We have movement! The top of this week's rankings does look the same, but much of the bottom two-thirds has changed. One team in particular, Buffalo, has made a clear step forward after a huge weekend victory. Meanwhile, other teams have either started to disappoint or continue to do so -- Ohio and Akron fall into those categories, respectively.
Let's get this thing going...
1. Bowling Green Falcons (7-1) -- LW: 1
Last week: Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge (at Springfield, Mass.) -- vs. Monmouth (W, 71-48)
This week: Wisconsin-Milwaukee (12/8)
The Falcons took care of business away from home on Sunday by dispatching Monmouth by 23 points. BGSU did struggle at times in the first half, but they never trailed. In the second half, Bowling Green put their opponent away quickly, eventually building a lead that reached a high of 34 points. The Falcons have amassed a 7-1 record but have done so with just one home game among the bunch.
That changes in December. BGSU has four games (all on Sundays) this month, and three are at home. The only exception? That huge Dec. 22 clash at Purdue. Expect the Falcons to be either 11-1 or 10-2 when they begin conference play.
2. Central Michigan Chippewas (2-4) -- LW: 2
Last week: Paradise Jam (Virgin Islands) -- vs. Kansas (L, 68-63), vs. Duke (L, 97-64), vs. Xavier (W, 88-62)
This week: Dayton (12/5)
Central Michigan continued their brutal non-conference schedule at a holiday tournament in the Virgin Islands. They closed with an impressive rout of Xavier but lost to Kansas and Duke. Their season, in a nutshell, has been two blowout wins, two blowout losses, and two losses where you just wonder "what if...". In particular, the loss to Kansas really hurt. CMU built a 14-3 lead in that game, was tied with the Jayhawks at halftime, and trailed by only one with 5:00 left in the game. Unfortunately, turnovers and missed shots led to a 6-0 Kansas run that the Chippewas could not overcome.
CMU plays six games this month, but just two of them are at home. This week, they play the first of a home-and-home series with Dayton, in Mount Pleasant. Later in the month, they get very winnable games against South Dakota State and Prairie View A&M before road games at Notre Dame, Purdue and Dayton to close the month.
3. Eastern Michigan Eagles (4-0) -- LW: 3
Last week: Marygrove (W, 120-35)
This week: at Loyola (Ill.) (12/4), Missouri-Kansas City (12/7)
The Eagles have played one game in the last two weeks, and it was against an NAIA school from Detroit. So, it's really hard to evaluate them at this point. It wouldn't really be fair to move them ahead of Central Michigan, but we can't really penalize EMU, either. We'll know more about them this week after two winnable games against fellow mid-majors.
Credit should be given where credit is due, though. Eastern Michigan absolutely throttled a much lesser opponent. They led 18-0 and 31-4 in the first half before ultimately building an insanely big 67-15 halftime lead. Ultimately, the Eagles won by 85 points and had seven different players score in double figures.
4. Toledo Rockets (3-3) -- LW: 5
Last week: SMC Hilton Concord Thanksgiving Classic (Moraga, Calif.) -- vs. Cal State-Fullerton (W, 59-58), at Saint Mary's (L, 81-57)
This week: Toledo Invitational (Toledo, Ohio) -- Detroit (12/6), Valparaiso (12/7)
Now, we start with the changes. Toledo moves up here because they held serve on a cross-country trip. They won the game they needed to win, albeit in less impressive fashion than may have been expected, and they lost the true road game against a high-quality opponent. The win over the Fullerton Titans will win no beauty contest, but it's more than other teams who moved down our rankings can claim. And although the Rockets lost to the Gaels of Saint Mary's by more than 20, don't dismiss the fact that those same Gaels have also beaten Washington, Butler and Alabama in a 7-0 start.
Toledo returns home this week with two games they should win against bottom-rung Horizon League opponents. Detroit and Valparaiso have a combined 2-13 record coming into this week. They'll really need those wins, too, because their other games this month include Dayton at home and road trips to St. Bonaventure and Evansville.
5. Ball State Cardinals (2-4) -- LW: 6
Last week: South Point Shootout (Las Vegas, Nev.) -- vs. Auburn (L, 67-51), vs. Tennessee Tech (W, 76-64)
This week: Western Kentucky (12/7)
Like Toledo, the Cardinals split two games over the weekend at holiday tournament far away from home. We would have liked to see Ball State put up a better showing against an Auburn team that had already lost to Temple and Chattanooga, but they did get a "W" in their "should-win" game against Tennessee Tech. At this point in the season, Ball State really hasn't done anything unexpected. That's not a bad thing, but they're going to have to take a step up in order to hang with Toledo and CMU during the regular season.
Ball State plays just two of their next seven games at home, and one of those is on Saturday against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
6. Buffalo Bulls (4-2) -- LW: 8
Last week: Canisius (W, 68-59), at Pittsburgh (W, 66-62)
This week: St. Francis (Pa.) (12/4), at Siena (12/7)
Buffalo had arguably the best week of any MAC team. First, they took care of business at home against Canisius, then went on the road against an ACC school and pulled out another victory. This doesn't cancel out previous losses to Cornell (home) or Duquesne (road), but it does show what the Bulls are capable of when playing at their best. Buffalo is going to be a consistent threat in the MAC East this year, and it would not surprise us if they ended up as one of the top two teams in the Eastern Division.
