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MAC Men's Basketball Tournament Preview

All of the action starts Monday night at four campus venues, will we be able to see a team win five games in six days, or will one of the double-bye or triple-bye teams take advantage of their layoffs?

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

(5) Bowling Green Falcons vs. (12) Ball State Cardinals

BGSU 19-9 11-7 97 93 209 2-5 66.0 35.2
Ball St 6-22 2-16 277 271 85 1-11 63.9 32.9
Player Games played Min./game PPG FG% RPG Assists Steals Blocks
Richaun Holmes 29 29.2 14.7 .557 8.0 25 20 78
Anthony Henderson 29 25.6 8.5 .473 3.1 38 28 5
Sean Sellers 29 29.7 11.9 .436 2.9 35 8 10
Matt Kamieniecki 21 21.6 8.4 .487 7.1 18 20 15

Game 1: 3/9/15, 7 p.m.

The Falcons find themselves hosting a first round tournament game after having legitimate aspirations of winning the entire league back in late February. BG ended the regular season losing four of their last six - with two of the losses coming against Buffalo.

If there is any good news, it's that the Falcons drew reeling Ball State as their first round warm-up. Bowling Green won both match-ups with the Cardinals this season: an eight-point with in the Stroh Center and a 14-point win in Muncie. Although Ball State has lost sixteen straight, they were competitive in their last outing at Northern Illinois.

No win is easy in this league, especially with so much on the line. If Bowling Green doesn't cruise to victory Monday night, it'll be a complete disaster and ultimately a lost season. The winner gets the Eastern Michigan/Miami winner at Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday night (Game 5, 6:30 p.m.), with the winner of that foursome advancing to play Toledo in Game 7.

(6) Western Michigan Broncos vs. (11) Ohio Bobcats

WMU 17-12 10-8 105 127 164 4-5 70.7 32.2
Ohio 10-19 5-13 229 237 83 1-9 67.2 34.3
Player Games played Min./game PPG FG% RPG Assists Steals Blocks
Connar Tava 31 30.5 12.8 .528 6.3 110 32 10
David Brown 31 32.7 15.1 .433 3.3 71 41 3
Maurice Ndour 29 34.7 15.6 .462 8.4 50 31 65
Javarez Willis 28 33.0 15.0 .426 3.0 87 23

Game 3: 3/9/15, 8 p.m.

The defending champs are in a unnatural spot: hosting a first round home game. While it has been an up-and-down season for the Broncos, they've been here before and know how to win at the most important time of the year. All of the main players are back from last year's championship team (save Shayne Whittington) and match-up really well against a struggling Ohio team.

Many thought Ohio had packed up and left after losing by nearly 30 at Buffalo, capping a seven game losing streak. But, the Bobcats exploded for 53 first-half points against Miami at home and blew out the RedHawks 95-65. Maybe that win brought some life back into the seemingly hapless Bobcats, and they'll provide more of a contest to WMU than once thought.

These two teams met only once this year - a 80-69 victory for WMU at University Arena. Guard play was key in this one, as both Javarez Willis and Austin Richie exploded for 21 and 19 points, respectively. Western Michigan also dominated the glass, winning the rebound battle 36-23 and also held a 20-7 advantage at the free throw line.

If Ohio can replicate it's hot-shooting from the Miami game, this one can be a bit nervy for the Broncos. Western Michigan has only lost two home games all season, and Ohio's youth doesn't bode well against Western's depth and experience.

(7) Akron Zips vs. (10) Northern Illinois Huskies

Akron 17-13 9-9 146 110 160 5-5 69.1 35.8
NIU 13-15 8-10 182 185 132 2-8 66.0 35.0
Player Games played Min./game PPG FG% RPG Assists Steals Blocks
Pat Forsythe 29 23.9 10.7 25.0 5.3 29 19 40
Noah Robotham 26 30.6 9.9 36.0 2.7 87 33 1
Jordan Threloff 29 24.8 8.5 .528 7.5 11 10 20
Aaric Armstead 27 28.9 11.1 .408 4.6 18 39 9

Game 4: 3/9/15, 7 p.m.

