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2021 Mid-American Conference Men’s Basketball Game Previews: March 2nd

All 12 teams play on Tuesday, as the final week of the regular season begins

NCAA Basketball: Toledo at Xavier Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

With just two games remaining until the MAC Tournament, we do know the eight teams that will be playing in Cleveland (sorry to CMU, EMU, NIU, and WMU, thanks for playing.) What we don’t know at present is the final seeding.

With all twelve teams playing today, these games should clear up the picture some as we head into the final regular season games on Friday.

We know that Toledo will clinch the #1 seed with a win in their final two games but there could be chaos behind them.

Akron and Kent State are currently tied at 12-5 in conference games and sit two games behind the Rockets. And if that’s not enough, Buffalo, Ohio, and Bowling Green are all within two games of the Zips and Flashes and all sit within one game of each other. The Bulls are even a dark horse contender for the #2 seed, as UB sits just one game behind Akron and 1.5 games behind Kent... and they play Akron today and Kent State on Friday.

Get ready for an exciting final week of #MACtion!

Akron Zips (14-6, 12-5 MAC) at Buffalo Bulls (12-7, 10-5 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 2:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN3
Where: Alumni Arena — Buffalo, NY
Odds: Buffalo has a 71.4% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

The Bulls enter this week as the four-seed, sitting three games out of first place. At current, they are just a game behind Kent State and Akron and just a half-game ahead of Ohio.

Akron is currently tied with Kent State in conference record but, based on overall win percentage, would be the three-seed if the season ended today. The Zips have lost their last two games and will look to end that skid.

Buffalo, on the other hand, is riding a three game winning streak into this game and will need that trend to continue if they hope to sneak up into that two-seed or, at the very least, avoid dropping down to the five-seed.

Akron will once again be reliant on Loren Cristian Jackson, who played really well in both their losses last week. And In the last seven games, Jackson is averaging nearly 23 points, six assists, and four rebounds per game.

But look for Jeenathan Williams, Josh Mballa, and Jayvon Graves to play motivated for the Bulls. They know just how big these last two games are for Buffalo. The trio accounts for 56.8% of UB’s scoring and 52.3% of their rebounds.

Akron Zips - 74
Buffalo Bulls - 81

Toledo Rockets (19-6, 14-3 MAC) at CMU Chippewas (6-15, 2-12 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 5:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN+
Where: McGuirk Arena — Mount Pleasant, MI
Odds: Toledo has a 92.4% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

The Chippewas, who have lost eight straight games and 11 of their last 12, look to be in trouble here as they play host to the Toledo Rockets, the top team in the MAC.

Travon Broadway Jr. hasn’t played for CMU since February 6th but, in his absence, junior guard Meikkel Murray has taken over and played well. Murray is coming off a 24-point performance against Ball State and, over the past three games is averaging 16.3 points and 4.3 rebounds.

Marreon Jackson has been the standout for Toledo this season. He leads the team in points (17.5) and assists (6.1) and his 5.7 rebounds is second on the team, behind Setric Millner Jr. who is averaging 6.6.

Jackson & Company should be able to win big here tonight and claim the top spot in the MAC Tournament.

Toledo Rockets - 83
CMU Chippewas - 66

Ball State Cardinals (9-11, 7-8 MAC) at EMU Eagles (5-11, 2-10 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 2:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN3
Where: Convocation Center — Ypsilanti, MI
Odds: Ball State has a 71.1% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

Ball State is currently the eighth and final team in the MAC Tourney. However, if BSU gets two wins this week (which would include an upset over Toledo) and gets some help from Bowling Green/Ohio, they could find themselves in the seventh spot, ahead of the Miami RedHawks.

Ishmael El-Amin and K.J. Walton account for 43% of Ball State’s scoring and El-Amin has been killing it lately, averaging 23 points in his last three games.

Eagles’ guard Noah Morgan is coming off a monster performance that saw him drop a season-high 22 points and add four assists, three rebounds, three steals, and record a block.

