Television has its Bachelor, so maybe the Mid-American Conference has its MAChelor.
Both have their drama and contestants who depart along the way. For one, it’s better luck with your next relationship. For the other, it’s better luck next year - or possibly better luck in another tourney. For the final survivor, it’s the bliss of a MAC tourney title and “honeymoon” trip to the NCAA tourney.
Eight of 12 MAC teams are involved in first round action, with seeds five through eight playing host. Here’s a quick peek at Monday’s matchups.
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Northern Illinois (14-15, 8-10 MAC) at Akron (18-13, 9-9 MAC)
(7 p.m. ET)
The Zips are no doubt glad this game is on their home court. They may need every bit of leverage they can get. Northern Illinois is one of the hottest teams in the conference right now. The Huskies four-game win streak includes victories at Toledo and at home against Central Michigan and Western Michigan. NIU also held on for a 71-67 win at Ball State Friday.
Akron, by contrast, has posted just one victory in its last seven outings, and that was at home against Ohio. Granted, the losses were VERY close, including Friday’s dramatic 79-77 loss to Kent State in the final second. To their credit, the Zips have been scrapping through a myriad of personnel issues. Freshman guard Antino Jackson deserves considerable credit in stepping up lately. He has been in double figures the last four games and tallied 16 points with seven assists in the loss to KSU.
Northern Illinois is clicking on all cylinders, as witnessed by five players in double figures against Ball State. The Huskies did much of their damage at the line. Although they shot 64.3 percent at the stripe, they made 27-of-43 and also held a 43-27 advantage on the boards.
Ball State (2-16, 7-22 MAC) at Bowling Green (19-10, 11-7 MAC)
(7 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
The records would seem to say it all, not to mention BSU is currently on a 16-game losing streak. Rest assured, however, BG coach Chris Jans has issued a cautionary note. Monday is a final chance for the Cardinals to break their skid, and BSU nearly pulled it off against a surging Northern Illinois team Friday. The Huskies prevailed, 71-67 in overtime.
Also, Bowling Green has, at times, been vulnerable at home. Four MAC opponents left the Stroh Center with wins this season. Kent State and Buffalo are highly seeded teams, but Miami and Akron are not.
The Falcons are actually on a two-game slide, but they lost at home to KSU by one (81-80) and at Buffalo by two (77-75).
Bowling Green has the tools to make a tournament run, so slipping up against Ball State isn’t likely in the cards.
Miami (13-18, 8-10 MAC) at Eastern Michigan (19-12, 8-10 MAC)
(7:30 p.m. ET)
Okay, each team went 8-10 in conference play and they split the season series. You could also throw in that Miami finished the regular season winning 5-of-7, while EMU took 5-of-8 down the stretch.
Stir that around a little, and you might decide this game is a tossup. That could well be, but Miami fans are likely very uneasy about this particular matchup. The Eagles don’t exactly bring out the best in opponents. In fact, it can be quite the opposite, and such was the case in the most recent meeting between these two teams. EMU had 12 steals and outscored Miami 27-10 at the foul line in an 83-69 Eagle victory back on Feb. 10. When Miami is playing well, it is the RedHawks who thrive at the line. They also limit their turnovers, something that didn’t happen in Ypsilanti, where they committed 22 miscues.
Miami is also trying to bounce back from a 96-65 beating in Athens as rival Ohio broke a seven-game losing streak by pummeling the RedHawks on Senior Day.
Eastern Michigan, meanwhile, had its own Senior Day party Friday as it bashed a talented Toledo squad, 85-59, in Ypsilanti.
Eastern’s zone can force opponents’ into shooting a lot of threes. That not Miami’s forte by any stretch.
Among the first round competitors, Eastern Michigan is a team that could make some noise going forward. It will take a solid Miami outing for the RedHawks to advance.
Ohio (10-19, 5-13 MAC) at Western Michigan (19-12, 10-8)
(8 p.m. ET)
If the Ohio team that pummeled Miami on Senior Day in Athens shows up, anything could happen in this one. OU fans might have been asking where THAT team was during much of the MAC campaign. The ‘Cats hit 57.1 percent from the floor and were 17-of-31 (54.8%) from beyond the arc. Of course, 14-of-15 at the line didn’t hurt, either.
Ohio actually matched Western Michigan in field goals (28 apiece) during their only meeting this year, but the Broncos pulled out an 80-69 win in Kalamazoo thanks primarily to a 10-point advantage at the free throw line (WMU 15/20; OU 5/7).
The Broncos have been getting healthy lately and emerged victorious in three of their last four. WMU bounced back from a 65-63 setback to the surging NIU Huskies March 3 with a 74-62 win over tourney No. 1 seed Central Michigan (74-62) in a Bronco senior day finale Friday. The Broncos had designs on a MAC West title and top seed at one point. If the it can return to health and form, coach Steve Hawkins team is capable of making a tournament run.
As for Ohio, it probably depends on which Bobcat team shows up.