Conference Tournament Primer: Mid-American ConferencePosted by Tommy Lemoine on March 10th, 2014
Championship Fortnight continues with yet two more conference tourneys tipping off today, so what better way to get you through the next week of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s postseason events. Today, the MAC and the MEAC get started.
Dates: March 10, 12-15
Site: First Round: Campus sites; Second Round, Quarters, Semis and Championship: Quicken Loans Arena (Cleveland, OH)
What to expect: The MAC’s power pendulum has swung numerous times this season, so it’s difficult to tell which contender has the best shot in Cleveland. Buffalo came on strong in the second half of the year and might boast the league’s most dominant player in Javon McCrea, a double-double machine who recently set the school’s all-time scoring record, while Western Michigan enters the event having won 10 of its last 11 games. Toledo, meanwhile, set a school record with 26 overall wins and will get a triple-bye (yes, a triple-bye) all the way to the semifinals, along with the Broncos. More likely than not, one of those three clubs will emerge as champion. Still, don’t be surprised if one of the conference’s other up-and-down challengers – like recent NCAA Tournament representatives Ohio and Akron – put together a run and leave with a trophy.
Favorite: Toledo. The Rockets are one of the best offensive teams in the entire country, ranking 20th in offensive efficiency and scoring at least one point per possession in 28 of their 31 games this season. Their myriad scoring options enable them to simply out-blitz opponents, despite often playing subpar defense. With fresh legs – again, they get a bye to the semifinals (whereas the #5 through #12 seeds need to win five games for a title) – Toledo should be ready to pour in buckets and clinch its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1980.
Darkhorse: Akron. Eastern Michigan and Ohio might be darkhorses, but since they are banished to the dreaded opening rounds and would have to win twice before reaching the quarters (where Akron and Buffalo already await), we’ll go with the Zips here. Keith Dambrot’s bunch has won three straight games and nearly picked off Western Michigan in Kalamazoo earlier this season. If forward Demetrius ‘Tree’ Treadwell can help overpower the Broncos’ imposing front line in the semifinals, Akron would find itself playing for an automatic bid on Saturday.
Who wins: Buffalo. It took a Bryce Drew-like buzzer-beater for Toledo to defeat Buffalo back in January, and I have a feeling the Bulls have not soon forgotten. Assuming they advance to the semifinals, McCrea and company have the offensive weaponry to keep pace with Toledo and the experience to make plays when it counts. A win there and they would likely be favored in the championship game, even if it’s Western Michigan — Buffalo hammered the Broncos by 21 in the regular season.
Player to Watch: Javon McCrea – Buffalo. The 6’7’’ senior averages 18.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.2 blocks, and 1.6 steals per game, monster numbers that will probably win him MAC Player of the Year. He’s a two-way force who logged 15 double-doubles this season, including a mammoth 25-point, 20-rebound outing against Central Michigan in February.
Bubble Implications: None