The big change from last season is that the each school will now have eighteen conference games, instead of the normal sixteen. The MAC office has really tried to improve the conference schedule in the recent years, going from five division, six non-division, then five division games to mixing those games up a little last season. Now, division teams will still play each other twice, but there will be two extra non-division games added to the schedule.
Here are the cross-divisional schools that play each other twice
Akron--Ball State, Eastern Michigan
Ball State--Akron, Buffalo
Bowling Green--Eastern Michigan, Toledo
Buffalo--Ball State, Northern Illinois
Central Michigan--Kent State, Miami
Eastern Michigan--Akron, Bowling Green
Kent State--Central Michigan, Northern Illinois
Miami--Central Michigan, Western Michigan
Northern Illinois--Buffalo, Kent State
Ohio--Toledo, Western Michigan
Toledo--Bowling Green, Ohio
Western Michigan--Miami, Ohio
The MAC schedule makers certainly didn't do Ohio any favors, as the 'Cats have to play the top two (projected) schools in the West twice. On the other hand, Kent State gets two bottom feeders and Buffalo gets Northern Illinois (always a plus) and rebuilding Ball State. It's good to see that Bowling Green and Toledo will get two games against each other, as that is the only real cross-divisional rivalry.
The defending regular-season and conference tournament champion Akron Zips finish the season with four out of the last five at home, which is a huge advantage. It also means that they'll be tested on the road early, but with a good deal of experience returning that may not be too big of a problem. Getting West division favorite Toledo at home is also a benefit. The Zips got a nice mix of easy and not-so-easy games; there's no real three-game stretch where the Zips would have any troubles.
Ohio's new-look roster will be tested right away with the first conference game at Kent State followed by a home tilt with Akron. The 'Cats do finish out with Kent and Buffalo at home and Bowling Green and Miami on the road, which are all very winnable. That part of the schedule will definitely be an advantage heading into the conference tournament. Coming into the tournament hot is important, even with a potential double bye in play.
West division favorite Toledo also has a relatively manageable slate, as they get Buffalo at home and only travel to Akron. Getting rebuilding Bowling Green twice is a benefit, and other than Western Michigan the West certainly is headed for another struggle of a season. Yes, Ball State and Central Michigan will be better, but not much.
Kent State should never be counted out, as it seems they've won twenty games for the past twenty seasons. The win total will certainly be inflated by facing Northern Illinois and Central Michigan twice. The Flashes lost their top two scorers, but don't be surprised if they're in the thick of things come March 1st.
Many schools today took the opportunity to release their whole schedule contemporaneously with the conference schedule. Akron, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Miami, Ohio, and Toledo all released their full schedule today (Kent State and Western Michigan had already announced).
As I have it, Central Michigan is the first team to take the court this season: October 28th in an exhibition against Lake Superior State. That means only 55 days until #MACtion basketball-style.