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The Chase for Cleveland: 2021 MAC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament Projections, Feb. 15

NCAA Basketball: MAC Conference Tournament-Ohio vs Akron Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

We’re now three weeks into our Chase for Cleveland coverage, and the projections are finally starting to steady after a handful of weeks where projections rocked back-and-forth due to cancellations and program pauses.

With every MAC team now hitting the double-digit games threshold, projections can be assured moving forward for the most part. (At the very least, we won’t have to account for technicalities that relate to a team not reaching league minimums allowing a team to slip in.)

One thing that’s changed since our first week coverage is the vulnerability of Toledo on the men’s side, as the Rockets’ hot shooting hand seems to have come out from under them, while the Kent State roadblock on the women’s bracket has been resolved, as the league has more-or-less normalized with the Flashes’ addition to the party after their pause due to COVID protocols.

This week solidified our contenders, and more or less identified non-factors moving forward. Now all that’s left to do is track the progress of our favorite MAC squads until the appointed hour.


Men’s basketball

As stated in the introduction, Toledo finds themselves in a bad way, losers of their last two contests to BGSU and Ball State, and sit at 16-6 (11-3 MAC.) They sit atop Akron (12-4, 10-3 MAC) on virtue of the Rockets’ win vs. the Zips on Feb. 2, their last victory.

The Zips, meanwhile, have won their last three contests to make up ground on Toledo to solidfy the second spot in the league table, and could overtake the Rockets if they win three of their four contests.

Three teams sit 3-4-5 on the virtue of four league losses, with Kent State (12-5, 9-4 MAC) holding two wins in hand over Ohio (11-6, 7-4 MAC) and Buffalo (9-6, 7-4 MAC.) A lot of the intrigue will be between these squads, as only two will be able to claim a high seed matchup.

Just outside the high seeds are the suddenly resurgent BGSU Falcons, the preseason favorites to win the MAC outright. They’re currently 11-9 (7-7 MAC) with three games over sixth-place Miami (8-8, 5-6 MAC,) who have lost their last three outings. This leaves the door open for Ball State, who sits at 7-9 (5-6 MAC) to take over the seventh spot.

WMU (4-12, 3-8 MAC) would have to win their remaining games to even be in consideration of the final seed, and it’s a tough road to plow, as they draw Kent State and Toledo in this week’s slate.

CMU, NIU and EMU occupy the cellar and have no road to get to Cleveland.

Here’s what the tournament would look if the season ended today:

  • #1 Toledo vs. #8 Ball State (same projection as last week)
  • #2 Akron vs. #7 Miami (same projection as last week)
  • #3 Kent State vs. #6 Bowling Green (same projection as last week)
  • #4 Ohio vs. #5 Buffalo (same projection as last week)

There are no changes from last week, which isn’t terribly entertaining, but we are able to project who no longer has a path to the show, and we now have an idea of the teams who should find their way to Cleveland. The next four or five games (dependent on postponements or cancellations) will be vital for determining the seeds.

Postseason projections still largely looking the same as well:

  • NCAA: Toledo (if tourney/regular season champion)
  • NIT: Akron (if Toledo makes NCAAs), Toledo (if not tourney champion)
  • CBI/CIT/other: Kent State, Ohio, Buffalo, BGSU

Women’s basketball

The table has completely flipped on its head this week in the WBB side of the table, as last week’s leader, Kent State, is now in danger of falling out of the tournament watch completely.

Losers of their last two games to BGSU and CMU, the Flashes got a rude re-entry to the MAC race after a 2-1 start, and now sit at 7-5 (6-3 MAC.) By virtue of their win vs. KSU, BGSU ascended to the top of the conference rankings at 15-4 (11-3 MAC.) Following closely is NIU 11-6 (9-3 MAC,) who is currently on a five-game winning streak, and Central Michigan, the preseason favorite to win the MAC outright, seemingly on the rebound after a slow start to increase their mark to 13-6 (11-4 MAC.)

Ohio leads the proceedings in the mid-table, sitting at 12-6 (10-5 MAC) and in the catbird seat for the final high seed. The fight seems to be at the fifth through eighth seeds, with each team within two games of one another, separated largely by winning percentages.

Buffalo sits in fifth on virtue of having the most wins, with an 11-6 (8-4 MAC) record. But there’s still a chance they could be overtaken by either Kent State (who has seven games remaining) or Eastern Michigan, who sits at 9-6 (6-4 MAC) and has five games left on the slate.

Ball State, lest they suffer a major implosion, should be headed to Cleveland on the strength of their 10-8 (8-6 MAC) record. Toledo, with nine league losses, would be hard-pressed to make a serious run unless they sweep their remaining games and the Cardinals lose.

Akron, Miami and Western Michigan have lost their last six games as a unit, and hold five league wins between them at the bottom of the table.

If the tournament were to start today, this is what the bracket would look like:

  • #1 BGSU vs. #8 Ball State (last week: Kent State vs. Ball State)
  • #2 NIU vs. #7 EMU (last week: BGSU vs. EMU)
  • #3 CMU vs. #6 Kent State (last week: NIU vs. Ohio)
  • #4 Ohio vs. #5 Buffalo (last week: Buffalo vs. CMU)

As is evident, the tables have been shaken up pretty dramatically, and that speaks to the volatility—and legitimacy— of the MAC in the women’s basketball world.

Postseason projections are difficult for the MAC on the WBB side, but it should be a good guarantee that at least two MAC teams make the NCAA’s:

  • NCAA: BGSU (if regular season and/or tournament champion), NIU and CMU (at-large)
  • WNIT: BGSU (if not tournament champion), Ohio, Buffalo, Kent State (at-large)
  • CBI/CIT/other: EMU