The last week of MAC regular season play saw several competitive matchups between teams headed to the tournament in Cleveland this week.
Toledo grabbed the top spot in the conference with a close road win over fourth-place Ball State while Kent State won close battles with in-state rivals Ohio and Akron to take the two-seed.
Miami was the only team that had to do something to keep its spot in the tournament which they did with a win over Western Michigan.
The three Michigan teams ended each of their disappointing seasons finishing with a combined record of 14–40 in the conference and 67 losses overall. Bowling Green also missed out on a trip to Cleveland finishing with a 5–13 record in the MAC.
1st — Toledo (16-2 MAC | 25-6 overall)
- 2/28: 99-65 W @ Central Michigan
- 3/3: 87-81 W @ Ball State
The Rockets were 1–2 in conference play on January 10. They then proceeded to rattle off 15 consecutive wins in MAC play to win their third straight regular season title.
Toledo, which is averaging 85.7 points per game this season, exceeded that number twice with wins at Central Michigan and Ball State.
On Tuesday, the Rockets took advantage of a rebuilding squad in Mount Pleasant and nearly reached the century mark on a night in which they shot 58.5 percent from the field. Senior forward Setric Milner Jr. put up a career-high 32 points in the blowout victory.
Friday’s matchup against Ball State was a closer contest — giving Toledo tournament preparation. The Rockets built a nine point lead in the first half and later got it up to 13 midway through the second. The Cardinals hung around and were able to make it a single digit game but never got the run they needed to erase the deficit. This time, it was RayJ Dennis’ turn to score 32. The Rockets will play the early quarterfinal game against Miami on Thursday.
Next game: MAC Tournament Quarterfinal vs. #8 Miami at 11 a.m. on March 9.
2nd — Kent State (15-3 MAC | 25-6 overall)
- 2/28: 82-75 W vs Ohio
- 3/3: 89-84 W vs Akron
Kent State had a great week in preparation for the MAC tournament. The Golden Flashes started out the week with a win over Ohio thanks to a 47 point second half. Sincere Carry led the way with 23 points and four triples in the contest.
Friday’s national TV matchup with Akron lived up to the hype — with Kent State pulling out an overtime victory. The Golden Flashes held a narrow lead for most of the game but the Zips kept themselves in striking range. It looked like a festive night at the MAC Center might have been ruined after a controversial foul call on a three-pointer that sent Akron to the line in the final seconds to tie it up. However, the home team rallied in overtime behind Carry who scored 11 points in the extra period and finished with a game-high 32.
The Golden Flashes are hot and poised to get revenge on Northern Illinois — who defeated them in their only meeting — in the tournament.
Next game: MAC Tournament Quarterfinal vs. #7 Northern Illinois at 4 p.m. on March 9
3rd — Akron (13-5 MAC | 21-10 overall)
- 2/28: 87-83 W vs Ball State
- 3/3: 84-89 L vs Kent State
The Zips had a pair of tough battles in the final week of the regular season. On senior night at the JAR, Akron pulled out a close win over a quality Ball State squad as it exploded for 51 in the second half. 78 of 87 points scored by the home team were courtesy of Xavier Castaneda, Sammy Hunter and Enrique Freeman who finished with 29, 25 and 24 respectively.
On Friday night against their arch rival, the Zips put in a solid road effort. They blocked out the noise of the hostile crowd and kept themselves close all game. After Castaneda tied up the game with less than five seconds to go on three straight free throws, Akron was unable to carry any momentum into overtime. It was an off-night for Castaneda, but Freeman and Hunter stayed hot offensively, combining for 51 in the loss.
The reigning MAC tournament champions will take on Buffalo — another program with great history in the competition.
Next game: MAC Tournament Quarterfinal vs. #6 Buffalo at 6:30 p.m. on March 9.
4th — Ball State (11-7 MAC | 20-11 overall)
- 2/28: 83-87 L @ Akron
- 3/3: 81-87 L vs Toledo
The Cardinals played quality basketball in their final two games but were unable to pull out a win against two teams ahead of them in the MAC standings. Foul trouble sank Ball State at Akron: four players finished with four fouls as it allowed 23 points on free throws. Despite the loss, it was a good night for a pair of bench players. Guard Jalen Windham and forward Basheer Jihad put up 19 and 17 points respectively— both career highs.
On Friday night, Ball State took on a flaming hot Toledo squad with their eyes set on ending the Rockets’ 14 game winning streak. However, the Cardinals failed to hold the road team’s offense in check as they lost by six. Center Payton Sparks reached a career high with 24 in the loss.
In Cleveland, the Cardinals will face Ohio — who they lost a close contest to in Athens back in January.
Next game: MAC Tournament Quarterfinal vs. #5 Ohio at 1:30 p.m. on March 9.
5th — Ohio (10-8 MAC | 18-13 overall)
- 2/28: 75-82 L @ Kent State
- 3/3: 92-58 W vs Bowling Green
This is far from the best Ohio team we have seen in recent years. Still, the Bobcats look competitive and will be playing with confidence heading into the MAC tournament.
Jeff Boals’ squad held a first half lead over Kent State on Tuesday but failed to slow down the Golden Flashes in the second. Ohio’s scoring in the loss was spread out — eight players registered between six and 14 points.
On senior night at the Convocation center, the Bobcats had a field day against a struggling Bowling Green unit. Ohio built a 28 point lead at halftime and kept the Falcons nowhere close the rest of the way. Defense shined as the home team tallied 10 steals and held Bowling Green to 31.7 percent from the field.
Ohio will try to use the blueprint from their January win over Ball State when they meet in Cleveland.
