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MAC Basketball Tournament Preview: How will the RedHawks fare?

<p>Miami basketball hopes to build on last season&#x27;s strong finish going into Travis Steele&#x27;s second year as head coach.</p>

Miami basketball hopes to build on last season's strong finish going into Travis Steele's second year as head coach.

The 2022-2023 college basketball regular season has come to a close, and conference tournaments are underway all over the country to determine automatic qualifiers to the NCAA tournament. The Mid-American Conference (MAC) tournament gets underway this Thursday, March 9, and the Miami RedHawks (12-19, 6-12 MAC) look to shock the world and make a run. Miami plays its first game against Toledo (26-6, 15-2 MAC) at 11 a.m. on Thursday. You can watch the game on ESPN+.

Miami heads to the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland as the eight seed in the tournament, having just snuck in at the end of the regular season. While some conferences bring every member school to their postseason tournaments, the MAC only brings the top eight schools in the standings.

After starting 2-11 in MAC play, Miami rebounded in its last five games, going 4-1 and securing a trip to Cleveland in Head Coach Travis Steele’s first season in Oxford. Leading the RedHawks this season once again was senior guard Mekhi Lairy, who scored 17.4 points per game (ppg), shot 47% from the field and 37% from three. Junior guard Morgan Safford (15.2 ppg) and senior forward Anderson Mirambeaux (14.2 ppg) also made an impact. 

The RedHawks face the top-seeded Toledo Rockets in their first game. Toledo has won 15 games in a row. The Rockets are led by junior guard RayJ Dennis, a five-time MAC Player of the Week this year, and senior forward JT Shumate, along with other contributors. 

While Toledo has the top seed in the event, the Rockets aren’t the runaway favorites to win the tournament. Not far behind them are the Kent State Golden Flashes (25-6, 15-3 MAC). Senior guard Sincere Carry leads the Golden Flashes against Northern Illinois on Thursday. 

The Akron Zips (21-10, 13-5 MAC) also hope to make some noise in Cleveland this weekend. Finishing third in the conference, the Zips are led by the duo of junior forward Enrique Freeman and senior guard Xavier Castaneda. They’ll face the sixth-seeded Buffalo Bulls (15-16, 9-9 MAC) in the first round, who are led by sophomore guard Curtis Jones.

Rounding out the quarterfinals is a matchup between the fourth-seeded Ball State Cardinals (20-11, 11-7 MAC) and the fifth-seeded Ohio Bobcats (18-13, 10-8 MAC).  Names to watch in this matchup include Ball State sophomore center Payton Sparks and Ohio senior forward Dwight Wilson III. 

While the odds are stacked against the RedHawks, anything can happen in March. Add to that the unpredictability that MACtion brings and a weekend of fun basketball is sure to be upon us.

If upset-minded Miami shocks Toledo on Thursday at 11 a.m., they’ll face the winner of Ball State and Ohio on Friday at 5 p.m. on CBS Sports Network. The MAC championship will be played on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2.


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