MAC Tournament Preview

9 Mar

When: 3/9, 3/11-3/14

Where: Campus sites for first round, Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland for the rest of the tournament.

Bracket

Who should win: With the top seeds Central Michigan and Buffalo receiving byes all the way to the semifinals, it’s tough to pick against them, so I’ll go with Buffalo. With Moss inside and a talented, quick backcourt paired with a roving, lengthy defender in Ford, the Bulls play with a lot of “edge” and really reflect their coach on the court. They don’t rely on the 3 and attack the rim relentlessly offensively, but they sag defensively to protect Moss, and they can be vulnerable vs a hot shooting team from outside, and Kent State is on their side of the bracket.

If not them then: Central Michigan at times looks like Keno Davis’ 2008 Drake team. With Fowler at the helm and surrounded by lengthy shooters, CMU can fill it up from outside quickly, but I have a hard time trusting a team in these tournament situations that are so reliant on the 3. If they’re not hitting and teams are able to work the ball inside vs the non existent Chips interior, they could do down. Fortunately for them they only have to avoid a cold streak for two games.

Sleepers: Toledo has the most talent of any MAC team, but they just can’t seem to put it all together for long stretches. The Rockets come in reeling, have just been blown out in Ypsilanti, but they’re a team that can shred any style of defense when they’re right, and I think they get it together for a few games. This is a veteran group that was crushed after last year’s defeat to WMU, and they were supposed to win the league this year too. I think the Rockets have one more run in them. Third seeded Kent State can shoot the 3 and with Jimmy Hall back, they’re healthy. The have a senior laden backcourt and very easily could have been winners of their last seven in a row before entering this tournament. The question is, can they get past Buffalo?

Deep sleepers: Northern Illinois and Akron come in on totally opposite wavelengths. NIU is healthy with Bowie back but the injury bug has once again bitten Akron, with Gladden out and Forsythe likely limited for the tournament, not to mention Robotham, and with Treadwell suspended before the year even began, this roster in no way resembles what Dambrot thought he had over the summer.

Eastern Michigan and Miami are both so reliant on getting points via transition that it’s hard to expect either team to make a run in tournament settings where coaches would rather die than get beat on the run. Miami’s 4 out lineup is a team of rim attackers, so beating the 2-3 from outside is difficult for them, but EMU has the highest foul rate in the MAC this year.

Ohio seemed like a team that given up after the blowout loss vs Buffalo, but then Ndour and Bean went out with guns blazing vs Miami in a rivalry game on Senior Night. Was that a sign of coming back to life, or was it a curtain call and they’ve shot all their ammo now. They’ll be in Kalamazoo vs the defending champs, and the Broncs are finally healthy again with Haymond and Richie back.

Ball State hasn’t given up on their season despite the massive losing streak after their surprising start to MAC play. They have Kamieniecki back and Bowling Green will unfortunately be without Richaun Holmes. Great season turned in by Chris Jans in his first year at the helm for the Falcons, but this has looked like a team that hit a wall struggled down the stretch. I think the Cardinals might give them a scare at the Stroh Center.

Predictions: Advance Akron over Northern Illinois (NIU +6 ATS), EMU over Miami (EMU -7.5 ATS), WMU over Ohio (WMU -9.5 ATS), Bowling Green over Ball State (Ball State +10.5 ATS)

Second round: EMU over BGSU, WMU over Akron

Third round: Toledo over EMU, Kent State over WMU

Seminfinals: Toledo over CMU, Buffalo over Kent State

Finals: Buffalo over Toledo

WES REYNOLDS ALL MAC PICKS AND PREDICTIONS:

Coach of the Year: Chris Jans – Bowling Green
Not a surprise that an assistant coming from a Gregg Marshall staff knows how to coach. Jans took the “Play Angry” from Wichita State, brought it to Bowling Green, and has gotten them to be the most efficient and effective defense in the MAC.

Player of the Year: Justin Moss – Buffalo
Leads the conference in scoring (18.4) and rebounding (9.3) all without being in the top 10 in minutes played.

First Team:

Justin Moss (6-7, 240, Jr) – Buffalo
Shannon Evans (6-1, 170, So) – Buffalo
Chris Fowler (6-1, 201, Jr) – Central Michigan
Richaun Holmes (6-8, 245, Sr) – Bowling Green
Jimmy Hall (6-7, 215, So) – Kent State

All-Freshman:

Lamonte Bearden (6-3, 160) – Buffalo (Freshman of the Year)
Noah Robotham (6-1, 165) – Akron
Drake Lamont (6-10, 240) – Western Michigan
Sean Sellers (6-6, 195) – Ball State
Kurt Hall (6-6, 200) – Toledo

Tourney Pick:
4 Toledo over 3 Kent State

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