Rise of Ohio in the MAC: Early Tournament Sleeper

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Ohio basketball looks to be the favorite to win the MAC about two months into the season. Buffalo being the preseason favorite did not come as much of a surprise to anyone. The Bulls currently sit at 7-6 (1-2), while the Bobcats are 12-2 (3-0).

Last season, Ohio finished fourth in the conference, winning three games in three days to get the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Bobcats went on to upset Virginia in the first round, then lost to Creighton in the Round of 32. What makes last year’s team similar to what Ohio can do this season? One player, in particular, makes this like looking in the mirror for Jeff Boals.

Jason Preston Led the 2020-21 Team to Tournament Bid

A kid from Orlando, Florida made a name for himself during the 2020-21 regular season. Not only did he perform during the regular season, but he also did it when the lights were a little brighter. Averaging 15.7 PPG on the year, Ohio made it as an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Bobcats made it into the second round, losing to a good Creighton team.

As much as it is a team effort to win three games in three days to make it into the tournament, Jason Preston went crazy in the conference tournament. The junior went for 19, 27, and 22 points in three straight games to will his team to victory.

Ohio has that same type of vibe from last year as we hit January. The Bobcats are in the driver’s seat of the MAC, as well as an early sleeper to steal a game or two in the tournament.

Mark Sears Fills the Shoes of Jason Preston

This year, sophomore Mark Sears has filled the scoring production of Jason Preston. Sears was a freshman last year with Preston on the team, now he’s the team’s leading scorer. The sophomore from Alabama is averaging 19.7 PPG, 14 games into the season. Like last year, the Bobcats have balanced scoring outside of their star player. This makes them a mid-major to watch out for.

Ohio has taken care of business, starting the season 12-2 (3-0). There is not a lot to dislike about this team. Simply put, they get the job done. One other thing to note about this year’s team, they have no bad losses. Their two losses have come from two superb SEC teams, LSU and Kentucky. Ohio is an early candidate for a first-round upset pick.

If you did not know the name Mark Sears before today, you will know it now. When March comes along, Ohio should be a team you think about filling into the second round. It all depends on where they seed in the NCAA Tournament, if they make it.

The MAC battle is one everyone should watch for the rest of the season. Buffalo should turn a corner and fight for the conference’s automatic bid come March.

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My name is Jacob Heid and I am currently pursuing a Journalism degree from Southern Illinois university. I have been at Overtime Heroics for about a year.