Welcome to day four of Q-gazing's inaugural crowd-sourcing predictions for the 2014 MAC Men's Basketball Tournament.
Today we roll into the semifinals of our hypothetical MAC Tournament. This is getting serious - teams qualifying for the semis are not only two games away from a potential NCAA berth, but also attracting attention. That attention is from fans, potential recruits, potential transfers, and other postseason tournaments.
It's Friday night and the Q is packed. Downtown Cleveland is alive with MACtion. We live for this!
But some of you just rolled in to town, and you want to know who's still playing. This means we need some...
RESULTS - ROUND THREE
No. 4 Akron (50 percent) and No. 5 Ohio (50 percent) are tied in the sixth overtime
Seriously. A dead heat. So how will we resolve this? Let's go to the data. The two teams split in the regular season - the higher seeded team (Akron) and the team that outscored the other team in total points (Ohio) tend to win the third matchup. It's still a draw.
In the eight matchups between four and five seeds in the last ten years in MAC tournaments, the four seed has won five times. Coach Keith Dambrot's amazing record in MAC tournaments is spectacular and was reviewed in an early season Q-gazing. Dambrot has never lost with the Zips in the first game of their conference tournament.
The seventh overtime is when the coaching edge finally manifests itself. We're making an executive decision, and we know it won't be popular with the Bobcat faithful. Akron moves on.
No. 3 Western Michigan (67 percent) thumps No. 6 Eastern Michigan (33 percent)
The Eagles had the better of it during the regular season by controlling the pace of play and playing stifling defense. Hustle Belt readers see it differently in the postseason, as a well-rested Broncos team playing for postseason glory jumps out early on the tired Eagles. Western Michigan has struggled at times on offense but also has ‘spurtability,' and Eastern Michigan is not built to come from behind. Coach Hawkins and the crew move on.
PREVIEWS - FRIDAY, MARCH 14TH
No. 4 Akron vs. No. 1 Toledo
2014 head-to-head: In one of the early defining games of this MAC season, the Rockets stormed the JAR on January 18th and blew out the Zips, 75-61.
Matchup: Juice Brown had 25, but the story of the game was J.D. Weatherspoon. Up against the much feared Akron front-court, Weatherspoon had 20 points and 14 rebounds. Nathan Boothe added ten and seven, and the Rockets out-rebounded the Zips by 14. The game wasn't as close as the final score appears.
That's all well and good, but since then Weatherspoon hasn't scored 20 points again, and he's only hit ten rebounds once. Toledo has secured this high seed by winning a lot of games, but has covered the spread five times all season. Depending on your perspective, they either have a knack for winning the close ones, or a distressing habit of letting other teams stay too close for comfort.
Akron is not instilling much confidence lately in its fans. The Zips are actually 3-4 lately, and 1-4 in their last five games away from the JAR. Two of the losses are to the league's elite, but two are to Miami and Kent State.
Akron has some well-documented health issues that have been problems during this stretch. Nick Harney has returned from suspension, and after two lackluster efforts, Harney contributed 14 points in 24 minutes in the recent win against Buffalo. We don't know if Jake Kretzer will be back for this game, or if Reggie McAdams will be at full strength.
Then again, all Zips were home, present, and accounted for in the stunning loss at the JAR in January.
No. 3 Western Michigan vs. No. 2 Buffalo
2014 head-to-head: Buffalo beat Western Michigan 84-63 on January 29th. The Bulls pulled away early and controlled the game with a large lead throughout.
Matchup: Buffalo played pretty much a perfect game in the first matchup. The Bulls shot over 50% from the field, out-rebounded the Broncos by 14, and had 24 recorded assists on 33 made field goals. Will Regan, Javon McCrea, and Justin Moss combined for 44 front-court points and 20 rebounds.
These teams only meet once annually, but in this case some of the protagonists have been around a little while. Interestingly, the only meeting in 2013 was a Western Michigan win. In that one, McCrea and Shayne Whittington exchanged double-double 20 / 10 games, but the WMU supporting cast outplayed the corresponding Bulls.
Since that single matchup, Western Michigan is the hotter team, logging a 9-1 record with only an overtime road loss to Toledo. Buffalo is 7-3 with losses to Bowling Green, Ohio, and Akron. On the road in conference, Buffalo is 5-4 and Western Michigan is 5-3 heading into the regular season finale.
Western Michigan is RPI 89. Buffalo is RPI 92. This one is going to be awesome.
It's interesting that the semis here work out to an East versus West clash, with the much maligned West having the favorites in both games. For the most part, voters so far have played it safe and gone with favorites. THIS IS REAL, PEOPLE! A berth in the final is on the line!
Make your voice heard, and vote below.