Maybe this time the Bobcats will get a rematch.
Regular-season play in the Mid-American Conference came to an end Friday night with four games. Both Ohio’s trip to Bowling Green and Miami’s game against Akron were canceled on Thursday, and among the other four only one – Kent State at Buffalo – had any impact on the final seeding for the 2021 MAC Tournament.
Buffalo pulled away late to beat the Golden Flashes, 81-67, as KSU head coach Rob Senderoff did not play standout forward Danny Pippen – the MAC’s third-leading scorer – due to what was termed on the broadcast as a “coach’s decision.”
The result left Buffalo slotted as the No. 2 seed for the tournament, dropped Kent Stat to fourth, and gave Ohio an opponent for the quarterfinal round of the tournament on Thursday at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland. The remaining six seeds were settled before tip off on Friday night.
Here’s the full set up for the three-day event in Cleveland. The tournament champion will receive the MAC’s automatic qualifying spot to the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
2021 MAC Men’s Basketball Tournament
Thursday, March 11 – Quarterfinals
- Game 1: No. 1 Toledo (20-7) vs. No. 8 Ball State (10-12), 11 a.m. (ESPN+)
- Game 2: No. 4 Kent State (15-7) vs. No. 5 Ohio (13-7), approximately 1:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
- Game 3: No. 2 Buffalo (14-7) vs. No. 7 Miami (12-10), approximately 4 p.m. (ESPN+)
- Game 4: No. 3 Akron (14-7) vs. No. 6 Bowling Green (14-10), approximately 6:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Friday, March 12 – Semifinals
- Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 5 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
- Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, approximately 7:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Saturday, March 13 – MAC Championship
- Game 7: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
There are some special circumstances, due to COVID-19, surrounding the tournament this year.
First, the AQ spot will go to the tournament champion, but in the event the tournament can not be completed then the NCAA spot will go to the regular season champion. In this case, that would be Toledo. If the top seed can not go to the NCAA Tournament, then the bid would slide to the second-place team and so on until a team fills the tournament slot.
Second, the MAC has officially released the bracket. That means that should testing issues or positive COVID-19 results bar one of the eight qualified teams from participating then the MAC will NOT field that spot with another one of the four teams (NIU, EMU, CMU, WMU) left out of the tournament field.
If a team opts out, or is prohibited from competing, before 48 hours prior to the onset of the tournament – for the men’s side this would be Tuesday, March 9 at 11 a.m. – then the teams will be reseeded (according to conference winning percentage) and the higher seeded teams will take byes as need to fill out the bracket.
However, if a team has to back out later than the 48-hour cutoff point – say for example the morning of the semifinals – then that team’s opponent will simply advance to the next round via the no-contest rule.
And one last note, teams finishing in the top four of the regular-season standings MUST continue testing if eliminated from the tournament to ensure the MAC has a team eligible to compete in the NCAA Tournament should teams ahead of them be unable to participate.
For Ohio, no path through the bracket was going to be an easy one. The Bobcats suffered lop-sided losses this season to each of the top four seeds and likely will have to beat three of them in three days to secure the tournament title.
It’s scheduled to begin Thursday with Kent State, which toppled OU 89-79 in Athens on Jan. 16. The rematch was scheduled for Tuesday, March 2, but canceled that same day after a positive test within the Ohio programs induced medical personnel (on both sides) to call off the game.
Ohio had both its games canceled over the last week, which leaves OU with just three games played over the previous 32 days. The Bobcats will be breaking a 12-day stretch of no games when/if it tips off in Cleveland.
Speaking Thursday morning, head coach Jeff Boals said his program had not had any new positive tests since Tuesday, March 2, and currently is operating without three players – one for a positive test and two because of contact tracing.
Boals remained positive his team would be healthy enough to play in the tournament.