Three Mid-American Conference women's teams could make NCAA Tournament


Central Michigan coach Sue Guevara points to the championship banner displayed in the rafters following a 88-57 victory over Western Michigan University on March 6 at McGuirk Arena. The Chippewas clinched a share of the MAC regular season title with the win.

For the first time in Mid-American Conference women's basketball history, two teams earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament a season ago – Central Michigan and Buffalo.

This time around, it might grow to three teams.

In ESPN women's basketball expert Charlie Creme's latest version of Bracketology, he has the Chippewas (23-6, 14-3 MAC) as a No. 7 seed in the Albany region, taking on No. 10 UCF in the first round.

While Creme said he expects CMU to win the MAC Tournament, thus receiving an automatic spot, he has Buffalo at No. 10 as an at-large bid in the Chicago region of the bracket, playing No. 7 South Dakota State.

CMU and Buffalo, the two teams that made it in 2018, are expected to be back for 2019. However, here's where it gets interesting.

Creme, who recently replaced Miami (Ohio) with Buffalo, has Ohio as one of the first four teams left out of the tournament. Earlier in the year, the Bobcats (24-4, 13-4 MAC) were in the Creme's tournament prediction along with CMU and the Bulls (20-8, 12-5 MAC).

CMU 12th-year coach Sue Guevara hopes Buffalo, Ohio and, obviously, her Chippewas make the 2019 NCAA Tournament. If Miami (Ohio) can also sneak in, she would be happy for the league.

“There are some really quality Mid-Major schools out there," Guevara said. "Our conference is a really competitive conference. People are looking at how we have really good basketball teams here and people are beating each other up.”

Of the 12 MAC teams, CMU paces the way with the 27th-best RPI in the nation, followed by Ohio (31), Buffalo (26) and Miami (52). The Chippewas, on the RPI list, are near DePaul (Big East), Texas (Big 12), Rutgers (Big Ten) and Florida State (ACC).

In the first 10 years of Guevara's 12 at the helm of CMU women's basketball, the theory was that the only way to make the NCAA Tournament was to win the MAC Tournament. Now, everything has changed due to the quality of the teams, coaches and nonconference schedules.

“When you take over a program like we did here, you had to change the quality of the culture," Guevara said. "There isn’t one head coach that has been here (as long as me). It’s more progressive, and it’s the trend of how women’s college basketball is going.”

For example, the Chippewas scheduled South Dakota State, Western Kentucky, Virginia, Quinnipiac, Louisville and Miami (FL) in the 2018-19 nonconference – six teams that made the NCAA Tournament the year prior.

Back in November, Guevara explained the reasoning for the tough schedule early in the season. 

"These games are for us to get tested, to be in tough games like this to get our kids the experience of playing an NCAA game in November so that we're going to be ready to rock and roll in March," she said.

It's finally March, and the Chippewas are prepared to fight for one of a potential three MAC spots in the NCAA Tournament.

Here are the matchups for CMU's current predicted spot in the NCAA Tournament:

No. 1 UConn vs. No. 16 Robert Morris
No. 8 Rutgers vs. No. 9 North Carolina
No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 12 James Madison
No. 4 Iowa State vs. No. 13 Lamar
No. 6 Arizona State vs. No. 11 Indiana
No. 3 Miami (FL) vs. No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast
No. 7 Central Michigan vs. No. 10 UCF
No. 2 Mississippi State vs. No. 15 Radford

The Chippewas took down two of those teams, Miami (FL) and UCF, in the 2018-19 nonconference. CMU defeated the Knights (24-5, 13-3 AAC), 75-68, on Nov. 21 and the Hurricanes (24-7, 12-4 ACC), 90-80, on Dec. 30.