#12 Northern Illinois
Much like their women’s basketball team, the Northern Illinois Huskies are ranked at the bottom of the Mid-American Conference (MAC). Nothing on this squad particularly stands out in any stat, as they rank near the bottom in almost all of them. The Huskies do have a surprisingly high offensive rebounds average of 13.7, which is first in the MAC.
#11 Bowling Green
The Falcons have not been having a very impressive year when it comes to men’s basketball. So far in the season they managed a 7-12 record, 2-4 in MAC play. Bowling Green does possess two of the highest ranked scorers in the MAC, Jordan Crawford (No. 4) and A’uston Calhoun (No. 6). Their over-reliance on these two players in the offense, however, has led to their current record. Bowling Green is in need of some additional playmakers, and it doesn’t seem likely that they will be competing for the top spot this season.
Like the other MAC bottom-dwellers, it is difficult to differentiate the Bulls as anything particularly special. Though they have played many tough games this season, almost beating Akron at home this past Saturday, each of these tough games has ended with a loss. The Broncos certainly looked good when they came to Akron and racked up a 30-10 lead in the first half. However, it looks even worse to blow that 20-point lead and lose by four. Buffalo was the one team that Akron could not beat last year, but that success did not translate to this year. With the loss to Akron, the rest of their 7-13 season doesn’t look very promising.
#9 Ball State
There isn’t much to note about the Cardinals except that they aren’t the best or the worst in any stat. They do posses one of the MAC’s better defensive players, Chris Bond, who currently ranks first in steals per game (2.3). Ball State does have room to move up in the rankings if they can win against some of their higher ranked MAC opponents.
The Chippewas aren’t competing for much in the MAC since they lost three of their last four games. They did, however, play an exciting game against the University of Michigan. Central Michigan will have a chance to play spoiler in the regular season, for they have yet to face Akron, Kent or Ohio. A win against any of these three teams will greatly change the makeup of the MAC; however, it is easier said than done.
The Miami Redhawks are not going anywhere fast in MAC play. They have a 7-11 overall record, and are 2-4 in the MAC. Miami does not rank higher than 140th in any national statistic and it doesn’t look like they have much room to improve the rest of the season. The Redhawks still have yet to face the Zips and the Bobcats twice, leaving them very little room to improve in the MAC.
Toledo is sitting at 3-3 in MAC play, their three losses coming against Akron, Western Michigan and Ohio. Toledo may have hit the glass ceiling in the power rankings, because if they can’t defeat the top three teams, there isn’t much more room to move up.
#5 Eastern Michigan
Eastern Michigan does not have many good sport teams. Their men’s basketball team, however, is probably one of their best. In the MAC, the Eagles are 3-3 and are one game behind MAC West leader Western Michigan. The next couple of weeks will be difficult for EMU, as they will face three of the top four teams in the MAC. It would be fair to say that the Eagles stand a good chance of making a splash or two in the conference tournament but, at the present moment, it isn’t likely they will be the champions.
#4 Kent State
Kent State has been quite impressive this year. Their ability to stay in games against better opponents is commendable. The biggest problem facing the Golden Flashes is their ability to finish games. In the past two weeks, KSU has lost games to top-ranked teams Ohio and Akron. Both games were winnable, but in both games the Flashes lost the lead and control of the game toward the end. Perhaps the Flashes should contact Akron athletics to borrow the women’s basketball marketing motto of “Finish” because, at present moment, they simply aren’t getting the job done.
#3 Western Michigan
When it comes to comparing the MAC East and the MAC West divisions, it becomes abundantly clear that the MAC East has emerged as the dominant division within the conference. The top team for the West is Western Michigan, who lost both of their matchups thus far against the West. By virtue of divisional standings, the Broncos come in at third; however, it doesn’t seem likely that they will advance past this point. It is unlikely that they will join the showdown for the conference championship, but stranger things have happened before.
The Ohio Bobcats have been having a phenomenal season that has led them to being tied for first in the MAC East. Ohio leads the MAC with 3-point field goals, assists and steals. The star of the Bobcats is D.J. Cooper, who has the seventh highest points per game average in the MAC (14.6). For comparison, Akron’s highest scorer, Zeke Marshall, is ranked tenth at 12.6 points per game. Ohio comes in at second for several reasons, some of which are described in the first slot. The most glaring standout, however, is the strength of schedule. Akron’s losses came against higher ranked teams and at closer margins. If the Bobcats hope to move up, they will have to defeat Akron.
I find it difficult putting Akron in the top spot, because the last time Akron ranked high in the power rankings they significantly fell afterwards. However, Akron deserves the first spot. The Zips lead the MAC in scoring offense, field goal percentage, field goal defense, and blocked shots.
Akron has a 15-4 record, with two of those losses coming from heartbreaking losses in overtime to Oklahoma State and Coastal Carolina. The Zips will face off against Bowling Green and MAC arch-rival Ohio University this week, which will greatly impact whether or not Akron will be able to stay in the first spot in the weeks to come.