The goal for the entire conference is to get more than the mandatory 1 team into the NCAA tournament. At least it should be. There are some big name schools on the schedule in week 1, and playing these teams tough would help this endeavor. Beating a couple of them could be the difference between the NCAA and the N.I.T.
CBS sports already came out with their preseason tournament field. Yes, sports writers have that kind of free time, the losers. You can find it at CBSsports.com.
Two schools on the list have MAC opponents in week 1.
EMU vs. SMU (43)
Sunday Nov. 13, @ Noon
The Eagles travel to Dallas to take on the Mustangs in a game that very well could pop someone’s bubble later in the year. James Thompson IV had an outstanding freshman season at center for the Eagles, averaging 14.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. He shot an astounding 64.5% from the floor.
SMU returns 3 guys that scored over 10 points per game last season, but they don’t return a center. If Thompson can have a monster game inside, this game could be a big boost for EMU, and the MAC.
Buffalo Bulls @ Xavier Musketeers (14)
Monday Nov. 14 @ 7:00pm
Daemon took the Bulls to overtime in their exhibition game. What does this mean? Maybe nothing, maybe everything. The Bulls were content to chuck up jumpers and turned the ball over 20 times. I am inclined to give the defending MAC champion the benefit of the doubt. However, if they play like that against Xavier, they will not only lose the game by 30+ points, they will diminish the chances of any MAC team trying to get an at-large bid to the big dance.
There were bright spots, though. CJ Massinburg had a great all around game, scoring 27, grabbing 7 boards, and dishing out 5 assists. Nick Perkins and Willie Conner both scored over 20, too.
This should provide some optimism for the Bulls, but it’s going to be tough sledding against a team that has final 4 potential.
Xavier has a several graduate transfers that look to contribute, so it’s possible that Buffalo could catch them worrying more about minutes and units than the Bulls.
Also on the slate for the MAC are two teams that were in the big dance last season.
EMU @ Pitt
Friday Nov. 11th @ 7:00pm
Pitt returns Michael Young (15.7 ppg) and Jamel Artis (14.4ppg) from their tournament team last season. All 5 of their starters scored in double figures in their exhibition game. I am actually kind of flabbergasted that they weren’t on the list of teams predicted to go to the dance this year.
Along with a great team on the floor, history stands in the way of the Eagles. Pitt has won their opening game 19 straight times. They are 57-1 in the Petersen Events Center in the month of November, and have won 10 straight games against MAC opponents.
A 20 win season and a win here would likely get EMU into the big dance. They call games like this a program builder for a reason. And program building games are never easy.
Toledo @ Saint Joseph’s Hawks.
Sat, Nov. 12th, @ 7:00pm
The good news for the Rockets, the Hawks lost their top 3 scorers on for the season. They accounted for 45 points a game. The bad news is the Rockets lost Nathan Boothe, who averaged 19 points and 9 rebounds for the Rockets.
We really don’t know what we are getting this season from either team. St. Joe’s has been to the big dance 21 times. A win here would give MAC basketball credibility early, even if St. Joe’s ends up not having a great season.
Along with your favorite team, these are 4 games you should be watching. They can do a lot for the MAC’s national reputation, which matters to the basketball selection committee. Unlike in football, the committee will actually give the MAC a chance on the basketball court, they just need to win games like these.