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2020-21 MAC Men’s Basketball Previews: Jan. 21-24

Breaking down this weekend’s slate of MAC basketball

NCAA BASKETBALL: FEB 06 Toledo at Kent State Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are eight MAC games scheduled for this weekend - three today, one on Friday, and four more on Saturday. It would have been nine games but the Northern Illinois Huskies had to postpone their game with the Buffalo Bulls, which was scheduled for Saturday, due to Covid concerns.

Thursday, January 21st

Eastern Michigan Eagles (4-5, 1-4 MAC) at Buffalo Bulls (5-5, 3-3 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 2:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN+
Where: Alumni Arena — Buffalo, NY
Odds: Buffalo has an 85.2% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

Jeenathan Williams will look to end Buffalo’s two game losing streak. But Williams, who is third in the MAC with 19.7 points per game, is going against an Eagle defense that is giving up less than 72 points per game and averaging 10 steals per contest.

However, for as good as the Eagles defense has been, the offense has struggled to get them points. They are averaging just 72.8 points per game, eighth in the MAC, and will need Yeikson Montero, their leading scorer, to have a good outing if they want to walk out of Buffalo with a win.

EMU Eagles: 63
Buffalo Bulls - 71

Bowling Green Falcons (10-4, 6-2 MAC) at Miami RedHawks (5-4, 2-2 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 5:30 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN3
Where: Millett Hall — Oxford, OH
Odds: BGSU has a 72.8% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

After losing to Akron on Tuesday, Bowling Green will look to keep pace with Toledo, who is now atop the MAC standings as the only 1-loss MAC team. Justin Turner, the Falcons’ prolific scorer, has dropped 24+ points in half of BGSU’s games and reached double digits in all fourteen. He’s second in the MAC with 20.4 points per game and also nets 5.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game.

But the RedHawk defense is only allowing 69.4 points per game and will be looking to slow him down. For Miami, Mekhi Lairy runs their offense. Lairy leads the team in points (11.9), assists (3.1), and shooting percentage (49.2). So if he has a good game, Miami might be able to keep up with this Falcon Fast offense of Bowling Green.

BGSU Falcons: 74
Miami RedHawks - 68

Central Michigan Chippewas (6-8, 2-5 MAC) at Akron Zips (6-3, 4-2 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 6:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN+
Where: James A. Rhodes Arena — Akron, OH
Odds: Akron has an 80.2% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

Akron is going to look to extend their winning streak to three against a struggling Chippewa team that has lost four of their last five games. But, to be fair, the four losses were to the top three teams in the MAC (Bowling Green twice, Kent State, and Toledo). However, it wont get any easier tonight as the Zips are tied with Kent for third place in the MAC.

CMU will rely on a heavy dose of Travon Broadway Jr. on offense. He’s their leading scorer, and sixth in the conference, with 17.5 points per game. He also pulls down 5.6 rebounds per game and is shooting nearly 38% from behind the arc.

Akron counters with Loren Cristian Jackson. He’s the MAC’s leading scorer (and 10th in the NCAA), netting 21.9 points per game, and has been dishing the ball as well, averaging 6.9 assists per game.

Akron should keep their momentum trending upwards with a nice win here.

CMU Chippewas - 63
Akron Zips - 75

Friday, January 22nd

Ball State Cardinal (6-6, 4-3 MAC) at Ohio Bobcats (7-6, 3-4 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Watch: CBS Sports
Where: Convocation Center — Athens, OH
Odds: Ohio has a 66.5% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

The only MACtion on Friday night takes place in Athens, Ohio and should feature a good match up between two teams looking to climb the MAC standings.

Ball State lost 78-68 in their earlier meeting with Ohio earlier this month so look for them to come out looking for revenge here. K.J. Walton is scoring 16.7 pointer per game and is hauling in just under six rebounds per game. Ishmael El-Amin is closing in on Walton and has 14.8 points per game and a team-high 3.4 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

For the Bobcats, Jason Preston and Dwight Wilson III have been having great seasons. Preston, who has only played in nine games, leads the team with 18.3 points and 7.8 assists per game. He’s also second on the team with 6.0 rebounds per game and is shooting 45% from three point range. Wilson III leads the team with 7.5 rebounds per game and is adding nearly 15 points per game while making a very solid 64.6% of his shots.

Ball State keeps it close but, in the end, Preston and Wilson are just too much for the Cardinals.

Ball State Cardinals - 71
Ohio Bobcats - 78

Saturday, January 23rd

Bowling Green Falcons (10-4, 6-2 MAC) at Central Michigan Chippewas (6-8, 2-5 MAC)

Game Info:
When: TBD
Watch: ESPN+
Where: McGuirk Arena — Mt. Pleasant, MI
Odds: BGSU has a 71.2% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

After both teams play on Thursday, they come right back to play two days later.

