I’m sure Mid-American Conference women’s basketball fans think putting these rankings together is very easy. If Team A beat Team B, then Team A is better, right?
Not so fast, friends. There actually are three problems with that theory, the first being the obvious “two meetings” problem. In short, if two teams split two meetings, how do you figure which team is better?
The second is also obvious: Daisy chains. What do you do in the situation where Team A beat Team B, Team B beat Team C, but Team C beat Team A? One of those games has to be a fluke, an upset, right? That’s the problem: Which one?
There also is a third, and it comes into play this week when trying to determine which of the MAC’s two top teams (Bowling Green and Central Michigan) deserve the top spot. That question is simple: Should you favor the team that has the most talent? Or should you favor the team that seems to enforce its style of play on the other team when they play?
If you read on for a few moments, you’ll see my answer to that question.
While the battle for the top two spots may have the attention of many, I think two other equally interesting battles are shaping up. One is for the fourth seed in the tournament, where both Buffalo and Toledo are slugging it out. I think one of those two teams needs to do something “out of the ordinary” to claim that fourth bid.
The second battle is for seeding in the first round -- and avoiding the ninth seed, and a first-round road game. There are a number of big games this week that hopefully will sort out that situation … but, given the nature of the MAC this season, probably will just muddy the waters even more.
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 final weeks 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”) …
1. BOWLING GREEN (23-3, 13-1 MAC) (LW #2): OK, Falcons fans. Uncle. You win. The Falcons move into the top spot after knocking off CMU at the Stroh Center in a rematch that lived up to the first meeting, which the Chippewas won at home in overtime. BG needs to keep winning to enhance its resume for an NCAA tournament at-large bid, and this week that doesn’t seem like much of a challenge with home games against Kent State (Feb. 27) and Ohio (March 2). Looming in the future: The regular-season finale at Akron March 8. RPI: 28.
2. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (17-9, 13-1 MAC) (LW #1): Last week was filled with lows and highs for the Chippewas. The “low” was losing at BG, which ended their dreams of an undefeated season and put a dent in their resume for an NCAA tournament at-large bid. The high was bouncing back with authority at NIU, a win that helped them secure the first West Division title in school history. This week probably will not be easy, though, as CMU faces its kryptonite, Ball State, at home (Feb. 27) before traveling to Toledo (March 2). RPI: 33.
3. AKRON (17-8, 11-3 MAC) (LW #3): The Zips definitely are rolling now, having won 10 in a row and the last four by double figures. This week also seems to be an easy week for Akron as it hosts a struggling Miami club (Feb. 26) before a “road” game at Kent State (March 2). Winning is a must, though it looks as if the Zips are playing for no better than the third seed. They also face two late-season challenges when they play at Buffalo (March 5) before hosting BG (March 8). RPI: 103.
4. BUFFALO (15-10, 8-6) (LW #4): Give the Bulls credit for giving BG a battle before losing by 10 points in a game that was much closer than the final score. UB now faces a challenging week where two wins are a must if it wishes to hold onto the fourth seed (and the bye into the quarterfinals of the tournament) as Buffalo plays at Ohio and at Miami. The good news for this team: If UB remains tied with Toledo, the Bulls win the fourth seed thanks to a head-to-head victory over the Rockets earlier this season. RPI: 127.
5. TOLEDO (13-12, 8-6 MAC) (LW #5): The Rockets had won four in a row after a solid win at EMU, but UT suffered a paralyzing blow with a home loss to WMU. That setback hurts them in two ways: First, the Rockets lose a tiebreaker with Buffalo, so UT lost a chance to move into the fourth seed of the MAC tournament with that loss. Second, now UT would lose a tiebreaker with WMU should those teams finish tied … and the Broncos are now just a game back. For those reasons, the Rockets game at NIU (Feb. 27) is must-win, and the home contest with CMU (March 2) is must-watch. RPI: 193.
6. WESTERN MICHIGAN (11-14, 7-7 MAC) (LW #8): Last week I chastised the Broncos for a bad loss at home to Kent State and said a 4-1 record should have been the goal, and a 3-2 record was imperative … and both were in peril. Well, shut my mouth. WMU beat Ohio at home, then claimed a big win at Toledo that makes 4-1 possible and 3-2 realistic once again. But note: It doesn’t make either of those marks automatic, because the next two home games are against EMU (Feb. 26) and BSU (March 1). In short, these are two huge home games for the Broncos. RPI: 231.
7. EASTERN MICHIGAN (15-10, 5-9 MAC) (LW #7): I will admit that I may be too optimistic about the Eagles. But EMU has won three of its last five, and the two losses were to BG (totally understandable) and Toledo (somewhat understandable, although at home). What I liked most was the way the freshman-led Eagles bounced back from an early season loss to Ball State to beat the Cardinals in a close game on the road. I think EMU’s game at WMU (Feb. 26) bears close scrutiny, and the Eagles follow that with a must-win home game against Northern Illinois (March 2). RPI: 183.
8. BALL STATE (11-14, 6-8 MAC) (LW #6): The bad news is that the Cardinals home loss to EMU has pushed them into the eighth spot in these rankings. The good news, from a BSU perspective, is that recently being ranked eighth seems to be a springboard to a good week. We will see if that holds true … and if it does, that could result in a HUGE week for BSU, which plays at CMU (Feb. 27) and at WMU (March 1). A win in either of those games would be a big help in the standings. Winning both? Well, the Cards wouldn’t be ranked eighth next week, I promise you. RPI: 166.
9. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (8-16, 4-10 MAC) (LW #9): The Huskies are struggling, having lost six in a row and eight of their last nine. And yet some knucklehead (ahem) predicted NIU would steal at least one win in its next three games, a streak that now includes losses to Akron and Central Michigan. I guess that means Toledo, which plays at NIU (Feb. 27), is on alert. Actually, that prediction is possible, but here’s a better one: If the Huskies want to avoid a first-round MAC tourney road game, a 3-1 record in its final four games is imperative. RPI: 233.
10. OHIO (8-17, 3-11 MAC) (LW #10): The Bobcats now have lost 10 in a row, and that hope I saw on the horizon last week has diminished. The Bobcats have a home game against Buffalo (Feb. 27), before a road game at Bowling Green (March 2). THEN comes a pair of season-ending games that are both winnable as they host Kent State before playing at Miami. In the interest of full disclosure, last week’s prediction (which is just about to become untrue): “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: 221.
11. KENT STATE (6-19, 3-11 MAC) (LW #12): What have we here? Rising up from the depths are the Golden Flashes, who won at home over Miami to give them a pair of wins in their last three games. And the loss last week to Buffalo, while at home, was by just eight points. Has this team found some mojo? If so, we’ll know pretty quickly as this week the Flashes play at Bowling Green (Feb. 27) and home against Akron (March 2) before playing their last two on the road. In short, they will need some mojo. RPI: 313.
12. MIAMI (7-18, 3-11 MAC) (LW #11): The RedHawks continue to lose (five in a row) and lose big (by 10 at home to BSU, by 16 on the road to Kent State). This week hands Miami a tough road challenge at streaking Akron (Feb. 26), followed by their final three at home. The bad news? Those first two home games are against Buffalo and Bowling Green. Trying to not look too far ahead, but the March 8 home finale against Ohio seems to be a must-win of the RedHawks hope to avoid the basement. RPI: 264.
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BONUS: If the MAC tournament started Feb. 25, click here to find out how the 12 women's teams would be seeded and what place/date/time they would play.