As the Mid-American Conference women’s basketball race enters the final third of the regular season, things seem to be slipping into place, don’t they?
The MAC’s season-long “Big Two” of Central Michigan and Bowling Green have created some space between themselves and the rest of the pack, right? The middle of the pack has started to sort itself out, correct? And the bottom of the standings is, well, the bottom of the league, no?
No. Actually, I should say, “No, no and no.”
Has anyone else noticed Akron sneaking along the back rail, keeping within two games of Bowling Green? If the Falcons lose to Central Michigan, then lose to the Zips in Akron, those two teams would suddenly be tied for first in the MAC East.
Buffalo had been cruising along as the fourth seed … until suddenly Toledo has moved into a tie for fourth. And just as suddenly, the teams in positions six through nine all are within one game of one another … and remember, that ninth seed will play its first MAC tournament game on the road.
In short, there seem to be more questions than answers as we move into the home stretch of the regular season.
As for these 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: As we zoom into the second half of MAC play, here are my Power Rankings for MAC women’s basketball (The “LW” stands for a team’s ranking in this poll “last week”). And PLEASE NOTE: These Power Rankings are NOT how the teams would be seeded should the MAC tournament begin today. …
1. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (16-8, 12-0 MAC) (LW #1): There isn’t much left to prove for the Chippewas, who already have a four-game lead on the rest of the field in the MAC West Division and a virtual stranglehold on at least one of the two byes into the semifinals of the MAC tournament. If CMU wins at BG Wednesday, only one question would remain: Can the Chips finish the MAC season undefeated? They still have a game against a Ball State outfit that gives them fits, but that game is at home. They still play at Toledo, and that would be a challenge. And NIU, a team that gave CMU trouble, will lick its lips at a rematch on the Huskies home floor. RPI: 35.
2. BOWLING GREEN (21-3, 11-1 MAC) (LW #2): I thought I might have correctly turned on the “potential upset alert” siren for the Falcons game at EMU as BG found itself in an early hole. But the Falcons methodically dug their way out of that hole and earned a win that set up their rematch with CMU. The Feb. 19 game at the Stroh Center brings together clearly the two best teams in the league, and sets up a potential day of reckoning for whichever team needs to claim an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. RPI: 32.
3. AKRON (15-8, 9-3 MAC) (LW #3): The Zips seem to be rolling now, having won eight in a row to solidify its hold on this spot in the rankings. Akron did a nice job turning a potential trap game at Ball State into a 23-point victory, and a relatively easy bit of schedule lies ahead with home games against Northern Illinois and Miami sandwiched around a road game at Ohio. Winning is a must, though, if the Zips want to be in position for a season-ending push for the top two spots as they play at Buffalo (March 5) before hosting BG (March 8). RPI: 110.
4. BUFFALO (14-9, 7-5) (LW #4): Give the Bulls credit for a bounce-back following their home win over Northern Illinois. But now UB, which has split its last four games, faces a critical stretch if it wants to hang on to its fourth seed (and a bye into the third round) in the MAC tournament. A win at Kent State Feb. 19) is a must, and a home win over Bowling Green (Feb. 22) might just sew up that fourth MAC tournament bye. RPI: 128.
5. TOLEDO (12-11, 7-5 MAC) (LW #5): The Rockets have won three in a row, and they are starting to look more like the team that was in the upper echelon of this league over the past few seasons. But don’t be fooled: The three wins came against Miami, Kent State and Ohio … and you’ll have to keep scrolling to find those teams in these rankings. UT will face a good challenge at Eastern Michigan (Feb. 19), then host Western Michigan (Feb. 23) before playing at Northern Illinois (Feb. 27). Going 3-0 in that stretch is imperative if the Rockets want to claim the fourth seed in the MAC tournament. RPI: 191.
6. BALL STATE (10-13, 5-7 MAC) (LW #7): For some reason I thought the Cardinals would be more competitive than they were in a 23-point home loss to Akron. There are some potential wins on the road ahead, starting with a game at Miami (Feb. 20) and continuing with a home contest against Eastern Michigan (Feb. 23). But at this point, Ball State seems to have fallen flat after a fine season last year. Did the Cards play WAY over their heads last season, or is this year’s team underachieving? Good question. Snap judgment: A little bit of both. RPI: 164.
7. EASTERN MICHIGAN (14-9, 4-8 MAC) (LW #8): Last week I wrote that I thought I looked smart when I said, “I frankly think the Eagles are much too talented to be this low in the rankings.” Then I predicted that EMU would win one of its next two home games, either against Bowling Green or Toledo. After a five-point loss to the Falcons, the only way I look smart is if the Eagles claim the win over UT. I could see that. … And, to continue in this wild vein, I think EMU could have success on the road ahead against Ball State and Western Michigan. RPI: 175.
8. WESTERN MICHIGAN (9-14, 5-7 MAC) (LW #6): I was understanding when WMU entered play last week having lost four of its last five. But losing by nine points at home to Kent State? I don’t understand that. The Broncos still have three of their next four at home, with the lone road game at Toledo. I wrote that a 3-2 record is imperative in that stretch (and, frankly, the goal should be higher), and wondered if WMU could go 4-1. After that loss, even the 3-2 record seems to be a stretch beyond this team’s capabilities. RPI: 247.
9. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (8-14, 4-8 MAC) (LW #9): The Huskies are struggling, having lost four in a row and six of their last seven. NIU plays at Akron (Feb. 19) before coming home for tough contests against Central Michigan (Feb. 22) and Toledo (Feb. 27). I believe the Huskies play a style that will allow them to steal at least one win in that mix of games, but I’d be hard-pressed to tell you which of those games I think they will win. RPI: 235.
10. OHIO (8-15, 3-9 MAC) (LW #10): The Bobcats now have lost eight in a row, but I think there is hope on the horizon. Kent State has shown that the road game at Western Michigan (Feb. 19) is winnable. Then OU returns home, but the opposition is Akron and Buffalo, before a road game at Bowling Green. Jinkies. I will stand by last week’s prediction: “While the Bobcats are still in the first year of a rebuild, I still think they are going to find a way to win at least once despite that string of difficult contests.” RPI: 201.
11. MIAMI (7-16, 3-9 MAC) (LW #11): Not only have the RedHawks lost their last three in a row, the last two have been by 46 points (at BG) and 41 points (at CMU). No shame in the losses, obviously, but by a combined 87 points? Ouch. The end of the schedule does set up to give Miami a chance to turn things around, with this week’s home game against Ball State (Feb. 20) and winnable road game at Kent State (Feb. 23), and the final three games all at home. RPI: 241.
12. KENT STATE (5-18, 2-10 MAC) (LW #12): I have a habit of highlighting my “upset” predictions, so in the interest of fairness I point out that last week I wrote, “Asking for a win at Western Michigan Feb. 15 probably is a little too much to ask.” I guess not, eh? The Golden Flashes won on the road by nine points, which sets up a potential positive run of home games, especially a Feb. 23 matchup against Miami. RPI: 312.
Agree? Disagree? Want to add to the discussion? Use the "Post a Comment" area below to voice your opinions. Keep it clean, keep it civil, and it will be all good. Join in NOW!