Let me be (not) the first to say that I have no idea who will win the MAC Tournament in March. Honestly, I have no idea who the best team in the conference is right now. There are five teams at 3-1 in the conference and they all have great attributes but major flaws. Take these power rankings (as always) with a grain of salt, because this was the hardest ranking I've done so far this season.
1. Toledo Rockets (15-2, 3-1), LW: 2
Last week: Buffalo (W), at Akron (W)
This week: Northern Illinois (1/22), Kent State (1/26)
After an odd showing against Western Michigan, the Rockets looked great against two great East division teams. They needed a Juice Brown buzzer beater to beat Buffalo, but came back from that to steamroll Akron in Rhodes Arena. Suddenly Rian Pearson doesn't need to be the do-all player he was now that J.D. Weatherspoon is starting to play much better. This week the Rockets get an improved Husky team followed by an interesting home game against Kent State.
2. Buffalo Bulls (9-5, 3-1), LW: 3
Last week: at Toledo (L), Kent State (W)
This week: at Ball State (1/23), at Northern Illinois (1/25)
The Bulls had the most impressive week of all teams other than Toledo. They probably should have beaten Toledo and held home court in a nice win over Kent State. This week presents the Bulls with the two worst teams in the conference, but they play both games in a three-day span. Buffalo should pull off the sweep, but may have more trouble than normal.
3. Akron Zips (11-6, 3-1), LW: 5
Last week: Miami (W), Toledo (L)
This week: at Eastern Michigan (1/22), at Central Michigan (1/25)
I didn't include the Zips thrilling victory at Ohio in last week's power rankings, but this week's reflect that fantastic win. That was, of course, after I ranked Ohio in the top spot last week (maybe I should keep them there all season). Akron had a little trouble with Miami but were able to pull off the win. As it normally goes, national TV and Akron basketball doesn't mix well, as Toledo came into Akron and stole one on ESPNU. Two road tests await the Zips, and they won't be easy. Eastern is Eastern and you can't sleep on Central. Akron should be able to get to 5-1 but it's not going to be without a struggle.
4. Ohio Bobcats (13-4, 3-1), LW: 1
Last week: Ball State (W), at Northern Illinois (W)
This week: Bowling Green (1/22), at Eastern Michigan (1/25)
Ohio took a tough overtime loss to Akron last week in what was probably the best game of the season so far. They were able to take care of the cupcakes in Ball State and Northern Illinois and get another cupcake in Bowling Green. The trip to Eastern won't be easy (see above) but the Bobcats can get it done. The bad thing about the Bobcats playing all the worst teams early is that they'll get the better teams later on in their schedule; the end of February has them at Toledo, at Buffalo, home against Western Michigan, at Akron, home against Buffalo and then Kent State. That's a really tough stretch and we'll see how the 'Cats fare during that pivotal time in the season.
5. Eastern Michigan Eagles (11-6, 3-1), LW: 6
Last week: Western Michigan (W), at Central Michigan (W)
This week: Akron (1/22), Ohio (1/25)
Last week was a pretty good one for the Eagles as they blitzed Western Michigan and beat down Central. This week may be the most important week of the season as they get two of the best teams of the conference on their home floor. It's imperative that Eastern at least get a split this week, or they run the risk of falling behind the leaders in the standings and may even lose out on a chance for a first round bye in the MAC Tournament. But, if they win both, they're firmly in position to have a shot at getting a top two seed. Make sure to pay close attention to Eastern Michigan this week.
6. Kent State Golden Flashes (11-6, 2-2), LW: 7
Last week: at Northern Illinois (W), at Buffalo (L)
This week: Western Michigan (1/23), at Toledo (1/26)
Kent State needed overtime to beat the Huskies and played well at Buffalo but just didn't have enough in the end. Now Northern Illinois is improved but the Flashes are more talented and really shouldn't have gone to overtime. This is a big week for Kent State as well, as they get two of the 3-1 teams. Like with Eastern, Kent needs to split these games to keep up with Akron, Ohio, and Buffalo.
7. Western Michigan Broncos (9-7, 2-2), LW: 4
Last week: at Eastern Michigan (L), Bowling Green (L)
This week: at Kent State (1/23), Ball State (1/26)
After the monumental season-opening victory over Toledo, the Broncos fell back down to Earth after a nasty showing against Eastern Michigan. The slide continued against Bowling Green as they gave up a large second half lead in what was a disappointing home loss. This was probably the hardest team to rank, as we saw how they are at their best (Toledo) and their worst (Eastern). The game against Kent State is intriguing in that both teams need the win to stay in the hunt for a first round bye.
8. Miami RedHawks (6-9, 2-2), LW: 8
Last week: at Akron (L), at Ball State (W)
This week: Central Michigan (1/22), at Bowling Green (1/25)
Miami looks to be the best of the worst in the conference, with wins over Central Michigan and Ball State. They've kept it close against Western Michigan and Akron too which shouldn't be overlooked. Realistically, Miami could be 4-2 this time next week with two winnable games this week. It would be shocking to see Miami at 4-2 in conference play no matter what their schedule has been so far.
9. Bowling Green Falcons (8-9, 2-2), LW: 9
Last week: Central Michigan (W), at Western Michigan (W)
This week: at Ohio (1/22), Miami (1/25)
The Falcons got their first win of the season over Central Michigan and completed a fantastic come-from-behind victory against Western Michigan. Yes, BG lost to Northern Illinois but the win over Western cancels that out in my mind. It was looking like another lost season in Bowling Green, especially with two games still left against each of Buffalo, Akron, Kent State, Ohio, and Toledo. But today's win might give them the spark they need to start making some noise.
10. Northern Illinois Huskies (7-9, 1-3), LW: 10
Last week: Kent State (L), Ohio (L)
This week: at Toledo (1/22), Buffalo (1/25)
I didn't factor in last week's eye-gouging win over Bowling Green in last week's power rankings, but the Falcons' win over Western Michigan prevented me from moving them down any more. Even though they lost to both MAC East foes, they played three great halves. It wasn't very kind of the schedule makers to give the Huskies four straight games against power teams but after last week's performances maybe they can pull off an upset.
11. Central Michigan Chippewas (7-9, 0-4), LW: 12
Last week: at Bowling Green (L), Eastern Michigan (L)
This week: at Miami (1/22), Akron (1/25)
The Chips are really bad, but at least they look better than Ball State. They couldn't beat Miami at home, so it'll be tough to beat them on the road. CMU might only get a couple of wins in the conference this year.
12. Ball State Cardinals (3-12, 0-4), LW: 11
Last week: at Ohio (L), Miami (L)
This week: Buffalo (1/23), at Western Michigan (1/26)
There's no shame in losing at Ohio, but the Cardinals just looked terrible at home against Miami. Buffalo comes to Muncie on Thursday and then Ball State travels to Kalamazoo. You have to feel bad for Majok Majok, Chris Bond and Jesse Berry, who deserve much better than this for their senior season.
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