Last weekend was a good one for UB's Soccer and Volleyball MAC Tournament hopes. Volleyball has the longest way to go and the most tenuous situation, but they also did the most to help themselves, while Men's Soccer and Women's Soccer did what they needed along with some help from around their conference.
A pair of road wins - UB's first road conference sweep since joining the MAC - moved the Bulls up to 4-6 on the year and clearly showed their improved play lately wasn't a two-game fluke. If this season ended right now, UB would be in the MAC Tournament as the eight seed for the second consecutive year and second time ever.
Focusing only on the bottom seven, this table shows records and who each team has beat in the race for the last three spots in the MAC Tournament.
Last week, I highlighted Ball State as the immediate team to jump for the Bulls. I'm not sure what to make of them. Their losses have come to EMU, CMU, WMU, Ohio, and Kent, but they did play the Bobcats to five sets and swept Miami this weekend.
Right now, UB is in thanks to a tiebreaker over EMU, and that's going to hold without a second match against the Eagles. The Bulls will also have the tiebreaker over CMU no matter what.
4-6 is the same spot UB was in last season. They'd drop all the way to 4-10, getting beneficial results from every direction to stay in tournament contention, before winning their final two to finish at 6-10. UB's next three matches see them take on Akron, Ball State, and Bowling Green. Even with a loss already to the Zips, the two East Division opponents are "should-wins" for UB, and Ball State is at a minimum beatable if UB's at their best. We can talk more about all of that in the weekend preview.
Looking around the conference this weekend at relevant matchups:
Toledo at Ball State: Toledo. If the Rockets catch Buffalo, the #8 seed is likely out of the picture. A good result here could have UB in position to pass the Cardinals in their matchup.
Western Michigan at Central Michigan: Western. This is likely, and that's good news for the Bulls.
Northern Illinois at Eastern Michigan: Northern. Another lopsided West Division matchup that's good for UB.
Kent State at Bowling Green: Kent. Keep the Falcons down; UB's not catching Kent anyway.
Western Michigan at Eastern Michigan: Western. Even one win this weekend could put the Bulls ahead of Eastern without tiebreakers.
Ohio at Bowling Green: Ohio. NIU just ended Ohio's MAC winning streak, and they'll be out to prove something this weekend.
Akron at Toledo: Toledo. Akron's the one team in this mess with a chance of winning the tiebreaker on UB, so push them down.
Northern Illinois at Central Michigan: Northern. Nearly the same as Eastern: Even one win this weekend could put the Bulls ahead of Central with their tiebreaker.
Best Case: UB sweeps another road weekend, is 6-6 and alone in sixth as CMU, and Ball State would be 5-7 and EMU 4-8.
Worst Case: Buffalo falls to 4-8, tied with Akron but losing the tiebreaker, and two games behind EMU for the eighth spot.
Likely: UB beats Akron and loses to Ball State to sit 5-7. Ball State moves to 7-5 and out of reach, but Central and Eastern each lose to both WMU and NIU and UB's sitting 7th, a game and the tiebreaker clear of 8th.
Buffalo did what they needed to do, getting a result on the road against Northern Illinois, and that alone puts them into better position for the MAC Tournament. Other results weren't terrible, but were mildly detrimental to the Bulls, as they pulled the whole pack tighter. A win in Dekalb would have likely all but secured UB a spot.
|Akron||2-0-1||W 2-1||W 4-0||D 1-1||@ 10/28||. 11/7|
|Buffalo||1-1-1||L 1-2||D 1-1||@ 11/7||W 2-0||. 10/30|
|Northern Illinois||1-1-1||L 0-4||D 1-1||. 10/31||@ 11/6||W 1-0|
|Western Michigan||1-1-1||D 1-1||. 11/7||@ 10/31||L 0-1||W 2-1|
|West Virginia||1-2-0||. 10/28||L 0-2||. 11/6||W 1-0||L 0-2|
|Bowling Green||1-2-0||@ 11/7||@ 10/30||L 0-1||L 1-2||W 2-0|
Bowling Green beating WVU and WMU drawing Akron are both not-great, since they're the two remaining teams on UB's schedule, and it both allows WMU to catch up and Bowling Green to stay within reach. I have figured for a while that UB would need at least six points, likely seven, to make the MAC Tournament. Right now they're in a three-way tie at four, but WVU and BG are right behind with three, so the Bulls need another win or at least draws in their remaining two.
