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The Chase for Cleveland: 2021 MAC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament Projections, Feb. 22

NCAA Basketball: MAC Conference Final Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

We’re a month into Chase coverage, and finally at the point where teams can start clinching spots in the MAC Championship Tournament.

In fact, several teams have already done so, with both Toledo and Akron claiming at least a berth in the men’s bracket, while Bowling Green and Central Michigan clinched berths on the women’s bracket.

The seeds those berths end up becoming are still up in the air, but it does start to squeeze the air out of the room for the remaining teams on the standings table now that a handful of spots have been Sharpie’d in.

With two weeks remaining before we emerge in Cleveland proper, it’s time to project where the races currently is— and where it could go.

(* denotes teams who have clinched their way into the MAC tournament; standings are based on results as of Tuesday morning.)

Men’s basketball

Toledo (18-6, 13-3 MAC) found a way to retain the top spot in the standings with two wins last week after stumbling the week prior, but they’ll have to keep up that pace if they want to hold on to the top seed, as Akron (14-4, 12-3 MAC), Kent State (14-5, 11-4 MAC) and Ohio (11-6, 7-4 MAC) are all riding four-game winning streaks and are within the winning percentage range to fight for the top spot.

In the second half of the postseason projections, it’s fairly steady, as Buffalo (9-7, 7-5 MAC) still retains the fifth spot over Bowling Green (12-9, 8-7 MAC) despite the latter’s recent return to form. Miami (9-9. 6-7 MAC) and Ball State (7-11, 6-8 MAC) fill in the remaining slots, but with seeds determined by winning percentages, it’s not necessarily a shoe-in they make it to the postseason.

There are outside chances that Western Michigan (4-13, 3-9 MAC) and Central Michigan (6-12, 3-9 MAC) could snag a seed if they win out and Miami and Ball State lose out, but this would be a very low-probability play.

If the tournament started today, here would be the matches:

  • #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)

With the bracket outlook not changing, the postseason projections still look the same as well:

  • NCAA: Toledo (if tourney AND 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

Bowling Green (16-4, 12-3 MAC) managed to hold off a scare from Central Michigan (13-7, 11-5 MAC) this week to retain possession of the top seed in the women’s bracket. That game resulted in both teams clinching their postseason eligibility, but more importantly, gave BGSU the tiebreaker over CMU, should it be needed moving forward.

Ohio (12-6, 10-5 MAC) and Kent State (9-6, 8-4 MAC) managed to keep pace with the top seeds on the virtue of two-game win streaks. NIU’s luck finally faded, as the Huskies dropped two games in a row to bring their mark to 11-8 (9-5 MAC) and were jumped by Buffalo (12-7, 9-5 MAC) for the provisional fifth seed.

Eastern Michigan (10-6, 7-4 MAC) and Ball State (11-9, 9-7 MAC) round out the top eight seeds. Ball State’s lead should be especially comfortable, as they hold a four-game advantage on Toledo (9-11, 5-11 MAC) in the conference race. Toledo, on a two-game losing streak, would have to win out to challenge, and considering their inconsistent performance, that’s a demanding ask.

Western Michigan, Akron and Miami are out of the running, but the Broncos and RedHawks did pick up wins recently, so they could still spoil the party.

If the tournament started today, here would be the matches:

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

Once again, the match-ups have been whirly-gigged, with three of the four projections having been re-arranged. NIU seems to have suffered the worst fate, going from a top seed with a favorable matchup to a middling seed. It was, in fact, their fall which allowed their projected opponent to occupy the very same slot.

There’s still time for shenanigans, too, as the tournament starts up in two weeks.

Wer’re still projecting two MAC teams to make the NCAA’s based on history, which doesn’t change much for now, but could have an affect on future selections. Due to COVID, it’s hard to understand what the committee will favor.

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