Breaking down the Bulls’ competition in this year’s MAC Tournament
Thursday, the Bulls will play in the quarterfinals of the 2017 Mid American Conference Championship against Kent State. This guide is a breakdown of all the teams left in the tournament and who plays who first.
No. 1 Akron Zips (24-7, 14-4 MAC)
Akron ruled over the MAC this season, finishing with the best overall record and beating the Bulls in two tightly contested games. Head coach Keith Dambrot earned the MAC coach of the year award and senior center Isaiah Johnson was named MAC player of the year. Akron is considered the early favorite to win the tournament. The Zips will be looking to win their first MAC championship since 2011, after losing in the finals last year to the Bulls.
No. 2 Ohio Bobcats (19-10, 11-7 MAC)
The Bobcats come into the tournament with one of the top offenses in the MAC. The team had 10 games this season where they scored 80 or more points while also having three All-MAC selections on the team, with junior guard Jaaron Simmons receiving a first team selection. The Bulls went 1-1 in games with them this season and both games were decided by single digit deficits. The Bobcats will be looking for their seventh MAC basketball championship this year.
No. 4 Ball State Cardinals (20-11, 11-7 MAC)
The Cardinals aren’t looking to repeat their performances of the past; they have not won a MAC championship game since 2011. This year, the Cardinals look much more improved, thanks to a breakout year from sophomore point guard Tayler Persons who was named to the All-MAC second team.
Even with the improvement, the Bulls were able to beat them in their most recent game by double digits.
No. 5 Western Michigan Broncos (16-15, 11-7 MAC)
At the start of the season, the Broncos looked like an underwhelming team, winning only three of their 10 games. But thanks to Head Coach Steve Hawkins, they were able to turn it around and put together a solid MAC record. The team has found success running plays through junior point guard Thomas Wilder, who received an All-MAC first team selection for his performance this season. The Broncos head to Cleveland on a nine-game win streak, with many feeling their seeding doesn’t reflect the current team. The Broncos only played the Bulls once this season and the Bulls got the win. The Broncos will be playing the Cardinals in the Quarterfinals.
No. 6 Kent State Flashes (19-13, 10-8 MAC)
The Flashes are the Bulls’ first opponent in the MAC championship and stack up quite well to the Bulls. Both teams suffer from consistency issues with their performances and have a sole win over each other this season. The Flashes are a tough offensive unit who broke the MAC tournament scoring record in their play in game on Monday. Look out for star senior forward Jimmy Hall when they play the Bulls, as he will be a constant threat scoring and at the boards.
No. 7 Toledo Rockets (17-15, 9-9 MAC)
Toledo is not a favorite to win the MAC, but they do have a dominant 86-54 win over the Bulls from early January. Toledo has remained a .500 team for the whole season, exchanging wins and losses with teams in the MAC. Toledo has wins over many top teams in the MAC including the Ohio Bobcats, but were never able to string wins together. Their top player, senior guard Jonathan Williams, received a second team All-MAC selection. They will play the Bobcats in the quarterfinals.
No. 8 Eastern Michigan Chippewas (16-16, 7-11 MAC)
After a solid start, the Chippewas had rough end to the season losing seven of their last 10 games. The team will be looking to return to winning form when they play Akron in the quarterfinals. Given Akron’s two season wins over the Chippewas, the expectations are quite low for the team. The biggest issue for the team is consistency in scoring. The Chippewas had three games this season where they scored over 100 points, yet have trouble getting things going in games. The Chippewas played one game against the Bulls this year where they lost 68-77.
Thomas Zafonte is a sports staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.