Due to COVID-19 contact tracing issues with Eastern Michigan, the Mid-American Conference announced Monday that Ohio’s game against the Eagles on Saturday was postponed. It marks the fourth game this season Ohio’s had postponed or canceled.
COVID-19 has not had a major impact on Ohio’s roster this season. Only junior transfer Rifen Miguel has had to miss time due to contact tracing issues. But multiple times this season, Ohio’s been affected by COVID-19 issues within other programs.
Miami, Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan were all major games Ohio needed to cement itself as a power in the MAC. The Bobcats ultimately got to play one of its games against the RedHawks, but several MAC schools seem to be struggling to keep their teams on the court — including Central Michigan, who the Bobcats are supposed to face on the road Tuesday night.
Playing games is something Ohio (10-6, 6-4 MAC) wants to do. Ohio’s currently on a three-game winning streak and the constant stopping and starting only hurts the team’s rhythm. It could also hurt the Bobcats’ chances at a high seeding in the MAC Tournament.
Ohio’s one of four teams in the MAC that’s played 10 or more conference games so far this season. And despite having one more conference win and a victory in their head-to-head matchup, Miami would still have a higher seed than the Bobcats if the tournament started today.
Ohio would have the four seed, but this year’s seeding matters more than ever.
The MAC announced over the summer multiple changes to its playoff structure. For one, the East and West divisions are gone. Second, only the top eight teams receive an automatic bid to the MAC Tournament in Cleveland. In past years, everyone made at least the first round. The top four seeds went to Cleveland while the bottom eight played in a first round game.
Ohio coach Jeff Boals, and many of the MAC’s coaches, felt that everyone should make the tournament, especially this year. Boals hopes that the issue will be revisited.
“Prior to the year, the coaches wanted everybody to be in it,” Boals said. “... Some teams like Northern Illinois are going to be down like seven games. You only have so many Thursdays that you could make those games up. How many times can you play three and four games in eight days? It won’t be fair.”
The MAC already reversed its decision to cancel its football season. There’s no reason why it couldn’t revert back to the 12-team tournament setup. Forcing teams into multiple makeup games and penalizing teams with lower seeds because they played more games could cause a lot of people to scratch their heads.
It could also ruin the MAC’s chances of putting a fair winner into the NCAA Tournament.