The Bulls, their trophy and championship hats and shirts. (Photo from MAC website.)
Buffalo, a team that had more than its shares of ups and downs through the season, won the MAC Tournament Saturday with a solid 77-61 victory over Ohio.
The Bulls (23-9) get the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament next week, but they’re unlikely to be the only MAC team in the field. Regular-season champion Central Michigan (25-7, RPI 32) is a very good bet to get an at-large bid. Ohio (27-5, RPI 35) has a strong chance. I even saw one bracketology site that had Miami (22-8, RPI 46) in the NCAAs. Miami lost to Ohio 74-48 in the semifinals,
The MAC has never had three, let alone four, teams in the NCAA Tournament (men’s or women’s). Buffalo and Central Michigan made it last year, and it was the first time in 23 years the MAC had had two teams. Both of those teams reached the NCAA Sweet 16, the first time any MAC women’s team had gotten that far and the first time a mid-major conference had put two teams in the Sweet 16.
Buffalo’s championship capped a season which saw it start the season without its second-best player, center Summer Hemphill, because of academic problems. The Bulls still went 8-3 in the non-conference season, with two losses coming to No. 7 Oregon and No. 6 Stanford.
Hemphill returned for MAC play, but Buffalo lost its opener at home to Ohio in overtime. The Bulls then won six in a row and eight of nine, losing only at CMU. Then they lost three of four in mid-February, including defeats at last-place Bowling Green and eighth-place Akron.
Buffalo won six of its last seven, including three tournament games, by an average of 20 points. Only loss in that time came at Kent State, 62-53, last Saturday. Buffalo avenged that defeat with an 85-52 trouncing of the Flashes in the MAC quarterfinals.
The Bulls finished fourth in the MAC at 12-6.
Cierra Dillard led Buffalo with 22 points against Ohio and was named tournament MVP. She was joined on the all-tournament team by Hanna Hall, who made five 3-point baskets and had 17 points against Ohio, and Hemphill, who had a tournament-record 21 rebounds and 16 points. Central’s Reyna Frost and Ohio’s Cece Hooks also were all-tournament.
The MAC is likely to place two other teams into postseason play. Any of the top four who don’t make the NCAA will go to the WNIT, probably along with Kent State (19-12, RPI 83) and Toledo (20-11, RPI 85). Overall the MAC had the eighth-highest league RPI of 32 conferences.
NCAA pairings will be announced on ESPN at 6 p.m. Monday. WNIT field will be announced a few hours later on the WNIT website, with pairings following later Monday night.
The NCAA selection committee will reveal its eight bubble teams at 5 p.m. Sunday on ESPN’s SportsCenter. The committee chair will reveal the “debatable eight” in alphabetical order, then discuss it with network analysis. Of the eight, four will make the tournament, four will not. This is something I’ve never seen done before. I’m sure it’s designed to hype the selection process. Link to ESPN story on selection in general.
All the RPIs come for RealTimeRPI.com. As it sounds, the site computes current RPI after every game. Other sites and the NCAA sometimes have rankings slightly differently, but they rarely are more than three or four spots apart.
Here are the bracket projects I saw Saturday night:
ESPN (updated Saturday)
- Buffalo 10th seed.
- Central Michigan 8.
- Ohio 11.
(Has Ohio as one of “last four in” and Miami as one of “second four out.”)
- Buffalo 10.
- Ohio 10.
- Central Michigan 5.
- Buffalo 10.
- Miami 12.
- Ohio 10.
- Central Michigan 10.
College Sports Madness (Saturday)
- Buffalo 11
- Central Michigan 7
Listed Ohio as first of “first eight out.” Last eight in were Tennessee, TSU, Indiana, Clemson, Kansas State, UCF, Auburn and Clemson.
Buffalo made it a sweep of the basketball championships with an 87-73 win over Bowling Green Saturday night.
It was a strange game. Buffalo took as 15-point lead in the first half, then BG ended the half on a 25-11 run to cut the halftime lead to 39-38.
The second half was within three points for 14 minutes and was still a six-point game with four minutes to go. The Bulls ended on an 16-2 run.
Jeremy Harris scored 31 points for Buffalo.
Buffalo also took a double championships three years ago. The last time before that was two wins by Kent State in 2002.