12. Bowling Green vs. 5. Kent State
winner plays 4. Central Michigan
The Falcons are limping into the MAC Tournament, losers of 10 of their last 11 and 12 of the last 14. They head to Kent on Monday night looking to avenge two earlier losses to the Flashes, who are on a bit of a skid themselves. Rob Senderoff's squad has lost the last five road contests, so it's a good thing that the Flashes aren't taking the bus to their first round opponent.
Kent State is really good at home this year, only losing twice - to Buffalo and Toledo. The Flashes are comfortable in their home arena and are certainly not happy about having to play a first round game in the tournament. They can see Akron on their side of the bracket and will relish an opportunity to spoil their arch-nemesis's season.
Jimmy Hall has dominated the Falcons in both matchups this season and will likely need to be dominant again. He averaged 24 points and 12 rebounds against Bowling Green in two games this season and made mincemeat of whoever was trying to guard him in the post. Spencer Parker and Wes Alcegaire will need to be Bowling Green's go-to-guys as they've both had success against the Flashes this season.
With the Flashes' impeccable home record and Bowling Green's struggles over the past month and a half, look for Kent State to put the Falcons away early and snag yet another trip to Cleveland.
11. Miami vs. 6. Ball State
winner plays 3. Buffalo
The Cardinals may not have worked their way to a first round bye but boy do they have their eyes on the prize. After years dwelling near the cellar, Ball State has proved itself to be one of the MAC's best on any given day and could easily have found itself with a bye and a 2-seed. Instead, it hots a Miami team that surged toward the end of the season. This is a Miami team that kept itself close to the Cardinals in Muncie late before losing on a remarkable Jeremiah Davis bucket in the game's final moments. In the tip to Oxford, the Cardinals drubbed the RedHawks by 17. Franko House has been BSU's leading scorer its last three times out, while Sean Sellers (and the Cards as a whole) showed glimpses of offensive brilliance in the Eastern Michigan game.
But with Ball State having lost three of its last four games and Miami having won three of its last four, who's to say that Miami isn't about to March into Muncie and proceed to Run off da plug? The RedHawks did win three in a row over Akron, Kent State and Bufflao before barely falling at home against rival Ohio. The guard play has been better for Miami as of late with Geovonie McKnight and Eric Washington both finding ways to contribute mightily in the scoring column. Coach John Cooper's team is going to live-and-die by their guard play Monday night.
Monday times, EST:— Hustle Belt (@HustleBelt) March 5, 2016
Ball St/Miami 7pm
EMU/Toledo 7:30 pm
10. Western Michigan vs. 7. Northern Illinois
winner plays 2. Ohio
The Huskies are very, very good at home. Western Michigan doesn't necessarily have it figured out when it comes to playing on the road. While the Huskies are 17-1 at home, they've outscored their in-conference opponents 678-616, or with an average score of 75-68.
The regular season series between the two schools is split: NIU won in DeKalb but only after WMU beat them in Kalamazoo (four Huskies were ejected in the start of this game too).
Western Michigan will want to limit the usual suspects in Travon Baker and Marin Maric, but don't forget about Aaric Armstead. He's a big help for Maric in grabbing rebounds and be useful from shooting the long ball. The Broncos will be in good condition if they can take care of the paint by getting both Seth Dugan and A.J. Avery controlling the paint on both ends of the court.
While it goes without saying at this point, the Broncos are really going to miss Connar Tava here, who was poised to have a big season for the Broncos as one of their stud big men, let alone a player who'd be a difference maker here. But they still have Thomas Wilder, who could string up a 20+ point performance on a blink's notice, so he'll need to play up to his potential if the Broncos want to have a shot at a road upset.
9. Toledo vs. 8. Eastern Michigan
winner plays 1. Akron
They say that one of the most difficult things to do in college basketball is to beat the same team for a third time. EMU won 91-85 at home against the Rockets late February and Raven Lee's 26 points off the bench helped them edge out a close road win in the season finale to ultimately decide which of these two would be the home team in the third matchup of the year.
Toledo's a talented, versatile group with Nathan Boothe able to play down low and hit a 3-pointer and Jonathan Williams, who is third in the MAC in total scoring and averages 23 points per 40 minutes on the court. Many would peg Boothe as a First Team All-MAC center over EMU's James Thompson, despite him being one of two players in the conference to average a double-double per performance (Antonio Campbell for Ohio averages 17.5 ppg, 10.0 rpg). However, he'll have to do his best to stay out of foul trouble to help his team out; in conference play, he's had at least four fouls in 13 contests, fouling out of four of them.
Out of the two, Akron would probably want to go off against EMU. The Rockets were able to handle the Zips back in early January 78-64, albeit on their own home court, while Akron's 3-point shooting was able to help give the Zips a 4-point win on January 19.