It was a very interesting week of women's basketball in the Mid-American Conference, even if most of the games were not particularly close. There have been some good surprises, such as Ohio's two wins, and some disappointments, such as Eastern Michigan's two double-digit losses. One thing is crystal clear, though. Bowling Green and Central Michigan have risen to the top of the league -- AGAIN -- and neither team looks very vulnerable at this point.
Let's get to the rankings...
1. Bowling Green Falcons (13-2; 3-0 MAC) -- LW: 1
Last week: at Kent State (W, 58-39), Akron (W, 81-65)
This week: at Ball State (1/15, 6:00 p.m. ET), at Central Michigan (1/18, 12:00 p.m. ET)
Bowling Green erased whatever questions lingered about their place in the Eastern Division with a decisive 16-point win over Akron on Sunday. Their defense continues to impress, and their offense remains as versatile as any in the conference.
However, this week presents a interesting challenge. First, they travel to Muncie for a game against a Ball State team that's had its ups and downs but won twice last week in very impressive fashion. After that trip, we get what may be the "Game of the Year" in the MAC -- BGSU at Central Michigan. Pass the popcorn, that game will be loads of fun.
2. Central Michigan Chippewas (7-8; 3-0 MAC) -- LW: 3
Last week: at Akron (W, 109-83), at Buffalo (W, 82-68)
This week: Northern Illinois (1/15, 7:00 p.m. ET), Bowling Green (1/18, 12:00 p.m. ET)
Unquestionably, no team has started the MAC season better than Central Michigan. They opened with a home win over Toledo, then spent last week winning two big cross-division games on the road. Wins by 26 and 14 in those environments are impressive by any definition, and Crystal Bradford's triple-double on Sunday was just icing on the cake.
This week, the Chippewas prepare for their big Saturday showdown with Bowling Green by hosting Northern Illinois. The Huskies nearly pulled off a huge comeback and upset at Toledo last week, so they can't be overlooked.
3. Ball State Cardinals (7-7; 2-1 MAC) -- LW: 5
Last week: at Eastern Michigan (W, 70-66), Kent State (W, 55-31)
This week: Bowling Green (1/15, 6:00 p.m. ET), at Ohio (1/18, 2:00 p.m. ET)
The Cardinals have had some good times and some bad times this season, but they swept two games last week to gather some momentum in the MAC West. Their win at Eastern Michigan could end up being a key victory later in the season, and BSU dismantled Kent State on Sunday in a very similar manner to how BGSU did it just three days prior.
Ball State has an opportunity to make a big statement on Wednesday night when they host Bowling Green, so you know the Cardinals will be up for that one. The trip to Athens to face Ohio could be tricky, though. Ohio lost at NIU but has two nice home wins already in their pocket.
4. Toledo Rockets (7-7; 2-1 MAC) -- LW: 6
Last week: Northern Illinois (W, 73-71), Miami (W, 68-52)
This week: at Buffalo (1/15, 7:00 p.m. ET), at Western Michigan (1/18, 2:00 p.m. ET)
It's always nice to have an undefeated week, but let's be honest -- given the Rockets' talent level and recent history, these are two games they should win. And if they want to compete with Central Michigan, they're two games Toledo had to win. The Rockets had already lost to Valparaiso at home earlier this season and nearly blew a huge lead against NIU. They must have learned their lesson, though, as they built a big lead on Sunday against Miami and didn't let the RedHawks back in the game.
Toledo has two key road games this week. Buffalo is 0-3 in the MAC but their wins earlier in the season show that they have the talent necessary to win games like this, and Western Michigan already owns two home wins over Miami and Buffalo. Obviously, a 2-0 week here would be fantastic, but 1-1 might be more realistic.
5. Eastern Michigan Eagles (11-3; 1-2 MAC) -- LW: 2
Last week: Ball State (L, 70-66), at Northern Illinois (L, 77-54)
This week: Western Michigan (1/15, 7:00 p.m. ET), at Buffalo (1/18, 12:00 p.m. ET)
Has reality set in for the Eagles, or is this just a bump in the road for a young team? Ball State is pretty good, so there's nothing terrible about a four-point loss to them. However, losing by 23 to Northern Illinois (even on the road) is much less excusable.
EMU will need to recover quickly, though, as they have a difficult week ahead. Western Michigan has been better at home than on the road (in general), but the Broncos have a dangerous offense. As noted above, Buffalo's start in conference play masks their talent and ability, so a trip there will be no cakewalk for the Eagles.
6. Akron Zips (7-7; 1-2 MAC) -- LW: 4
Last week: Central Michigan (L, 109-83), at Bowling Green (L, 81-65)
This week: at Miami (1/15, 7:00 p.m. ET), Kent State (1/18, TBD)
Clearly, Akron would have liked to win both (or at least one) of their games last week. Still, there is no real shame in losing to Central Michigan and Bowling Green, although it might have been better if both had been closer. Akron still has the top two scorers in the MAC and is plenty good enough to recover.
What Akron does in the next week will be very important in that recovery. The Zips get to play teams this week that are a combined 0-6 in league play and 7-21 overall. The game at Miami is on the road, but if the Zips are going to reel Bowling Green back in, they need to win both of these games.
