Seedings are more science than art. Seeding teams involves using hard data (records) and following rules (sometimes complex rules, admittedly) that provide a specific result. That’s the case with the pairings for the Mid-American conference tournament, which you can read for yourself by clicking here.
Rankings are more art than science. There’s a feel involved with rankings, and it helps to explain the unexplainable (for example, how did one team beat other team that was more highly regarded?). As is the case with art, it’s often in the eye of the beholder to determine if it’s beautiful or ugly.
In the interest of “art,” here are this week’s MAC Power Rankings. It’s for you to decide if this is a thing of beauty or random paint splatter. …
1. AKRON (21-4, 12-0 MAC) (LW #1): Well, at least the top spot is obvious. The Zips have won 17 in a row and each of their first 12 league games. I think Friday’s game against North Dakota State could help their NCAA resume, but it would have helped more if the game were on the road. Actually, the game that should impact Akron’s resume the most is its Feb. 27 game at Ohio. Win that, and I would be tempted to say the Zips would have a shot at an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. But only tempted. RPI: 48.
2. OHIO (19-6, 10-1 MAC) (LW #2): I remember writing a few weeks back that the Bobcats better not get caught looking past Eastern Michigan for their rematch with Akron. Thanks to the $5 Bandit, that still holds true … with the added bonus of a tough BracketBuster road game against Belmont over the weekend. As important as Akron’s BracketBuster game is, the fact that OU is on the road makes their BracketBuster more important –- there are more RPI points to be gained with the road win. Can the Bobcats pull it off, though? RPI: 74.
3. WESTERN MICHIGAN (16-9, 8-4 MAC) (LW #3): Here is where we start down the slippery slope from science to art. The Broncos hold onto the No. 3 ranking by an eyelash over Toledo despite a pair of bad road losses (at Ball State and at Bowling Green). The next three games are critical if WMU wants to remain in the third position: A home BracketBuster game against Pacific presents a fine opportunity to burnish the Broncos’ resume, and road games at Toledo and Eastern Michigan provide a chance to prove the Broncos are the best of the West. RPI: 114.
4. TOLEDO (12-11, 8-4 MAC) (LW #4): Outside of the “Big Two,” the Rockets are the team that has done the best job of winning the games they were supposed to win. UT has won six of its last seven, with the lone loss (at Buffalo) the product of a poor shooting night. Next Wednesday Toledo will be playing for the West Division title when it hosts Western Michigan at Savage Arena … and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rockets won that game -– and swept their way to the finish line. RPI: 174.
5. KENT STATE (14-12, 5-7 MAC) (LW #5): A few weeks back, I predicted that people would complain about my leaving the Golden Flashes this high in the rankings. But this is where the “art” starts stepping in front of the “science” in the rankings. The Flashes have earned this spot, at least to a degree: They have won three of their last five, and one of the losses was an overtime thriller at Ohio while the other was at Western Michigan. There is no shame in either of those results. This ranking is more gut feeling than statistics; I think KSU finishes strong and eventually claims this spot in the final standings. RPI: 182.
6. BUFFALO (11-15, 6-6 MAC) (LW #7): Again, here is a position where I’m allowing a gut feeling to trump the numbers. The Bulls have won three straight, avenging a home loss to Miami by beating the RedHawks on the road. Here is the only bit of trepidation I have with this ranking: Buffalo could finish MAC play on a four-game losing streak as it plays at Kent State, then hosts Akron and Ohio before finishing with a game at Bowling Green. There could be a LOT on the line when the Bulls and Falcons meet in that final contest. RPI: 224.
7. BOWLING GREEN (10-15, 5-7 MAC) (LW #9): The Falcons are one of the few “traditional” middle-of-the-road MAC teams. What do I mean by that? BG does what you would expect a .500 team to do: The Falcons win nearly all of their home games (their only MAC loss at home came to Akron), and they struggle to win MAC road contests (they are 1-6 on the road and have ugly losses to CMU and Miami). So the good news for Bowling Green is that three of their final four league games are at home (although a challenge against Ohio is one of those three). RPI: 241.
8. EASTERN MICHIGAN (12-13, 5-6 MAC) (LW #6): The Eagles also are starting to do a better job of protecting their home floor (a loss to Akron snapped a four-game home winning streak). But EMU’s win over Ball State Saturday was critical since it was the Eagles first MAC win away from home this year. After Wednesday’s contest at Ohio, the road will smooth considerably (at Northern Illinois and at Central Michigan). But now the focus switches to being strong at home, since the final two contests there are against Western Michigan and Toledo. RPI: 220.
9. BALL STATE (10-14, 4-8 MAC) (LW #10): The Cardinals are the most unpredictable squad in the league, claiming more road wins in MAC play (3-3 record) than at home (1-5). The lone home victory was a good one, a three-point victory over Western Michigan, and the final two home games are both winnable (Central Michigan and Northern Illinois). But the Cards are going to need some more road magic to move up in the rankings, and BSU doesn’t figure to be the favorite in either of its final two road encounters (at Toledo and at Western Michigan). RPI: 269.
10. MIAMI (8-16, 3-9 MAC) (LW #8): Kudos to the RedHawks for getting the must-win at Central Michigan. And a tip of the hat for staying close at Toledo (one-point loss) and at home against Akron (four-point loss). But losing at home to Buffalo, a team Miami beat on the Bulls’ home floor early in the season, is a demerit. The road ahead certainly will be rocky for the RedHawks, as four of their last five are away from home. And the finish? At Akron, then at Ohio. Shudder. RPI: 262.
11. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (5-19, 3-9 MAC) (LW #12): In the last set of Power Rankings I wrote, “I’m telling you that they will surprise a few more teams this season. And this upcoming three-game homestand against Kent State, Toledo and Bowling Green will give them a great opportunity to do just that.” Well, you are welcome … the Huskies upset KSU at home and stayed close to Toledo before losing. So, in the spirit of further predictions: NIU plays its next three at home, and I think there’s a better-than-good chance they will win at least two. And sweeping all three isn’t out of the question. RPI: 316.
12. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (9-16, 2-10 MAC) (LW #11): The Chippewas started out surprisingly strong, winning two of their first four games. But since that point things have fallen apart for the Chippewas, who have too many indefensible home losses (Northern Illinois and Miami are at the top of the list) to work their way above this point. Two things seem to cement CMU’s spot here at the bottom: The first is that the Chips don’t seem to be staying close late to give themselves an opportunity to win. The second is that four of their final five games are on the road, and Central Michigan hasn’t won a home game since December. RPI: 256.