I think - I THINK - that if UB gets a win against BG, they've clinched a spot. They most convoluted I can get is that it would come down to tiebreakers. If UB beats BG and Akron beats WVU, UB's in.
Akron at West Virginia: Akron. It's very hard to see a world where Akron comes back down into the pack, but if they do UB obviously doesn't win the tiebreaker on them, so I'm more interested in keeping West Virginia down.
Western Michigan at Northern Illinois: Draw, then NIU. UB's tiebreaker status with Northern Illinois will be unclear until all is said and done, but what we really want here is just to minimize how many points the teams even with UB grab. If someone has to win, let it be NIU, because I don't want WMU to have momentum going into the season finale against UB.
Best Case: UB's in second place with seven points, either behind Akron or losing on a tiebreaker. Thanks to a WMU/NIU draw, they're in sole possession.
Worst Case: UB drops to last with a loss, a WVU win over Akron, and a draw in the other game.
Likely: Buffalo again gets a road result - a draw against BG. Akron beats West Virginia, and Western Michigan beats NIU. UB has five points, one ahead of Western Michigan and Bowling Green.
At the end of the weekend, UB's loss to Ball State didn't hurt the Bulls at all when it comes to a home quarterfinal. Everyone else save WMU has lost to the Cardinals, and Buffalo's defense showed well in holding them scoreless on the road for 93 minutes.
The victory over Miami was much more critical, as it both gave UB three points on the weekend (I was hoping for two) and the tiebreaker over the RedHawks. UB had by far the toughest weekend schedule in the conference, and only Western Michigan has done better against the Ball State-Miami combo.
The most important result for the Bulls, though, was Toledo beating Kent State, keeping the Flashes a point behind UB heading into the last game, and ensuring that UB controls their own destiny.
Basically, UB doesn't get burned by the losses to Ohio and Bowling Green. Better results from those games would have put them in the mix with Western Michigan for #2, but there's not a great difference in those spots right now, and Kent and Miami both dropped games as well.
I only bothered to work with the relevant teams here, but do include all the way down to #8 for the full playoff picture.
UB is simple: Beat Akron, and you've got the #3 seed, which isn't a bad place to be, since it likely means Central Michigan. It could be Miami, or less likely Kent State, but I don't think so. Further down the road, the 2-3 semifinal is a nice place to be to avoid Ball State until the MAC Final.
Anyway, beyond UB's game, there's only a few that matter, since they, Miami, Kent, and CMU are locked into a tier and will play each other in two of the quarterfinals:
Ball State at Miami: Miami, then a draw. This is unlikely, but it is a home game for the Redhawks. I think it's very possible that Miami loses and falls all the way to six to face UB in the quarterfinal, and we'd like to avoid that. Any result for Miami does.
Ohio at Kent State: Kent State, then Ohio, then a draw. This is kind of counterintuitive, but I'd like to get Central Michigan as a quarterfinal opponent for the Bulls. A Kent win could bump them to four, while a loss could drop them to six.
Toledo at Central Michigan: Toledo or draw. If CMU doesn't win, they stay at six, and UB faces them with a UB win. That can take Kent and Miami out of the calculations. Toledo got two wins this past weekend to put themselves in position for a postseason berth, and seems to be hot right now.
Best case scenario: UB wins to claim the third spot, and CMU finishes sixth regardless of how it shakes out.
Worst case scenario: UB loses. Kent wins. Miami draws Ball state. Buffalo can't fall below five, but ends up hitting the road to face Miami for the second straight weekend.
Most likely: UB wins, Miami loses, Kent wins, and CMU wins. Bulls get #3, Kent and Miami are 4-5, and CMU is #6, coming to Buffalo on Sunday. Notice that there's a few ways to get multiple teams to 6-4-1. If Buffalo's in that mix, they're fine thanks to head to head wins against all three. If they're not, I'm not sure how it'd shake out since CMU, Miami, and Kent are 1-1 against each other.