7. Northern Illinois Huskies (6-7; 2-1 MAC) -- LW: 8
Last week: at Toledo (L, 73-71), Eastern Michigan (W, 77-54)
This week: at Central Michigan (1/15, 7:00 p.m. ET), at Miami (1/18, 7:00 p.m. ET)
If anyone had said that Northern Illinois would be tied for second in the MAC West, even after just three conference games, I'm not sure anyone else would've believed it. Regardless, here they are, and they came awfully close to being 3-0 rather than just 2-1. The Huskies deserve a lot of credit for their comeback attempt against Toledo, and to follow that up with a 23-point win over EMU was mighty impressive.
This week might not be so kind. Northern Illinois will be heavy underdogs on Wednesday against the Chippewas, and they follow that with a trip to Miami. They'll be doing very well for themselves if they can earn a split of the two games.
8. Western Michigan Broncos (6-8; 2-1 MAC) -- LW: 9
Last week: Buffalo (W, 82-72), at Ohio (L, 70-53)
This week: at Eastern Michigan (1/15, 7:00 p.m. ET), Toledo (1/18, 2:00 p.m. ET)
Still in a wait-and-see mode on Western Michigan. The Broncos have wins over Miami and Buffalo, but those two are a combined 0-6 in the MAC. They also have a 17-point loss against a youthful Ohio squad. In the ultra-competitive MAC West, that loss to Ohio could really hurt when tournament time arrives.
We should know a lot more about WMU seven days from now. They travel to Ypsilanti to play Eastern Michigan before hosting Toledo. Wins in both games would offer some real legitimacy to the team and the prospects of being a contender in the division, while losses in both could bury the Broncos in the standings.
9. Ohio Bobcats (7-7; 2-1 MAC) -- LW: 10
Last week: Miami (W, 97-79), Western Michigan (W, 70-53)
This week: at Kent State (1/15, 7:00 p.m. ET), Ball State (1/18, 2:00 p.m. ET)
The Bobcats put together two very good wins during the past week In particular, the win over WMU (who had started the MAC season 2-0) was impressive. That win is one of just two that the MAC East owns over the MAC West in ten cross-division games so far this season. Thanks to that win, they're in sole possession of second place in the MAC East. Even this early in the season, that's a great accomplishment for the Bobcats.
Even on the road, Ohio ought to beat Kent State. The Golden Flashes are just awful on offense right now. The key for Ohio is Saturday's game at home against Ball State. The Cardinals, who will be coming off a home game against Bowling Green, are the only other MAC West team to lose a cross-division game this year (at Akron). They could be vulnerable in that spot, and if so, the Bobcats could be 4-1 after this week.
10. Buffalo Bulls (7-7; 0-3 MAC) -- LW: 7
Last week: at Western Michigan (L, 82-72), Central Michigan (L, 82-68)
This week: Toledo (1/15, 7:00 p.m. ET), Eastern Michigan (1/18, 12:00 p.m. ET)
Buffalo has undeniably had a difficult start to their conference season with games against Bowling Green and Central Michigan, as well as at Western Michigan. Still, an 0-3 start has to be very disappointing for the Bulls. Their offense was an issue against BG, but last week, it was their defense that failed them. The Bulls gave up 82 in both games, and their offense isn't quite good enough to overcome that.
Only three games into an 18-game conference season is very early to start calling games "must-wins", but that's really where Buffalo is at right now. They play two at home against difficult opponents, but an 0-5 start (or even 1-4) would likely make it impossible for the Bulls to catch Bowling Green in the East. Anything but a sweep this week likely means that the Bulls can stop thinking about getting a top-four seed for the conference tournament.
11. Miami RedHawks (4-10; 0-3 MAC) -- LW: 11
Last week: at Ohio (L, 97-79), at Toledo (L, 68-52)
This week: Akron (1/15, 7:00 p.m. ET), Northern Illinois (1/18, 7:00 p.m. ET)
Miami might have been a dark-horse candidate in the Eastern Division before the season started, but they're anything but now. The RedHawks haven't looked good in any of their three conference games and lost their two last week by a combined 34 points. Yes, both were on the road, but the fact that neither were close games is very telling.
It's unlikely that things will get better on Wednesday, as the RedHawks host an Akron team that ought to be plenty angry following their loss at Bowling Green. The game against Northern Illinois seems as if it would be a much more likely candidate to be Miami's first league win, but after what NIU has done to Ohio and EMU, I'm not so sure that's true.
Still, Miami fans can be grateful that they're not...
12. Kent State Golden Flashes (3-11; 0-3) -- LW: 12
Last week: Bowling Green (L, 58-39), at Ball State (L, 55-31)
This week: Ohio (1/15, 7:00 p.m. ET), at Akron (1/18, TBD)
The Golden Flashes began the conference season by scoring 70 in a loss to Eastern Michigan. In the two games last week, they combined to score 70 points. Let's put it this way -- scoring 23 points in a single half would be pretty bad, but KSU managed to score 23 points total in the first half of their two games last week. Their defense has been good, but not nearly good enough to overcome the level of ineptitude currently displayed on offense. If things don't get better, it's hard to see where they get a win during conference play.
It doesn't look like it will be this week, at the very least. Ohio is playing very well at the moment, and when KSU ventures to Akron, does anyone think they have anything remotely resembling an answer for Tecca and Luburgh? Quite simply, no.
- Hustle Belt's MAC Men's Basketball Players of the Week: Week 9
- MAC Women's Basketball Roundup: Sunday, January 12th
- MAC Basketball Week In Review: Toledo Loses Opener, Ohio-Akron Add Another Classic
- Bowling Green Makes Statement With 81-65 Win Over Akron
- Northern Illinois Steals 45-36 Road Win at Bowling Green