MAC Hoops Roundtable: Is Buffalo Falling Backward Again?

This week's MAC roundtable questions are from Tim Riordan of Bull Run. Bear in mind the questions were asked prior to Wednesday's matches and the responses were modified best as possible to mostly fit what happened in those particular games.

1) BracketBuster results: what does the performance say about your team / the MAC as a whole?

SUSSMAN: On the whole, I hate to say "disastrous," but ... how else do you characterize a 4-8 record when your top three teams are whumped? OHIO had the most impressive rout of any team (Asheville is solid) and let's give credit to Toledo for collecting the lone road win of the BracketBusters. But this one was rather painful to watch unfold. Kent State especially.

BROWN & GOLD: Ouch. I really can't say much about Western's performance, since I was following hockey more closely Saturday night, but from the looks of things, Western didn't play that bad, but still didn't seem to cover the 3 ball. Basically, another non-conference loss on the road for the Broncos.

As for the MAC, with the exception of Bowling Green and Ohio, the MAC got pounded. I've seen SIU play in person, and they are nothing special, so Ball State simply gets the appreciative nod for their play. I think this proves that the MAC is heading in the wrong direction for basketball powers, and may be towards the bottom come Selection Sunday.

HICKEY: Akron had the marquee game of the conference, and even though they lost, they played well and had a chance to win. Oral Roberts is a really good team at home, and the Zips had them on the ropes. Zips fans were frustrated with the loss, and it likely took away any potential at-large possibility they had. But, it will be a good experience to draw on if the Zips have to travel far away in the NCAA Tournament. The MAC did not really represent well against other conferences, but their ESPN ranking is strong at #13, ahead of the Colonial and the Horizon League. The BracketBusters do not mean a whole lot outside of the main TV games, so I personally do not put much emphasis on the results.

2) UB has now dropped three straight after winning eight in a row, is this going to be like 2008-2009 where the Bulls fade down the stretch?

SUSSMAN: Quite possibly, and I can see the symptoms, especially through the eyes of a Bulls fan. You've seen this happen before; you're accustomed to good teams not closing the deal. It does seem like UB has the fortitude to get to the MACCG this year, even given the other contenders. But I'm not going to take these last three losses — all against quality competition — for anything more than their face value. And I like Javon McCrea and Mitchell Watt against any other frontcourt in the conference. No other MAC team has two contenders for POY.

BROWN & GOLD: Woah woah woah. Slow down there skippy. They've lost two straight on the road: to a good Kent State team and a good South Dakota State team, then at home to OHIO. They still have Akron on the road, but have their other two games at home. I think Buffalo will be fine, let's be rational here.

HICKEY: Unfortunately, after the loss Wednesday to OHIO, this looks more and more like a possibility. Luckily, they get the two worst teams in the MAC East at home, and only have to travel to Akron. It looks like the Bulls will be 2-3 in this round of division play, which puts them at 11-5 overall in conference. That's good enough for a three or four seed in the conference tourney and a bye in the MAC Tournament. The biggest thing to see will be their first game in the tournament, where they are susceptible to falter. They haven't gotten past the quarterfinals since making the championship game in 2009.

3) With cross division play wrapped up which team in the West looks most able to do damage in the MAC tournament?

SUSSMAN: The answer is nobody. However, that's not a fun answer. I'll throw a bone to Toledo, yet again. If you haven't seen them play yet, you'll know that in the last few weeks they're a threat to win every game. They gave Kent State fits. They *did* beat OHIO. They pushed BGSU to the limit on the road. It's a young team that's improving, and with Rian Pearson's ability to slash to the basket, Juice Brown's point-guard control (and occasional piping-hot shooting) and Curtis Dennis' perimeter jumper, I could certainly see the Rockets making it to the semis under the right clinical conditions.

HICKEY: Western Michigan. They had the most success against the East, although their record might not show it. Once they get everyone healthy, they will be a dangerous team. Flenard Whitfield, Demetrius Ward, Mike Douglas, and Matt Stainbrook are all dangerous, and if they all have good nights they can knock off anyone. Nobody else in the West has the firepower to do that.

BROWN & GOLD: I hate to be a homer here, but Western Michigan. They lost to the top 4 teams in the East by a combined 7 points in regulation (the two OT games count as 0 points). 3 of those games were on the road. Western is inconsistent, but has the talent to compete with the best in the East.

And honestly, who else could? If Eastern isn't shooting well, then they aren't a threat. Ball State hasn't done anything since cross divisional play started. Toledo can't close out. Central isn't a team.

4) Who in the East, aside from Miami, is in the most Danger of not notching up a first round bye?

SUSSMAN: BGSU has to go to Buffalo, then play Kent State and Miami at home. A 1-2 finish seems likely as it's clear that the Falcons are the fifth best team in the MAC East. As I've said before, that looks bad but it's not a terrible consolation.

BROWN & GOLD: Bowling Green. They have to make up a game, plus they are just 2-7 in East play. They still have games against top teams in the East. Plus they'd lose the divisional play tiebreaker with Ohio. I'm playing it safe with the Falcons.

HICKEY: Bowling Green. Currently sitting at 7-6, they have home games against Kent and Miami and a trip to Buffalo. Best case scenario here is 2-1, and 1-2 is more likely with Kent being the swing game. That puts them at 9-7 (at best), which is a game behind the leaders in the East. I don't think there is anyway the teams in the East ahead of them falter that much so that Bowling Green would jump them.

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