By James Marshall
The Buffalo Bulls have been absolutely dominant over the last five years, winning four of the last five conference tournaments. The Bulls have also won the last two titles, aiming to capture yet another MAC tournament championship. However, they have never won the conference while being lower than a three seed. This year’s five seed means the Bulls will have to play an extra game against the struggling Miami OH RedHawks, who have not had much success away from home this season. If the Bulls can get through Miami OH and Northern Illinois, they will be set up for a semifinal matchup with top-seeded Akron, a team that has been the best in a crowded conference. This Akron Zips team may just be too much for the Bulls to overcome.
The Akron Zips are led by the conference’s most exciting player to watch in Loren Cristian Jackson. The junior Chicago-native had a stellar regular season, averaging 19.8 points per game on 46.5% shooting. If the Zips meet Buffalo in the semifinals, Jackson will need to have another big game, as he is averaging a ludicrous 31.5 points per game in two meetings between the teams this season. The Zips were also awarded the one seed, a place fans are familiar with them being. In 2016 and 2017, they were also in the same position and suffered defeats in the championship game. Although they have a new coach in John Groce, Zips fans are sure to remember these heartbreaking years.
While the spotlight may be on Akron and Buffalo, the Kent State Golden Flashes are a team that may surprise a lot of people and sneak into the big dance. While they have their fair share of heart-breaking losses, including a 2OT loss to Buffalo, the Golden Flashes have an impressive resume, boasting wins over Akron, Bowling Green State and Buffalo. They will surely be out for revenge in the opening round against Easter Michigan as they look to avenge their 21-point loss the last time these two teams met. The Golden Flashes also have four guys averaging double-figures and shoot 45% from the floor as a team. Everyone on the floor can score, which makes the Golden Flashes a dangerous team here in March.
Although this year’s MAC tournament is wide open, I like Akron to capture their fourth tournament title in school history. The Zips are the top team in the conference for a reason and Loren Cristian Jackson makes them even more dangerous when he elevates his game to the next level. Look for Akron to prevail and punch their ticket to their fifth NCAA tournament appearance.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org