Top 3 Mid-American Contenders for March Madness: Don’t Sleep on the MAC!


The anticipation for March Madness is electric, and for those seeking an edge, understanding the capabilities of lesser-known conference contenders is crucial. In the Mid-American Conference (MAC), a trio of teams – the Toledo Rockets, the Buffalo Bulls, and the Kent State Golden Flashes – stand out as potential bracket-busters. However, the beauty of the MAC lies in its competitiveness, and other teams also hold the potential to make a deep run in the tournament.

1. Toledo Rockets: From Cinderella Story to Perennial Powerhouse?


The 2023 “Cinderella” Rockets, who upset Kent State to claim the MAC championship, are back with a veteran core hungry to solidify their status as a legitimate contender. Senior guard JT Shumate continues to electrify crowds with his acrobatic finishes (19.2 ppg), while sophomore Ryan Rollins Jr. (17.5 ppg) adds an extra dimension with his dynamic playmaking and clutch shooting. This explosive backcourt duo has fueled a 20-5 record and the top spot in the MAC West.

However, the Rockets’ ascension goes beyond individual star power. Coach Tod Kowalczyk has instilled a defensive identity that is the bedrock of their success. They hold opponents to a conference-low 64.3 ppg, a testament to their commitment to hard-nosed defense and disciplined rotations. This stifling defense, coupled with their potent offense, makes them a legitimate threat to any team in the tournament.

While not considered the favorites, their upset win over Kent State last year and +1200 odds to win the MAC tournament make them a valuable pick for upset seekers. The Rockets possess the experience, talent, and defensive grit to challenge any team on their path to a deep March Madness run.

2. Buffalo Bulls: Embracing the Underdog Role and Building a Balanced Attack


Often overlooked in the MAC East, the Buffalo Bulls are quietly building a season for the ages. The dynamic duo of Jeenathan Williams (19.3 ppg) and Josh Mballa (16.5 ppg, 10.1 rpg) leads a balanced and potent offense that keeps defenses guessing with their inside-out attack. Williams, a shifty guard with a knack for scoring, thrives in the open court, while Mballa, a versatile big man, provides a strong presence inside the paint.

But where Buffalo truly shines is its defense. Coach Jim Ryan has crafted a suffocating unit, ranking second in the conference in scoring defense (65.2 ppg). Their ability to lock down opponents and control the tempo makes them a nightmare for high-scoring teams. They rely on aggressive perimeter defense and a well-coordinated help-side scheme to disrupt offensive plays and force turnovers.

Despite their impressive record, Buffalo often flies under the radar, offering enticing March Madness odds at +800 to win the MAC tournament. Their balanced offense, stifling defense, and underdog mentality could propel them deep into March. Their experience and ability to adapt to different game situations could be crucial in navigating the pressure cooker that is March Madness.

3. Kent State Golden Flashes: Reloaded and Seeking Redemption


Last year’s heartbreaking championship loss still fuels the fire for Kent State. Coach Rob Senderoff has responded by building a new contender, fueled by a desire for redemption and boasting a strong blend of experience and youthful exuberance.

Returning junior guard Sincere Carry (18.1 ppg) leads the charge, showcasing an even broader scoring arsenal than ever before. He is joined by explosive freshman Mabor Majak (12.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg), who brings athleticism and energy to the court. This dynamic duo, coupled with a seasoned supporting cast, makes Kent State a threat to any team they face.

While their offense is potent, Kent State’s true strength lies in its defense, led by the lockdown presence of senior forward Justyn Mutts (10.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg). They boast the conference’s best defensive unit, allowing a mere 64.1 points per game. Mutts combines his defensive prowess with strong rebounding skills, forming the anchor of their defensive scheme.

As the defending champions, Kent State naturally sits as the favorite to win the MAC tournament, with odds around +300. However, don’t underestimate their determination and hunger for another shot at glory. They possess the experience, defensive tenacity, and offensive firepower to make a deep run in March Madness.

Beyond the Big Three: Don’t Count Out the MAC Dark Horses

The beauty of March Madness lies in its unpredictability. While Toledo, Buffalo, and Kent State stand out as top contenders, other MAC teams possess the talent and potential to make a deep run. Teams like Akron, led by the dynamic guard Federico Mussini (18.5 ppg), and Ohio, boasting the experience of senior guard Jason Preston (16.8 ppg), possess the firepower and game-planning ability to upset higher-seeded teams. Additionally, Ball State, with its balanced attack featuring Luke Bumbalough (15.2 ppg) and Jarron Coleman (14.7 ppg), shouldn’t be overlooked.

Keeping an eye on these underdogs, especially if their March Madness odds offer enticing value, can be a strategic move. Their hunger, chip-on-the-shoulder mentality, and home-court advantage can sometimes be enough to overcome more established programs.

Conclusion: Unlocking Your Perfect Bracket


Don’t overlook the Mid-American Conference when filling out your brackets. These teams, with exciting young talent, experienced coaches, and undervalued odds, have the potential to make a deep run and shake up the entire tournament. Remember, upsets are the lifeblood of March Madness, and the MAC has a history of producing Cinderella stories. With their unique blend of athleticism, grit, and coaching expertise, these Mid-American contenders could be the key to unlocking your perfect bracket and turning March Madness into a truly unforgettable experience.