The 2013-14 Mid-American Conference should have several strong women's basketball teams and a very competitive season. The league's schedule is full of appetizing games against powers from top conferences and mid-majors alike, as well as a great slate of conference battles that ought to keep the championship race interesting down to the final day.
Now, the header for this post is TOP 25 GAMES, but we're going to cheat. See, there are so many good tilts that it actually seems better to just do the 25 best dates. You'll see why. Note: these are listed in chronological order and are not ranked.
1. November 9th -- Drexel at Toledo
The heat gets turned up right away in this battle of mid-major elites. This game features the winners of two of the last three WNIT postseason tournaments. Toledo won in 2011, and the Dragons matched the feat last March.
2. November 15th -- Akron at Dayton
If Akron wants national respect, then this would be a good place to start. The Flyers had a perfect regular season in the Atlantic Ten during the 2012-13 season and were a #7 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
3. November 17th -- Purdue at Toledo
The Rockets have a very tough non-conference schedule, but it helps when you get to host games like this. It's not often that MAC schools can host a team from a power conference, especially one that was a #4 seed in last season's NCAA Tournament. Purdue plays other MAC teams this season, but the Boilermakers get to host those games.
4. November 22nd -- Bowling Green vs Marist (Columbus, OH -- Basketball Hall of Fame Classic)
The Red Foxes are one of the best programs in the country, period. Forget the mid-major distinction; they've won games at an incredible pace over the last decade. At this point, Marist has been to eight consecutive NCAA Tournaments. This should be a great game in one of the better early-season tournaments.
5. November 28th-30th -- Central Michigan vs Kansas / Duke / Xavier (Virgin Islands -- Paradise Jam)
How are you spending your Thanksgiving weekend? Central Michigan gets to enjoy the holiday in the Caribbean playing against some of the best basketball talent in the country. Their 3-games-in-3-days gauntlet begins on Turkey Day with Kansas. After they digest that matchup, they tangle with Duke on Friday before capping the tournament against Xavier. Just how good is CMU? We'll find out.
6. December 1st -- Florida State at Miami
As noted above, it's not often that a mid-major gets to host a game like this, so Miami needs to take advantage of having FSU in Oxford. The Seminoles won 23 games last season.
7. December 5th and December 30th -- Dayton at Central Michigan (12/5) and Central Michigan at Dayton (12/30)
This is a rare instance of a home-and-home non-conference series in the same season. The Chippewas will have two more chances to prove themselves. And just how ambitious is their non-conference slate?
8. December 17th -- Louisville at Ball State
Louisville played in the national championship game against Connecticut last spring. That's all that really needs to be said here.
9. December 22nd -- Bowling Green at Purdue, Central Michigan at Notre Dame, Dayton at Toledo
This is definitely the best day of non-conference action for the MAC in the 2013-2014 season. Consider it an early Christmas present. We've already been over Purdue and Dayton, so how about Notre Dame? The Fighting Irish only went 35-2 last season. Their only losses were to Baylor and then to eventual-national-champ Connecticut in the Final Four. Again, how ambitious is CMU's schedule?
10. January 4th -- Ball State at Akron, Buffalo at Bowling Green, Toledo at Central Michigan
The league office certainly isn't messing around, as they get the conference schedule off to a rousing start. The UT/CMU game will go a long way towards determining who wins the West (and who gets a top seed in the MAC Tournament). Ball State/Akron is a key inter-divisional matchup, and the BGSU/Buffalo tilt could also be very important later for tournament seeding purposes.
11. January 9th -- Central Michigan at Akron
Just five days after hosting one very difficult inter-divisional game, Akron has to host another, this time against the MAC's preseason favorite Central Michigan. This could ultimately be a preview of the MAC Tournament championship game.
12. January 12th -- Akron at Bowling Green, Central Michigan at Buffalo, Miami at Toledo
Akron's early-season gauntlet continues against perennial MAC power Bowling Green, while Central Michigan and Toledo face two problematic games that they'll need to win in order to maximize their place at the end of the season.
13. January 15th -- Akron at Miami, Bowling Green at Ball State, Toledo at Buffalo
Miami will get a shot at Akron in Oxford, and this could be a golden opportunity for the Redhawks to get a big win early in the conference season. Akron may be worn down after those first three league games. The other two continue the early-season trend of great matchups between the East and West; we'll know quickly which division is better.
14. January 18th and February 19th -- Bowling Green at Central Michigan, CMU at BGSU
The MAC is playing 18 conference games this year, rather than the 16 played in years past. This means that teams will have to play two extra games against the other division. In BGSU and CMU's case, they have the disadvantage of having to play each other twice. But for the fans? These should be two very good games.
15. January 23rd -- Ball State at Toledo
These two will probably be trying to play catch-up with Central Michigan, so a win in this game would be very important. It could also mean the difference between a tournament bye or a first-round game.
16. January 30th -- Akron at Toledo
For both of these teams, the early portion of the MAC schedule is not kind. As with Akron's battle against CMU, this could also be a preview of the MAC championship game.
17. February 2nd -- Bowling Green at Toledo
You really thought we'd leave this game off the list? The games between these two teams over the last couple of seasons have been close and intense. We would expect no different this year.
18. February 6th -- Central Michigan at Ball State, Toledo at Miami
This could be an important day for the teams in the West. The game between the Cardinals and Chippewas will help determine the division champ, while Toledo has to play a tough road game in Oxford.
19. February 9th -- Miami at Bowling Green
Akron is the favorite to win the MAC East, so the loser of this contest will have more work to do elsewhere to keep up with the Zips.
20. February 15th -- Akron at Ball State, Miami at Central Michigan
These are the last inter-divisional games on our list, as the conference schedule is heavy on games within the division at the end of the season. Both matches will be important for seeding purposes.
21. February 26th -- Miami at Akron
One of the key divisional games down the stretch. Miami will probably need an upset here.
22. February 27th -- Ball State at Central Michigan
See above, but substitute Ball State for Miami.
23. March 2nd -- Central Michigan at Toledo
The Rockets and Chippewas play in Mount Pleasant on the opening day of the MAC schedule and then have to wait nearly the entire conference season for the rematch. That should make the stakes for the return game very high.
24. March 5th -- Akron at Buffalo, Bowling Green at Miami
The final week of the season begins with two important games in the East. Jockeying for tournament seeding will be in full effect here.
25. March 8th -- Bowling Green at Akron, Toledo at Ball State
Final day of the regular season -- will division titles or top tournament seeds be on the line?
So, there it is -- 25 dates to remember. It should be one great season of #MACtion from start to finish.