We'll soon find out. But we already know

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

We'll soon find out.

But we already know the Mid-American Conference's surprise squad of the 1999-2000 campaign certainly won't be the Golden Flashes, who were picked to finish second in the East Division behind arch-rival Akron but actually received the most votes to capture the MAC Tournament title according to the annual MAC Preseason Poll conducted during Media Day festivities at Gund Arena on Thursday.

"Sure people expect more out of us this year, and I agree with that," said Kent coach Gary Waters, whose squad won a school-record 23 games, captured the MAC Tournament championship and advanced to the NCAA tourney for the first time in school history a year ago. "We've worked hard to bring our program to the point where people respect us, and now we either take it to the next level or we slip back.

"That's the challenge that's put before us. And that's the challenge we're ready to take on."

The Flashes return three starters and 10 lettermen led by senior center John Whorton, the first preseason All-MAC selection in Kent history, and have added a player in sophomore guard Demetric Shaw (transfer from Tulane) that will make an immediate impact.

Usually a winning team with that much experienced talent back in uniform would be considered an overwhelming favorite to win its conference.

But that's not the case in the MAC, which should be as rugged as ever in 1999-2000.

Akron has the most experience in the league, with three fifth-year seniors in the starting lineup. Bowling Green has the MAC's new main man in senior forward Anthony Stacey. Marshall is so athletic it's scary.

"I've been involved with this league for 11 years, and this is as balanced as I've ever seen it," said Waters. "There will be some brutal wars, especially in the East. I believe Akron is the best team in the East, but Kent, Bowling Green and Marshall are all very good.

"I see Toledo was picked to win the West, but I think Ball State should be up there. Northern Illinois and Central Michigan should also have good years."

A 'good' year won't be good enough for the Flashes, whose standards have soared now that they've tasted success.

"What people should realize is that we're still hungry," said Whorton. "We still have the desire to be better, and we know we can be better than last year. We want to build upon last year's success and take it a step further, and we feel we have the players to get it done."

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