To put it simply, MAC Basketball last week was absolutely nuts. On Wednesday we had a beat down by Akron in front of a purple-clad Zips crowd, a mini-upset win for Northern Illinois at Kent State, and another eighteen-point comeback from Ohio. Saturday was even better as two games went to overtime and all five games were decided by a combined seventeen points. It didn't let up Sunday, as Bowling Green beat Buffalo to make an even bigger mess of the standings. Needless to say, the rankings were shaken up a bit. Eight of the twelve teams either moved up or down from last week, which I don't think has happened since the first couple weeks of the season.
To the rankings:
1. Ohio Bobcats (16-5, 6-2), LW: 3
Last week: Central Michigan (W), Toledo (W)
This week: at Western Michigan (2/5), Miami (2/8)
The Bobcats looked out of sorts for the third game in a row against Central Michigan but used some fantastic play from Maurice Ndour to pull off a massive eighteen-point comeback victory for the second time in two weeks. To be the best you have to beat the best, and that's what Ohio did in overtime against Toledo. That win could be the one to push Ohio to the next level and put them as the favorites to get the number one seed. They can't back down however with two tough games coming up this week.
(Also last time I ranked Ohio #1 they lost the next time out, so Western Michigan probably will win on Wednesday.)
2. Toledo Rockets (18-3, 6-2), LW: 1
Last week: at Miami (W), at Ohio (L)
This week: Bowling Green (2/5), at Ball State (2/8)
The Rockets took care of business against Miami but couldn't make it happen at Ohio on national TV. It wasn't a bad loss, but it hurts the Rockets' chances of getting that all-important number one seed. Toledo should be able to easily handle both games this week, but stranger things have happened.
3. Akron Zips (14-7, 6-2), LW: 2
Last week: Ball State (W), at Kent State (L)
This week: Eastern Michigan (2/5), at Bowling Green (2/9)
The Zips obliterated Ball State on a special night for assistant coach Dan Peters, which I wrote about here. It was a memorable night for sure but that momentum couldn't carry over to the Kent State game, which ended on a Darren Goodson three-pointer. That was a game that Akron didn't need necessarily but would have liked to have. A win would have put them firmly in first place and on the right track towards a number one seed. Eastern Michigan comes to town this week in what should be a competitive game. The Zips can't overlook Bowling Green either, as they've been playing well lately. In short, another tough week of games in conference play.
4. Buffalo Bulls (11-7, 5-3), LW: 5
Last week: Western Michigan (W), at Bowling Green (L)
This week: Ball State (2/5), at Central Michigan (2/9)
While looking at the Buffalo's schedule, I'm really not that sure if we know as of yet how good (or average) this team is. They haven't played Ohio or Akron yet but have beaten Western Michigan. They've taken Toledo to the last seconds of the game before losing on a buzzer-beater. The loss to Ball State is very odd but you could probably just chalk that up as a bad night. The win over Western Michigan was huge but they couldn't continue the momentum with a loss at Bowling Green. They're a very inconsistent team and that doesn't bode well when they start playing better competition.
5. Western Michigan Broncos (12-8, 5-3), LW: 4
Last week: at Buffalo (L), Central Michigan (W)
This week: Ohio (2/5), at Northern Illinois (2/9)
The Broncos move down after a loss to Buffalo. Against Central Michigan they blew a 23-point lead but did enough in the last two minutes to win the game. The game against Ohio isn't a must win but certainly feels like one they need to get. With being on the cusp of a top-four seed and a potential double-bye every game is important, especially against those that are ahead of you. That also means you can't afford to stumble, like in the game against Northern Illinois.
6. Miami RedHawks (9-10, 5-3), LW: 8
Last week: Toledo (L), Eastern Michigan (W)
This week: at Northern Illinois (2/4), at Ohio (2/8)
I'll finally give some credit where it's due. I thought Miami's conference record was a little bit of a fluke because of who they've played. But, after the win over Eastern Michigan, I think they've finally arrived as a semi-contender. With Saturday's victory over the Eagles, Miami matched their win total from last year and looked very good against one of the better teams in the conference. Now, they've still got two games against Buffalo, Ohio and Kent State left on their schedule, but it's awesome to see them getting back to being a competitive program.
7. Eastern Michigan Eagles (12-9, 4-4), LW: 6
Last week: Bowling Green (W), at Miami (L)
This week: at Akron (2/5), Kent State (2/8)
The Eagles did what they needed to do in beating Bowling Green, but couldn't put it together in a loss at Miami. This team, which looked so promising during non-conference play and at the start of the MAC season, have lost three of their last four and take on two tough opponents this week in Akron and Kent. The Eagles still have two games with Toledo left to play as well and another game with Western. It's looking like they'll be able to salvage a slightly-above .500 season, but you get a feeling this team should be competing for the regular season championship.
8. Kent State Golden Flashes (12-9, 3-5), LW: 7
Last week: Northern Illinois (L), Akron (W)
This week: at Central Michigan (2/5), at Eastern Michigan (2/8)
Look at the "last week" line. Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen a team lose at home to Northern Illinois then beat Akron the next time out. This is probably the hardest team to figure out right now in the whole conference. You really don't know which team is going to show up every night, and more likely than not lately it's been the team that lost to NIU. But, of course there's that team that played stellar defense in a win over Akron too.
This week presents the same sort of challenges. They should beat Central Michigan, but then again they should have beaten NIU. Eastern Michigan is a better team (like Akron), but Kent can beat them. If they can win both of these games they'll be right back in it for the MAC East title.
9. Bowling Green Falcons (10-11, 4-4), LW: 9
Last week: at Eastern Michigan (L), Buffalo (W)
This week: at Toledo (2/5), Akron (2/9)
The Falcons are another funny team when you look at who they've beaten (Ohio, Buffalo, Western Michigan) and who they've lost to (Northern Illinois). This is an important week for the Falcons in that if they can knock off one (or two) of the top teams in the conference they may be lucky enough to get a first round bye in the MAC Tournament. They've already won at Ohio, so if that team shows up against Toledo or Akron they may be able to pick off another conference leader.
10. Northern Illinois Huskies (9-11, 3-5), LW: 10
Last week: at Kent State (W), at Ball State (W)
This week: Miami (2/4), Western Michigan (2/9)
After two wins last week, the Huskies have matched some important milestones. Their nine wins is NIU's highest win total since the 2010-11 season, and there are still ten guaranteed games left to play. They haven't won back-to-back games against MAC teams since that same year, when they did it twice. It's great to see the Huskies finally starting to turn it around after numerous dark years that turned the program into rubbish.
11. Ball State Cardinals (4-15, 1-7), LW: 11
Last week: at Akron (L), Northern Illinois (L)
This week: at Buffalo (2/5), Toledo (2/8)
I still have no idea how this team beat Buffalo. The Cards are struggling and they looked lifeless against Akron. The Northern Illinois game was a should-win, but that didn't happen. The bright side? They still get to play Central Michigan twice.
12. Central Michigan Chippewas (7-13, 0-8), LW: 12
Last week: at Ohio (L), at Western Michigan (L)
This week: Kent State (2/5), Buffalo (2/8)
In what was a microcosm of the Chippewas' season, Central Michigan couldn't hold a second half eighteen-point lead at Ohio and promptly lost by four. On the way opposite side of things, the Chips were down 40-17 at one point to Western Michigan but clawed back to take the lead with under three minutes left in the game. They lost that one too. This team really isn't a bad team, they are just bad for important stretches of games. Chris Fowler is amazing, but outside of that the talent level is just ho-hum. Now they stare at 0-10 in conference play with visits from Kent State and Buffalo.
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