Stuckey’s MAC Tournament Betting Preview: Wide-Open MACtion in Cleveland
Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Justin Turner.
The MAC Tournament will get underway on Thursday morning in Cleveland. It's a very straightforward format. Only the top eight seeds qualified and will compete in a single-elimination bracket with no byes. If you like guard play and tempo, tune in to watch what should be a a wide-open tourney.
Next Stop: Cleveland 🏀🏆
— #MACtion (@MACSports) March 6, 2021
I'm going to say every single team is contender, as it wouldn't shock me to see any of the eight teams make a run. Let's take a quick look at each team in the bracket.
Toledo Rockets | Record: 20-7 (15-4, 1st in MAC)
Top-seeded Toledo has the best offense in the conference. Led by point guard Marreon Jackson and a bevy of shooters on the perimeter, the Rockets' offense ranks 14th nationally in Adjusted Efficiency. They don't turn it over and rank 13th in the country in both 3P and FT shooting percentage. The defense does have holes and has benefited from teams only shooting 29% on threes on the year. The regression monster could strike this week for the Rockets, as an opponent is overdue to get red hot from beyond the arc.
Buffalo Bulls | Record: 14-7 (12-5, 2nd in MAC)
The Bulls want to play extremely fast (seventh in Adjusted Tempo) and can dominate on the offensive glass. It's a super athletic team that can suffocate teams on the perimeter. The two knocks I have on Buffalo is it really struggles from the line and is extremely streaky. Buffalo goes on so many extended runs and droughts, so nobody is ever out of it in their games.
Akron Zips | Record: 14-7 (12-6, 3rd in MAC)
Akron is very similar to Toledo. The Zips have a stellar point guard in Loren Cristian Jackson who excels at breaking down opponents and either getting to the rack or kicking out for a three. However, the Zips are vulnerable defensively and are very three-point reliant on offense. Akron is a very high-variance team.
Kent State Golden Flashes | Record: 15-7 (12-6, 4th in MAC)
Kent State looked like a force to be reckoned with before losing guard Michael Nuga. The Golden Flashes severely miss him on the perimeter. Kent State still does boast the league's best front court, which can be lethal on the offensive glass. However, it's worth noting its best player Danny Pippen mysteriously didn't suit up in the season finale against Buffalo. Maybe it was rest or maybe something else, but certainly worth monitoring.
Kent State men's basketball coach Rob Senderoff said senior forwards Danny Pippen & Justyn Hamilton "were just unavailable to play" tonight against Buffalo, would not elaborate, but said he had expected to play them and had to adjust to their absence from the lineup on the fly.
— Allen Moff (@AllenMoff_RC) March 6, 2021
Ohio Bobcats | Record: 13-7 (9-5, 5th in MAC)
The Bobcats have a pro guard in Jason Preston, who is a smooth facilitator in Ohio's high-octane offense that ranks in the top-25 in both Effective FG% and 2P%. The Bobcats are also very capable from 3. The issue for Ohio is on the defensive end. The Bobs have also dealt with a lot of COVID issues late in the season and haven't played since Feb. 27.
Bowling Green Falcons | Record: 14-10 (10-8, 6th in MAC)
Bowling Green hit a vicious midseason slump where it simply couldn't make a shot. However, the Falcons found their game in a late-season resurgence, so they come in with plenty of confidence and momentum. Justin Turner is a pro-level guard and the star of the show.
Miami RedHawks | Record: 12-10 (9-8, 7th in MAC)
Another team with excellent play-making guards that is capable of beating anybody in the MAC in a shootout. The RedHawks struggle defensively and lack size, but their guards make them dangerous.
Ball State Cardinals | Record: 10-12 (8-9, 8th in MAC)
The Cardinals are better than their record indicates as they had to deal with numerous COVID issues throughout the season that wrecked havoc on their lineup. Ishmael El-Amin and K.J. Walton are two excellent guards who can fill it up in Ball State's heavy screening offense. They do need their jump shots to fall, but they're dangerous when they are in a groove.
I think this is a great tournament to take a shot on preseason favorite Bowling Green. The top two seeds have dynamic offenses, but play a very high-variance style and can be exploited on the defensive end. There are also questions about Kent State after losing Nuga and Ohio after dealing with recent COVID issues.
Buffalo is extremely talented, but can be hit or miss. So out of the three remaining teams, I'll trust my preseason pick to win the MAC at 10-1. Bowling Green doesn't turn it over, so if the shots are falling, look out for "Juice" Turner and company. They open in a coin-flip game against Akron, so this could flame out early, but I like the value and upside.
Futures Play: Bowling Green 10-1 (8-1 or better)