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2021 Mid-American Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament Preview: #7 Miami RedHawks vs #2 Buffalo Bulls

The Bulls will look to make it three in a row, as they draw the Miami RedHawks in the first round.

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

The third game of the 2021 MAC Men’s Basketball Tournament pits the seventh-seeded Miami RedHawks against the #2 team, the Buffalo Bulls - who have won the last two MAC Tournaments. It will tip-off Thursday afternoon in Cleveland, Ohio.


#7 Miami RedHawks (12-10, 9-8 MAC) vs #2 Buffalo Bulls (14-7, 12-5 MAC)

Game Info:
When: Thursday, March 11th at 4:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN+
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse — Cleveland, OH
Odds: Buffalo has an 80.7% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

Miami Quick Facts:
Points scored: 72.7
Points allowed: 71.5
Rebounds (Off/Def): 34.9 (9.9/25.0)
Assists: 12.2
MAC Tournament Championships (last year won): 4 (2007)

Buffalo Quick Facts:
Points scored: 82.7 (13th in the NCAA)
Points allowed: 72.7
Rebounds (Off/Def): 44.1 (12.9/28.6) - best in the NCAA
Assists: 16.6
MAC Tournament Championships (last year won): 4 (2019)


MAC Tournament History

Both the RedHawks and Bulls have won four MAC Tournaments, which is tied for fourth place (also with EMU), behind Ball State (7 wins) and Kent State/Ohio (6 wins each).

Miami last won the conference tournament in 2007, but also won it in 1997, 1992, and 1984. However, despite just four conference tournament wins, they’ve been one of the best in the MAC when it comes to getting to the NCAA Tournament. The RedHawks have 17 appearances and four trips to the Sweet Sixteen. Their 11 trips to the MAC Tournament final game is second most, behind Kent State (12). The RedHawks have four wins and seven loses in the MAC Title game.

Buffalo has come on strong the past few years. The Bulls have won four of the last five MAC Tournaments, winning it all in 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019. UB is one of just three MAC teams that has won the MAC tournament in consecutive years (Ball State in ‘89/’90 and Kent State in ‘01/’02) but they are the only team that has won the title in back-to-back years twice. They’ll look to be the first team to ever win three straight MAC titles this season, as the 2020 tournament was cancelled.


Players to Watch

The RedHawks

Miami has a three-headed monster when it comes to scoring. Dae Dae Grant, Dalonte Brown, and Mekhi Lairy are all within a few points of each other. Grand leads the team with 13.7 points per game but Brown and Lairy are right behind him, with 13.5 and 13.2 points per game, respectively.

Brown also leads the team in rebounds (7.5) while Lairy’s 3.4 assists and 42.1% 3-point shooting tops all RedHawks.

No other Miami player is in double digits in scoring but guard Isaiah Coleman-Lands and forward James Beck each net over seven points per game and combine for nearly eight rebounds per game.

The Bulls

Buffalo is a very deep team, with four players averaging over 12.5 points per game. They will also out-rebound everyone. Their 44.1 rebounds per game is best in the NCAA and their 14.7 offensive rebounds per game is second in the NCAA, behind the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Jeenathan Williams leads the team in scoring, with 17.3 points per game, but Josh Mballa is a versatile player that teams need to be aware of at all times. Mballa averages 15.1 points per game but also leads the team (and the MAC) in rebounding, with 9.9/game, and also nets 2.1 assists and 1.7 steals per game.

Jayvon Graves and Ronaldo Segu are also threats. Graves averages 14.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Segu leads the team in assists (4.4) and free throw percentage (83.6%) in addition to the 12.7 points and 3.4 rebounds he averages per game.


Prediction

Buffalo continues their recent trend of deep runs in the MAC Tournament and pulls away late.

#7 Miami RedHawks - 71
#2 Buffalo Bulls - 88