MAC Hoops Roundtable: Wither The Divisions?

Eastern Michigan won their division, but thanks to a bad record they're not a No. 2 seed. So is there even a point to divisions anymore?

The questions this week were posted by Eagle Totem. Here are our responses.

1. It seems as though the MAC has been taking an increasingly structured approach to basketball scheduling (a round-robin of divisional play, a round-robin of inter-divisional games, and then the second round-robin of divisional play; most games on Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons). What do you think of this approach? Do you want to see more of this structure, or would you rather have a MAC game spread throughout the week?

SUSSMAN: I'm a creature of habit and think the bulk of games on Wednesday-Saturday is just right. Nor am I opposed to occasionally throwing a game on an irregular night such as Friday, where it could possibly be televised by STO or perhaps ESPNU. What's important is to expect when games occur so people can get in a regular viewing habit. Having 'em scattered across the week can make it difficult sometimes.

HICKEY: I really like this approach. It takes away any advantage that a team would get playing on Tuesday-Saturday instead of a Thursday-Saturday. Plus, it makes planning things a little easier. For example, now I know not to schedule classes on Wednesday nights. The only problem I have with this is the start times. Being a MACsketball fan, I want to watch other games as well. If there are six games every Wednesday night and they all start at 7pm, I can only watch two at a time. I would prefer the schedule to have three games at 7pm and three games at 9pm; that way us diehards can get four hours of MACsketball every Wednesday night. It's much improved from years ago when there were Sunday afternoon games and random games during the week.

BROWN & GOLD: I'm more of a fan of action every night, but having the structured approach really works and helps keep races relatively easy to follow. Call me old, but I like the more structured approach.

2. With the MAC tournament using division-agnostic seeding, is there a value to continuing to use divisions in basketball? How would you want to see a divisionless basketball season scheduled?

SUSSMAN: Oh, I see tons of value, still. There remain natural rivalries within the division. Then there's the cost of travel for everyone involved. Two WMU-CMU games are cheaper than WMU-Buffalo games. If they do scrap divisions, you want to protect rivalry games. So, two Akron-Kent State games, two each against the Directional Michigans … and I guess you could finally have two BGSU-Toledo games.

HICKEY: There is no value anymore in having divisions because of the change in the seeding. The only positive I see for division is for travel purposes, and with limited athletic budgets some schools just can't afford to make the long trip up to Buffalo or out to Northern Illinois, especially twice a year if you count women's games. Yes, the MAC East has been superior to the MAC West recently, but that doesn't mean that couldn't change. It would be interesting to see how the records would be for each team if they played a balanced schedule rather than the current schedule. The SEC went away from divisions this year and I think the league was more competitive (other than Kentucky). I hope this happens, but I don't know what the MAC brain-trust thinks about it. They certainly want to improve the MAC and what it offers, but scrapping divisions would be a huge undertaking.

BROWN & GOLD: There really is no reason to have the divisions anymore, although I liked the old system. Winning the most games out of 10 (plus how many of the added 6) should stand for something. It will be interesting to see what the MAC does going forward though schedule wise. I think they will still keep the divisions (as the women's side is not as divided talent-wise), but who knows?

3. What's the minimum you still need to see from your team (i.e. tournament performance) to be satisfied with the season.

SUSSMAN: I'm already satisfied to see BGSU get a 6-seed. Everybody else is just that good. Reaching the quarters would be satisfactory, as that might be enough to sneak them into the CIT or some dumpy conference. I still would like them to win the MAC, realizing it's doable but not probable. But that's the point of keeping the dream alive.

HICKEY: For Akron, they need to win it. Save for the past few games, they've dominated the conference and should have no other goal other than winning it all. Although the Zips have the NIT bid in their back pocket, Keith Dambrot wants nothing more than to go back to the big dance. He knows this team has potential for a first round upset, and will be upset if they are not able to get there.

BROWN & GOLD: An NCAA berth. Anything less is unacceptable. The expectations for this year were so high, that this 8th place finish, going 1-3 against the divisionals, and just overall poor play is just sickening. An NCAA berth would dispel all of that and make this season's pain worth it in the end. The next Bronco loss is their last anyways.

4. Which team is your "dark horse" or "Cinderella" pick for the MAC tournament.

HICKEY: In terms of the champion, I like OHIO. They've swept Buffalo and conveniently have them as a potential match-up in the semi-finals. The Bobcats have shown they can manhandle Kent State and Akron, but can also be susceptible to a quarterfinal loss. I feel that they are peaking at the right time, and should be a favorite to win the whole shebang. I really like Toledo too. I think they can get a round farther than expected and really give OHIO a fight during the quarters. Remember, the Rockets beat the Bobcats earlier this year and have won 6 of their last 8. This is a dangerous team with a dynamic scorer in Rian Pearson. Look out for the baby Rockets next year, as they have no seniors and only two juniors on their roster currently. Tod Kowalczyk is building something special in the Glass City.

BROWN & GOLD: I want to say WMU, but I can't. I'm going to stay in state and go with Eastern. Why? Defense. If the EMUs can hold a decent offense, their D can win games. Why not go with them?

SUSSMAN:

5. Rank 'em.

HICKEY:
1. Akron
2. Ohio
3. Buffalo
4. Kent State
5. Bowling Green
6. Toledo
7. Eastern Michigan
8. Western Michigan
9. Ball State
10. Miami
11. Central Michigan
12. Northern Illinois

BROWN & GOLD:
1. Akron
2. Buffalo
3. Kent State
4. Ohio
5. EMU
6. BGSU
7. Toledo
8. Miami
9. WMU
10. Ball State
11. CMU
12. NIU

SUSSMAN: [points to seedings]

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