Welcome to day three of Q-gazing's inaugural crowd-sourcing predictions for the MAC Men's Basketball Tournament.
Once again we enjoyed a fine degree of audience participation as we completed round two of hypothetical play. Sparing no expense, Hustle Belt brought in specially trained ballot analyzers from Broward County, Florida to help interpret the results.
While Justice Scalia ponders his own picks for the next round, let's again start by looking at the...
RESULTS - ROUND TWO
No. 5 Ohio (68 percent) defeats No. 8 Kent State (32 percent)
No. 6 Eastern Michigan (70 percent) stomps No. 10 Bowling Green (30 percent)
Both of these are looking like especially prescient choices in light of Tuesday night's results, with Kent State blowing a huge home opportunity against Miami, and Bowling Green doing the same against Ohio. And let's face it: the gulf of talent from six to seven in this conference is substantial. As much as we may all love the March Cinderella, Hustle Belt readers know to make the smart picks when real cred is on the line. We've got to show these results to the world. Cooler heads prevail, and the favorites advance.
With only the top half of regular season finishers remaining, we officially move to the third round.
PREVIEWS - THURSDAY, MARCH 13TH
No. 5 Ohio vs. No. 4 Akron
2014 head-to-head: Akron won 83-80 in double overtime on January 12th in Athens. Ohio returned the favor with a dominating 66-50 win over a depleted Akron squad at the JAR on February 22nd.
Matchup: MAC fans taking a four-day weekend are rewarded with a fantastic high-profile quarterfinal matchup, as two of the league's most popular clubs face off. The first matchup of the year showed two evenly matched teams in a spectacular contest. Maurice Ndour and Quincy Diggs traded highlight reels throughout, with Akron taking a narrow victory away. Reggie McAdams, Jake Kretzer, and Nick Harney combined for 6-8 shooting behind the arc, 30 points, and 11 rebounds.
In the second game, none of those three Zips suited up. Akron struggled to produce offense, shot 27% from the field, and got stomped at home despite shooting 20 more foul shots than the visiting Bobcats. Jon Smith had his game of the year, with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Each of these teams has played well enough to beat Buffalo in the last month. Each has significant health issues that could impact this game - Ohio with Stevie Taylor and Akron with Kretzer and McAdams.
The Zips and Bobcats have met in each of the last two years in the MAC championship, with Ohio winning in 2012, and Akron in 2013. Someone's not even seeing Friday night this year.
No. 6 Eastern Michigan vs. No. 3 Western Michigan
2014 head-to-head: Eastern Michigan shut down the Broncos in Ypsilanti in a 56-37 win on January 14th. Western Michigan turned around and successfully defended their home court on February 23rd with a 75-67 win.
Matchup: Although Western Michigan has had the better overall season, it is their neighbors to the east who have had the upper hand in the head-to-head series this year. The Eagles completed crushed the Broncos the first time around, and were tied at 62 late in the rematch before the Broncos pulled away.
Shayne Whittington has taken some grief at times here on Hustle Belt this year, but the big guy has played huge for Western Michigan down the stretch. Whittington had the big game against Eastern Michigan in the Broncos' win, and is currently riding a streak of four consecutive games scoring in the 20's. We've speculated about fatigue for this Broncos team with a Twiggy-thin bench, but Whittington is being exactly the senior leader that Western Michigan fans would want. And the kind that might carry a team through a tournament run.
Eastern Michigan has now won three straight, but all at home against sub-.500 teams in conference. This team is built almost completely the opposite of Western Michigan. The Broncos are built on a strong offense, the Eagles on fearsome D. The Broncos have five awesome starters and virtually no bench, while the Eagles play ten or twelve guys a night and never know where the scoring is coming from.
A big question in both of these fairly evenly matched games is whether or not the underdogs will be tired from having played already on Monday & Wednesday. The favorites haven't played in almost a week...
Time to vote!