The seeding of both teams suggest that Akron is the better team, but in all reality these two teams could not be going in more different of directions. The Zips are losers of six of their last seven, while Northern Illinois have won four in a row. Three of those Husky wins were against the top three teams in the West - Toledo, Central Michigan and Western Michigan.

The Zips showed some fight in their last outing, losing on a buzzer beater at Kent State. Injuries and inconsistent play have hurt Akron in recent games, as they've been playing without leading scorer and starting center Pat Forsythe. That's definitely a relief for Jordan Threloff, who has played much better over the last eight conference games than he did the first ten.

Northern Illinois won the only match-up between these teams during the regular season - a 64-61 shocker (at the time) in DeKalb. Travon Baker torched the Zips for 21 including an 8-10 showing at the free throw line. The Huskies outshot Akron 52 percent to 36 percent and got to the free throw line fifteen more times than the Zips did. This will probably be a close game, but it's tough to pick Akron after their recent struggles.

The winner of the Akron/Northern Illinois/Western Michigan/Ohio pod on Wednesday (Game 6, 30 minutes after Game 5 is finished) moves on to play third-seeded Kent State on Thursday in Cleveland.

(8) Eastern Michigan Eagles vs. (9) Miami RedHawks

EMU 15-12 8-10 147 134 188 2-8 70.2 37.0
Miami 12-18 8-10 224 211 128 2-8 66.7 30.5
Player Games played Min./game PPG FG% RPG Assists Steals Blocks
Karrington Ward 31 30.7 12.7 .414 6.4 17 40 43
Raven Lee 31 27.1 16.4 .455 1.9 49 45 7
Eric Washington 31 31.9 14.5 .459 3.2 169 45 1
Will Sullivan 31 32.1 10.9 .489 4.7 44 27 1

Game 2: 3/9/15, 7:30 p.m.

This will be the third match-up of the year between the Eagles and RedHawks, with each team winning on their own home floor. Eastern Michigan should have swept the season series, but in their first meeting Miami overcame a 21-point second-half deficit to stun the Eagles in overtime. The two teams combined to shoot 132 free throws during their two games against each other, so don't be surprised if free throws come into play during this game.

Miami looked to play the role of spoiler in late February and early March, racking up five wins in six games, with two coming against Akron and one at Bowling Green. That was before the RedHawks completely crumbled against Ohio, getting blown out in Athens in the regular season finale.

Eastern Michigan has had such an up-and-down season it's been hard to gauge just how good or bad this team is. Three times this year the Eagles lost twice then won twice in the next two games. Sometimes Karrington Ward and Mike Talley have been viable scoring options, sometimes they haven't. It's a hard team to peg, but one that could definitely make some noise in the MAC Tournament.

(4) Toledo Rockets vs. Game 5 winner (BGSU, EMU, Miami, Ball State)

Toledo 19-12 11-7 79 86 95 2-7 74.6 36.6
Player Games played Min./game PPG FG% RPG Assists Steals Blocks
Julius Brown 31 33.1 16.4 .469 2.3 133 30 10
JD Weatherspoon 31 31.2 12.8 .562 8.0 32 20 17

Game 7: 3/12/15, 6:30 p.m.

Toledo lucked out with Bowling Green losing to Buffalo on Friday. The Rockets lost badly at Eastern Michigan, but were still able to garner a top-four seed because of tiebreakers. Losing three of their last four, Toledo limped to the finish line with losses to Northern Illinois, Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan.

It's never good to finish the regular season on any kind of losing streak, but at least Toledo has a couple of days to get their minds right in preparation of a quarterfinal match-up against either Bowling Green, Ball State, Eastern Michigan or Miami. The Rockets went 5-1 against those four this season, so they're set up pretty well to move on to the semi-finals.

