Late into the college basketball season has us taking a look into the Mid-American Conference’s standings. Just like the other conferences, the winner gets an automatic NCAA Tournament berth.
Kent State holds a half a game lead over rival Akron for the top spot in the conference. At this time, I really can't see more than one team getting into the tournament this year. With that being said, these teams match up one more time before the MAC Tournament begins, and that game will have a direct effect on the seeding process. The possible contenders for the MAC Championship this year are slim, once Akron and Kent State are mentioned.
Kent State (18-8) has had a very good second half of the season since losing to Bowling Green a month ago. The Golden Flashes have fired off eight straight wins and post a 9-2-conference record. They’ve shown earlier in the season, however, that they were not quite ready to face good talent as they fell to both Pittsburgh and Xavier. Kent State also suffered two close home losses to Green Bay Wisconsin and Northeastern. Neither of those losses is going to impress the selection committed next month.
Key Losses: Bowling Green (12-11), Miami Ohio (11-13)
Best Win: Akron (18-7)
Akron (18-7) trails Kent State a game after the 17-point beating they took earlier in the season. The Zips have played fairly inconsistently since January, and it’s shown on their record. Since January, they are 8-4, but have gotten to a soft spot in the schedule before finishing up with Kent State. They don’t have a marquee win over a good opponent right now, and losses to good teams won't get them in. The losses to Austin Peay and Eastern Michigan especially will keep them from getting an at-large tournament bid. Non-conference losses to Rhode Island, NC State, and Texas A&M show the committee that this team doesn’t stack up come tournament time.
Key Losses: Austin Peay (14-11), Eastern Michigan (12-12), Buffalo (14-9),
Best Win: Ohio (14-11)
Miami (11-13) was dreadful before conference play started, but now boasts an 8-3 conference record. This improved play has them challenging for a MAC Tournament trophy for the sole reason that they’ve shown that they can play with their conference foes. The Redhawks have losses to Cincinnati, Dayton, Xavier, Kentucky, and Temple this season.
The preseason schedule has to be taken into consideration especially the 72-70 loss in Rupp Arena to Kentucky. As stated before, though, losses against good teams do a team no good. In the Redhawks case, they have numerous losses and will be a dark horse candidate in the MAC Tournament, at best.
Key Losses: Towson (6-18), Colorado (11-12), Milwaukee (13-12), Ball State (12-11)
Best Win: Kent State (18-8)
Buffalo (14-9) has yet to gain much consistency this season, especially since the new year. The Bulls are 6-5 in 2010 and are limping into tournament play. Rodney Pierce has been a bright spot this season, averaging 19 points a game. Buffalo’s wins over Akron and Kent State get them mentioned here, considering this could very well be the teams they have to get over in the MAC Tournament to claim a NCAA Tournament bid.
Key Losses: Jacksonville (14-10), Canisius (12-14), Central Michigan (11-12), Western Michigan (13-11)
Best Wins: Kent State (18-8), Akron (18-7)
Miami is the canary in the coal mine for the MAC this year. The selection committee can easily see a team that has struggled out of conference against tournament caliber teams, but was successful in conference.
This shows how weak the conference is this year, further supporting the fact that only one team gets a bid this year. Kent State and Akron are both good teams, but without the MAC Tournament Championship on the resume, it won't be enough to get in. I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one MAC team in the NIT, possible two, if Buffalo goes deep into the conference tournament.