As us basketball nerds get ready for conference play tomorrow, there are a lot of questions. Everyone should have Buffalo number 1 right now, but the Toledo Rockets are not far behind. The Ball State Cardinals have shown flashes of brilliance with a tough schedule. Kent has knocked off some major conference schools and have two “quality losses.” While I do believe the Bulls are a clear cut number 1, this race could be a lot closer than expected.
#12 Eastern Michigan Eagles
One of only two teams in the conference with a losing record, the Eagles look lost. There is a ton of talent on this roster, however it doesn’t all fit together. Sometimes, teams like this stay lost all season and sometimes teams like this find their way and by the end of the season people are saying, “How did this team have a losing non-conference record?” Time will tell.
#11 Western Michigan Broncos
I thought about copy and pasting the blurb I used to the Eagles. However, I have more faith in coach Hawkins at this point in their careers, plus the Broncos have a wider array of talent in the back court that could make the transition from the Thomas Wilder era a little smoother after a rough start.
#10 Northern Illinois Huskies
Third verse is very similar. The bottom three teams in this power rankings are all in the West. I am almost certain that at least one of these teams has the ability to be in the top half of the conference power rankings by the end of the season.
#9 Miami RedHawks
This team has shown more flashes than the previous three. When they are clicking, they are actually fun to watch. They also play good defense. I would say there are 4 tiers in the MAC right now. The bottom three. The next 4. The 4 after that and Buffalo. Miami could easily find themselves in the next tier up with a little more solid offensive play.
#8 Akron Zips
Coach Groce is close to discovering the magic that got him hired at Illinois. The team plays tough defense. If just a few more shots dropped, the Zips would have knocked off a top ten Nevada squad. Currently, I would call the Zips a giant killer. If their shots start dropping with any sort of frequency, I would call them contender.
#7 Bowling Green Falcons
The Falcons have three really great pieces that fit together nicely with Demajeo Wiggins, Dylan Frye, and Justin Turner. As they learn to play together, and with the rest of the team, I do believe coach Huger has turned the corner with this team. The Falcon faithful will be content by the end of the season.
#6 Ohio Bobcats
I think the Bobcats are a year away from really contending. They have a lot of bigs, but their guard play is a little too inconsistent. At some point, however, Teyvion Kirk is going to turn into a POTY candidate. If that happens this season, the Ohio becomes a contender.
#5 Ball State Cardinals
The Cardinals are really starting to click on offense. This roster has a nice mix of pieces that cover all facets of the game. Aside from a tough schedule, they had a couple of hiccups in the non-conference, but have loads of potential. The Cardinals record isn’t as pretty as the next three teams on the list, but I do believe they are in the same tier.
#4 Central Michigan Chippewas
I am not sold on this Keno Davis squad, but I am not not sold on them, either. Their non-conference slate makes this team the biggest mystery in the conference.
#3 Kent State Golden Flashes
If there is such a thing as quality losses, the Golden Flashes probably have them, with losses to Liberty and Louisville. They have also knocked off a couple of major conference teams, albeit not great ones. I am more sold on the Golden Flashes than the Chippewas, but I don’t know if Senderoff’s squad is a legit MAC contender.
#2 Toledo Rockets
If the Buffalo Bulls had gone back to wherever they came from, then the Toledo Rockets would be the clear cut MAC favorites in my book. They have a loaded roster with gutty players. They do tend to rely on the three, so they will slip up from time to time, but expect the Rockets to have a gaudy record by the end of conference play.
#1 Buffalo Bulls
Some of you may remember that I predicted their football team would go 11-1 in my way too early predictions. I missed it by one. However, I do believe I officially recognized the Bulls as members of the MAC in that article. That tongue in cheek jab was meant more for the football squad, as the Bulls have been easier to accept in basketball for some reason. Maybe because they have been so good. This season, however, they have been really special. They did lose one game this non-conference, but if that game were replayed in Buffalo, I would bet on the Bulls. They are a legit sweet 16 team. That being said, I hope they have a great regular season in the MAC, and then lose in the conference finals. Why? Because the MAC would then be a guaranteed 2 bid league.
This conference season is going to be fun with a lot of interesting story lines. There are a lot of possibilities for a two bid league, outside of the one I mention with Buffalo. Either Toledo or Kent could put up gaudy win totals, split their regular season games with the Bulls, and pull an at-large bid. Maybe CMU could do the same. The Cardinals have 4 losses, but they have the talent to only lose 2 or 3 conference games. This season is setting up to be really fun.