Not much explanation needed here. The regular season is over, so it's time to unmask our last power rankings of the season. It's been an interesting four months, and we're going to include here each team's initial ranking from back in November, just to see how accurate we were.
Ready? Here's the rankings:
1. Bowling Green Falcons (27-3; 17-1 MAC) -- LW: 1 -- Initial: 2
Last week: at Miami (W, 73-56), at Akron (W, 77-76)
This week: MAC Women's Basketball Tournament semifinals, at Cleveland, Ohio (3/14, 12:00 p.m.)
What can we say about the Falcons that hasn't already been said? Their only loss in league play was on the road in overtime against the league's #2 team -- and they really should have won that game. Their win on Saturday, in which they ended Akron's 13-game winning streak with a layup in the final seconds, was perhaps their finest of the last two months. BGSU must be considered the odds-on favorite to win the tournament and the MAC's automatic NCAA bid.
2. Central Michigan Chippewas (20-10; 16-2 MAC) -- LW: 2 -- Initial: 1
Last week: Western Michigan (W, 84-75), at Eastern Michigan (L, 99-84 OT)
This week: MAC Women's Tournament semifinals, at Cleveland, Ohio (3/14, 2:30 p.m.)
The Chippewas have toyed with fire a lot in the last month, and they finally got burned, although not in a way many would have expected. They're still headed to the MAC semifinals, but they drop to the #2 seed and a possible game with Akron in that semifinal. It would be hard to be against them making the finals, though.
3. Akron Zips (20-9; 14-4 MAC) -- LW: 3 -- Initial: 4
Last week: at Buffalo (W, 79-71), Bowling Green (L, 77-76)
This week: MAC Women's Tournament third round, at Cleveland, Ohio (3/13, 2:30 p.m.)
The Zips disappointment in losing to Bowling Green has to be amplified by their concern over Rachel Tecca's potential injury. We don't know what's going on there -- perhaps Akron was just being cautious in removing her after just three minutes against BGSU. The game didn't matter to the Zips for seeding purposes. However, any injury to one of the league's best players at this point is a major negative, no matter how insignificant it might seem.
4. Buffalo Bulls (17-12; 10-8 MAC) -- LW: 4 -- Initial: 8
Last week: Akron (L, 79-71), Kent State (W, 64-51)
This week: MAC Women's Tournament third round, at Cleveland, Ohio (3/13, 12:00 p.m.)
The Bulls have come a long way from our early impressions of them at the beginning of the season. This week, they followed a disappointing loss at home to Akron with a nice win over a surging Kent State team. The Bulls now occupy the #4 seed and get a bye to the MAC tournament third round, but they should be wary. A game against either Ball State or Eastern Michigan would be difficult, and Bowling Green awaits them in the semifinals.
5. Ball State Cardinals (14-15; 9-9 MAC) -- LW: 6 -- Initial: 6
Last week: Northern Illinois (W, 67-57), Toledo (W, 69-56)
This week: MAC Women's Tournament first round, vs Kent State (3/10, 7:00 p.m.)
The Cardinals closed the regular season in impressive fashion with back-to-back double-digit wins at home. They fell just shy of a tournament bye, but they do get a home game and have a good chance to advance to the rounds in Cleveland.
6. Toledo Rockets (14-15; 9-9 MAC) -- LW: 5 -- Initial: 5
Last week: Eastern Michigan (W, 88-52), at Ball State (L, 69-56)
This week: MAC Women's Tournament first round, vs Ohio (3/10, 7:00 p.m.)
It's almost impossible to read the Rockets at times. They thoroughly dismantled Eastern Michigan mid-week and then needed to win on Saturday to have a chance at the #4 seed and a tournament bye. So what happened? They looked listless in an uninspired loss at Ball State. Yes, it was unlikely that Buffalo was going to drop their game against Kent State...but Toledo still needed the win. Now, they have to play Ohio in the first round, and the Bobcats gave Toledo two very tough games during the regular season.
The Rockets could lose on Monday, or they could make it to the finals. There's just no way to tell.
