The MAC Tournament officially tips off in exactly one week and one hour from now, which is very hard to believe. It seemed like just yesterday we were starting off conference play and were trying to figure out just how the hell Western Michigan toppled seemingly unbeatable Toledo. We've come a long way since early January haven't we? Toledo stumbled a few times, Akron looked human for the first time in a few years, and Bobby Hurley's Buffalo Bulls snuck up on everyone. It's going to be a wacky MAC Tournament for sure, but before we look to hard into that we take a look at the last power rankings of the regular season.
1. Western Michigan Broncos (19-9, 12-4), LW: 1
Last week: at Ball State (W 88-81 OT), at Toledo (L 96-85 OT)
This week: Northern Illinois (3/4), at Central Michigan (3/7)
The Broncos had a trying week, needing to go to overtime to decide the outcome in both games. Ball State had the Broncos on the ropes but the big three of David Brown, Connar Tava and Shayne Whittington willed WMU to the victory which just happened to be Steve Hawkins' 200th win. The game against Toledo played out the opposite way, as Western Michigan had an thirteen-point second half lead which slipped away and may have cost them the number one seed. The Broncos now have to win out or have Toledo lose a game to have any hope at the top seed and automatic NIT berth.
2. Toledo Rockets (24-5, 12-4), LW: 2
RPI: 37 / Ken Pom: 105
Last week: at Northern Illinois (L 74-66), Western Michigan (W 96-85 OT)
This week: at Central Michigan (3/4), Eastern Michigan (3/8)
The Rockets didn't do themselves any favors in playing their worst game of the year against Northern Illinois. That loss may have kept them from locking up the one seed (virtually). However, they came back the next night and knocked off Western Michigan in overtime, and now just have to win both games to clinch the number one seed. That's easier said than done, but now Toledo seems focused after that wake-up call at NIU.
3. Buffalo Bulls (18-8, 12-4), LW: 4
RPI: 89 / Ken Pom 91
Last week: at Ohio (W 69-64), Miami (W 78-55)
This week: at Akron (3/4), Bowling Green (3/8)
Buffalo was one of two teams in the whole conference to win both games this week, which says a lot about the streak the Bulls are on right now (they've won nine of their last eleven). The win over Ohio was a huge victory and puts them in the position to win the division if they beat Akron on Wednesday. Buffalo may have overlooked Miami for the first half, but in the second half the Bulls blitzkreiged the RedHawks 50-25 to cruise to an easy win. Wednesday night may be the game of the year for Buffalo as the Zips will be looking for some payback after losing in Buffalo. With a top-four seed already clinched, the Bulls have set their sights on a division championship.
4. Akron Zips (18-11, 10-6), LW: 5
RPI: 111 / Ken Pom: 148
Last week: at Miami (L 65-61), Bowling Green (W 57-47)
This week: Buffalo (3/4), Kent State (3/7)
The Zips have been bitten by the injury (and suspension) bug, and that showed last Wednesday night against Miami as Akron lost their third in a row without some of their best players. Although they haven't been as consistent on the offensive end, they turned it up on defense against Bowling Green, holding them under fifty. The advantage of playing a lot of road games to begin the season is the reward of playing home games later when the games really matter. Akron gets two home games to try to clinch a top four seed and both games are must wins.
5. Ohio Bobcats (19-10, 9-7), LW: 3
RPI: 75 / Ken Pom: 130
Last week: Buffalo (L 69-64), Kent State (L 75-61)
This week: at Bowling Green (3/4), at Miami (3/8)
Ohio's comeback mojo may be all used up. The Bobcats lost both games this week (at home, even) and are now fighting for a first round bye. They needed the game against Buffalo to stay in the hunt for the division title but that didn't happen, and the title opportunity was lost when it all came crashing down against Kent State on Senior Night. Unlike Akron, Ohio has to try and win their next two on the road. It won't be easy as both Bowling Green and Miami are not easy outs. The Bobcats could be staring at 9-9 and a first round home game in the MAC Tournament.
6. Eastern Michigan Eagles (17-12, 9-7), LW: 6
RPI: 77 / Ken Pom: 107
Last week: Central Michigan (W 64-42), Northern Illinois (W 56-52)
This week: Ball State (3/4), at Toledo (3/8)
The Eagles just keep chugging along and no one is paying attention to them. They demolished Central Michigan and held on for a nice win at Northern Illinois. This week they should pick up a victory over Ball State and could sneak into a first round bye if Akron and Ohio lose both games this week. Knowing how the MAC has been this year, that may actually happen.
7. Northern Illinois Huskies (13-15, 7-9), LW: 7
RPI: 198 / Ken Pom: 208
Last week: Toledo (W 74-66), at Eastern Michigan (L 56-52)
This week: at Western Michigan (3/4), Ball State (3/8)
Who had the Huskies beating Toledo? That was a huge upset and really messed up the top of the standings. Unfortunately they couldn't hold a six point lead with under three minutes left against Eastern, and their chance at a .500 record in conference play pretty much diminished. Even an 8-10 record would be a fantastic improvement over the last few years of two or three win seasons. The Huskies need to root against Kent State and Miami, their primary competition for first round home games in the MAC Tournament.
8. Miami RedHawks (11-16, 7-9), LW: 9
RPI: 162 / Ken Pom: 230
Last week: Akron (W 65-61), at Buffalo (L 78-55)
This week: at Kent State (3/4), Ohio (3/8)
Miami moves up a spot after beating Akron. The RedHawks play a huge game (for them) against Kent State this week, which will likely determine who is staying home and who has to head on the road for the first round. These two teams may play twice in a week if they both end up in the 8-9 spots.
9. Kent State Golden Flashes (16-13, 7-9), LW: 8
RPI: 202 / Ken Pom: 168
Last week: at Bowling Green (L 73-66), at Ohio (W 75-61)
This week: Miami (3/4), at Akron (3/7)
The Flashes needed to win at Bowling Green to have a stronghold on a first round home game but that didn't happen. They bounced back nicely with a huge win at Ohio but will need to beat Miami on Wednesday. The streak of twenty win seasons may come to an end this year as Kent State only has three more guaranteed games left to play.
10. Bowling Green Falcons (12-17, 6-10), LW: 10
RPI: 174 / Ken Pom: 199
Last week: Kent State (W 73-66), at Akron (L 57-47)
This week: Ohio (3/4), at Buffalo (3/8)
The Falcons need to win at least one game this week to be in the hunt for a first round home game but that is going to be tough playing Ohio and Buffalo. 6-12 and a road tournament game is a much more likely possibility and one that will likely seal Louis Orr's fate in Bowling Green.
11. Ball State Cardinals (5-22, 2-14), LW: 12
RPI: 297 / Ken Pom: 308
Last week: Western Michigan (L 88-81 OT), Central Michigan (W 74-71)
This week: at Eastern Michigan (3/4), at Northern Illinois (3/8)
The Cardinals' football team will have won more conference games this year than the basketball team's win total unless Ball State finds a way to beat EMU or NIU. At least they beat Central!
12. Central Michigan Chippewas (10-18, 3-13), LW: 11
RPI: 274 / Ken Pom: 285
Last week: at Eastern Michigan (L 64-42), at Ball State (L 74-71)
This week: Toledo (3/4), Western Michigan (3/8)
This is why you don't have a non-conference schedule full of easy games. The Chips just can't get anything going for them the past few years.