Outside of the Buffalo Bulls, the MAC has not made much of a dent in national perception this non-conference season. That can all change this weekend, when Eastern Michigan takes on Kansas and Northern Illinois takes on the Michigan State Spartans. Kansas is ranked 5th while the Spartans are 8th. While the two schools are only a combined 13-11 and have virtually zero chance of an at large NCAA tournament bid, wins by either team could help a conference foe come selection time. The Toledo Rockets take on Penn, which is currently 10-2 and leading the Ivy League. This game could be huge come selection time, if the currently 11-1 Rockets have a big win total but no conference tournament championship. Interestingly, Penn only needs to win the conference regular season for their bid, as the Ivy League has no conference tournament.
That’s looking a little too far into the future, let us take a look at...
Saturday’s MAC Shootyhoops action!
Northern Illinois Huskies at #8 Michigan State Spartans
On paper, the Spartans are more talented than the Huskies. Games aren’t played on paper, of course. A match-up to watch in this game is Eugene German vs. Cassius Winston. German is averaging 21 points per game for the Huskies, and exceptionally fast. Winston is a huge cog making the Spartan offensive machine thrive, but if he is over worked on defense, this could be a factor. Levi Bradley might be the biggest key for the Huskies, as he will have to mix it up in the paint and do the little things that are needed in huge upsets.
The former number 1 Jayhawks suffered their first loss of the season last time out and will be fired up. However, Eastern Michigan is an extremely talented team that plays a 2-3 zone. The Jayhawks went cold down the stretch in that loss, and generally speaking, a team needs to hit jumpers against the zone. Or outrun it. If the Eagles can control pace of play, which has been a problem, and Kansas goes cold, anything can happen.
Tayler Persons and company have won 7 of their last 8, after a tough schedule gave them some problems early. They should win this game, but stranger things have happened. That’s why we love basketball.
Pennsylvania Quakers at Toledo Rockets
As I wrote in the opening, this game could be huge come selection time. The Rockets are 11-1 and face Ball State then Buffalo in their first two conference games. If Toledo beats Penn and the Cardinals, they will likely be receiving votes against when they take on the Bulls. A victory by Toledo would almost certainly leave the 14-1 Rockets ranked.
#21 Buffalo Bulls at Canisius Golden Griffins
The Bulls lost a game and maintained a top 25 ranking. That is huge for the Bulls and the MAC. Buffalo should win this game and be ranked once conference play begins.