Ohio fell short of its goal this season when it lost 77-61 to Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game on Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena.
But that doesn’t mean its season its over. In fact, the stage will likely grow larger for the Bobcats.
Ohio is still likely to secure a bid in the NCAA Tournament even after its loss, which only marginally impacted its RPI and predicted bracket position by experts. The Bobcats dropped only five spots from No. 29 to No. 34 in RPI, and Ohio’s NCAA Tournament seeding from ESPN’s Charlie Creme stayed put at No. 11.
“I don't even know who the experts are, but supposedly there's experts out there that have said that we're in the tournament,“ coach Bob Boldon said. “And I appreciate those experts.”
There’s still uncertainty, though. Central Michigan moved two spots in front of Ohio in RPI after the Bobcats lost Saturday, even though the Chippewas were eliminated by Buffalo in the conference semifinals.
Ohio will hope the selection committee, which will announce the NCAA Tournament field Monday at 7 p.m. on ESPN, selects three MAC teams for the tournament. That should guarantee a bid for the Bobcats, but it’s more likely only two MAC teams are selected.
So, what will it come down to? It’s tough to say. If the committee values appearances in conference championships over conference wins, Ohio is in. If the committee values conference wins and RPI rankings, Ohio is in trouble.
Last year, the committee selected two MAC teams — Central Michigan and Buffalo — for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996. Both teams met in the MAC Championship Game, and both teams made it to the Sweet 16.
Will the committee select the same way this year, or will the improved competition in the MAC this season encourage them to pick three teams?
The Bobcats don’t care. They just want to be in the tournament.
“Please,“ Boldon said. “Put us in.”