Next game: MAC Tournament Quarterfinal: vs. #4 Ball State at 1:30 p.m. on March 9.
6th — Buffalo (9-9 MAC | 15-16 overall)
- 2/28: 85-75 W @ Northern Illinois
- 3/3: 68-63 W vs Miami
Buffalo ended its regular season strongly with wins over the two teams right behind them in the MAC standings. The Bulls started the week with a road win over Northern Illinois that was catalyzed by a big first half. Guard Curtis Jones led the way with 21 points while forward Isaiah Adams poured in 20 of his own.
On Friday, Buffalo treated their final home crowd of the season to a come from behind win over Miami. Jim Whitesell’s squad erased a nine-point deficit just four minutes into the second half and did enough the rest of the way to get the victory. Adams scored 16 more to continue a hot run of play.
The Bulls will look for a new game plan against the Zips who beat them by 17 and 21 points in their two regular season meetings.
Next game: MAC Tournament Quarterfinal vs. #3 Akron at 6:30 p.m. on March 9.
7th — Northern Illinois (9-9 MAC | 13-18 overall)
- 2/28: 75-85 L vs Buffalo
- 3/3: 85-66 W vs Eastern Michigan
The Huskies finished conference play at .500 after a win and a loss at home. On Tuesday, they failed to keep Buffalo in check in the first half and were unable to come back despite a 49 point second half. Five players scored in double figures in the loss.
Northern Illinois ended its regular season strongly with a blowout win over Eastern Michigan on Friday night in Dekalb. The Huskies outshot the Eagles from the field and won the turnover battle. They once again shared the basketball well as all five starters finished in double figures with point guard Kaleb Thornton posting a 17 point, 11 assist double-double.
The MAC’s sole Illinois representative will look to replicate an early season victory over Kent State on Thursday.
Next game: MAC Tournament Quarterfinal vs. #2 Kent State at 4 p.m. on March 9.
8th — Miami (6-12 MAC | 12-19 overall)
- 2/28: 77-62 W @ Western Michigan
- 3/3: 63-68 L @ Buffalo
Miami did just enough to secure a spot in the MAC Tournament with a win over Western Michigan on Tuesday. The RedHawk offense was consistent as the defense held the Broncos to 38.3 percent from the field. Forward Anderson Mirambeaux showed out on both ends of the floor, tallying 18 points and five blocks.
Friday saw Miami lose a tough road battle to Buffalo, where it got out-rebounded 40-25. Mirambeaux had another nice performance, putting up 18 once again.
The boys from Oxford will try anything in their power to stop the Toledo freight train.
Next game: MAC Tournament Quarterfinal vs. #1 Toledo at 11 a.m. on March 9.
9th — Bowling Green (5-13 MAC | 11-20 overall)
- 2/28: 88-68 W vs Eastern Michigan
- 3/3: 58-92 L @ Ohio
Bowling Green had a slight chance to grab the eight-seed and make the MAC tournament but it fell short after going 1-1 on the week. The Falcons shined on offense on Tuesday as they defeated Eastern Michigan by 20. Samari Curtis dropped 25 on his senior night to contribute to the win while Rashaun Agee and Leon Ayers III scored in double figures off the bench.
In what would be Bowling Green’s 2022-23 season finale, the Falcons got blown out by Ohio in Athens. They failed to get it going offensively hitting just 5 of 26 from behind the arc. This was Michael Huger’s worst season as Bowling Green head coach in eight seasons as his team finished with just 11 wins.
10th — Eastern Michigan (5-13 MAC | 8-23 overall)
- 2/28: 68-88 L @ Bowling Green
- 3/3: 66-85 L @ Northern Illinois
If you support a MAC team from the state of Michigan, it is probably time to stop reading. The Eagles still had a chance to qualify for this week’s MAC tournament but lost two winnable games by 20 and 19. They struggled to gel offensively in either game as they shot 44.2 percent from the field over the two games and totaled just 16 assists. Emoni Bates played poorly in both games scoring a total of 16 points on 29.2 percent shooting.
Bates finishes the year 32nd in the nation in points per game with 19.2, but his 40.5 shooting percentage should be noted. The 2023-24 season will be a big test for Bates and head coach Stan Heath who will enter his third season at the helm in Ypsilanti.
11th — Central Michigan (5-13 MAC | 10-21 overall)
- 2/28: 65-99 L vs Toledo
- 3/3: 65-81 L @ Western Michigan
Tony Barbee is another second-year head coach who has something to prove going into next year. The rebuilding Chippewas finished a tough season with two losses in the final week. Central Michigan was not in any kind of form to upset Toledo on Tuesday as it surrendered nearly 100 points in a blowout loss. The one positive from the game was a 27—point performance by freshman Reggie Bass who will likely be a central part of Barbee’s squad going forward.
On Friday, the Chippewas were poised for a closer game— with stakes attached after several results fell their way earlier in the day— but failed to contain the Broncos offense in the second half. Sophomore Markus Harding registered 18 points while Bass added 16 in the loss.
12th — Western Michigan (4-14 MAC | 8-23 overall)
- 2/28: 62-77 L @ Miami
- 3/3: 81-65 W vs Central Michigan
For the fifth straight year, the Broncos finished dead last in the MAC. It was just Dwayne Stephens’ first year as head coach, but this trend has got to be a nightmare for the Western Michigan faithful.
While the squad struggled and lost against Miami, it was able to pull out a win in the season finale in Kalamazoo over Central Michigan. The Broncos shot well from three, going 14-30 and out-rebounded their in-state rival by 17 en route to the victory. Senior guard Tray Maddox Jr. led his team with 22 points in his final collegiate game.