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2019 MAC Tournament Betting Odds, Preview: Can Anyone Run With the Bulls?

2019 MAC Tournament Betting Odds, Preview: Can Anyone Run With the Bulls? article feature image
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Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: CJ Massinburg

  • The 12-team MAC tournament will start Monday night on campus sites of the higher seeds in the first-round matchups.
  • Defending MAC tournament champion Buffalo (-225) enters as the clear favorite and will also have the support of every bubble team.
  • I don't foresee this battle-tested veteran Buffalo team getting upset, but there is one potential deep futures sleeper worth exploring.

The MAC tournament winner is a historically dangerous NCAA Tournament first-round opponent. In 2012, Ohio University made a deep run with upset wins over Michigan and South Florida, before an overtime Sweet 16 loss to North Carolina. And of course last year, the No. 13 seeded Buffalo Bulls steamrolled No. 4 Arizona 89-65.

The  12-team MAC tournament will start Monday night with the first round, featuring seeds 5-8 hosting seeds 9-12. The winners of those games will then head to Cleveland to join the top-four seeds (Buffalo, Toledo, Bowling Green, Kent State) for Thursday’s quarterfinals at Quicken Loans Arena.

All teams are looking up at the Bulls, who will make the dance regardless of the outcome in Cleveland. Currently projected as a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, Buffalo has won this tournament in three of the past four years.

Can anyone beat the Bulls and potentially steal an NCAA tourney bid from a bubble team? Let’s take a look at the top contenders and consider the best potential sleeper worthy of your attention.

2019 MAC Tournament Odds, Format

  • Who: All 12 MAC teams
  • Format: Top 4 seeds receive a bye
  • When: March 11, 14-16
  • Where: Cleveland, OH
  • How to Watch: ESPN+, ESPN2
  • Defending Champion: Buffalo

Who Should Win?

Buffalo (-225).  Early and often.

The Bulls (28-3) returned their top three scorers from last year’s 27-win team and dominated conference play with a 16-2 record. Buffalo has won nine straight conference battles, including four consecutive on the road.

They rank best in conference play in adjusted efficiency on both offense and defense. They also lead the MAC in turnovers forced per game and defensive rebounding percentage. Buffalo features four players who have attempted 100-plus 3-pointers.

The Bulls are very balanced, with senior CJ Massinburg (18.5 ppg, 42% 3P) serving as their leader and go-to scorer. Forward Nick Perkins (14.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg) has thrived in his reserve role, averaging 20.8 points over his past five games.

Buffalo’s path is incredibly favorable, as the only two teams (Northern Illinois, Bowling Green) to beat the Bulls are on the other side of the bracket and would potentially meet in the quarterfinals.

I don’t foresee this battle-tested veteran Buffalo team getting upset, but if you are looking for a potential deep future, there is only one place to go.

Potential Sleeper

No. 8 seed Akron (+2000)

The Zips played Buffalo tough in their two matchups, losing at home 76-70 and on the road 77-64. In the second game, Akron only trailed by one with four minutes remaining.

There has been a trend this entire season that when a team that shoots the 3 well plays a team that defends the 3 well, the defensive team usually wins. Look to the Ohio Valley championship on Saturday, when Murray State upset Belmont to win the automatic bid as a prime example.

The Zips rank 16th in the country in 3P defense, holding opponents to 30.1%. They limited Buffalo to 30.9% (13-of-42) combined shooting from deep in their two meetings this season. They have struggled on offense, but have been a bit unlucky shooting during league play. This is a team that fires 3s at a top-15 clip nationally. If they can get hot for a few games, the Zips have a shot to make some noise.

Also, Akron head coach John Groce won the 2012 MAC Tournament title with Ohio. His experience, combined with Akron’s strong perimeter defense, makes the Zips an intriguing option at 20-1.

Bowling Green (10-1) might look appealing on the surface since it beat Buffalo earlier this season, but the Falcons lost four of five to close out the regular season. They would also have to defeat No. 2 seed Toledo before even getting to a potential meeting with Buffalo. That path eliminates the Falcons as a viable option at their current price.

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