Holiday cheer abounds here at Hustle Belt HQ. Unfortunately, the spirit of giving did not seem to be amongst the teams that our beloved Mid-American Conference schools played over the last seven days. In fact, our 12 MAC teams went just 7-15 in their combined 22 games, with all but Eastern Michigan joining the "naughty list" (at least once.
Despite the dreary week, we refuse to get into a Grinch-y mood. Rather than have any movement in this week's rankings (thereby disappointing some), we've chosen to relate each team to a Christmas-themed movie or television special. Agree or disagree with our choices? Comment below!
1. Bowling Green Falcons (9-2) -- LW: #1
Last week: Massachusetts (W, 86-46), at Purdue (L, 57-48)
This week: St. Francis, Pa. (12/29)
Related Christmas Movie/TV Special: A Christmas Story
Why? "A Christmas Story" is, for my money, the best Christmas movie ever. And Bowling Green, right now, is the best team in the MAC. Ralphie wants a Red Ryder BB Gun. BGSU wants a MAC Championship. Both will do anything and everything they can to get it, up to and including beating the crap out of Scott Farkas (if you're Ralphie) or teams like Massachusetts (if you're BGSU). Okay, so neither of those beatings have anything to do with getting what they want, but you get the point.
Bowling Green should win their non-conference finale against St. Francis rather handily, then they'll have a week to prepare before MAC play begins.
2. Eastern Michigan Eagles (9-1) -- LW: #2
Last week: (at Stony Brook Tournament) vs. Wagner (W, 69-56), vs. Monmouth (W, 64-53)
This week: NO GAMES
Related Christmas Movie/TV Special: The Polar Express
Tom Hanks' Polar Express is one of those Christmas movies that is underrated but very, very good. It often gets lost among "bigger" names like Clark Griswold and Ralphie (among others), but it's a good tugger of the heart-strings. The story is about a group of kids on the verge of no longer believing in Santa Claus who take a trip to the North Pole aboard a magical train. The whole point is to emphasize the power of belief.
Like the main characters of the movie, the Eagles are a group of primarily young players who are learning how to believe in their ability to win games. They're taking a long journey, not entirely sure where it will lead but hopeful that the final destination will be a MAC championship (i.e., the North Pole).
EMU has one non-conference game left, against a non-Division I opponent, next week.
3. Central Michigan Chippewas (4-6) -- LW: #3
Last week: Prairie View A&M (W, 90-66), at Notre Dame (L, 106-72)
This week: at Purdue (12/28)
Related Christmas Movie/TV Special: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
The first half of this awesome movie is primarily about Clark Griswold trying to bring to life a fantastic Christmas display that would put all others to shame. He bumbles along the way as he contends with forces greater than him and has intermittent success before finally getting the whole thing to work. The first half of the Chippewas' season has been very similar. Their fantastic lineup has tried to light up against murderous competition, and while there have been flashes of brilliance, the whole thing hasn't worked quite yet. However, my guess is that it will eventually.
CMU has two final stops on their non-conference slate -- at Purdue then at Dayton. Purdue just beat Bowling Green, and Dayton will certainly be looking for revenge after a loss to CMU at the beginning of December.
4. Toledo Rockets (5-5) -- LW: #4
Last week: Dayton (L, 87-75)
This week: NO GAMES
Related Christmas Movie/TV Special: The Santa Clause
"The Santa Clause" is about some middle-aged nobody who was inexplicably chosen to transform into the greatest dude ever. (I mean, how much better does it get than a big guy in red delivering gifts to everyone, right?) Toledo's injuries have forced the Rockets to change from what we thought they were at the beginning of the season to something completely different. It looks like the Rockets are still trying to discover who they really are, but (like CMU), my suspicion is that they'll be just fine once conference play begins. And that should mean lots of gifts for Rocket fans.
5. Ball State Cardinals (4-6) -- LW: #5
Last week: Louisville (L, 105-67), at Northern Kentucky (W, 67-63)
This week: at Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne (12/29)
Related Christmas Movie/TV Special: A Christmas Carol
Ebeneezer Scrooge was visited by three Christmas ghosts (not counting his old pal, Jacob Marley). Ball State has been visited by three very good basketball teams. The first two ghosts bothered Scrooge but didn't break his spirit. Ball State beat Western Kentucky and played Pittsburgh very closely. The third and final ghost pounded Scrooge (through visions, not physically) into submission. Ball State's third opponent, #7 Louisville, beat the Cardinals by 38 points.
Right after each suffered their biggest "defeat", both left home and did something very good. In Ball State's case, that would be winning a road game at Northern Kentucky. Not much has gone as planned for the Cardinals this season, but they still have a very good chance to save it.
