"We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate." - Thomas Jefferson
For over a month now, the staff at Q-gazing has put together weekly updates filled with insightful analysis, reviews of past MAC tournament trends, and predictions for what lies ahead at the 2014 MAC Men's Basketball Tournament. Next week, we will take our final exam and make our last predictions once the tournament field is set.
But this week, it's your turn. It's time to participate.
In a series of (almost) daily installments, we will lay out the matchups ahead, round by round. You, dear readers, will vote on the outcomes of each game. By the end of the week, we will have determined the people's championship prediction. The rules are simple. You have until 9 p.m. the day the poll is posted to cast your votes. We'll tally the votes, update the hypothetical bracket with the results and publish a poll for the next round the next day. We'll do one round a day until we've predicted a MAC Tournament champion.
MAC tournament tiebreaker notes:
- Northern Illinois, Kent State, and Miami sit tied at 7-9. The RedHawks and Flashes will face off this Tuesday in a critical battle for seeding. For now, both Kent State and Northern Illinois beat Miami, and so they both are seeded ahead. The Flashes and Huskies split their two games this year, but Northern Illinois possesses the better win after their midweek win over Toledo. Northern Illinois takes the seven seed, Kent State the eight.
- Western Michigan's ugly late collapse (we watched - it was ugly) against Toledo leaves a three-way tie at the top with Buffalo joining the threesome at 12-4. The Broncos and Rockets split the season series. Toledo beat Buffalo, and Buffalo beat Western Michigan, in the inter-divisional match ups earlier this year. This makes Toledo the current one seed, Buffalo the two, and Western Michigan the three.
- Ohio and Eastern Michigan are tied at 9-7, but the Bobcats' stunning late heroics against the Eagles on January 25th give Ohio the better seed.
Here is what the First Round of the MAC Tournament would look like if played now:
MONDAY, MARCH 10th
12 Ball State @ 5 Ohio
2014 head-to-head: Ohio squashed Ball State 71-51 on January 15th.
Matchup: The twelve seed Cardinals have struggled this season - that's no secret. Lately they've played a lot tougher, taking three games to overtime (losing all three) and suffering none of their last six losses by more than a dozen points. Their two conference wins include a home win against two seed Buffalo, and everyone thinks this team has it in them to compete. Senior Jesse Berry may be the wildcard who can propel some explosive scoring, and the hope is that Majok Majok can anchor the team's defense. But you'll be gutsy to pick them to win on the road - it'd be their first win away from Muncie this season.
Ohio spent a good bit of the conference schedule looking like one of the top teams in the MAC The Bobcats have beaten Toledo, Buffalo, and Akron, and played the league's toughest schedule (they got Toledo and Western Michigan twice in the new 18-game schedule). But the Bobcats have been amazingly inconsistent. Their offense has failed to cross 70 in their last five games, and they could easily have lost two or three more games if not for desperate second half comebacks. They've lost four of their last six, including three straight at home. Ohio would probably be about a ten point favorite in this game. Is the magic gone?
11 Central Michigan @ 6 Eastern Michigan
2014 head-to-head: The Eagles won 72-59 in Mount Pleasant on January 18th, and then blew out the Chippewas this week 64-42.
Matchup: Central Michigan has played some exciting basketball this season, highlighted by outstanding play from their young and talented guards. They've also won three of their last eight games - all in Mount Pleasant. Unfortunately for the Chippewas, they lost twice to the Eagles by a total of 35 points. And as we covered in a past Q-gazing, teams that were swept during a regular season doubleheader by a total of more than 20 points are 1-12 in MAC tournament play in the third episode. By the way, the third games were a little closer on average - a mean margin of defeat of seven points.
Eastern Michigan is fortunate to hold onto the six seed, narrowly escaping a second half deficit against Northern Illinois on Saturday. We think everyone knows this team - ferocious zone defense and mighty struggles on the offensive end. Mike Talley hit the Eagles' shot of the year with the three-pointer that gave them the late lead against the Huskies, and he's probably their best offensive weapon. A rotating cast of potentially talented players - Ray Lee, Karrington Ward, and Glenn Bryant - has at times contributed, and at times vanished for Coach Rob Murphy's bunch in Ypsilanti. The Eagles are 6-2 in conference at home this season, and would likely be at least ten point favorites in this rematch.
10 Bowling Green @ 7 Northern Illinois
2014 head-to-head: Northern Illinois went to Bowling Green and smothered the young Falcons, winning 45-36 on January 12th.
Matchup: These are two tough, defensive minded teams, and you can feel pretty comfortable betting the under. Bowling Green has beaten Buffalo, Western Michigan, and Ohio this season, the latter two on the road. They've played a huge number of other close games and shown that their young talent can match up against most of the league. Richaun Holmes has established himself as a force at both ends, and Jehvon Clarke is among the MAC leaders in assists and steals. The problem at the offensive end has been finding someone to put the ball in the basket consistently.
The Northern Illinois Huskies might be the MAC's biggest surprise. Behind a gritty team defense and emerging leader Jordan Threloff on the offensive end, the erstwhile doormats of the MAC have a winning record since February 1st that includes consecutive wins at home against Eastern Michigan and Toledo. They neither win nor lose pretty, but they've proven to be a handful for everyone. Given the head-to-head win, the better conference record, and the recent home successes, Northern Illinois would perhaps be a three point favorite. Who saw that coming - Northern Illinois a home favorite in round one?
9 Miami @ 8 Kent State
2014 head-to-head: Kent State traveled to Oxford on February 19th and came away with a 75-63 victory. They square off again on Tuesday.
Matchup: Two solid and occasionally spirited teams face off in Kent. Miami started the season 5-3 in conference play, including three road wins, a win against Eastern Michigan, and a one-point overtime loss to Western Michigan. The wheels came off a bit during a five game losing streak in which four losses were by double digits. Recently the RedHawks have won two of three, including a home win against Akron. The strength of this team is a pressing defense that can force turnovers and sloppy play, though the lack of a consistent inside stopper makes them porous in the half-court sometimes, leading to an average overall scoring defense. Their offensive leader is senior Will Felder up front, but although he sits at eighth in the conference in scoring (14.9 points per game), Felder has shown no signs of being able to take over a game when needed. Miami is one of the best free throw shooting teams in the country.
Kent State started 2-1 in conference, and then lost six of seven - three blowouts and three heartbreakers - to plummet to the MAC basement. While the forwards have struggled to contribute or control either end of the court for the Golden Flashes, recent streaky but splashy play from guards Kris Brewer, Derek Jackson, and Devereaux Manley has garnered four wins in six games and nudged Kent State back to a home game in round one. Brewer and Manley were an astounding 12-15 behind the arc in the win at Oxford, for example. These are teams ranked 10 and 11 in rebounding in MAC play, which either means it's an even matchup, or it's an opportunity for one team to gain an advantage where it is rarely found. The odds-makers have consistently shown the Flashes love this year, so while we at Line Drills might set Kent State as a four point favorite, we would guess this rolls off the books at more like a six or even eight point line.