Last week I suggested interdivisional play would make the difference in the regular season championship. Play since then has borne that out. Kent State has established itself as a clear #1 while watching competitors stumble. #1 and #12 are established. 2-11, however, are shifting almost daily.
1. Kent State (15-7, 6-2) (1): The MACs only top 100 team in the RPI, Basketball State and Sagarin Rankings, the Golden Flashes have done everything you can ask of a champion during their five-game winning streak. Theyve won playing slow (54 possessions against Toledo), playing fast (more than 75 possessions against NIU and Buffalo), playing lockdown defense (a stupefying .597 points per defensive possession allowed against NIU) and with the offense leading the way (more than one point per offensive possession in all five games). This week: @Eastern Michigan (Thursday), @Central Michigan (Saturday)
2. Central Michigan (10-9, 5-2) (2): The Chippewas lead the West by a half game after winning three of the last four. Senior guard Jordan Bitzer has taken the load of leading the team in scoring, but hes not a good shooter (43.5% from the field). However, he is leading the conference in free throw shooting (88.2%) and connecting on 42% of three-pointers, though that percentage has been sliding since conference play began. CMU gets four of the next five at home, giving them the opportunity to make a big run.
This week: Buffalo (Thursday), Kent State (Saturday)
3. Miami (8-13, 5-3) (6): Still winless on the road, but the RedHawks continue to defend Millett Hall. As the statistical splits between non-conference and conference play start to take shape, it gets interesting for Miami. Theyre actually playing slower in MAC play (60.1 possessions per 40 minutes), and theyre not shooting as well as they were earlier in the year (45.2% effective field goal percentage), but the defense is vastly improved (.937 points per defensive possession). This week: @Western Michigan (Thursday), @Northern Illinois (Saturday)
4. Akron (15-7, 5-3) (3): Anthony Hitchens has been a disappointment this year, but he might have made the difference in what resulted in a home loss to Eastern Michigan. Still, its easy to pinpoint the blame: Glacially cold shooting. The Zips made just 35% of shots from the field and 28% of threes. That was enough to overcome a dominating performance on the boards (they succeeded on 73.9% of defensive rebound opportunities and 40% of offensive rebounds). Is it enough to kill the positive from the WMU win? I say yes. Saturdays trip to Muncie suddenly looks very dicey. This week: Northern Illinois (Wednesday), @Ball State (Saturday, FSN)
5. Ball State (11-9, 5-3) (11): Speaking of, say hello to the conferences second hottest team. The Cardinals are 5-1 in their last six, the one loss a close one at EMU, including the last two on the road against East teams. Maybe theyre in the wrong division. BSU has been getting it done on defense for a while; now theyre cobbling together some offense. In three of the five wins, Ball State scored better than a point per offensive possession. This week: Bowling Green (Thursday), Akron (Saturday, FSN)
6. Western Michigan (12-9, 4-4) (7): Hard to figure the Broncos out, but they did just stomp Buffalo at home. Defense is a problem; they failed to get critical stops at Kent State and won at Buffalo mostly because they couldnt miss. WMU is starting to look like the conferences wild card, a dangerous team to play because you dont know what youre getting on a given night. This week: Miami (Thursday), Bowling Green (Saturday)
7. Buffalo (11-8, 4-4) (5): The Bulls are in freefall and the axe might end up falling on Reggie Witherspoons head. Consecutive home losses to West teams compound the problems Buffalo had in road beatings last week. UB is playing defense like opponents have the flu. This week: @Central Michigan (Thursday), @Toledo (Saturday)
8. Bowling Green (11-9, 4-4) (8): Would the Falcons have won if Otis Polk didnt hurt his ankle against Central in the first half? Maybe. It offsets the road win at Eastern. This is looking like a make-or-break week for BG. A split, incredibly, would keep them in the running for a first-round bye. This week: @Ball State (Thursday), @Western Michigan (Saturday)
9. Eastern Michigan (11-10, 3-5) (9): The win at Akron may have been more good fortune than good play, but the win against Ball State is certainly looking good. Still, the offense is worst in the league other than Toledo. This week: Kent State (Thursday), Ohio (Saturday)
10. Ohio (11-10, 2-5) (10): Add this to the Bobcat scouting report: Slow them down. Ohio hasnt won a game with less than 80 possessions, and Ball State slowed things down in the second half to great effect after allowing Ohio to run in the first. Ohio cant successfully run a half court offense. This week: @Toledo (Thursday), @Eastern Michigan (Saturday)
11. Northern Illinois (8-12, 4-4) (4): Just when I start to believe, the Huskies lose the next three by a combined 57 points. Yes, Michael Patton getting the flu was a big blow, but is he worth 57 points? No. DeKalb police are still responding to a missing person report for Jake Anderson. The defense has completely fallen apart in the last four games. This week: @Akron (Wednesday), Miami (Saturday)
12.Toledo (3-19, 0-8) (12): Its not good when losing Mohammed Lo (the forward shooting 45.1% from the field and 51.7% from the line) is considered a problem. Many loyal Rocket fans have already lost faith in Gene Cross and others are losing faith. Fact is, the man isnt rebuilding the Toledo program, hes starting over from scratch. This week: Ohio (Thursday), Buffalo (Saturday)
MT. PLEASANT, MI - In a cross-divisional matchup riddled by a combined 50 personal fouls, the University at Buffalo mens basketball team fell to Central Michigan at the Rose Center on Thursday evening,… Read more