EMU might have ended their seven game losing skid with a 93-57 route over the NIU Huskies on Saturday but, even with that momentum, I don’t see the Eagles upsetting the Cardinals here.

Ball State Cardinals - 74
EMU Eagles - 59

Ohio Bobcats (13-7, 9-5 MAC) at Kent State Golden Flashes (15-6, 12-5 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 5:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN+
Where: M.A.C. Center — Kent, OH
Odds: Kent State has a 60.6% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

Both these teams have been hot as of late. Ohio has won seven of nine while Kent has won eight of their last ten games. As it stands now, Kent State is tied with Akron for second place in the MAC while Ohio is the 5-seed, but just .5 games behind Buffalo.

After missing nearly a month, Ohio guard Jason Preston was finally playing again last week. And while he struggled some in his first two games back, shooting a combined 7-18 and scoring just 18 points, he should’ve shaken off the rust and will be back to his normal self this week.

Kent State’s leading scorers - Danny Pippen (19.3) and Mike Nuga (17.8) - compliment each other so well. When one has a bad game, the other steps up. Last game, Nuga managed just 6 points while Pippen accounted for 15. The previous game, Pippen had 6 points so Nuga put up 16.

However, despite the dynamic duo of Pippen and Nuga, I’m calling for an upset here. Ohio will be motivated in this game. They’ll be looking for revenge and, more importantly, the Cats will be looking to sneak past Buffalo and into the #4 spot.

Ohio Bobcats - 75
KSU Golden Flashes - 69

WMU Broncos (4-15, 3-11 MAC) at NIU Huskies (2-15, 1-12 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 5:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN+
Where: Convocation Center — DeKalb, IL
Odds: WMU has a 63.3% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

The Broncos have the easiest remaining schedule. WMU plays NIU today and then EMU on Friday. The Huskies and Eagles have a combined three wins in the MAC and just seven wins overall (yikes).

Look for WMU’s Greg Lee to have a monster game. As WMU leading rebounder and the Broncos’ second leading scorer, a double-double against the Huskies wouldn’t surprise me at all. Plus, Lee has already been playing well as of late, scoring 17.0 PPG over the last three games.

NIU will try to look past Saturday’s 34-point loss to EMU but the Huskies haven’t shown much fight this season. Outside of their shocking, last-second win against Akron, their only other win came against Chicago State - who was winless this season.

As a team, the Huskies are dead last in the MAC in scoring (61.3 PPG), shooting percentage (39.9%), free throw percentage (61.1%), and wins (2). Don’t count on them stealing this one from the Broncos.

WMU Broncos - 73
NIU Huskies - 57

Miami RedHawks (10-11, 8-8 MAC) at Bowling Green Falcons (14-9, 10-7 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 5:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN+
Where: Stroh Center — Bowling Green, OH
Odds: BGSU has a 75.6% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

Coming into the final week, Miami currently holds the seventh spot. They are 1.5 games behind BG and just half a game in front of Ball State. But, with games against the Falcons and Akron, the RedHawks will be hard pressed to advance upward to the 6-seed (although not impossible). So, instead, they’ll be playing to avoid dropping into the 8-seed.

Bowling Green, however, is sitting four games out of first place and is currently the 6-seed. As they are just half a game behind Ohio (who they play on Friday) and one game behind Buffalo, they have a small chance to steal the 4-seed.

The three-headed monster of Dae Dae Grant (13.5 PPG), Mekhi Lairy (12.9 PPG), and Dalonte Brown (12.8 PPG) account for 54.3% of the RedHawks’ points and are the only players averaging more than 10 points per game for Miami.

As the Falcons will be looking to secure a better spot for themselves, they should come into this game motivated and on the attack. Look for Justin Turner, BG’s highest scorer (and second best in the MAC), to be fired up and out-perform his average of 20.1 points per game.

My guess is Turner drops 28 points and helps the Falcons move closer to the 5-seed...setting up a huge game with Ohio on Friday.

Miami RedHawks - 73
BGSU Falcons - 82