Bob Boldon has no doubt that this year’s Mid-American Conference Tournament will feature upsets. The conference has been one of the most competitive in the country and could see as many as three teams earn bids to the NCAA Tournament.
No. 2-seeded Ohio could easily be one of those teams, but it first needs to show it can avoid an upset when it plays Northern Illinois on Wednesday inside Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The Bobcats will play the third game that afternoon and tip off 30 minutes after the second game ends.
“With the league being as good as it is this year, there’s nothing given,“ Boldon said. “I would expect someone to get beat on Monday who doesn’t expect to get beat.”
Boldon’s prediction was almost true. Other than No. 9 Eastern Michigan defeating No. 8 Akron, all the high seeds won and avoided upsets.
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t close calls. No team came closer to a surprising loss than No. 7 Northern Illinois, who defeated No. 10 Western Michigan, 70-69, after the Broncos missed two free throws with less than a second left.
The Bobcats shouldn’t have too many concerns about the Huskies, who are arguably the most mediocre team in the MAC. NIU entered the tournament third in the West Division, won only two of its last five games and lacks a defining win over one of the MAC’s top teams.
Besides a win over Miami on Jan. 5, the Huskies struggled to compete with teams that finished with a top-6 seed in the tournament. That bodes well for Ohio, who shut down Northern Illinois’ offense for a 69-53 win Jan. 23 in DeKalb, Illinois.
But Ohio knows it can’t get comfortable in the MAC. Comfort didn’t help the Bobcats when they lost to Toledo on Feb. 13 just four days after they defeated No. 1 Central Michigan in one of their best wins of the season.
With three days of rest from its first-round bye, Ohio should be comfortable when it enters Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday. But if the Bobcats learned anything about their conference this year, they know they have no guarantee of a win no matter how many advantages they appear to have.
Opponent: Northern Illinois
Venue: Quicken Loans Arena (Cleveland)
Meet the opponent
Mikayla Voigt (5-feet-9)
Myia Starks (5-feet-4)
Gabby Nikitinaite (5-feet-11)
Ally May (6-feet-2)
Riley Blackwell (6-feet-1)
Erin Hodges (6-feet-0)
Paulina Castro (5-feet-8)
Abby Woollacott (6-feet-2)
Ninni Salmi (6-feet-2)
Individual Statistical Leaders:
Points: Voigt (19.6)
Rebonds: May (8.7)
Assists: Starks (3.2)
Team Statistical Profile:
Points Per Game: 73.8
Rebounds Per Game: 41.1
Assists Per Game: 12.6
Turnovers Per Game: 13.3
Field goal Percentage: 40.8 percent
3-point Percentage: 30.6 percent
Free Throw Percentage: 75.2 percent
Ohio is 19-19 all-time in the series versus NIU.
The Bobcats defeated the Huskies 69-53 in their last meeting Jan. 23. Erica Johnson scored a career-high 26 points and earned her first double-double with 16 rebounds.
Coach Bob Boldon is 5-2 against Northern Illinois’ Lisa Carlsen.
Key player to watch
Voigt — The senior was the only player to give Ohio problems in the last meeting when she scored 23 points. Voigt also scored 52 points in a single game on Dec. 8 and has explosive offensive abilities. Voigt is the core of Northern Illinois’ attack, so the Bobcats should be able to advance if they limit her scoring.