Updated Thu, Aug 18, 2011 3:30 pm
For men's and women's basketball teams in the MAC, the road to the NCAA tournament just became a much different shade of pavement.
Today, the Mid-American Conference announced a gigantic change to its basketball tournament format.
As always, the tournament will be seeded #1 through #12, but standing in the MAC East or West not be taken into consideration. So, even if a team wins its side of the MAC, it's not guaranteed a top-two seed in the tournament.
The teams with the two best records, regardless of divisional standing, will automatically qualify into the MAC tournament semifinal round. The #3 and #4 seeds will get byes into the quarterfinals, and #5 through #12 will have to win five games to make the NCAA tournament.
With the change, the MAC tournament expands to five rounds, with round one still being held at campus sites. The second round, quarterfinals, semifinals and championship game will still be held at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The top two seeds in the tournament would only need to win two games to make the Big Dance.
The MAC clearly wants to give its best teams the best chance to win the MAC, which would give the league champion a better chance to win games in the NCAA tournament.
However, the recent history of the MAC tournament says the regular season hasn't mattered much. In 2009, Akron won the MAC tournament after being seeded fifth. In 2010, Ohio won the MAC after being the ninth seed entering the tournament. In 2011, Akron - the sixth seeded team - beat top-seeded Kent State in the final to advance to the NCAA tournament.
The MAC has sent just one team to the NCAA tournament in each of the last 11 years, with just three of those teams notching a win. Kent State won its way into the Elite Eight in 2002, Central Michigan beat Creighton as an 11-seed in 2004 and Ohio beat Georgetown in 2010.