With one game left in the season, the road to Cleveland is pretty clear but there still is some uncertainty. If the season were to end right now, the teams traveling to Cleveland would be the following (and I’m just showing the MAC record):
- Toledo (15-2)
- Kent State (14-3)
- Akron (13-4)
- Ball State (11-6)
- Ohio (9-8)
- Buffalo (8-9)
- Northern Illinois (8-9)
- Miami (6-11)
The teams staying home would be below:
9. Bowling Green (5-12)
10. Central Michigan (5-12)
11. Eastern Michigan (5-12)
12. Western Michigan (3-14)
We will start with the easiest one: Western Michigan will not be going to Cleveland. Even if they win on Friday night, they can not bounce above the teams ahead of them.
The next easy one is Ball State; they stay where they are because the teams below them can not leap over them nor can Ball State leap over the teams ahead of them. This locks them into the fourth seed.
The top of the table is not set in stone just yet. If Toledo wins at Ball State, they have the first seed regardless of what Kent State does. If Kent State should beat Akron and Toledo loses, Kent State would take the top seed by virtue of a win over Toledo earlier in the season.
If Kent State loses to Akron, Akron would take over the second seed and Kent State would fall to third.
If Ohio wins, they would take the fifth seed. If Ohio, Buffalo and Northern Illinois all lose, they stand pat at the fifth, sixth and seventh seeds respectively. If Ohio and Northern Illinois lose but Buffalo wins, Ohio stands pat. If Ohio and Buffalo lose and Northern Illinois wins, Northern Illinois would jump to take the fifth seed, leaving Ohio and Buffalo at sixth and seventh, respectively. (If I understand the tie breaker rules correctly).
Which leaves us at the eighth seed, the messiest of all the scenarios.
Miami is the current eighth seed and must win to put them in the most favorable position; if the RedHawks cannot secure their own advancement, everyone under Miami must lose.
Central Michigan can clinch the eighth seed if they win and Miami, Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green all lose.
If Miami, CMU and EMU lose but BGSU wins, the Falcons would move into the eighth seed via second tiebreaker against Miami because of their better ranked record against Ohio. BGSU can also clinch with a win via head-to-head tiebreakers if Miami loses and CMU and EMU win.
If Eastern Michigan wins and the others lose, Eastern Michigan takes the eighth seed by virtue of defeating Miami on Jan. 28.
Given how relatively chalk this season has been, I’ll guess things stay pat. But it only takes one result for things to go haywire. It could be a fun ride.