After missing the Mid-American Conference Tournament the past two years, Ohio was picked to finish sixth in the conference's preseason coaches' poll. It's a tune that the Bobcats will try to break this year, as they start the conference slate this Saturday.
Only playing once against six conference opponents means that each game is important, but there are two games that stick out that can impact where Ohio finishes this year.
The Bobcats hosts Appalachian State to start conference play, a team that's picked to finish above Ohio. The third game of MAC play will see Ohio take on Ball State, featuring the teams picked to finish sixth and fifth in the MAC this year, respectively.
The structure of the MAC Tournament has changed this year, consisting of four rounds with every team making it.
Ohio had more chances against Appalachian State (4-2) last year, but the final score of 3-2 with the Mountaineers didn't show. In its second season in the MAC, Appalachian State is picked to finish fourth just a season removed from a one-win season.
Central Michigan (1-6) has not won a MAC game since the 2015 season and is picked once again to finish last. The last two seasons, the Chippewas have only won one game, but challenged Ohio in 2016. The Bobcats needed overtime to win 4-3.
Last season, Ohio finished ahead of Ball State (0-6) in the MAC, but the Cardinals are picked ahead in the preseason poll. After winning 3-0 at home last year the Bobcats will travel to Muncie, Indiana this year.
Ball State, Appalachian State and Ohio are the three teams that will most likely finish in the last three spots in the MAC, but those teams against each other will determine the seeding for the tournament.
In its fifth MAC season, Longwood is picked to finish third in the preseason poll. The Lancers (4-1) have played well against Miami and Kent State, while commanding wins against the teams below them.
Ohio out-shot Longwood 6-5 last year, but still lost, 2-1, at home. It was a defensive battle with very few opportunities for each team.
Picked to repeat as the winner of the MAC title stands Miami (3-4). Ohio has been outmatched by Miami the last four years.
Ohio also plays four nonconference games throughout conference play is going on, including its third ranked team of the year in No. 4 Duke.