(3) Kent State Golden Flashes vs. Game 6 winner (WMU, Akron, NIU, Ohio)

Kent St 20-10 12-6 85 118 148 4-7 66.6 34.7
Player Games played Min./game PPG FG% RPG Assists Steals Blocks
Jimmy Hall 26 28.6 15.5 .531 7.2 41 14 27
Deveraux Manley 31 32.3 13.6 .409 2.8 29 17 5

Game 8: 3/12/15, 30 minutes after Game 7 is finished

The Flashes needed a buzzer beater from Kris Brewer to sink rival Akron and clinch their share of the MAC East title with Buffalo. Six of their last nine games have been victories, and two of the losses were by six points or less. While they didn't seem like a title contender at the beginning of the year, they are certainly a favorite now because of the play of Brewer and Jimmy Hall.

The winner of the Western Michigan/Ohio/Akron/Northern Illinois pod faces Kent State in the quarterfinals, and that could be good or bad news. Kent State went 4-2 against those four schools this year, losing to Western Michigan and Akron (almost twice). Either of those teams can definitely give the Flashes a run for their money in Cleveland, and don't be surprised to see them in a dogfight come Thursday.

(2) Buffalo Bulls vs. Game 8 winner

Buffalo 21-9 12-6 34 62 72 5-5 73.9 38.3
Player Games played Min./game PPG FG% RPG Assists Steals Blocks
Justin Moss 30 30.0 18.4 .528 9.4 18 32 24
Shannon Evans 30 34.4 15.3 .412 3.1 143 52 5

Game 10: 3/13/15, 30 minutes after Game 9 is finished

Buffalo wasn't expected to do much after the loss of Javon McCrea, but they turned out to do pretty well. That's an understatement of course, as the Bulls clinched a share of the MAC East title with Kent State after narrowly beating Bowling Green on Friday.

This is the hottest team in the conference right now, flying high after winning six straight games. They'll be tough to beat in Cleveland, but they don't really have the experience of playing in games that truly matter at the end of the season. Also, with their double bye, they won't be playing their first game until Friday. That could cause some rust to build up and slow down all of their momentum.

The Bulls will face off with the winner of Kent State and whoever comes out of the Akron/Northern Illinois/Western Michigan/Ohio pod. A 2-0 record against the Flashes is a number that looks good for Buffalo, but it's awfully hard to beat the same team three times in one season. They might be penciled in as the favorites right now, but with all of the craziness we've experienced so far this year expect the unexpected.

(1) Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Game 7 winner

CMU 19-7 12-6 74 88 236 4-2 78.6 34.7
Player Games played Min./game PPG FG% RPG Assists Steals Blocks
Chris Fowler 29 33.6 15.3 .498 3.0 174 44 4
John Simons 29 29.9 12.1 .496 6.4 19 32 12

Game 9: 3/13/15, 6:30 p.m.

The Chips are a pretty awesome story, no matter what allegiance you have to a certain MAC school. CMU is just a couple of years removed from the Ernie Zeigler days where the program was a doormat. The school hadn't had a winning season since the 2002-2003 season, which is an awful long time to be less than mediocre.

Keno Davis changed all that, and while he took his bumps last year he laid the groundwork for what has blossomed into a program with potential staying power. #3MU knows what they are good at and when they get hot they're impossible to beat.

A weak-ish non-conference schedule made most question just how good this CMU team really was. But, after beating Toledo in Savage Arena, we could tell the Chips were for real. Getting drilled at Ball State the next time out didn't help their reputation, but the ability to defend their home floor was paramount to the Chips winning the MAC West title. CMU only lost at home once - to Bowling Green in overtime - but was able to fend off all other challengers who dropped into Mt. Pleasant.

Needing only two wins to get into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since that 2002-2003 season, the table is set for CMU to make it happen. But, none of the players have any sort of MAC Tournament experience. They have only advance to the second round of the tournament once since 2008-2009, and Austin Keel was the only player on that team still currently on the Chippewa roster.

How will the inexperienced Chips fare in a huge game with all of the pressure directly on them? Guess we'll find out Friday night.

The Championship Game (Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner) will be a primetime Saturday event and can be seen on ESPN2. Tip-off for this one is at 7:30 p.m.