The Mid-American Conference Tournament starts Thursday.

Most college basketball leagues in the country let every team in the conference tournament, which essentially makes the regular season worthless.

The Mid-American Conference does it right with just the top eight teams qualifying and going straight to the quarterfinals. Those start Thursday from Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, and considering five of the eight schools are from the state of Ohio, it’s likely that the Buckeye State sends one to the NCAA Tournament.

Big 5, Little 3 In MAC Tourney

 Max Christie Toledo Michigan St Basketball
Michigan State’s Max Christie (5) shoots against Toledo’s Keshaun Saunders during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 81-68. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

Ohio University beat Buffalo 84-69 in last year’s MAC Tournament final to earn a Big Dance bid, and the Bobcats made quite an impression in the NCAA Tournament by upsetting defending national champion and No. 4 seed Virginia (defending champion because the 2020 tournament was canceled) in the first round before a second-round loss to Creighton.

Pretty much every key player other than Jason Preston (now with LA Clippers) is back from that Ohio team, but the Bobcats are the third seed this week and +300 second favorites behind top-seeded Toledo (+120). Ohio opens play Thursday vs. No. 6 Ball State (+5000) and Toledo does against No. 8 Central Michigan (+20000). The Rockets and Bobcats could only meet in Saturday’s final.

Toledo won both regular-season matchups handily vs. Ohio; the Rockets have won back-to-back outright MAC regular-season titles for the first time in school history and their 25 wins are tied for second in program history with the 2018-19 squad. Toledo won 15 of its 20 league games by eight points or more and scored 82 or more points in 15 of the 20. It leads the conference in scoring at 81.5 ppg. Toledo’s only MAC Tournament title came in 1980.

Second-seeded Kent State (+450) faces No. 7 Miami Ohio (+3000) in the quarterfinals and No. 4 Akron (+755) takes on No. 5 Buffalo (+600). The Bulls have reached the MAC Tournament title game three straight years (not counting the canceled 2020 version) and five of the past six. It won the championship in four of those.

There really is a huge drop-off between the top five schools, who all won at least 13 league games, and the bottom three, who all finished under .500 in MAC play.

While Toledo has an impressive resume and the best NET ranking of any league school at No. 65, the MAC is only getting one team in the NCAA Tournament and that’s Saturday’s champion. Only one power conference school dared schedule Toledo and that was Michigan State, which beat the Rockets by 13 on Dec. 4 in East Lansing.

Thursday’s Quarterfinals (all times Eastern)

  • Game 1: No. 8 Central Michigan vs. No. 1 Toledo, 11:00 a.m. ET
  • Game 2: No. 5 Buffalo vs. No. 4 Akron, 30 min after Game 1
  • Game 3: No. 7 Miami (OH) vs. No. 2 Kent State, 30 min after Game 2
  • Game 4: No. 6 Ball State vs. No. 3 Ohio, 30 min after Game 3

Friday’s Semifinals

  • Game 5: Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2, 7:00 p.m.
  • Game 6: Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4, 9:30 p.m.

Saturday’s Final

  • Game 7: Winner of Game 5 vs. Winner of Game 6, 6:00 p.m.

James Guill

James Guill is a former professional poker player who writes fro GambleOnline.co about poker, sports, casinos, gaming legislation and the online gambling industry in general. His past experience includes working with IveyPoker, PokerNews, PokerJunkie, Bwin, and the Ongame Network. From 2006-2009 he participated in multiple tournaments including the 37th and 38th World Series of Poker (WSOP). James lives in Virginia and he has a side business where he picks and sells vintage and antique items.

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