Buffalo, the team that knocked Kent State out of the MAC Tournament on Wednesday, knocked out No. 1 seed Central Michigan in the semifinals on Friday 82-77.
The Bulls (22-9) will play No. 2 seed Ohio (27-4) at 11 a.m. Saturday for the tournament championship and a guaranteed bid to the NCAA Tournament.
For the MAC, Buffalo’s beating CMU (25-7) might be a very good thing. Central, which finished the season with an RPI of 29 (out of 351 Division I teams), had been almost certain to get an at-large bid no matter the MAC Tournament.
Now the league is guaranteed at least two bids for only the second time in 23 years. Buffalo and Central made last year’s tournament. Each advanced to the Sweet 16, the first time any MAC team had gotten so far.
The MAC could get three bids. Ohio’s RPI is 33 and Buffalo’s is 31. RPI used to be a major factor in the tournament selection, but it’s less so these days. Most important is “quality wins” over high-ranking teams. Ohio and Buffalo have a few. Central has more. And RPI’s that high may be hard to ignore in a 64-team field.
I’ve seen at least one “bracketology” that had all three teams making the tournament.
The Ohio-Buffalo matchup in the finals is almost a full circle for the league. The teams met in the MAC opener in early January, with Ohio edging Buffalo 74-71 in overtime at Buffalo. When the two teams met a second time at Ohio two weeks ago Buffalo rolled over the Bobcats 73-43.
In its last six games, the Bulls have beaten Ohio by 30, Miami by 20, Akron by 14, Kent State by 33 and Central Michigan by five. Its only loss was at Kent State last Saturday 62-53.
Buffalo’s Cierra Dillard, the MAC’s runner-up for player of the year and second-leading scorer in the country, had 30 points. Center Summer Hemphill had 24 and nine rebounds.
Central Michigan’s Reyna Frost, the player of the year winner, had 21 points and 13 rebounds. Buffalo held all-MAC guard Presley Hudson, one of the league’s best shooters, to 3-of-15 from the field and 2-of-10 from 3-point distance.
Ohio routed Miami 74-48 in Friday’s other semifinals. The two teams had split in the regular season, each winning close games on the other team’s home floor. Erica Johnson, the MAC’s freshman of the year, led the Bobcats with 18 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and three assists. High scorer for Miami was Kendall McCoy with 10. Miami’s all-MAC guard, Lauren Dickerson, went 2-for-20 from the field and scored five points.
Miami won 11 MAC games in a row at midseason but lost four of its last six — two to Ohio, one to Buffalo and one to Kent State.
Saturday’s finals are broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.