This week provides opportunities for two more wins with a home game against St. Francis and a road clash with Siena. Neither opponent has a signature win, and the two are a combined 5-5 so far this season. The game with St. Francis is the Bulls' final home game until their first MAC home game on Jan. 12th.
7. Akron Zips (3-4) -- LW: 4
Last week: Cal Poly Classic (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) -- at Cal Poly (L, 84-74), vs. California-Davis (L, 71-58)
This week: George Mason (12/7)
Akron takes this week's biggest slide and are easily the disappointment of the week. Yes, it's tough to travel cross-country over a holiday weekend, but Toledo and Ball State both did the same and came back from their trips with a win. For a team that was supposed to be one of the MAC's two or three best and for a team that has two players who can pop for 30 points in any given game, it's not acceptable to lose two games like this. The loss to Cal Poly was excusable at least to the extent that it was a true road game, but losing by 13 to UC-Davis? UC-Davis has one other win this season. Quite simply, more is expected if Akron is going to occupy a higher spot on this list.
This week brings a home game against George Mason. The Patriots are 5-3 but have lost 2 of their last 3 games, both two point losses against Maryland-Eastern Shore and the College of Charleston. We'd really like to see an impressive win by Akron in this one.
8. Ohio Bobcats (3-3) -- LW: 7
Last week: San Juan Shootout (San Juan, Puerto Rico) -- vs. Illinois-Chicago (L, 76-67), vs. Maryland (L, 84-60)
This week: at Cleveland State (12/5)
You can't really fault Ohio for losing to a 7-1 Maryland team whose only loss was to #1 Connecticut. However, the loss to UIC does take some shine off the luster of the Bobcats' 3-1 start. UIC hasn't beaten anyone else of consequence and opened the season with a brutal loss against NAIA member St. Xavier. For Ohio to move up in the MAC, they must win games like that, especially when they aren't true road games.
Next up for the Bobcats is a trip to Cleveland State to face the Vikings. Eastern Michigan has already beaten Cleveland State, so Ohio can make a statement for themselves by also beating the Vikings.
9. Northern Illinois Huskies (3-3) -- LW: 9
Last week: Aggie Hotel Encanto Thanksgiving Classic (Las Cruces, N.M.) -- at New Mexico State (L, 77-73), vs. Lamar (W, 79-52)
This week: at Illinois State (12/5)
The Huskies remain at #9 in our rankings this week, but we could see them moving up sometime in the near future. The team is, to date, playing above expectations. They played the Aggies very tough in a loss to New Mexico State, then manhandled Lamar to close the holiday weekend. Fun fact: their 27-point margin of victory over Lamar is the same as Oklahoma State's, when OSU beat Lamar 83-56 to open the season.
NIU travels to Illinois State for their only game this week, and it's really tough to tell what to expect. Illinois State is just 1-5 this year, but their lone victory is over Florida. They also lost their season opener at Northern Kentucky. Which of those two ISU teams will show up this week to face the Huskies?
10. Western Michigan Broncos (3-4) -- LW: 10
Last week: at Chicago State (W, 67-49)
This week: IUPUI (12/4)
Not much to see here. Western Michigan easily handled a terrible Chicago State squad to earn their third win of the season. The Broncos now return home for three consecutive home games. The first of those comes this week, and IUPUI will be a much sterner test than Chicago State.
11. Kent State Golden Flashes (2-5) -- LW: 12
Last week: David Jones Classic (Houston, Texas) -- at Houston (L, 54-44), vs. Stephen F. Austin (W, 54-52)
This week: Niagara (12/4), Georgia State (12/8)
It was a good week for the Flashes, thus more flip-flopping between the bottom two teams in our rankings. The Flashes were respectable in a ten-point loss to tournament-host Houston, then eked out a win over a Stephen F. Austin team that had beaten Arizona earlier in November.
Now, Kent State faces the most crucial portion of their schedule. They play eight of their next ten games at home, including the next six in a row. The first two of those games are this week, as the Flashes host both Niagara (1-4) and Georgia State (2-6). Could Kent State actually put together a winning streak?
12. Miami RedHawks (1-5) -- LW: 11
Last week: Duquesne (L, 78-58), Florida State (L, 71-62)
This week: at Youngstown State (12/4), at Northern Kentucky (12/7)
Neither Duquesne nor Florida State are easy opponents, even at home. However, Miami lost both games. As the MAC's only team with fewer than two wins, they slide back into last place in our rankings. Two more tough games are up next, as the RedHawks face trips to Youngstown State and Northern Kentucky. Miami also has a road trip to California in the middle of the month. Their next home game does not take place until Dec. 29, when they host Cleveland State.