Postseason arrives early for OU after finale at BG is canceled

The regular season ended days ago for the Bobcats, they just had no idea at the time.

The Mid-American Conference wiped out pair of conference games scheduled for the league’s final day of the regular season – on Friday – with an announcement on Thursday. Both the Miami at Akron, and Ohio at Bowling Green games were canceled “due to COVID-19 concerns,” the MAC said in a short release.

Ohio head coach Jeff Boals, seen here earlier this season in the Convo, said Thursday he expects his team will play in Cleveland as part of the 2021 MAC Tournament. Photo by Jason Arkley

Ohio (13-7, 9-5 MAC) also saw Tuesday’s scheduled game at Kent State canceled following a positive test within the program Tuesday morning. OU officials insisted the Bobcats had enough players, even after the resulting contact tracing, to play at KSU but said medical officials took a cautious approach with the recent positive test.

It appears that was the case again on Thursday. Ohio head coach Jeff Boals said Thursday morning that the Bobcats had no new positive tests in the latest round of testing. He said the team was ready, willing and able to play on Friday night at Bowling Green and was planning to do so.

Boals said Thursday morning his team would be without three players at Bowling Green, due to one positive test and contact tracing issues for two others.

“We want to play every game,” Boals said. “We’re planning to play this one.”

Instead, the game was canceled after “consultation between the team doctors and medical personnel” at OU and BG, an Ohio Athletics department official said Thursday afternoon.

“The medical professionals…made the call,” said the official, who wished to remain nameless.

Ohio will end the regular season with 14 of 20 scheduled conference games completed. All told, OU had 10 different conference game dates postponed/cancelled. Ohio had a three-week break between games following a road win at Central Michigan on Feb. 2.

The ‘Cats returned with three games in five days last week, culminating with a home loss Saturday to Buffalo (86-66). Ohio did manage to play every MAC team at least once, and completed home-and-home series with Ball State, Akron and Buffalo.

With the cancellations, the MAC has four games scheduled on Friday night – the final date of the regular season. The conference will formerly announce the eight-team bracket for the 2021 MAC Tournament later on Friday, which begins with the men’s quarterfinal round on Thursday, March 11 at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland.

The eight teams in the bracket have already been decided, and the seeding is nearly complete with Thursday’s announcement. Ohio will be locked in as the No. 5 seed – seeding is based on conference winning percentage – and will face either Kent State (15-6, 12-5) or Buffalo (13-7, 11-5) in the quarterfinals.

The most important game, from OU’s perspective, on Friday will be Kent State’s trip to Buffalo.

Akron (14-7, 12-6) is the current No. 4 seed, but will climb to third if Buffalo and Kent State play on Friday. The loser of UB-KSU will slide percentage points behind Akron in the standings into fourth, but remain ahead of Ohio in fifth. With a win, the Bulls would jump to the No. 2 seed. A loss would drop the Golden Flashes into a tie for third with the Zips. Akron beat Kent State twice this season, and would earn the No. 3 seed with the tie-breaker.

If KSU wins, it will be the 2-seed, and Buffalo will fall to fourth. If Buffalo-Kent State is canceled, then the current top four seeds would remain the same – which leaves Ohio facing Akron in the quarterfinals.

Toledo (19-7, 14-4 MAC) is locked in as the No. 1 seed for the tournament, and the Rockets will host eighth-seed Ball State (10-11, 8-8) on Friday night. The Cardinals could match No. 7 Miami (12-10, 9-8) record-wise with a win, but the RedHawks won the only regular-season meeting between the teams.

Bowling Green (14-10, 10-8) is locked in as the No. 6 seed.

Speaking Thursday morning, Boals said seeding was of little concern in the MAC this year as every team wages a day-by-day battle to just stay on the floor while adhering to COVID-19 protocol.

Ohio has played just three games over the last five weeks, but Boals said he has confidence the Bobcats can pull together in time to be a threat in Cleveland.

“I don’t think there’s a bad matchup out there for us,” the coach said.

Ohio practiced Thursday, and will begin pre-tournament testing procedures on Sunday. Teams in the tournament will be tested daily, Sunday through Wednesday, before being allowed to take the floor in Cleveland.

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