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MAC Basketball First Round Preview And Picks

OK, let's do a more serious set of predictions this time. I'm not all into looking at a bracket and making predictions from Day One. Call it a cop out, but I'd prefer to know who's going to play in a particular round before making conjecture. I'm already 51 percent guaranteed to be wrong about most of these — why make it harder on myself?

Y'know, it's a darn good thing EMU got the 5-seed. I mean, it'd have been nicer had they earned a bye because they won the division, but the 5's better than the 6 for a good reason: they don't have to play Central Michigan, who swept them this season. A game against NIU is like cake to the Eagles. They beat them twice with point totals of 47 and 48. Their brand of slow-it-down, defend-like-hell basketball is just going to demoralize NIU, even if it's not close.

Now perhaps EMU might "run up the score" to something outrageous like 55, just to show everyone they're going to be more than just an origami eagle fluttering into Cleveland based on a super-weak division and drawing the worst one of the lot in the first round.

I'm not really sure how Northern can win this game, and I hate saying that this is an impossible feat. But it'd be their landmark game of the year. They'll need career games out of all those freshmen. Don't look for it to happen. Just be happy that the season is almost mercifully over for them, and it'll get better.

PICK: Eastern Michigan

Trey Zeigler has the uncanny ability to take over a game and still have his team lose. That's just pure talent. They've won three of their last six, which is about as much of a roll they can be on, but even in the losses his lines are spectacular. The loss to BG was one of Zeigler's double-doubles and yet the team lost by 13. Their big lack is in the interior; it seems like Torian Oglesby, A'uston Calhoun and Cameron Black will have their way with the taller Chippewas. The only thing CMU did extremely well in that game was offensive rebound: they held a 23-9 margin.

And if this isn't Ernie Zeigler's last game with the maroon and gold, I'm not very good at guessing things that happen in sports.

PICK: Bowling Green

It would make more sense if the home/away teams were flipped, but here we are. And maybe that's a byproduct of the divisions they're in; MU went 3-3 against the MAC West. Toledo was 2-4. However Toledo did win at Miami, so perhaps everything will work out perfectly.

As a BGSU fan and connoisseur of rivalry games, nothing more would make me glad than a BGSU-Toledo game in the second round. It seems like that's how it'll go down. On the other hand, a Toledo win means the end of Julian Mavunga's MAC career, and I don't want to see that become how it ends. In Toledo? Yikes.

But Toledo is still a relatively hot team, despite a loss to NIU lumped in there; they've won five of six including a dismantling of Eastern Michigan. They're going to shoot like there's no tomorrow — at least there's no game tomorrow — and they're also the No. 1 team in free throw percentage, so if Juice Brown and company can drive to the basket, it might be a slow burn to the end of Mavunga's — and Charlie Coles? — memorable career.

PICK: Toledo

Nowhere on your ticket stub, game program or even on the radio/Internet stream are you going to see this being called The Disappointment Classic. But that's what you have: two teams who were above all else supposed to contend for the MAC West, and they finished THIRD AND FOURTH. Someone will leave extremely disappointed while the other gets to continue and salvage this season.

Western has a bunch of seniors who you'd still like to think, by some virtue of hope, that they'll pull this game out, and then there's the tandem of Jarrod Jones and Randy Davis wearing red and seeing it too. I like predicting upsets, and about as weaselly as one can be in this regard is pick the softest upset around.

PICK: Ball State.