7. Eastern Michigan Eagles (17-12; 7-11 MAC) -- LW: 8 -- Initial: 3
Last week: at Toledo (L, 88-52), Central Michigan (W, 99-84 OT)
This week: MAC Women's Tournament first round, vs Northern Illinois (3/10, 5:00 p.m.)
You could use the same inconsistency argument about EMU that you can use about Toledo, but to EMU's credit, they're playing two freshman starters, so some inconsistency is to be expected. They lost big at Toledo in a game that looked eerily similar to their disaster at NIU back in January, but they followed it with an epic comeback win over Central Michigan.
We were definitely over-confident about EMU in November, but we can say this with certainty -- watch out for the Eagles in the next few years. This team is going to get very, very good.
8. Western Michigan Broncos (12-17; 8-10 MAC) -- LW: 7 -- Initial: 9
Last week: at Central Michigan (L, 84-75), at Northern Illinois (L, 59-51)
This week: MAC Women's Tournament first round, vs Miami (3/10, 7:00 p.m.)
Two weeks ago, the Broncos were 8-7 and had control over their own destiny for the #4 seed and a tournament bye. With that destiny in hand, they proceeded to lose three straight games. WMU was competitive in each game, but they're going into the tournament on a definite down note. What concerns us about that is simple: WMU has often struggled at home this season, and that's where they'll be playing their first round game. Miami came to Kalamazoo earlier in the season and took the Broncos to overtime. There's a definite upset alert in force here.
9. Northern Illinois Huskies (10-18; 6-12 MAC) -- LW: 9 -- Initial: 10
Last week: at Ball State (L, 67-57), Western Michigan (W, 59-51)
This week: MAC Women's Tournament first round, at Eastern Michigan (3/10, 5:00 p.m.)
The Huskies would have benefited greatly from a home game in the tournament, as they've been much better at home than on the road during conference play. As it is, they have to go to Eastern Michigan for their opening tournament game, and they just lost to the Eagles in Ypsilanti one week ago.
10. Kent State Golden Flashes (7-22; 4-14 MAC) -- LW: 11 -- Initial: 11
Last week: at Ohio (W, 69-64), at Buffalo (L, 64-51)
This week: MAC Women's Tournament first round, at Ball State (3/10, 7:00 p.m.)
How do you rank these last three teams? They have identical conference records, nearly identical overall records, and each team split their season series against the other two. In other words, it's very difficult to tell them apart.
We'll give Kent State the nod here, despite the fact that they fell to the #12 seed on the final day of the season. The Flashes are 4-6 in their last 10 games and, before Saturday's loss, had split their previous six. They're playing as well as any of the teams in the lower half of the league, and their first conference win came over Ball State, who is their first tournament opponent. It's definitely not out of the question for the Flashes to advance to Wednesday's second round.
11. Ohio Bobcats (9-21; 4-14 MAC) -- LW: 10 -- Initial: 7
Last week: Kent State (L, 69-64), at Miami (L, 68-63)
This week: MAC Women's Tournament first round, at Toledo (3/10, 7:00 p.m.)
Like EMU, the Bobcats have freshmen in their starting lineup and suffer from inconsistency at times as a result. Need an example? They beat #4 seed Buffalo at home on February 27th, then one week later, lost to Kent State on the same floor. Kiyanna Black and Quiera Lampkins are two dangerous scorers, so Toledo's going to have their hands full on Monday.
12. Miami RedHawks (8-21; 4-14 MAC) -- LW: 12 -- Initial: 12
Last week: Bowling Green (L, 73-56), Ohio (W, 68-63)
This week: MAC Women's Tournament first round, at Western Michigan (3/10, 7:00 p.m.)
Miami had the worst second half of any team in the conference but did end their eight-game losing streak on Saturday by beating Ohio. This team has a lot of good senior leadership and has suffered through a lot this season. They beat Akron back in January, so the question here is whether or not they can harness that in the coming week. If so, they're capable of getting past WMU and perhaps even the winner of the Toledo-Ohio game.