It starts now: Men's basketball MAC tournament preview
The team opens up tournament play Thursday
The Bulls will be walking in to Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday as the Mid-American Conference regular season champs for the first time.
Cleveland will host the MAC basketball tournament for the thirteenth straight season. The Bulls (23-8, 15-3 MAC) enter the tournament in the midst of one of the best seasons in program history. They are the sixth highest scoring team in the nation at 85.2 points per game, a program record.
“We were kind of dominating the league when we were 8-0,” said Bulls head coach Nate Oats. “We had a few hiccups. It’s bound to happen. I think human nature kicks in a little bit and they get a little arrogant maybe, full of themselves. I think we’ve got off that.”
Buffalo is the No. 1 seed this year and secured a victory over every school in the conference. They were able to avoid Monday’s play-in game for being a top-four seed. The three teams they lost to all had to play their way in on Monday, with the Miami (OH) RedHawks (15-16, 8-10 MAC) and the Kent State Golden Flashes (15-16, 9-9 MAC) moving on to Thursday.
Four players on the Bulls have been averaging more than 14 points per game. The team said there has been a focus on analytic basketball and taking shots with higher expected values this year. Junior guard Nick Perkins said this new focus had a big impact on his game.
“My freshman year he didn’t talk about it too much, but these last two years he’s really embracing that,” Perkins said.
Perkins has been averaging 18.2 points per MAC game.
The Bulls’ biggest issue in their three losses and the latter half of conference play was their defense, especially in the second half. They had a streak of nine games during the season where they were outscored in the second half. They finally broke the streak in the first of their final three wins. Bulls hold their opponents to less than 70 points in the final two games.
The Bulls will be starting Thursday’s game at noon when they take on the Central Michigan Chippewas (19-13, 7-11 MAC). The Bulls have already recorded a victory over the Chippewas this season with a score of 88-82.
The Chippewas have four scorers in double-digits this season. Despite the previous win, it will be a tough matchup for the Bulls. Central Michigan may have entered as an eighth seed, but they have the number three scoring offense as well as defense and the second-best average scoring margin.
If the Bulls can defeat Central Michigan, they will take on the winner of the game between the Ball State Cardinals (19-12, 10-8 MAC) and the Kent State Golden Flashes.