The curse is finally over. Western Michigan was ranked in the top spot in our power rankings last week, and they're still there this week! Every team has played fourteen conference games and there are only four left. After this week, some teams will likely have locked up a first round bye in the tournament which is a huge feat. The battle for the top four rages on though, and this week brings us a 1-2 match-up between Western Michigan and Toledo and a 3-4 match-up with Ohio squaring off against Buffalo. To the rankings:
1. Western Michigan Broncos (18-8, 11-3), LW: 1
Last week: at Ohio (W), Eastern Michigan (W)
This week: at Ball State (2/26), at Toledo (3/1)
Western Michigan continued their phenomenal winning streak with a huge win at Ohio that gave them a regular season sweep of the Bobcats. Eastern Michigan gave them a little trouble, but the Broncos prevailed even with a sick Shayne Whittington. The Ball State game should be an easy win unless Western Michigan gets caught looking ahead to Saturday night's huge match-up at Toledo. The winning streak will likely be eight at that point, and the Broncos may be able to clinch a top-two seed that night.
2. Toledo Rockets (23-4, 11-3), LW: 2
Last week: at Bowling Green (W), Ball State (W)
This week: at Northern Illinois (2/26), Western Michigan (3/1)
Toledo did what they needed to do last week in beating Bowling Green on national TV on a buzzer beater from Rian Pearson. Chris Bond and Jesse Berry did all they could to try and stop Toledo's but the Rockets' starters weren't having any of that. All five starters scored in double-digits and kept Toledo chugging towards a top seed. Like the Broncos, Toledo can't overlook Northern Illinois. I don't really see that happening, and it'll likely be the top two teams in the conference squaring off on Saturday night.
3. Ohio Bobcats (19-8, 9-5), LW: 3
Last week: Western Michigan (L), at Akron (W)
This week: Buffalo (2/26), Kent State (3/1)
It was an odd week for the Bobcats, as they couldn't make the comeback this time against Western Michigan. It was a different story against Akron, as Ohio shot lights-out and benefited from cold-shooting and injury-ridden Zips squad. Yet another important game is on the docket on Wednesday as Buffalo comes to Athens winners of five of their last six. More importantly, if Ohio wins that one they'll have a regular season sweep of the Bulls, especially important when it comes to seeding and tiebreakers. Kent State always seems to play Ohio tough in Athens, but this is a different Kent team.
4. Buffalo Bulls (16-8, 10-4), LW: 6
Last week: Akron (W), at Kent State (W)
This week: at Ohio (2/26), Miami (3/1)
Buffalo had a huge week of their own as they beat Akron at home and won at Kent State for the first time in, well, ever. The Bulls are peaking at the right time but face a tough test on Wednesday against Ohio, a team they've already lost to once this season. To stay in front of the rest of the pack in the East, Buffalo needs to win that game or else we may have a three way tie at 10-5 at the top of the division.
5. Akron Zips (17-10, 9-5), LW: 4
Last week: at Buffalo (L), Ohio (L)
This week: at Miami (2/26), Bowling Green (3/1)
In a few short words, it was not a good week in Akron. The loss to Buffalo was excusable but it was an opportunity to steal a victory against one of the leaders in the division. The loss to Ohio was a different story, as the Zips were blown out of their own building with poor shooting and lackluster defensive play. Akron is down three (essentially) starters in Nick Harney (suspension), Reggie McAdams (Mono) and Jake Kretzer (concussion). If Akron can't win both games this week against weaker competition, this season will quickly start to slip away.
6. Eastern Michigan (15-12, 7-7), LW: 5
Last week: at Northern Illinois (L), at Western Michigan (L)
This week: Central Michigan (2/26), Northern Illinois (3/1)
Even though the Eagles lost a heartbreaker to Northern Illinois last week, I'm still ranking them ahead of the Huskies because of NIU's loss to Central Michigan. It was a tough week for Eastern Michigan and they really would have liked to win at least one of those games. But, luckily they get two easy home games this week to get them back into contention for the five seed and should lock up a first round home game.
7. Northern Illinois Huskies (12-14, 6-8), LW: 8
Last week: Eastern Michigan (W), at Central Michigan (L)
This week: Toledo (2/26), at Eastern Michigan (3/1)
The big win against Eastern was quickly overshadowed by a puzzling loss to Central Michigan. Once you think that the Huskies are ready to take the next step, they falter and lose a game they shouldn't have. They won't be favored in either of their games this week and are in danger of losing out on a first round home game.
8. Kent State Golden Flashes (15-12, 6-8), LW: 7
Last week: at Miami (W), Buffalo (L)
This week: at Bowling Green (2/26), at Ohio (3/1)
The Flashes had a nice road win over Miami but couldn't knock off one of the better teams in the conference in Buffalo. It's back on the road this week as Kent State gets an opportunity for a much needed win over Bowling Green. The Flashes need to win to get closer to ensuring themselves of a first round home game. If not, they face a potential 6-10 record with a game at Akron still on the schedule.
9. Miami RedHawks (10-15, 6-8), LW: 10
Last week: Kent State (L), Bowling Green (W)
This week: Akron (2/26), at Buffalo (3/1)
The RedHawks lost one they would have like to have against the Flashes but finally stopped their five game losing streak over Bowling Green. This week presents two tough games and the RedHawks will likely need to win one of them to put themselves in position to get a first round home game.
10. Bowling Green Falcons (11-16, 5-9), LW: 9
Last week: Toledo (L), at Miami (L)
This week: Kent State (2/26), at Akron (3/1)
The Falcons drop out of the nine spot for the first time in forever after losing on another buzzer-beater against Toledo. It's getting to the point where you just expect Bowling Green to lose at the end of the game. This is an amazing statistic: Bowling Green's last five games have been decided by a total of ten points. They're playing well but just can't get it done in the closing minutes.
11. Central Michigan Chippewas (10-16, 3-11), LW: 12
Last week: Ball State (W), Northern Illinois (W)
This week: at Eastern Michigan (2/26), at Ball State (3/1)
In a battle of the bottom-feeders, Central Michigan disposed of Ball State to move out of last place in the standings. The Chips have a two game winning streak, which feels really weird to type.
12. Ball State Cardinals (4-21, 1-13), LW: 11
Last week: at Central Michigan (L), at Toledo (L)
This week: Western Michigan (2/26), Central Michigan (3/1)
Is this season over yet?