Even I have to laugh when rereading the first sentence of last week’s Power Rankings for Mid-American Conference men’s basketball, where I write that the start of the league schedule would “bring some clarity to the standings.”
We’re only four games into the conference schedule, and already there are no more unbeatens in league play. So how do you make sense of the daisy chains that are formed? You know, “Team A beat Team B, so Team A is better … except Team B beat Team C, and Team C beat Team A, so …”
I’m getting a headache just writing about it.
For those of you new to the rankings, the premise is simple: If the MAC didn’t have divisions, how would the league’s 12 teams be ranked? These rankings are based on on-court performance, RPI rankings … and gut feelings.
So here they are, this week’s Power Rankings for MAC men’s basketball (The “LW” after a team’s record indicates that team’s standings in “last week’s” Power Rankings) …
1. TOLEDO (15-2, 3-1 MAC) (LW #4): OK, Rockets fans, you get your wish. This move to the top is based on one result: THRASHING, not beating, Akron. If that game is closer than the final 14-point margin, I probably would have written it off to a degree. I’m not totally convinced, because I am still stuck on the loss at Western Michigan (that’s a bad loss), and the narrow win over Buffalo at home. UT gets a breather with a pair of winnable home games starting with Northern Illinois Jan. 22. RPI: 37.
2. AKRON (11-6, 3-1 MAC) (LW #1): I was surprised to hear from so many Zips fans who thought this team may not be worthy of this spot quite yet. But I was more surprised by UA’s performance at home against Toledo, especially when you note that it was one of those low-scoring games that the Zips seem to win. A tricky week awaits Akron, which is on the road for games at Eastern Michigan and at Central Michigan. RPI: 119.
3. OHIO (13-4, 3-1 MAC) (LW #2): Last week I moved the Bobcats UP after a loss, so of course this week I’m going to move Ohio DOWN despite a 2-0 record. The next two weeks should be interesting for OU, as three of the next four are at home, and there’s a challenging road game at Eastern Michigan Jan. 25. I’m looking forward to Feb. 1, when the Bobcats host Toledo at the Convocation Center. RPI: 72.
4. BUFFALO (9-5, 3-1 MAC) (LW #5): I like the direction this team is heading, with the lone loss coming on the road at Toledo -- after the Rockets made a shot at the buzzer to win by two points. One caution: The three wins are all at home. UB hits the road for a pair of contests this week, although it’s not unfair to expect it will win at Ball State and Northern Illinois. In fact, it’s reasonable to expect this team will have won eight in a row before it faces back-to-back home games against Ohio (Feb. 15) and Akron (Feb. 19). RPI: 87.
5. EASTERN MICHIGAN (11-6, 3-1 MAC) (LW #6): Last week was a good one for the Eagles, who knocked off Western Michigan at home and Central Michigan on the road to move into a tie for first place in the West. This week things get REALLY interesting for EMU, although the Eagles are home twice: the competition is Akron (Jan. 22) and Ohio (Jan. 25). Is a sweep too much to ask? Possibly. But if the Eagles pull it off, the sky is the limit. RPI: 46.
6. WESTERN MICHIGAN (9-7, 2-2 MAC) (LW #3): The Broncos didn’t play well at Eastern Michigan, which can be a daunting assignment. But blowing a 15-point second-half lead at home to Bowling Green? Yikes. This team will need to turn things around quickly, beginning with a road game at Kent State Jan. 23, if it wants to prove its season-opening win over Toledo was anything more than a mirage. RPI: 181.
7. KENT STATE (11-6, 2-2 MAC) (LW #7): You could say that, to this point, the Golden Flashes have done the “expected” with losses to Ohio and Buffalo and wins over Ball State and Northern Illinois. But things start to get more complicated this week, as KSU hosts Western Michigan in an important contest Jan. 23. The Flashes will be home for three of their next four, although the Feb. 1 game against Akron also will be a toughie. RPI: 174.
8. MIAMI (6-9, 2-2 MAC) (LW #9): Again, kudos to this club for playing above expectations. Losing at Akron is no shame, and winning at Ball State is a big feather in this team’s cap. Are the RedHawks better than I thought? They certainly will have a chance to prove it this week, with a very winnable home game against Central Michigan followed by a very winnable road game at Bowling Green. RPI: 168.
9. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (7-9, 1-3 MAC) (LW #8): The Huskies responded to that road win at Bowling Green by … losing twice. At home. And neither game seemed to be particularly close. And things get even tougher for NIU in the coming weeks as it plays Toledo and Buffalo this week, then a road game at Kent State Jan. 29. The road does ease up after that, though with home games against Miami, WMU and CMU following a road contest at Ball State. RPI: 213.
10. BOWLING GREEN (8-9, 2-2 MAC) (LW #10): Well, shut my mouth. I call out the Falcons for a dreadful home loss to Northern Illinois, and they respond with a solid home win over Central Michigan and an energizing road win at Western Michigan. Can BG keep it going? Well, winning at Ohio Jan. 22 will be tough, but on Jan. 25 Miami comes to the Stroh Center for a winnable contest that could keep the Falcons trending in the right direction. RPI: 180.
11. BALL STATE (3-12, 0-4 MAC) (LW #11): I warned the Cardinals that this could get ugly if they lost to Miami at home. And they did, which could trigger a long losing streak. Buffalo, WMU and Akron are the next three games, followed by essentially a must-win home game against Northern Illinois on Feb. 1. No win there? BSU will be 0-8 heading into games against Buffalo, Toledo and Eastern Michigan. Ouch. RPI: 315.
12. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (7-9, 0-4 MAC) (LW #10): The Chippewas certainly play an interesting game Jan. 22 when they travel to Miami in an attempt to avenge their MAC-opener loss. Failing that? Whew, things could get ugly. The following five games are Akron-Ohio-Western Michigan-Kent State-Buffalo, so 0-10 is very possible heading into a Feb. 12 game at Northern Illinois. Double ouch. RPI: 269.
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