We are six games into the conference season. Buffalo is still undefeated. Toledo is sitting at 5 wins and just 1 loss. Everyone else is 3-3 or worse. What should we make of this?
I break the MAC basketball season down into three segments. The pre preseason, which doesn’t mean much unless a team can play giant killer, like when Ball State knocked off then top ten ranked Notre Dame. The quasi preseason, which is the MAC regular season, where the teams all fight for one of the four byes into the Mid-American Conference tournament. Then the real season, which is the conference tournament, where they battle for a shot at the big dance.
The regular season isn’t completely meaningless, as the NIT tournament is always a possibility, plus they have added a few other kinda cool tournaments. But let’s be honest, all anyone really wants is that NCAA bid. In a spectacular season, that can be earned during the regular season, but generally it must be earned by winning the conference tournament. One of the four byes is a huge advantage.
Currently, two teams are in the catbird seat. Buffalo, who is still undefeated, and the Toledo Rockets, who are 5-1. Everyone else is 3-3 or worse. The bad news first, these teams have a lot of work to do. The good news, literally every team is in contention for one of the two remaining byes. The worst teams of the “other ten” have two wins. While on the surface, it’s a two team race for the top stop, which earns you a bye in the first round of the conference tournament. Of course, finishing second gets you the same reward.
What’s left? 2 spots, 10 teams, all either in the lead or just 1 game back. The prize? The two remaining byes, or more if either leading team falters. To the untrained eye, the regular season is becoming a two pony race. In reality, the race is just heating up!