Nation’s top scorer Keene loses MAC player-of-year vote

Tony Paul
The Detroit News


He led the entire nation in scoring by a wide margin, and is a finalist for the Wooden and Naismith awards.

Yet, when the Mid-American Conference announced its player of the year Wednesday, it was NOT Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene.

In voting by MAC coaches — who weren’t allowed to vote for their own players — and media that covers the conference, Akron’s Isaiah Johnson was named player of the year. And it was a runaway, as he received 23 first-place votes to seven for Keene.

Told of the decision just after noon Wednesday, Central Michigan coach Keno Davis did his best to keep a measured tone.

“I don’t think it’s so much of a negative,” he said. “I think it’s partly due to Akron winning the championship, and a lot of people will give MVPs to the best player on the best team. I think you understand that.

“I don’t think it takes away anything from what Marcus was able to accomplish.”

With Keene shy of 30, CMU will decline postseason bid

The thing is, it’s all about the name of the year.

The MAC calls the award player of the year, not most valuable player. Doesn’t that make a difference?

“I see both sides of it,” Davis said. “Whatever sport it is in, when you’re talking about most valuable or outstanding or player of the year, however you describe it, it’s very subjective.

“We’re appreciative of all the recognition that Marcus received during the year. Just because he didn’t win player of the year doesn’t mean, one, he wasn’t appreciated, and two, a lot of people got a chance not just around Michigan but around the country, got a chance to see him play.”

Keene, 21, averaged 30 points for the season, with an asterisk — he actually averaged 29.96875, but Central Michigan rounded up, and understandably so, seeing as you can round all the way to the fourth decimal. Next closest in Division I is South Dakota State’s Mike Daum, nearly five points back.

But the Chippewas, despite two prolific scorers (Braylon Rayson was the other), finished the season 16-16, and on an eight-game losing streak. They didn’t make it to the Cleveland portion of the MAC tournament. Akron, meanwhile, won the league, behind Johnson, a 6-foot-10, 290-pound senior center, who is averaging 16.2 points and 7.4 rebounds.

In other MAC awards, Miami’s Michael Weathers was named freshman of the year, Buffalo’s Dontay Caruthers was defensive player of the year, and Buffalo’s Nick Perkins was sixth man of the year.

Akron’s Keith Dambrot was named coach of the year, ahead of Thursday’s MAC quarterfinal against Eastern Michigan at Quicken Loans Arena.