We’ve been here before: after a middling start to MAC play, UB has gotten hot after the halfway point and is sitting with a Cleveland Bye in their sights with four to go, and a Senior Day showdown with Bowling Green on the horizon.
The MAC has been more of a knot in the middle of the conference than usual this year, UB has done well to get up out of it, and it’s cleared up a bit that we can start to see clear rooting interests in the home stretch.
First, where we stand:
Before we get to the specifics of tonight’s game, let’s look at the situation here a bit more closely:
UB is two games clear of the bye, with three of four remaining at home, with the tiebreaker locked in on WMU. They could clinch the tiebreaker over Kent tonight. Toledo owns the head-to-head advantage on UB.
UB controls their own destiny — that two-game lead means that 3-1 on the way out guarantees them Cleveland, and WMU, Kent, and Toledo would have to go 4-0 for any to catch a Bulls team that closes 2-2.
While seeds 1-4 receive the same bye to Cleveland, the general consensus among our editors is to aim for the 2-3 seed that would avoid Akron as long as possible, and give Zips opponents more chances to wear down Johnson. Similarly, it would be nice to avoid CMU’s bonzai offense after two high-scoring games with them, though the Chips have faded significantly lately.
Ball State is obviously the team closest to forcing Buffalo off the three line, and a straight head-to-head tiebreaker between the two would likely go to “best win.”* A UB win against Ohio or Akron would go a long way towards that later this week.
*It’s not actually “best win,” but “best record against highest seed,” so hypothetically 0-1 and 0-2 vs Akron are the same and doesn’t determine anything, but 0-1 is worse than 1-1 vs Ohio.
All that said, Toledo is in my opinion the greatest threat. They’re 10-2 at home this season, like Buffalo finished with three of four at Savage, and have the tiebreaker on the Bulls.
I do not have conference-wide head-to-heads fleshed out yet, but I will in time for Friday’s edition with three to go. On to tonight’s games:
Eastern Michigan @ Ball State: Eastern Michigan. The Eagles could maybe claw into a home campus round game, and to do so with a win here would help UB separate even further from the 4/5 bye cutoff.
Kent State @ Buffalo: Buffalo. UB can ice the H2H tiebreaker here as well as force chasing teams to close 3-1 if they want a bye.
Northern Illinois @ Central Michigan: Northern Illinois. Central has fallen all the way to the cusp of a road campus round game, and I wouldn’t mind them staying on that 8/9 range. NIU, meanwhile, would be a great quarterfinal matchup for us in Cleveland, so I wouldn’t mind them moving up a spot or two.
Ohio @ Miami: Miami. Like Buffalo, it’s unlikely that Ohio drops out of 2/3, but if they do, Ball State as a potential semifinal opponent for the Bulls isn’t a scarier option.
Western Michigan @ Toledo: Western Michigan. Western will be the most exciting team in the seeding race here, facing Toledo, Ball State, NIU, and Central to close. UB has the tiebreaker on the Broncos and not the Rockets, Toledo has a real chance of closing hot. Hopefully it doesn’t happen.
Akron @ Bowling Green: Akron. This is a tough one, but a longer view makes it clear that we want the Zips here: (1) We want the Zips to hold on to the 1 seed, since 2/3 looks most likely for UB (2) We want UB to beat the Zips Friday, both for seeding purposes and for fun purposes. It wouldn’t be the worst thing if Akron wins everything except the UB game, and that’s what I’m going for.
Eastern, Northern, Miami, Western, Akron. We’ll have another of these Friday. It only gets simpler from here.