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2021 Mid-American Conference Men’s Basketball Game Previews: February 23-25

Your mid-week #MACtion breakdown is here once again!

NCAA Basketball: Bowling Green at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This week we get three days of midweek #MACtion, with three games on Tuesday, one on Wednesday, and a pair of afternoon games on Thursday. Buffalo, EMU and Ohio have a tough week ahead, as those schools will each be playing make up games and have three games this week (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday).

Tuesday, Feb. 23rd

Akron Zips (14-4, 12-3 MAC) at Ohio Bobcats (11-6, 7-4 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 2:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN3
Where: Convocation Center — Athens, OH
Odds: Ohio has a 54.3% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

Both teams come into this meeting riding four game winning streaks. However, Ohio hasn’t played in 21 days after their last five games were postponed/canceled. The Zips are half a game behind first place Toledo, who doesn’t play again until Saturday. A win here for Akron ties them for first place in the MAC with just two weeks remaining.

Jason Preston and Dwight Wilson III, the Bobcats’ two leading scorers, might be a little rusty and need some time to shake off the cobwebs after a full three weeks without a game.

The Zips, on the other hand, have only lost once since January 12th - a 15-point loss to the first place Rockets - winning ten of their last 11 games.

In his last game Loren Cristian Jackson, the MAC’s leading scorer (at 20.9 PPG), shot just 2-12 and scored only 12 points (eight of which came from the free throw line). Look for him to bounce back here and get the Zips all tied with the Rockets.

Akron Zips - 76
Ohio Bobcats - 68

Buffalo Bulls (9-7, 7-5 MAC) at Northern Illinois Huskies (2-13, 1-9 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 5:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN3
Where: Convocation Center — DeKalb, IL
Odds: Buffalo has a 92.5% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

What can you’s been a tough year in DeKalb. Their football team was winless and their basketball team hasn’t been much better. The Huskies have lost four straight and eight of their last nine games, and had a streak of six games postponed due to COVID concerns.

Tyler Cochran has played well for the Huskies when he’s seen action. The sophomore has only played in eight games but he’s averaging 14.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, leading NIU in both categories.

However, Buffalo should have no problem here as they look to keep pace with the Ohio Bobcats for the fourth spot in the MAC. Jeenathan Williams is coming off a double-double against Toledo (19 points, 10 rebounds) and should be able to do the same against the struggling Huskies.

Buffalo Bulls - 79
NIU Huskies - 64

Miami RedHawks 9-9 (6-7 MAC) vs. Central Michigan Chippewas 6-12 (2-9 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 5:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN3
Where: McGuirk Arena, Mt. Pleasant, MI
Odds: Miami has a 55.5 percent chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

The motivations for both Miami and Central are fairly similar, but the desperation which will drive both these teams couldn’t be more different.

Miami comes into the game hoping to solidify a post-season opportunity under the new tournament format. The RedHawks are currently the seventh-seed in projections, and the last team floating a record at or above .500 overall. They’ll rely on point guard Dae Dae Grant (14.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists per game) and Dalonte Brown (12.5 points, 7.4 rebounds per game) to try and get Miami some breathing room from the eight-seed, as they only have a handful of games remaining to improve their standing.

CMU, on the other hand, has only played twice since February, and was in the midst of a five-game losing streak before their COVID-mandated delay. They’re in absolutely must-win territory going into this game, as they must win their remaining four games (and potentially any make-up games) in order to have a remote chance at the final seed. CMU is one of the best shooting teams in the MAC, averaging 77.7 points per game, led by Tavon Broadway Jr. (17.9 points per game, 46.5 field goal percentage) and Meikkel Murray (14.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 51.7 field goal percentage), but also have the worst defense in the league, allowing 77.9 per game to opponents.

CMU has traditionally had trouble with Miami in the past, and the layover certainly won’t help. It would be a long uphill climb for them to upset the RedHawks, even with homecourt advantage.

Miami RedHawks - 75
Central Michigan - 67

Bowling Green Falcons (12-9, 8-7 MAC) at Eastern Michigan Eagles (4-9, 1-8 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Watch: N/A
Where: Convocation Center — Ypsilanti, MI
Odds: Bowling Green has an 81.4% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

Since January 26th, the Eagles have played just one game, a 13-point loss to Kent State on Saturday. EMU has lost five straight games and hasn’t won against a D-1 opponent since January 9th, when they shocked Akron 71-59 for their lone conference win.

