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MAC basketball tournament takes dramatic turn
Kent State and Ohio look to capitalize on Akron's sudden setback
by WKSU's AMANDA RABINOWITZ


Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
 
Akron lost to Kent State in the regular season finale after point guard Alex Abreau (right) was suspended. He faces drug trafficking charges.
Courtesy of Kent State University
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In less than a week, the college basketball picture in Northeast Ohio has changed dramatically. Top-seeded Akron, considered the heavy favorite to win this week’s Mid-American Conference tournament and a spot in NCAA’s March Madness, suspended its star point guard Alex Abreu who’s facing drug trafficking charges.

Meanwhile, Kent State has been surging, and Ohio University is eager to repeat last year’s Sweet-16 run. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto talks to Amanda Rabinowitz.
Terry Pluto talks MAC tournament shake-up

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Pluto on Kyrie Irving injuries

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Akron shaky, Kent surges
The Mid America Conference is shaping up a lot differently now than it was just 10 days ago.

Back then, “you’d figure (University of) Akron would own the tournament. And even if they didn’t win the MAC tournament, they had a 19-game winning streak, longest in the country, (so) they probably would get an at-large bid.”

Meanwhile a few weeks before that, it looked like “Kent State had no chance to do anything. … At one point in the season they were 11-10 and just looked like a totally mediocre team.

“Now, Kent has as good a chance to come out of the MAC as Akron or Ohio U or anybody else.

Pulling the team together
A couple dynamics changed the picture. Kent had looked like a team where it was “every man for himself, sort of a rudderless team (with) guys playing kind of selfish.”

Then senior forward Chris Evans and guard Randal Holt “kind of pulled the team together (to the point where) they could play with anybody.”

Star point guard arrested
Meanwhile, Akron point guard Alex Abreu was arrested on charges of trafficking and possession of marijuana. He’s pleaded not guilty but has been suspended from the team.

“Guys smoke dope and get suspended by teams every year. What isn’t expected is when a guy is at a place where 5 pounds of marijuana is delivered. … It came at just horrible timing and it messes this kid’s career up” as well as his team.

At 5-foot-8, Abreu wasn’t heading to the NBA. But the Puerto Rican native was “the heart and soul of the team and a really good point guard.

“He’s been one of the team leaders and one of the people that Coach Keith Dambrot has really looked to.”

It all shows “how fragile these teams are.”

Akron women's team finds unprecedented success
Meanwhile, Akron’s women have been putting together “a team for the ages,” with 21 wins. Leading the team is Rachel Tecca, who was named the MAC player of the year this week.

She’s a marketing major, going for her MBA, and is surrounded by other players taking difficult courses and making the dean’s list.

The term “student athlete gets thrown around a lot, and most of the time, it is kind of a joke. It’s not for these women. And for the first time, you could have a very serious conversation about the Akron women, saying they’ve got a great show to win this tournament.” 

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