BGSU will still rely on Justin Turner to score most of their points. But Daeqwon Plowden, who is second in the MAC with 8.7 rebounds per game, might have a tough time on the boards against CMU, who is out-rebounding and out-blocking opponents left and right.

Six Chips average more than four rebounds per game, with Meikkel Murray (6.1/game) leading the group and Travon Broadway Jr. (5.6/game) nipping at his heels.

The Chips will be able to slow down the Falcons some, keeping the game close, but Bowling Green has just enough depth on the bench to keep the ahead of CMU.

BGSU Falcons - 71
CMU Chippewas - 66

Kent State Golden Flashes (7-3, 4-2 MAC) at Toledo Rockets (12-4, 7-1 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 12:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN3
Where: Savage Arena — Toledo, OH
Odds: Toledo has a 72.8% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

Kent State comes into this weekend winning their last four games. Their last loss...a two point defeat at the hands of these same Toledo Rockets. They are the conference’s highest scoring team, dropping 81.7 points per game.

Toledo, on the other hand, has the best record in the MAC and has won nine of their last ten, losing only to Akron by a single point a week ago. Like Kent, they are a prolific scoring team too...netting 80.1 points per contest.

Kent has two prolific scorers that the Rockets will have to deal with - Danny Pippen and Mike Nuga. Pippen nets 19.3 points and 8.4 rebounds (third in the MAC) per game while Nuga is literally right behind him with 19.1 points per game. Tervell Beck and Justyn Hamilton also average double digits in points, with Hamilton also bring in 7.6 boards per game.

The Rockets might not be scoring as much as the Flashes but they have four players that average 13+ points per game, with Marreon Jackson (16.6) leading the bunch. Jackson also leads Toledo in assists (5.6) and steals (2.0) and is fourth in the NCAA from the charity stripe...sinking an incredible 94.7% of his free throws.

Toledo barely beat Kent State in the first meeting...I’m looking at Kent to come out fired up and ready to repay the favor. Close game but the Flashes eek it out.

Kent State Golden Flashes - 83
Toledo Rockets - 82

Akron Zips (6-3, 4-2 MAC) at Western Michigan Broncos (2-8, 1-4 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 5:00 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN+
Where: University Arena — Kalamazoo, MI
Odds: Akron has a 71.8% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

Akron will head to the Zoo on just one days rest while WMU will be on 11 days rest between games. That extended time off, mixed with Akron’s back-to-back games, might be the only reason the Broncos can keep this game close.

Or...the long delay could mean WMU comes out rusty. The team is already averaging a lackluster 63.1 points per game and shooting just 43.2% from the field. B.Artis White leads the team with 14.8 points per game but Titus Wright and Greg Lee are closing in on double digit averages as well, scoring 9.9 and 9.7 points per game, respectively.

The Zips will use the league’s leading scorer, Loren Cristian Jackson (21.9/game), and Bryan Trimble Jr. to counter. Trimble Jr. is the only other Akron player in double figures, with 11.0 points per game. Enrique Freeman will also look to make an impact on the boards, as he leads the team (and MAC) with 9.3 rebounds per game.

Akron shouldn’t have a problem putting away the Broncos here...even on short rest.

Akron Zips - 74
WMU Broncos - 65

Miami RedHawks (5-4, 2-2 MAC) at Eastern Michigan Eagles (4-5, 1-4 MAC)

Game Info:
When: 5:30 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN3
Where: Convocation Center — Ypsilanti, MI
Odds: EMU has a 57.5% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor

Miami is allowing the fewest points per game (69.4) in the MAC but their offense has struggled to get more than that...only scoring 68.4 points per game. Four players are responsible for nearly two thirds of their points - Mekhi Lairy, Dalonte Brown, Dae Dae Grant, and Isaiah Coleman-Lands. Lairy and Brown are neck and neck for team leader, with 11.9 and 11.8 PPG, respectively, while Grant and Coleman-Lands are close behind with 10.2 and 9.7 PPG. If they struggle, there is very little chance Miami comes out with a win.

For the Eagles, they have their own three-headed monster on offense. More than half their points comes from the trio of Yeikson Montero, Ty Groce, and Bryce McBride...all of whom average more than 13 points per game (13.7, 13.6, and 13.3 respectively).

With EMU being slightly better shooters and averaging 10 steals per game (sixth in the NCAA), look for the Eagles to steal this game late.

Miami RedHawks - 68
EMU Eagles - 71