6. Akron Zips (5-5) -- LW: #6
Last week: at Cincinnati (L, 86-70), Rochester College (W, 86-43)
This week: Youngstown State (12/29)
Related Christmas Movie/TV Special: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (TV)
Is there a real comparison to be had here? Maybe, but I had to shoe-horn this one in somehow, didn't I? Right now, the Zips might fit on the Island of Misfit Toys. In any event, Akron still can't seem to beat the better teams on their schedule but are able to beat up their lesser opponents. That probably means bad news for Youngstown State on Sunday, but for a team that was supposed to be at the top of the MAC East this year, shouldn't we be getting more?
7. Buffalo Bulls (6-4) -- LW: #7
Last week: at St. Bonaventure (L, 76-71 OT), at Niagara (W, 78-70)
This week: NO GAMES
Related Christmas Movie/TV Special: Frosty the Snowman
Get it? Snow...Buffalo...haha, right? Okay, maybe that's not so funny, but who wouldn't want to be compared to a pile of frozen water that comes to life with the help of a magic hat? Frosty is a guy who loves to laugh and play but then goes away only to say that he'll "be back again someday". Buffalo is a team that has great games (or weeks) but then seems to lose their mojo for a game (or a week) only for it to return "someday".
Last week, the Bulls' mojo was working pretty well as they got a good road win at Niagara and almost knocked off St. Bonaventure. They have no games this week, then get read for MAC games with a contest against a non-Division I opponent next week.
8. Northern Illinois Huskies (4-5) -- LW: #8
Last week: at South Dakota State (L, 67-50), Northern Iowa (L, 66-64)
This week: NO GAMES
Related Christmas Movie/TV Special: Bad Santa
Bad Santa is a Billy Bob Thornton flick, and if you've ever seen any of his best characters, then you know what that means. I can't think of anyone else in my family who likes the movie, but I think it's hilarious. The story is about a guy who drinks heavily, steals whenever he can, and is very inappropriate with women. In other words, he's someone that nobody expects anything from (up to and including himself) and who nobody really intends to root for.
During the course of the movie, though, Thornton's character inevitably starts doing some good things, and while he's always very rough around the edges, he ends up turning into a pretty decent guy.
The Huskies' season could be described in very similar terms. At the beginning, nobody expected anything good, but NIU can't seem to help but do some good things here and there. It's not always pretty, but couldn't we agree that it could be a whole lot worse?
9. Ohio Bobcats (4-5) -- LW: #9
Last week: at East Carolina (L, 76-47)
This week: (at James Madison Invitational) at James Madison (12/29), TBA (12/30)
Related Christmas Movie/TV Special: How The Grinch Stole Christmas (TV)
They both wear green, right? Well, it's not a matching green, but whatever. That's about all I've got for this one, but Ohio Bobcat fans in general just deserve a break, don't they? I'll just be very nice and say that the Bobcats started the season very well. After that...
10. Miami RedHawks (3-7) -- LW: #10
Last week: at Long Beach State (L, 76-61), at San Diego State (L, 75-64)
This week: Cleveland State (12/29)
Related Christmas Movie/TV Special: Home Alone
Okay, so this is probably not entirely fair, but it seems entirely appropriate given the level of fan support shown to the football team at Yager Stadium during November. For this team, they've fought really hard against intruders during their home games, and when they've gone on the road (such as last week), they've left a little something behind.
Miami has one more game to play before the MAC schedule begins, and it's one they certainly could win at home against Cleveland State.
11. Western Michigan Broncos (3-7) -- LW: #11
Last week: Illinois-Chicago (L, 71-61), Oakland (L, 72-62)
This week: at Valparaiso (12/29)
Related Christmas Movie/TV Special: Deck The Halls
"Deck The Halls" is a not-very-good movie starring the guy from "Twins" and Ferris Bueller. (Incidentally, if you haven't seen Ferris Bueller in the movie "Election", I highly recommend it.) I'm not sure if this was intended to be some alternate-universe or poor-man's "Christmas Vacation", but that's how it came off. The story is about a guy who wants a Christmas display so bright that it can be seen from space, while the other guy will do anything to get in his way.
The story is fine, but the execution is just generally very poor. Much the same could be said for Western Michigan in 2013. They've had their moments, but of late, they've just not gotten the job done. Losing twice at home to Illinois-Chicago and Oakland? Sorry, even holiday spirit can't save my reaction to that.
12. Kent State Golden Flashes (3-8) -- LW: #12
Last week: Massachusetts (L, 69-61), St. Bonaventure (L, 61-44)
This week: NO GAMES
Related Christmas Movie/TV Special: A Charlie Brown Christmas
"A Charlie Brown Christmas" is about our favorite ne'er-do-well comic strip character. He tires and tries and tries, but he can never seem to do anything quite well enough. In the end, he doesn't really triumph over anything, but his friends show their appreciation for his efforts.
This same description adequately applies to the Golden Flashes this season. The 17-point loss to the Bonnies notwithstanding, Kent State really hasn't been terrible this year. They're just not very good (as most expected) despite trying really hard.
Kent State is done with their non-conference schedule, so the next time we'll see them is when conference play begins on Jan. 4th.