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The Road to the MAC Tournament: February 21, 2023

The battle for the all-important automatic NCAA bid continues apace.

I actually prefer the seaway to Cleveland, but to each their own.
Kenneth Bailey

It’s pretty close to that time of year. The NCAA Tournament is around the corner which means the Mid American Conference Tournament is even closer. This year, picking the top two teams is pretty easy. As much as I hate to say it, picking at least three teams that are out is pretty easy as well. The rest? Not as much.

As a reminder, the top eight teams in the MAC end up going to Cleveland, with the other four teams going home, a change which was made during the COVID pandemic to limit traveling. The seeding is determined by their MAC records. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head records. Then it is the record amongst multiple tied teams. There are no byes.

If the season were to end today, the tournament would start as follows:

  • Kent State would play Central Michigan.
  • Toledo would fight Buffalo.
  • Akron would face off against Northern Illinois.
  • Ball State would battle against Ohio.
  • Bowling Green, Miami, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan would get to watch the tournament from the comfort of their homes.

There are still four games remaining for each team in the season, and there is still the potential for upsets. I think the upsets would come from the middle of the pack. I’m pretty sure that Kent State and Toledo will finish on top. I’m also pretty sure that Miami, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan are staying home.

That being said, let’s take a look at the remain schedule for the MAC. (All records below refer to their league games in 2022-23.)

At 12-2, Kent State stands on top of the MAC. They travel to Ball State and Bowling Green and finish the season at home against Ohio and Akron. Kent State’s losses are against Northern Illinois and Akron. They lost against Akron at Akron but they are 13-0 at home, so I don’t expect they will lose to Akron. They might have some trouble against Ball State but should beat Bowling Green and Ohio. Based on that, I say that Kent State should finish 14-4.

At 12-2, Toledo is in second place. They have a chance to replace Kent State at the top. They host Akron and Buffalo and travel to Central Michigan and Ball State. Akron and Ball State might give them fits. Central Michigan might still have to fight for the final spot in the tournament and have played well in high-leverage situations, so they might give them trouble. They should beat Buffalo. Based on that, I say they will finish 13-5.

At 10-3, Akron stands at third place. They travel to Toledo, then host Western Michigan and Ball State and they finish the season at Kent State. The fact that they travel to Toledo, might cause problems but I’ll stick with what I said above and will say they will beat Toledo. I don’t think Western Michigan will give them much trouble but Ball State might. Traveling to Kent might be interesting, but in the interest of consistency, I will say they will lose there. Based on all of that, they finish 12-5

At 10-4, Ball State has the toughest road to finish in the upper seeds. They play the three teams above and Eastern Michigan. Again in the interest of consistency, I will say they beat Kent State and Toledo. I don’t think Eastern Michigan will give them much trouble. This leaves Akron as the rubber match. Based on what I said above, I think they lose. That means they finish at 11-7.

Ohio currently stands at 8-6. They host Northern Illinois, travel to Miami, travel to Kent State and host Bowling Green to finish the season. This gives them the opposite issue of Ball State. It also means that I think they finish 11-7.

Northern Illinois is currently at 7-7. They travel to Ohio and Central Michigan and host Buffalo and Eastern Michigan. I suspect they lose to Ohio but beat the other three. This means they finish at 10-8.

Buffalo’s record is 6-7. They host Central Michigan, travel to Toledo and Northern Illinois and host Miami. Based on what I said above, they lose to Toledo and Northern Illinois and win against the other teams. This means they finish 8-9.

At 5-9, Central Michigan probably has the most tenuous hold on the MAC Tournament. They travel to Buffalo, host Northern Illinois and Toledo and travel to Western Michigan. Based on above, they lose to Buffalo, Northern Illinois and Toledo. They will probably beat Western Michigan to finish the season at 6-12.

At 4-10, Bowling Green and holding a tiebreaker against Central Michigan, they could slip into the tournament. Based on what I said above, if they beat two of their last four opponents, they are in. They travel to Miami, host Kent State and Eastern Michigan and finish the season at Ohio. They should beat Miami and Eastern Michigan and will probably lose to Kent State and Ohio. This causes them to finish 6-12. Not being sure on the rest, that might be enough to propel them over Central Michigan.

The last three teams stand at 3-11. Barring miracles, I’m pretty sure they are out. They could serve as spoilers though.

So the road to Cleveland is not fraught with peril, as the contestents seem to mostly be decided... but it is Ohio Route 2, so anything goes.