Ty Groce has played well in the past few games for the Eagles, averaging 20.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in the last two games.

On the other hand, Bowling Green has finally found their rhythm again. After starting 10-3, the Falcons lost six straight conference games before turning it around winning their last two games (against Toledo and Ball State).

Justin Turner is poised to have a big game here against the lowly Eagles, which could push him back up to the league’s leading scorer. Right now his 20.5 PPG is just under that of Akron’s Loren Cristian Jackson (20.9). Another bad game for Jackson and a big game for Turner might just be enough to get him that top spot again.

BGSU Falcons - 71
EMU Eagles - 61

Wednesday, Feb. 24th

Kent State Golden Flashes (14-5, 11-4 MAC) at Ball State Cardinals (7-11, 5-8 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 2:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN3
Where: Worthen Arena — Muncie, IN
Odds: KSU has a 68.9% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

Kent State has been on a roll since early January. The Flashes are 11-2 in their last 13 games and have won four straight games. And, with four games left to go, they are a dark horse for the top spot in the MAC as they sit just a game behind Akron and 1.5 games behind Toledo.

Danny Pippen has been one of the best in the MAC this season, netting 20.3 PPGs (3rd in the MAC) and 8.9 rebounds per game (also 3rd in the MAC).

Ball State, however, has been going backwards. The Cardinals have lost six of their last seven games and will need to win out in order to get to .500 on the year.

Ishmael El-Amin and K.J. Walton have done well for Ball State but it just hasn’t been enough to get the Cardinals over the hump. And, with Pippen and Mike Nuga playing well for the Flashes, BSU looks like they’re in a tough spot again here.

KSU Golden Flashes - 76
Ball State Cardinals - 68

Thursday, Feb. 25th

Eastern Michigan Eagles (4-9, 1-8 MAC) at Ohio Bobcats (11-6, 7-4 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 1:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN3
Where: Convocation Center — Athens, OH
Odds: Ohio has a 91.6% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

After what should be a tough match up with Akron, the Bobcats return home two days later to face the Eagles, who will also be on short rest after their Tuesday meeting with BGSU.

Ohio might be drained from their battle with the Zips but, after a 21-day hiatus from playing, they should be rested enough for a pair of games in two days. And, luckily for them, the Eagles haven’t posed much of a threat to the other MAC schools this season. Only one of the Eagles four wins came against a D-1 foe.

I don’t see the Eagles upsetting the Bobcats here; as Jason Preston and Dwight Wilson III should’ve gotten rid of their rust be back in top form.

EMU Eagles - 65
Ohio Bobcats - 71

Central Michigan Chippewas (6-12, 2-9 MAC) at Buffalo Bulls (9-7, 7-5 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 2:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN+
Where: Alumni Arena — Buffalo, NY
Odds: Buffalo has a 90.8% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

Even though the Chippewas come into this game well-rested (last playing on February 6th) and Buffalo is coming in on short rest, CMU probably won’t have as much of an advantage as they would like. Especially because the Bulls shouldn’t be too tired after their Tuesday game against a floundering NIU team.

Central Michigan has lost eight of their last nine game and their only conference wins have come against EMU, a team that has just one win against D-1 opponents. However, despite their struggles, Travon Broadway Jr. has been excellent lately for the Chips. The senior guard is averaging 27.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and two assists in his last two games.

Buffalo features the only MAC player to average a double-double this season, as Josh Mballa is netting 14.5 points and 10.1 boards per game (the next best rebounder, Akron’s Enrique Freeman, has just 9.1 rebounds per game).

As I said in a few paragraphs ago for Buffalo’s Tuesday game, the Bulls are looking to keep pace with Ohio for the MAC’s fourth spot. And playing NIU and CMU ahead of their Saturday match up with the Bobcats certainly bodes well for them.

The trio of Mballa, Jeenathan Williams, and Jayvon Graves should be enough to keep the Chips at bay.

CMU Chippewas - 67
Buffalo Bulls - 82