2023 MAC Basketball Tournament Betting Preview, Bracket & Odds

2023 MAC Basketball Tournament Betting Preview, Bracket & Odds article feature image

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: The MAC logo.

The MAC Championship takes the stage in Cleveland at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse (home of the Cleveland Cavaliers).

Akin to Arch Madness in the Missouri Valley Conference, the format does no favors for the favorites. Just ask Toledo. Winners of three straight regular-season conference titles, the Rockets were dispatched before the title game in each of the last two seasons.

There are no days off, no frills, no quirky gimmicks here: three days, three games, winner take all.

2023 MAC Tournament Bracket

2023 MAC Tournament Odds

TeamOdds (Via DraftKings)
Kent State+150
Ball State+1400
Northern Illinois+8000
Miami (OH)+13000

MAC Performance Change in Last 30 Days

The Favorite(s)

Toledo is the odds-on favorite to win the MAC Tournament after securing its third straight regular-season title. However, the Rockets will hope to avoid the déjà vu of the 2021 and 2022 MAC Tournament flameouts.

Tod Kowalczyk is one of the best coaches in the mid-major kingdom, but he'll be under the microscope this postseason. Toledo is riding a 15-game win streak into the tournament — the longest in the nation — but that guarantees nothing in this topsy-turvy field.

The team that ruined Toledo's run last year is Akron, coached by longtime MAC maestro John Groce, who rose to prominence with his memorable 2012 Sweet 16 run at Ohio. The reigning MAC Tournament champions are built to win in postseason formats, specifically when the game comes to a screeching half. Enrique Freeman is a baron in the painted area, while Xavier Castaneda is a scoring machine in the backcourt.

Somewhere in between lies Kent State, the most complete and well-rounded team in the MAC.

The Golden Flashes put together a jaw-dropping nonconference resume, including a near victory over No. 1 Houston in late November. Alas, Kent is far from bulletproof, too — the Flashes are 0-4 against Toledo and Akron this season, and it's unlikely they dodge them again in the eight-team tournament.

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The Darkhorses

Ball State and Ohio feel like the "middlemen" in this league.

They're sandwiched between the big three of Toledo, Kent State and Akron but are a cut above the rest of the conference.

However, neither is firing on all cylinders at the moment. Ohio's lost two of its last three games, and Ball State, crippled by critical injuries, is 1-4 in its last five contests.

Ball State's perimeter catalyst, Jarron Coleman, is still dealing with turf toe, while his interior bookend, Payton Sparks, turned both ankles in the Cardinals' regular-season finale. A six-day layoff is a sigh of relief, but there's no guarantee either will be at 100% for the Tuesday opener.

Buffalo and Northern Illinois warrant a mention, too. Each boasts high-octane scoring guards capable of exploding at any moment. David Coit (NIU) and Zid Powell (Buffalo) are the two former JUCO stalwarts doing serious damage at the D-I level this season.

Unfortunately for them, the Huskies and Bulls' respective draws pin them against two of the three frontrunners in Akron and Kent State.

Keep an eye on NIU and Buffalo's lineups, as both were missing key perimeter pieces down the stretch. UB starting guard Curtis Jones did not play in the regular season finale, while NIU was missing Coit in three of its last five games — though, Coit did return off the bench in each of Huskies' last two regular-season games.

MAC Tournament Betting Recommendations

Toledo is my pick to win it all, but there's minimal value at anything shorter than 2-1. The Rockets will be close to a coin flip if they advance to the title game and a short favorite over the winner of Ohio and Ball State in the second round.

That's, assuming they take care of business in the opening round against Miami (OH). This feels like a safe assumption, but it was not the case in last year's near-disastrous opening round nail-biter with 7-22 Central Michigan.

The two best value bets on the board are Akron at 5-1 and Ohio at 11-1.

Akron's draw sets up well, as it notoriously dominated Buffalo, its first-round matchup, and had a positive net scoring margin against Kent State in the regular season.

Ohio is an enticing bet, too, led by shrewd head honcho Jeff Boals. Boals is no stranger to postseason success, and his roster is criminally underrated due to a lack of star power.

In prior years, he leaned heavily on pro-level talents, such as Jason Preston and Mark Sears, but his unpredictable and balanced offense this year figures to be a tough out.

Up front, the bruising Dwight Wilson is a problem for most frontlines in this league, and his young rookie nucleus is rapidly improving — keep an eye on off-the-bench spark AJ Clayton, a sharpshooting wing who could swing a game or two in the Bobcats' favor if he's on.

Final Recommendations: Akron +500·  Ohio +1100

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Jul 17, 2024 UTC