While conference championships are great, the real prize for a lot of young student athletes is a chance to play for it all in the NCAA tournament. Last season, three Mid-American Conference teams won their first round game in the Big Dance. Buffalo knocked off Arizona in their game on the men’s side, while the Bulls and Central Michigan knocked off their opponents on the women’s. Each women’s school also managed a second round win and a trip to the Sweet 16. Those performances last season, coupled with the play this season, has the conference with a chance to get multiple teams in both tournaments.
On the men’s side, it is pretty straight forward. Root for Buffalo to lose in the MAC Tournament. There is almost zero chance that the Bulls are not going dancing. If they lose their next two games, I still think they are in. While I would like to believe Toledo winning until the MAC Championship game would leave them on the bubble, I believe that bubble has burst.
One the women’s side, unless absolute chaos ensues, there will be at least 2 bids. This is the rare occasion as fans of this conference we love, we are anti team chaos. While no team is getting votes in the AP poll, the computers love the MAC. In those rankings, Central Michigan is just outside the top 25, while Ohio is up to 31. Buffalo is also in the top 40, with a 36 ranking. Miami is just outside the top 50. While it is unlikely that Miami would get an at-large bid, their lofty ranking helps the chances of the other three teams, especially if they can get into the top 50.
Central Michigan is close to a lock. Their regular season finale is a tough one against Toledo. The Rockets have been impressive this season, just not quite as impressive as the top teams. If the Chippewas lose this game, they would probably need to win a game or two in the MAC tournament. The Chippewas’ run last season would give them an edge over many other bubble teams.
The Buffalo Bulls face a tough test against Kent in their season finale. In a typical season, a team the caliber of the Golden Flashes would be in contention for a first round bye. The Bulls also benefit from their run last season, but back to back losses would knock them out of contention, I believe. A couple of wins, and they are most likely dancing.
While Ohio doesn’t have the national recognition of the other two teams, they are also in a position to receive an at-large bid. They should beat Bowling Green in their finale, though this is the MAC. Then a win in the MAC tournament, and they are sitting 26-5 , at worst, and I believe the strength of the conference pushes them into the tournament.
I would be shocked if the women don’t get three teams, barring upsets, and a victory by Miami or Toledo in the MAC Championship game could put 4 bids on the table. If that happens it might knock off a deserving MAC team, because the committee doesn’t want us to have nice things.
All in all, as we head into March Madness, there is not a lot to be mad about if you are MACtion fan.