on Thursday and then I'll jump over to ESPN radio and do...the semifinals...on Friday and then I'll do the championship game on Saturday.

Q: Are you calling all four quarterfinals games?

Michael Reghi: No. I have in the past but this year I'm only doing the two at night, the night session.

Q: What kind of challenges does calling back-to-back games like that present for you?

Michael Reghi: Well you know what, I've seen all these teams...throughout the course of the year so...that helps...I make it a point to stay close to the coaches in both football and basketball because...when you build up that trust and confidence with a coach who you know, they're going to talk to you and kind of stay real with you...because they know you're not going to do anything on the air that's going to put them in a bad position.

Something I felt good about my whole career is I have an excellent rapport with coaches and it's invaluable to me...regardless of whether it's football or hoops...being able to present that to the viewer and being able to kind of take them inside the programs and things that...I can bring the telecast. That's invaluable and something that I'm very passionate about.

I've done all four in many years at the MAC tournament and other conferences too...all in one day's fine. I think...once you get in there and your adrenaline starts, it's no different than when you're get locked in. I look forward to being in that arena. It has a lot of special (meaning)...because of all my years calling the Cavalier's too's special for me to have had that for...13 seasons, calling the Cavaliers and then all these years calling the MAC tournament. So it's very enjoyable for me.