MAC Basketball First Round Preview: Watch for flying buffalo

Javon McCrea and Buffalo should be able to pass through the first round. - Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

All games are at 7 p.m. tonight and viewable on the MAC Digital Network.

Well, here we go. March MACness is upon us. For a fuller review, I wrote the the big honkin' tournament preview for our parent site. Tonight, however, are the first round games featuring teams that don't have the greatest outlook of reaching the MAC title game. For a first-round to win it all, they'll need five wins, which is a bunch when you think of it.

(11) Miami (8-21, 3-13) @ (6) Bowling Green (13-18, 7-9)

The 6-seed is supposed to be good, right? In this case for the Falcons, it's one last home game against the worst-seeded team. Of course, last year BGSU experienced a 6-11 matchup and was roundly smoked by Central Michigan. CMU still fired their head coach. As for Miami, well, the last seed is what you get when you lose to Northern Illinois at home and don't beat many other teams. To make matters doubly interesting, teams split the season series with each team winning at home. The RedHawks' last victory in Bowling Green was in the now-dormant Anderson Arena. It might be a little fun to play one game a year back in old Anderson. But that's a probably terrible idea for another time.

Magical Skeleton Key to the Game: Jon Harris. In the absence of Allen Roberts, someone else had had to provide the offense. This switch has changed the dynamic starting five, replacing a good guard with an athletic wing/forward. But without Roberts, Harris is their only legitimate 3-point threat, so if he sinks some outside shots then they can stretch out BG's defense and keep him honest on the perimeter.

A Dumb Guess: Bowling Green edges Miami 57-55. Jordon Crawford and A'uston Calhoun are just too much.

(9) Central Michigan (11-19, 4-12) @ (8) Buffalo (12-19, 7-9)

Scholars have researched for years that the 8-9 matchup is supposed t obe one filled with competitive balance. A "pick'em," if you will. But on paper this might be one of the most lopsided 8-9s I can remember. Buffalo's record is atrocious. It should be better. But they did beat Akron, and should have beaten them twice. They have the best player in the MAC — Javon McCrea. It's going to be tons of fun to see what Kyle Randall can do for an encore after scoring 33 points on 23 shots, but that wasn't enough to give the Chips a win.

Magical Skeleton Key to the Game: Central Michigan's forwards. It wasn't just McCrea who picked apart the Chippewas; Cameron Downing also had a career night. It feels unfair, almost cruel to ask freshmen John Simons and Blake Hibbits to slow down those two, because if you believe the bios, each are about 50 pounds lighter than McCrea and Downing.

A Dumb Guess: Buffalo runs away with it in the second half, 80-63, and Central Michigan gets the offseason of rest and reloading it sorely earned.

(10) Northern Illinois (5-24, 3-13) @ (7) Eastern Michigan (14-17, 7-9)

AH JEEZ, NOT THIS AGAIN. You might remember last year when bottom-seed Northern Illinois somehow upset a 5-seeded and MAC West champion EMU Eagles to the tune of a 55-52 win. The next time NIU visited Ypsilanti, they scoured four points in a half and 25 points in a game. Nobody wants to remember any of this, but there it is in the scrolls of MAC history. We are now again in the Convocation Center and something strange just has to happen again.

Magical Skeleton Key to the Game: EMU needs to guard Abdel Nader and limit his open shots. Nader has the Huskies' best, perhaps only, reliable jump shot, and in their three MAC wins he scored almost 20 points per contest. In two losses to Eastern, he is averaging just 5.5.

A Dumb Guess: No more funny business. The battle of slow tempos goes back to EMU again, 50-44.

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