Written by Bowling Green beat writer John Wagner
As the Mid-American Conference regular season comes to a close, there still are some seeding questions to answer. But it looks as if this season has split the MAC’s 12 teams up neatly into three groups of four teams –- the “bye” teams, the first-round hosts and the road warriors.
This final regular-season set of MAC Power Rankings for women’s basketball will look to set the stage for the league tournament, including teams to watch as the action unfolds starting Saturday.
Here is our look at how the league has shaped up entering Tuesday’s final set of games. …
1. BOWLING GREEN (23-5, 13-2 MAC) (LW #1): Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, especially after a disappointing loss at Ohio Wednesday in a situation where a win could have made the Falcons’ lives much easier. BG did bounce back with a solid victory over Miami that clinched the East Division title, but the Falcons still need to sweat out a contest at Kent State Tuesday to assure they will receive the top seed. If Bowling Green doesn’t win, they probably will topple all the way to third in the seedings -– and the road to a potential title will get much tougher. RPI: 60.
Tournament road: At Kent State.
2. EASTERN MICHIGAN (21-7, 13-2 MAC) (LW #2): The Eagles’ dominating win over Toledo last week solidified their hold on second – and EMU could easily make the case for being the league’s best team heading into the tournament. Not only has Eastern Michigan won nine in a row, the Eagles’ closest game –- closest game! –- is a 10-point win, with six of those victories by 20 points or more. Notice that EMU’s RPI now is better than BG’s –- a development that makes the Eagles’ loss at Ball State in the MAC opener the blemish that may cost EMU an outright league title. RPI: 57.
Tournament road: At Central Michigan.
3. TOLEDO (19-8, 12-3 MAC) (LW #3): The Rockets were squashed in their rematch with Eastern Michigan, and their two losses to the Eagles –- combined with a head-scratching loss in their MAC opener at Western Michigan –- likely will cost UT a spot as one of the top two seeds in the MAC tournament. If that’s the case, Toledo is going to have to figure out a way to beat Eastern Michigan if it wants to win the league, because it will be impossible for them to avoid the Eagles in the tournament semifinals. RPI: 80.
Tournament road: At Ball State.
4. MIAMI (20-8, 10-5 MAC) (LW #4): The RedHawks have clinched the fourth seed in the MAC tournament, meaning they have a bye into the quarterfinals. Assuming that Central Michigan earns the fifth seed, Miami would have no cake-walk in its first tournament contest, and a win is likely to set up a third confrontation with Bowling Green. That means the RedHawks need to start working now to find something to overcome their recent jinx against the Falcons, since that’s the only route to the title game. RPI: 91.
Tournament road: Home vs. Ohio.
5. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (15-14, 7-8 MAC) (LW #7): The Chippewas won twice last week, including a solid victory at home over Northern Illinois and a road win at Western Michigan. While the NIU win helps more in the standings, the victory at WMU may prove more valuable because of this team’s recent road struggles. Is CMU pulling things together after a tumultuous league season? Or did it just take advantage of two inferior teams last week? We should get at least a clue as to which of those statements is correct on Tuesday, when the Chips host Eastern Michigan. RPI: 167.
Tournament road: Home vs. Eastern Michigan.
6. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (12-15, 6-9 MAC) (LW #5): Three weeks ago I jumped this team up in the standings, and I still don’t regret the decision –- even though the Huskies lost twice last week. Both losses were on the road, and NIU didn’t exactly get blown out by Toledo. In fact, this team has a way of making other teams look bad, which leads me to believe it will be tough to knock off the Huskies once the tournament begins. RPI: 188.
Tournament road: Home vs. Western Michigan.
7. OHIO (13-16, 6-9 MAC) (LW #8): The Bobcats had another puzzling week last week, knocking off Bowling Green -– a huge win for seeding purposes -– before losing to Buffalo -– a very negative loss. Or perhaps it isn’t so puzzling after all: Ohio has won three in a row at home and lost three straight on the road. That makes earning a first-round home game essential to the Bobcats, who still have one more game to play: At Miami. Uh-oh. RPI: 251.
Tournament road: At Miami.
8. AKRON (12-17, 6-9 MAC) (LW #6): The Zips lost twice last week, including a one-point setback at Kent State that could prove costly. Yes, Akron made a bold comeback late; but the Zips needed to be good enough earlier in the game, so that the comeback wasn’t necessary. Akron finishes with a tricky contest at Buffalo, and while a win isn’t essential to claim a first-round home game, it likely is essential to get the Zips into the right frame of mind entering tournament play. RPI: 203.
Tournament road: Home vs. Buffalo.
9. KENT STATE (6-19, 5-10 MAC) (LW #10): Just when it seemed the Golden Flashes were about to hit rock-bottom, they claimed a win over Akron Saturday. That win did more than snap a seven-game losing streak: It kept alive KSU’s hopes of earning a first-round home game in the MAC tournament. Of course, the next step towards realizing those dreams will be a game against Bowling Green, so it won’t be easy. RPI: 296.
Tournament road: Home vs. Bowling Green.
10. WESTERN MICHIGAN (7-21, 4-11 MAC) (LW #11): The Broncos were able to stop the flow of blood with a win at Ball State, which was important in that it stopped a four-game losing streak. WMU finishes with a game at Northern Illinois, which may prove interesting in that it could be repeated Saturday in the first round of the MAC tournament. If the Broncos wish to do some damage in that event, they will have to find the group that scored 102 points against Buffalo –- or, better still, the squad that opened the MAC season with a win over Toledo. RPI: 298.
Tournament road: At Northern Illinois.
11. BUFFALO (9-20, 4-11) (LW #12): The Bulls had a big week last week, winning twice. Yes, both games were at home. Yes, both wins were against teams in the lower half of the standings. But when you’re 2-11, any win is a good win. And those are two good wins for the Bulls, who need to find a way to win on the road when they play at Akron Tuesday. Figuring out how to succeed away from home is a must if this team wants to advance in the tournament. RPI: 211.
Tournament road: At Akron.
12. BALL STATE (9-18, 4-11 MAC) (LW #9): Remember that I wrote last week that the Cardinals rose to ninth in the Power Rankings more as an indictment of the three teams below (Buffalo, Kent State and Western Michigan) than any kind of reward for Ball State. The Cards promptly lost a winnable game against Western Michigan, and the rest of the schedule has dumped them back to the bottom of the rankings. I seem to rail on Toledo a lot for having lost to Western Michigan early in the season, and I realize now that Eastern Michigan deserves similar scorn for losing to this team in its season opener. I think it’s safe to say there has never been a more misleading start to the MAC season in this sport that those two games this year. RPI: 269.
Tournament road: Home vs. Toledo.