Conference Tourney Primers: Mid-American

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 9th, 2015

We’re in the midst of Championship Fortnight, so let’s gear up for the continuing action by breaking down each of the Other 26’s conference tournaments as they get under way.

MAC Tournament

Dates: March 9, 11-14

Site: First round is at campus sites; second round, quarterfinals, semifinals and championship are at Quicken Loans Arena (Cleveland, OH)


What to expect: The MAC’s week-by-week momentum shifted so many times this season that it became hard to keep up. But it was important to keep up, because in a tournament where the top four seeds receive double-byes, the top two seeds get triple-byes and everyone else is left facing an uphill climb, the standings matter than most. In the end, Central Michigan, Buffalo, Kent State and Toledo earned those top four spots – the Chippewas and Bulls with the triple-byes – while Bowling Green and Akron, both strong contenders throughout much of the season, were left having to win five games in six days. As a result, one of the well-rested teams will probably emerge as conference champion, but which one? Preseason favorite Toledo and three-point happy Central Michigan boast the league’s two most efficient offenses; Kent State features three senior guards to complement big man Jimmy Hall (15.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG); and Buffalo – with Justin Moss, the MAC’s best player (18.4 PPG, 9.3 RPG) – is peaking at just the right time.

Favorite: Buffalo. Just a few short weeks ago, Buffalo sat at 6-6 in conference play and looked destined for first- and second-round games in Cleveland. Since then the Bulls have reeled off six wins in a row, including Friday night’s dramatic, #2 seed clinching victory over Bowling Green. They are the league’s highest-ranked team in KenPom (#58), one of its least reliant on outside shooting, and possess an unmatched post presence in Moss.

Darkhorse: Bowling Green. Bowling Green would have to win five games in six days to claim the MAC’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid, an incredibly difficult task. Still, the Falcons were vying for the #1 seed up until last week and probably would have gotten there were it not for a pair of losses to Kent State and Buffalo by a combined three points. They are experienced, defensively stingy and led by a Gregg Marshall disciple in first-year coach Chris Jans. Perhaps Bowling Green will “play angry” and make an improbable run to the Big Dance.

Who wins: Buffalo. The Bulls led both Kentucky and Wisconsin at halftime this season, a fact which alone offers a glimpse into just how good they can be. Moss is complemented by a bunch of really good guards – Shannon Evans (15.3 PPG, 4.8 APG) best among them – and a fiery up-and-coming coach in Bobby Hurley. Expect Buffalo to keep things rolling in Cleveland.

Player to watch: Julius ‘Juice’ Brown – Toledo. If Toledo wins this tournament, it will probably be the result of Juice Brown (16.4 PPG, 4.3 APG) hitting some big shots. The junior point guard is exceptionally quick with a silky-smooth shot that has broken more than a few hearts during his MAC tenure.

Tommy Lemoine (250 Posts)

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