Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, March 9, 2014 at 5:00 PM
This is something we haven’t seen very often in the many years that JIM HURLEY’S NOTEBOOK has been previewing conference tournaments for you online. Most conferences have a few really good teams….then a big mediocre middle…then a few really horrible teams. The MAC basically has ZERO really good teams…but then SIX teams who are virtually identical in terms of overall quality.
The computer ratings of college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin have the top SIX seeds in the MAC tournament ranked from 104 to 140 (through Saturday’s games). The margin of error is such that there’s little meaningful difference between the teams. And, interestingly, top seeded Western Michigan only grades out fifth!
We’ll get to those numbers in a second. First, let’s present the schedule. The event starts Monday Night with four opening round games played at campus sites. The winners will advance to Cleveland, where the second round picks up Wednesday. Note that the MAC is a mid-major, and follows the relatively new format that give the best seeds easy pathways. The top two seeds are automatically in the Friday semifinals. Seeds #3 and #4 are automatically in the Thursday quarterfinals where they’ll face teams who have had to win twice Monday and Wednesday.
MONDAY NIGHT’S FIRST ROUND (at campus sites)
Ball State (12) at Ohio (5)
Kent State (9) at Miami of Ohio (8)
Central Michigan (11) at Eastern Michigan (6)
Bowling Green (10 at Northern Illinois (7)
WEDNESDAY’S SECOND ROUND (in Cleveland from this point forward)
Ball State/Ohio winner vs. Kent State/Miami winner
Central Michigan/Eastern Michigan winner vs. Bowling Green/Northern Illinois winner
Akron (4) vs. Ball State/Ohio/Kent/Miami survivor
Buffalo (3) vs. Central/Eastern/Bowling Green/N. Illinois survivor
Western Michigan (1) vs. winner of Akron’s semifinal
Toledo (2) vs. winner of Buffalo’s semifinal
Okay now let’s get to the fascinating numbers…
Computer Rankings by Seed
1…W. Michigan: #132 in Pomeroy, #133 in Sagarin
2…Toledo: #105 in Pomeroy, #104 in Sagarin
3…Buffalo: #100 in Pomeroy, #101 in Sagarin
4…Akron: #140 in Pomeroy, #136 in Sagarin
5…Ohio: #122 in Pomeroy, #106 in Sagarin
6…E. Michigan: #117 in Pomeroy, #120 in Sagarin
7…N. Illinois: #203 in Pomeroy, #198 in Sagarin
8…Miami-Ohio: #214 in Pomeroy, #211 in Sagarin
9…Kent State: #188 in Pomeroy, #185 in Sagarin
10…Bowling Green: #217 in Pomeroy, #209 in Sagarin
11…C. Michigan: #288 in Pomeroy, #282 in Sagarin
12…Ball State: #307 in Pomeroy, #295 in Sagarin
That’s six teams who are all very clear threats to win in terms of talent. The schedule gives clear and possibly decisive perks to Western Michigan and Toledo. But, Buffalo and Akron aren’t too penalized by proceedings. The fact that Ohio and Eastern Michigan have to win almost nightly all week is brutal!
Then…in another fascinating twist, the bottom falls out! We have four teams ranked around #200 (any of who could get hot), and then two teams way off the pace who aren’t likely to matter very much.
What a challenge for handicappers! Here are Pomeroy’s offensive and defensive rankings to help you visualize the teams a bit better. Remember that he adjusts for pace and schedule strength when ranking offenses and defenses.
Pomeroy’s Adjusted Offensive and Defensive Ranks By Seed
1…W. Michigan: #155 on offense, #132 on defense
2…Toledo: #20 on offense, #262 on defense
3…Buffalo: #77 on offense, #143 on defense
4…Akron: #223 on offense, #76 on defense
5…Ohio: #135 on offense, #126 on defense
6…E. Michigan: #287 on offense, #18 on defense
7…N. Illinois: #331 on offense, #52 on defense
8…Miami-Ohio: #280 on offense, #129 on defense
9…Kent State: #199 on offense, #181 on defense
10…Bowling Green: #341 on offense, #42 on defense
11…C. Michigan: #143 on offense, #345 on defense
12…Ball State: #309 on offense, #265 on defense
Akron brings the best defense to festivities among the bye teams. Eastern Michigan has the best defense in the league, but got no breaks from the schedule. Interesting how this conference has quite a few teams who grade out extremely well on one side of the ball, but extremely poorly on the other.
Let’s finish with a quick check of the highs and lows from the market perspective…
Most Underrated ATS
Northern Illinois: 16-11-1
Buffalo might be a nice darkhorse given their ability to exceed expectations all season. Northern Illinois has a very difficult path…and would have to go through Buffalo if they want to make headlines later in the week.
Most Overrated ATS
Central Michigan: 10-15-2
Akron had serious troubles playing to market expectations, even though they were able to earn a #4 seed. That suggests there’s some talent here that has a chance to gel at just the right time. But, it also suggests some potential chemistry issues because this unit so consistently failed to meet expectations.
There will definitely be some great tournament stuff on tap from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK Monday Night. Not only are those four MAC games on the card, but we also have championship games in the Colonial, Metro-Atlantic, and Southern Conferences, along with semifinal action in the West Coast Conference and Summit League. You can purchase the final word right here at the website during the day Monday with your credit card. If you’d like to talk to a live person about full season options, call our handicapping office during normal business hours any time this week at 1-888-777-4155.
This week’s remaining preview schedule for the HURLEY NOTEBOOK:
Tuesday: early look at the ACC that begins Wednesday
Wednesday: Big 12
Thursday: Big 10
Note that additional conference previews will be available in this format in the Vegas-Sports-Masters blog Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
We told you to fasten your seat belts…enjoy your RIDE TO RICHES driven by JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!