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2021 MAC Men’s Basketball Preview: February 2-3

Now that February is here, we’re breaking down the midweek games that are set to be played.

NCAA Basketball: Buffalo at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today, the MAC announced that there were a few changes to this week’s schedule, affecting several teams, including EMU, NIU, WMU and BGSU.

The Eagles’ next three games (2/2 vs BGSU, 2/6 at Ohio, and 2/9 at Miami) will all be postponed, as will Western Michigan’s game against NIU that was scheduled for tomorrow night. NIU also announced their Saturday game against CMU will be postponed due to what they call a “continuation of their program pause” dating back to mid-January. The final change moves the Broncos’ contest at Bowling Green forward, as the teams will now meet Wednesday night instead of Saturday.

So, after all the changes, we’re left with five midweek MACtion-packed games, four on Tuesday and one on Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 2nd

Buffalo Bulls (6-6, 4-4 MAC) at Ball State Cardinals (6-8, 4-5 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 6:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN+
Where: Worthen Arena — Muncie, IN
Odds: Buffalo has a 58.6% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

Both teams have been struggling as of late and will look to right the ship here. The Cardinals have lost their last three games, including a blowout loss to Akron in their last game, in which they lost by 32 points! The Bulls haven’t fared much better, losing three of their last four contests.

However, the Bulls come into Muncie with four players scoring 14+ points per game and leading the way has been Jeenathan Williams. Over the past five games Williams has averaged 20.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, and three assists per game, which included a 14 rebound, 25 point performance against Western Michigan a few weeks ago.

The Cardinals will be looking for another solid performance from both K.J. Walton and Ishmael El-Amin. Walton leads the team with 16.1 points per game but, over the past six games, his production has dropped some. Since the start of 2021, he has only been netting 12.5 points but averaging just over six rebounds per game. El-Amin, however, has been trending upwards, averaging 16 points, 3.2 assists, and two steals over the last five games.

Buffalo is the deeper team and should be able to out-rebound the Cardinals, especially with Josh Mballa pulling in 9.4 boards per game, which will lead to more second chance opportunities and points.

Buffalo Bulls - 67
Ball State - 56

Ohio Bobcats (10-6, 6-4 MAC) at Central Michigan Chippewas (6-10, 2-7 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN3
Where: McGuirk Arena — Mt. Pleasant, MI
Odds: Ohio has a 75.3% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

The Bobcats are now 3.5 games behind the first place Toledo Rockets in conference play, after winning four of their last five games, and are currently riding a three game winning streak into Tuesday night.

Dwight Wilson III has been a huge reason for the Bobcats recent success. In those last three games, the senior forward has averaged 19.3 points and 7.3 rebounds.

The Chippewas, on the other hand, have been in a downward spiral since the end of 2020. CMU has played seven games in the new year and they have lost six of those seven games, including dropping three straight games by an averaging of 13 points.

Caleb Huffman will be looking to repeat his performance from Saturday, when he dropped 23 points and had six rebounds and three assists against Kent State. But it has been Meikkel Murray that has stolen the show recently for the Chips. Murray is averaging 23 points and 8.3 boards over the past three games, two of which have been double-double performances.

The depth on the Bobcats should keep them ahead of the struggling Chippewas...especially if they can find a way to contain Murray.

Ohio Bobcats - 82
CMU Chippewas - 68

Akron Zips (10-3, 8-2 MAC) at Toledo Rockets (15-4, 10-1 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN+
Where: Savage Arena — Toledo, OH
Odds: Toledo has a 72.1% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

In what should be the best match up of the week, the second place Akron Zips head to Toledo to take on the first place Rockets. With Akron sitting just 1.5 games behind Toledo, a win for the Zips is need and, if everything falls their way, could propel the Zips into first place by the end of the weekend.

Akron has won six straight games...and those six wins haven’t even been close. The Zips are winning by an average of 15.7 points, including a 74-42 beat down of Ball State last weekend. Loren Cristian Jackson has been a big part of their success. He leads the team in scoring (20.5) and assists (6.7), both of which are second best in the MAC, and has dropped 30+ points in four games!

Toledo has continued to roll this season. Since their December 9th game against the Michigan Wolverines, they’ve only lost one time, winning 12 of their last 13. However, they’ll be looking to avenge their lone loss, as they fell by a single point, 95-94, to these same Zips a few weeks ago.

The Rockets have had a trio of players kick it into high gear the past few games. JT Shumate, Marreon Jackson, and Ryan Rollins are all averaging over 16 points in the last four games. Shumate has amassed 68 points, 15 rebounds, and nine blocks in that span while Jackson has tallied 70 points, 27 assists, 26 boards, and 11 steals. Finally, Rollins has scored 65 points and added 24 rebounds, 13 assists, and five steals.

Even with how good Toledo has played this season, and as of late, Akron comes into this match up with ton of momentum and confidence. Should be another close, exciting game between the two best teams in the MAC. I say the Zips pull the upset once again and shock the Rockets twice.

Akron Zips - 87
Toledo Rockets - 84

Miami RedHawks (8-5, 5-3 MAC) at Kent State Golden Flashes (9-4, 6-3 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN3
Where: M.A.C. Center — Kent, OH
Odds: Kent State has an 80.4% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

Miami has won four of their last five games, only losing to the top-seeding Toledo Rockets. And those four wins have all been by double digits, the largest of which was a 22-point win over Eastern Michigan. Dalonte Brown has been a great run, scoring 12 or more points in the last six RedHawk games and 16+ points in six of the last eight contests.

After winning six of their last seven games Kent State is currently sitting in third place, just three games out of the top spot and 1.5 games behind Akron. With the Zips playing Toledo on Tuesday night as well, a Flash win puts them within striking distance of second place.

The MAC’s leading scorer, Danny Pippen, will be looking to push KSU forward. In the last two games, he’s averaging 30 points for Kent State and has dropped 20 or more points in six games this year.

While the RedHawk defense is solid, only giving up 70.1 points per game (second best in the MAC), Pippen and Mike Nuga should be able to lead Kent State to another victory.

Miami RedHawks - 57
Kent State Golden Flashes - 67

Wednesday, February 3rd

Western Michigan Broncos (2-11, 1-7 MAC) at Bowling Green Falcons (10-7, 6-5 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN+
Where: Stroh Center — Bowling Green, OH
Odds: BGSU has an 85.8% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

Western Michigan has had a tough go this season, losing seven straight and nine of their last ten games. They’ve also had four games postponed, one cancelled, and now another change as this game was moved up from Saturday to Wednesday. However, Greg Lee has been playing well for WMU as of late. During the last three game span, the senior forward is averaging 19.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, and three assists per game.

Bowling Green will look to stop the bleeding against one of the worst teams in the MAC. The Falcons, after starting 10-3, have dropped four straight. But, those four losses were against the four best teams in the MAC (Toledo, Akron, Kent State, and Miami). Justin Turner will look to get back to averaging 20 points per game, as the senior guard slipped to 19.9 PPG after scoring just 11 points in their loss to Toledo on Saturday.

The Broncos struggles will continue as the Falcons should stop their skid and get back into the win column here.

WMU Broncos - 64
BGSU Falcons - 78