With the completion of Buffalo's game against Roberts Wesleyan today, the Mid-American Conference has completed the non-conference portion of its 2013-2014 schedule. Each team has 18 games remaining until the 2014 MAC Tournament, each against conference foes.
We'll now pause to rank each team as the MAC begins conference play, and we'll note a high point and low point from everyone's non-conference slate.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section.
1. Bowling Green Falcons (10-2) -- LW: 1
Last week: St. Francis, Pa. (W, 81-66)
This week: Buffalo (1/4, 2:00 p.m. ET)
High point: Double-digit wins over Michigan and Ohio State.
Low point: Losing at Purdue, despite outrebounding the Boilermakers.
Bowling Green had a fantastic first two months. They dominated virtually everyone they faced and won two games against Big Ten teams. Their only losses came against Marist, one of the nation's best mid-major programs, and at Purdue. The latter may haunt BGSU, though; they lost by just nine and often out-hustled the Boilermakers. It was poor shooting that doomed that game. The Falcons start their conference slate at home with a tough Buffalo team.
2. Eastern Michigan Eagles (10-1) -- LW: 2
Last week: Lawrence Tech (W, 95-62)
This week: at Kent State (1/4, 2:00 p.m. ET)
High point: Beating Butler in overtime.
Low point: Playing three games against non-Division I teams. Is that really necessary?
Eastern Michigan continued to roll through their schedule all the way to ten non-conference wins and the MAC's best non-conference record. However, it's fair to say that they haven't really been tested yet. They did beat Butler, and their only loss is respectable (at Michigan). Unfortunately, three of their ten wins came against teams outside of NCAA Division I, so people are going to question how "real" the Eagles are. Their first conference test is on the road; fortunately, it's against Kent State.
3. Central Michigan Chippewas (4-8) -- LW: 3
Last week: at Purdue (L, 109-97), at Dayton (L, 102-89)
This week: Toledo (1/4, 12:00 p.m. ET)
High point: Beating Dayton 94-91 on Crystal Bradford's buzzer-beating three-pointer.
Low point: A brutal schedule. In their last three road games against Notre Dame, Purdue and Dayton, CMU's defense got shredded, as they gave up triple digits in each.
The Chippewas' unforgiving non-conference schedule is over, and it was not pretty. You can hardly fault them, given the level of competition, but the CMU defense was constantly exposed. As noted above, they gave up over 100 points in each of their last three games. The only real saving grace of the first two months was that spectacular moment provided by Crystal Bradford against Dayton.
Now, CMU hosts Toledo to open the MAC season in what is a titanic game for both teams. Whether it's because of CMU's schedule or Toledo's injuries, neither team wants to get off on the wrong foot. A win will allow one team to get a breather. A loss will deepen an already troubling situation for the other.
4. Akron Zips (6-5) -- LW: 6
Last week: Youngstown State (W, 91-75)
This week: Ball State (1/4, 2:00 p.m. ET)
High point: Scoring 98 and 118 in back-to-back wins over Florida Atlantic and Tennessee Tech to begin the season.
Low point: Losing a neutral-site game to 4-8 California-Davis.
After losing four out of five to close November, the Zips won three out of four games in December, including impressive double-digits wins over George Mason and Youngstown State. Akron was right up there with BGSU as a pre-season favorite to win the MAC East, so this is a refreshing development as conference play begins. The Zips get a chance to start the MAC schedule in positive fashion as they host Ball State on Saturday.
5. Ball State Cardinals (5-6) -- LW: 5
Last week: at Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne (W, 83-75)
This week: at Akron (1/4, 2:00 p.m. ET)
High point: Back-to-back road wins at Northern Kentucky and IPFW.
Low point: A 20-point loss at Wyoming.
The Cardinals won three out of four games after starting the season 0-3. Then, they had a bad 20-point loss at Wyoming after which they were torched by #7 Louisville at home. However, Ball State responded to that loss well with two straight road wins. Neither NKU or IPFW are world-beaters, but one should never complain about road wins. Momentum is critical for the Cardinals, who play at Akron to begin MAC play. Their first several MAC games are very unforgiving -- road games at Eastern Michigan, Ohio and Toledo sandwiched around a home game against Bowling Green.
6. Toledo Rockets (5-6) -- LW: 4
Last week: at Evansville (L, 90-80)
This week: at Central Michigan (1/4, 12:00 p.m. ET)
High point: Winning 64-62 at St. Bonaventure on a last-second shot.
Low point: Losing to Valparaiso at home. The Crusaders have only one other win this season.
Injuries have made the Rockets very up-and-down in 2013. They have just one two-game winning streak and one two-game losing streak. They started 4-3 but have since lost three out of four games. The home loss to Valparaiso, who has just one other win, is alarming, but the Rockets followed that with their big win at St. Bonaventure. Unfortunately, Toledo couldn't carry momentum from that game and has since lost to Dayton and Evansville. It's hard to call the first conference game of the season a must-win, but wow, the Rockets could really use a win at CMU to boost confidence.
