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MAC Men's Basketball Power Rankings: Ball State rises while Western Michigan nearly bottoms out

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The final power rankings heading into conference play look drastically different than they did at the beginning of the season.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

With the non-conference portion of the schedule in our rear view mirror, it's now time to focus on what truly matters: conference play. As it has been for the last umpteen years, the MAC will be getting only one bid to the NCAA Tournament as really only one team truly impressed during non-conference play. Surely others will get into post-season play, but the number of really good teams in the conference has fallen since last season.

Note: Rankings are compiled through Sundays' games:

Rank Team (1st-Place Votes) Points Last Week
1 Akron (13) 21 1
2 Toledo 43 2
3 Northern Illinois 54 4
4t Kent State 60 3
4t Ohio 60 5
6 Ball State 85 10
7 Eastern Michigan 90 6
8 Buffalo 102 7
9 Central Michigan 104 8
10 Bowling Green 120 11
11 Western Michigan 122 9
12 Miami 145 12

The big riser here is Ball State, who's win over Valparaiso just keeps looking better and better. It's true that the Cardinals haven't beaten anyone of note outside of the Crusaders, but they're the feel-good story of the MAC this year. After winning only 7 games last year, this season's win total of 9 feels like an accomplishment on its own. Sure, conference play will knock them down a few pegs. But who knows, maybe this Ball State team can contend this season?

Western Michigan didn't lose this week, but needed to really work to beat 7-9 Jacksonville at home, a team ranked outside of KenPom's top 300. This could be a down year in Kalamazoo, and the MAC didn't give them an easy start to the conference schedule. The Broncos open MAC play tonight against Kent State before heading to Akron on Friday. That certainly smells like an 0-2 start, which is not what WMU needs right now.