Saturday, March 4, 2017

Mid-American Conference tournament preview

This is part 15 of a 32-part series previewing every conference tournament in the country.  We'll detail what you need to keep track of in each tournament and the various stakes for each team.

The standings:
Akron 14-4
Ohio 11-7
Buffalo 11-7
Kent St 10-8
Bowling Green 7-11
Miami(OH) 4-14
Ball St 11-7
Western Michigan 11-7
Toledo 9-9
Eastern Michigan 7-11
Northern Illinois 7-11
Central Michigan 6-12

Tournament format:
First, the bottom 8 teams play Monday March 6 at campus sites to get down to a top 8.  Then everyone in Cleveland from Thursday March 9 to Saturday March 11 to play it out.

The matchups:
1) Akron vs. 8/9) Eastern Michigan/Northern Illinois
4) Ball St vs. 5/12) Western Michigan/Miami(OH)
3) Buffalo vs. 6/11) Kent St/Central Michigan
2) Ohio vs. 7/10) Toledo/Bowling Green

The stakes:
MAC was RPI 14, which is okay for them.  Akron sits at RPI 59, but has 0 top 100 wins and 3 sub-200 losses, so they're not a real player on the at-large board.  The bigger problem is the number of mid-majors with good RPIs.  UTA, Nevada, UNCW, Middle Tennessee, Valpo, Princeton, Vermont, and on and on.  Lots of competition to be on the 12 and 13 lines, and Akron isn't really ahead of many of these teams.  How high they get seeded will likely depend on how much the selection committee cares about conference strength.  My hunch says that they'll settle on the 13 line, behind other mid-major luminaries.

Nobody else in the conference is particularly close to being a top 100 RPI team.  The conference gets its strength by having no really bad teams; only Miami is close to RPI 300.  So the conference won't get as high a seed as you'd typically expect.  Any non-Akron conference champ is likely a 14 seed, maybe even 15 if they don't get enough help elsewhere.  It's a brutal fate for a pretty decent conference top-to-bottom.  Sometimes balance is a bad thing; they could've used a more dominant Akron.

The one silver lining is there's plenty of options for the CBI/CIT.  Ohio and Buffalo and Ball St probably deserve to go; Kent St too.  Toledo is eligible.  WMU needs 1 win to be eligible.  EMU and NIU need 2 wins for eligibility.  Expect a MAC-heavy postseason.

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