7. Buffalo Bulls (7-4) -- LW: 7
Last week: Roberts Wesleyan (W, 93-58)
This week: at Bowling Green (1/4, 2:00 p.m. ET)
High point: Winning a road game against an ACC team (8-6 Pittsburgh).
Low point: Losing their home opener to Cornell, after starting the season with two road wins.
Buffalo has also been very up-and-down so far this season. They won two to start the season, then lost two. The Bulls then won three in a row before losing two more. Now, they've won two in a row again. Is this a harbinger for a bad start to the conference season? Buffalo starts with road games at Bowling Green and Western Michigan, then has three straight at home -- all against CMU, Toledo and EMU. They'll need to pull off an upset or two or else they could get buried early. Buffalo is certainly talented though, as their win at Pittsburgh proved.
8. Ohio Bobcats (5-6) -- LW: 9
Last week: at James Madison (L, 56-33), vs Maryland-Baltimore County (W, 84-36)
This week: at Northern Illinois (1/4, 2:00 p.m. ET)
High point: Beating Xavier 94-88 in their season opener.
Low point: Back-to-back losses at East Carolina and James Madison by more than 20 points each.
Ohio started the season well, including a big win over Xavier in their first game, but the Bobcats tailed off after that. However, they responded well after back-to-back 20-point road losses with a big win over UMBC. That win won't make any headlines, but it helps with momentum. Now, Ohio has an interesting cross-division game at Northern Illinois to start the MAC season. A win in DeKalb would be very helpful.
9. Northern Illinois Huskies (4-6) -- LW: 8
Last week: Illinois-Chicago (L, 66-54)
This week: Ohio (1/4, 2:00 p.m. ET)
High point: Winning 57-52 at Illinois State
Low point: Finish non-conference play with three straight losses, including two at home (Northern Iowa, UIC).
Northern Illinois hasn't beaten anyone of note, as their biggest victory is over a poor Illinois State team, but one could argue that a 4-6 non-conference record is a positive step. Still, the Huskies lost three straight after starting 4-3, including two home games they could have won. NIU absolutely does not want to continue this trend at home on Saturday against Ohio, or it could be the sign of another long slog through the conference.
10. Miami RedHawks (4-7) -- LW: 10
Last week: Cleveland State (W, 91-80)
This week: Western Michigan (1/4, 2:00 p.m. ET)
High point: Beating Cleveland State by 11 in their non-conference finale.
Low point: Losing their season opener at home to Eastern Kentucky.
Before the season, Miami was considered by some to be a dark-horse candidate in the MAC East. The RedHawks struggled once the season began, though, as their young players took time to grow into important roles. Now, however, Miami is playing much better and finished non-conference play by recording a nice 11-point win over Cleveland State. Miami hosts Western Michigan first, so they have an opportunity to start their MAC schedule in a positive manner. They'll also have chances for early wins against Ohio, NIU and Akron (home) in the first two weeks.
11. Western Michigan (4-7) -- LW: 11
Last week: at Valparaiso (W, 72-50)
This week: at Miami (1/4, 2:00 p.m. ET)
High point: Winning 66-58 at Massachusetts in the first game of the season.
Low point: Losing three straight home games to IUPUI, UIC and Oakland.
Want to know how messed up it was for Toledo to lose to Valparaiso at home? Western Michigan beat the Crusaders by 22 -- on the road. WMU also had a 103-point effort against Detroit and beat Massachusetts on the road. Their losses at Tulsa and Arkansas were respectable, too. Unfortunately, the Broncos lost their last 3 home games to IUPUI, UIC and Oakland. Each loss was by double-digits. This is a team that seems to be better than their 4-7 record suggests, but they're still very inconsistent on a game-to-game basis. The Broncos begin MAC play at Miami.
12. Kent State (3-8) -- LW: 12
Last week: NO GAMES
This week: Eastern Michigan (1/4, 2:00 p.m. ET)
High point: Beating Eastern Kentucky in overtime in first home game.
Low point: Losing three straight home games to close non-conference play (versus Georgia State, Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure).
Not much has gone right for Kent State this season. They took the last two weeks of 2013 off, and their most notable win (out of just three) is their season-opening overtime win against Eastern Kentucky. They closed their non-conference slate with three straight home losses. The Golden Flashes continue a long stretch of home games with back-to-back ones to start MAC play. First up is Eastern Michigan, then Bowling Green comes to town. Winning either of those games would be a great start for Kent State.
(Beginning next week, MAC Women's Basketball Power Rankings will permanently move to Monday mornings. Next week's edition will reflect the results of Saturday's games.)