Year in and year out, there might not be a more consistently competitive league than the Mid-American Conference. Or more specially, the East Division of the Mid-American Conference. It’s rare you see a team run away with the title, and this season was no different.
Akron came out with the regular-season championship, winning it by one game over Buffalo. Division brethren Ohio, Kent State and Bowling Green also all finished above .500 in the conference. The Zips head into the tournament as the favorite, but they lost three of their last five games after starting 11-1 within the league. Akron guards the perimeter extremely well, but the Zips are susceptible on the inside and on the defensive glass. Akron is a balanced outfit, with no one averaging more than 10.3 points. 7-footer Zeke Marshall is a tough matchup, though, at both ends of the floor.
Buffalo beat Akron twice and boasts the league’s best duo in forwards Mitchell Watt and Javon McCrea. Both players are very efficient and are capable of carrying the Bulls offensively and on the glass. The key for Buffalo will be turnovers; the Bulls need to take care of the ball.
Ohio has won five of its last six games to end the season, and guard D.J. Cooper is one of the best players in the conference. The Bobcats force turnovers and play an aggressive – and foul-prone – brand of defense. A sleeper could be Bowling Green, which won seven of its last 10 to end the season. The Falcons are led by A’uston Calhoun and Scott Thomas.
Expect an intense race for the bid, which is nothing new for the MAC.
Title game: Saturday, March 10 on ESPN2 (8 p.m., ET)
- Julian Mavunga, Miami (Ohio)
- Rian Pearson, Toledo
- D.J. Cooper, Ohio
- Jarrod Jones, Ball State
- Mitchell Watt, Buffalo
Conference RPI: 17
KenPom.com rating: 17
Sagarin rating: 15
NCAA Tournament Locks: None
NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: None
Last NCAA Tournament Appearances
- Akron Zips: 2011, No. 15 seed, lost to Notre Dame 69-56 in the first round.
- Ball State Cardinals: 2000, No. 11 seed, lost to UCLA 65-57 in the first round.
- Bowling Green Falcons: 1968, lost to Marquette 72-71 in the first round.
- Buffalo Bulls: N/A.
- Central Michigan Chippewas: 2003, No. 11 seed, beat Creighton 79-73 in the first round, followed by an 86-60 loss to Duke in the second round.
- Eastern Michigan Eagles: 1998, No. 13 seed, lost to Michigan State 83-71 in the first round.
- Kent State Golden Flashes: 2008, No. 9 seed, lost to UNLV 71-58 in the first round.
- Miami (Ohio) RedHawks: 2007, No. 14 seed, lost to Oregon 58-56 in the first round.
- Northern Illinois Huskies: 1996, No. 14 seed, lost to Texas Tech 74-73 in the first round.
- Ohio Bobcats: 2010, No. 14 seed, beat Georgetown 97-83 in the first round, followed by an 83-68 loss to Tennessee in the second round.
- Toledo Rockets: 1980, No. 9 seed, lost to Florida State 94-91 in the first round.
- Western Michigan Broncos: 2004, No. 11 seed, lost to Vanderbilt 71-58 in the first round.
- Jeff Borzello