We are one game into conference play! What have we learned from opening weekend? Not much, of course: Its the smallest possible sample size of one game. However, it is worth noting three of Saturdays six games were won by road teams; a rarity in the notoriously home-cooking MAC.
Lets break it down:
1. Kent State (10-5, 1-0): Im not completely convinced Kent is the team to beat. But they top the conference in the Basketball State, RPI, and Sagarin ratings, and they scored a road victory in Athens. In addition, they had the most impressive non-conference performance, so its really a no-brainer that the Flashes are standing on top of the mountain early. If Kent can pull off something like a 13-3 conference record and win their BracketBuster, they would be an extremely strong at-large candidate.
Up next: @Miami (Tuesday, ONN), Bowling Green (Sunday)
2. Akron (11-4, 1-0): Going to make a bold prediction: If the Zips can regularly hold opponents to 28% shooting, theyre going to win a lot of ballgames. Its no surprise Akron is killing opponents on the boards and playing tenacious defense, but the offense has been humming along, as well. This week will provide two solid tests to see just how good they are at putting the ball in the basket. Are they for real, or did they just beat up on lesser teams? Ohio and Buffalo will provide good bellwethers.
This week: @Ohio (Wednesday), @Buffalo (Sunday)
3. Western Michigan (9-5, 1-0): The Broncs have a legitimate case for being higher; they have an excellent win over VCU, played Temple tough, and absolutely shut down EMU. However, offensive consistency remains elusive for WMU, and its looking like a top-heavy conference this year. There are a number of teams that play good defense, including the two above Western. They need to be able to score.
This week: @Northern Illinois (Wednesday), Central Michigan (Saturday)
4. Buffalo (8-4, 1-0): The Bulls should be higher, but how do you lose by 10 to Jacksonville? Yes, the win at Green Bay was nice. Drubbing Miami was a good message to send the rest of the league. However, the team needs to prove it can win when the offense is not firing on all cylinders against a quality opponent. Thus far, they havent done that.
This week: @Bowling Green (Thursday), Akron (Sunday)
5. Central Michigan (6-7, 1-0): Not the start youd want to see from the preseason West favorites. Beating Toledo isnt going to do much to answer any questions, but it has to start somewhere, right? Three of the next four are at Rose Arena, so the Chips have the opportunity to gather some momentum and confidence.
This week: Ball State (Wednesday), @Western Michigan (Saturday)
6. Ohio (9-6, 0-1): The kittens got a lesson on smash mouth MAC East ball Saturday and almost passed it. Divisional foes except maybe Buffalo are not going to let Ohio run the way they would like to, and without quality bigs to take pressure off dynamite frosh DJ Cooper and journeyman Armon Bassett, expect up-and-down results from the Cats.
This week: Akron (Wednesday), @Miami (Saturday, ESPNU)
7. Eastern Michigan (8-6, 0-1): And it all started so promising with a win on the road against an Oakland squad that had generated some mid-major hype. Carlos Medlock shooting 37% and 31% from deep? Not in the recipe. The team itself is shooting a ghastly 41.7%.
This week: Toledo (Wednesday), @Northern Illinois (Saturday)
8. Northern Illinois (5-8, 0-1): Sadly, the Huskies could learn a thing or two from EMU: They are shooting just 40.2% from the field and 27.8% from three, good for 332nd in the nation in that category. Theyre even worse at the line with their 60.1% rate weighing in at 343rd nationally. They do take slightly better care of the ball, turning it over 23.3% of the time. Thats 315th in the country.
Next week: Western Michigan (Wednesday), Eastern Michigan (Saturday)
9. Miami (3-11, 0-1): The RedHawks went through their usual Herculean non-conference schedule, though their performance was decidedly mortal. Its Bizarro Miami this season, as they rank second in the MAC in FG%, 2FG%, 3FG% and eFG%; first in points per weighted shot and true shooting percentage. Defensive efficiency? 290th in the nation and 11th in the conference. Say what?
Up next: Kent State (Tuesday, ONN), Ohio (Saturday, ESPNU)
10. Bowling Green (6-7, 0-1): Only in the offensively-challenged MAC can you rank 250th nationally in FG% but fifth in the conference. They do one thing well: Not fouling. Theyre getting whistled 16.5 times a game, best in the conference and top 50 in the nation. That might be more the result of the heavy 2-3 zone instead of solid play, though.
This week: Buffalo (Thursday), @Kent State (Sunday)
11. Ball State (6-7, 0-1): I like the way the Cardinals play basketball. I like Billy Taylor. In that vein, I hope the Muncie faithful are willing to forgive this lost season. Its going to be very painful at times.
This week: @Central Michigan (Wednesday), Toledo (Sunday)
12. Toledo (3-12, 0-1): The Rockets have a chance to go 0-16 in MAC play. Both offensive and defensive efficiency fail to crack the top 300 in the country. Whats more, they play at a murderous pace. Only one player (Jay Shunnar) has a TS% of at least 60. Yikes.
This week: @Eastern Michigan (Wednesday), @Ball State (Sunday)