Preston, Vander Plas earn preseason nods, Bobcats picked to finish second in MAC

Don’t look now, but the Mid-American Conference and Ohio University basketball seasons are less than a week away.

And the rest of the MAC believes the Bobcats will be a contender as the 2020-21 season unfurls.

Ohio was picked to finish second in the MAC according to the league’s preseason coaches poll, released Thursday morning. Remember, no division breakdowns this year for the MAC. Balloting was done 1 through 12, and OU came in second with one first-place vote and 117 points.

Ohio junior point guard Jason Preston, seen here in 2019, was named to the Preseason All-MAC First Team by the league’s coaches on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020.

Bowling Green was the preseason pick of the coaches to be the best team in the MAC, with 135 points and eight first-place votes.

As expected, the teams composing the (former?) MAC East Division dominated the preseason poll. Akron was third (115) points, followed by Buffalo (109) and then Ball State (104). Kent State was seventh (64). Northern Illinois, Central Michigan and Western Michigan were the bottom three teams slotted.

In addition, MAC coaches also voted on preseason All-MAC First and Second Teams, and again the Bobcats were well represented. Junior point guard Jason Preston was a First Team selection, and junior forward Ben Vander Plas earned Second Team honors.

Preston was sensational as a sophomore in Year One under now second-year head coach Jeff Boals, and finished the season averaging 16.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game while shootinig 51.5 percent overall and 40.7 percent from 3-point range. Preston led the MAC in assists (second nationally in total assists), assist-to-turnover margin and minutes played, was fifth in scoring and fourth in field goal percentage.

Like Preston, Vander Plas earned preseason honors for the first time as a Bobcat. He finished 2019-20 with 15.7 points per game and led OU with 6.9 rebounds per contest.

Ohio was one of three teams to earn multiple All-MAC preseason honorees. BG had lead guard Justin Turner (First Team) and do-everything forward Daeqwon Plowen (Second) on the lists, while Buffalo placed guard Jayvon Graves (First) and forward Josh Mballa (Second).

The All-MAC preseason First Team consisted of five guards, and the Second Team featured four forwards.

The Bobcats were 17-15 a year ago in Boals’ debut season on the OU bench, including an 8-10 mark in conference play. Ohio won its MAC Tournament first round game against Central Michigan, but the tournament – and essentially the sporting world – shut down prior to a quarterfinal game with Akron in Cleveland due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ohio returns six rotation players from a year ago with Preston, Vander Plas, MAC All-Freshman honoree Lunden McDay, and then-freshmen subs Ben Roderick, Miles Brown and Nolan Foster. Boals has added six new scholarship players for 2020-21 with transfers Dwight Wilson III and Rifen Miguel, and incoming freshmen in Mark Sears, Sam Towns, Jalen White and Colin Granger.

And sure, Ohio still hasn’t announced a non-conference schedule. But we do know, via Illinois, that the Bobcats will be joining the Illini, North Carolina A&T and Wright State for a four-team round-robin event beginning Wednesday.

Ohio will open against Wright State sometime around 4 p.m. Wednesday, and will play NCA&T on Thursday and Illinois Friday in early afternoon games.

Wednesday will be the first day of the season for college basketball. The MAC, with 20 conference games this year, will have league games beginning in December. Ohio’s MAC opener is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 29 at Miami.

2020-21 MAC Men’s Basketball Preseason Coaches Poll

1. Bowling Green (8) – 132 points

2. Ohio (1) – 117 points

3. Akron (2) – 115 points

4. Buffalo – 109 points

5. Ball State – 104 points

6. Toledo (1) – 93 points

7. Kent State – 65 points

8. Eastern Michigan – 57 points

9. Miami – 48 points

10. Northern Illinois – 43 points

11. Central Michigan – 40 points

12. Western Michigan – 13 points

MAC Tournament Champions: Bowling Green (4), Akron (2), Ball State (1), Buffalo (1), Eastern Michigan (1), Kent State (1), Miami (1), Toledo (1)

Preseason All-MAC First Team

Loren Cristian Jackson, Senior, G, Akron

Justin Turner, Grad, G, Bowling Green

Jayvon Graves, Senior, G, Buffalo

Jason Preston, Junior, G, Ohio

Marreon Jackson, Senior, G, Toledo

Preseason All-MAC Second Team

Ishmael El-Amin, Senior, G, Ball State

Daeqwon Plowden, Senior, F, Bowling Green

Josh Mballa, Junior, F, Buffalo

Danny Pippen, Senior, F, Kent State

Ben Vander Plas, R-Junior, F, Ohio

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