MAC Hoops Power Rankings 1-19-09 Print E-mail
Written by J. Scott Fitzwater   
Monday, January 19 2009
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Image The first week of MAC play gave us few clear answers; if anything, it raised more questions. What we do know is that Western Michigan is probably going to win the West and there's a fairly well-defined divide between the haves and the have-nots in the East. We've also seen traditional stalwarts Kent and Miami lose home games early, which could indicate away teams might have more success than in seasons past. Of course, this probably means the Broncos drop two in a row and home teams go 12-0. We'll see.

Let's see where things stack up around the MAC:

1 Buffalo (10-5, 2-1 MAC) Last week: 2

It's time to take the Bulls seriously as title contenders. They performed as strongly as anyone in non-conference play, but what really stands out is that they have raised their level of play for the conference slate. They're taking better care of the ball, shooting better and have improved their offensive efficiency. Buffalo leads the MAC in floor percentage (how many offensive possessions in which one point is scored) at 55.1%. The one red flag is an alarming drop in defensive effectiveness. Buffalo ranks 10th in defensive points per possession, and that must improve if they want to win their first title.

This week: Kent State (Wednesday), @Miami (Saturday)

2 Ohio (9-7, 2-1 MAC) Last week: 4

It's two sides of the coin for Ohio: They're the best-shooting team in the conference (first in effective field goal percentage, first in points per weighted shot, first in true shooting percentage), they've played at the fastest pace in the first three games, an impressive feat considering two of those games are against tar pit-slow Miami and Kent, and they are the best at moving the ball (first in assists per game and assisted basket percentage). However, they're dead last in turnover rate and below-average in defensive efficiency. The Bobcats are 7-1 when they have a positive turnover differential and 2-6 with a negative one

This week: Akron (Tuesday), Bowling Green (Saturday)

3 Miami (9-6, 2-1 MAC) Last week: 1

Yes, the RedHawks miss Kenny Hayes. Eric Pollitz stepped in admirably against Kent, but it's not a safe bet to count on him for 5-7 shooting with 7 assists on a regular basis. Miami has been performing incongruously with their non-conference performance so far on the offensive end. They're only shooting 25% from three in conference games as opposed to 38.2% overall and 55.5% from two as opposed to 45% overall. They're still playing their usual suffocating defense (.884 points per defensive possession) and rebounding well. If they can connect from deep even at an average rate and hold on to the ball better (8th in turnover rate), the wins will keep coming.

This week: @Bowling Green (Tuesday), Buffalo (Saturday)

4 Western Michigan (6-10, 3-0 MAC) Last week: 8

Clearly, the offense is much better with 'Dre Ricks playing and playing well. The senior has put in 37 points in the opening league games, and doing so in only 24 minutes per game. His return has helped open things up for Derek Drews, and Demetrius Ward has started giving quality minutes off the bench. So maybe WMU has really turned things around. Maybe they're just beating up on terrible teams. Even if that's the case, it's still an improvement.

This week: @Ball State (Tuesday), @Eastern Michigan (Saturday)

5 Ball State (7-8, 2-1 MAC) Last week: 5

Goodness, writing about the Cardinals is legitimately depressing. Is there anything that can go right for them.?Big props for beating Northern Illinois after losing Anthony Newell, but how much can BSU fans take? There's a lot of competition for basketball attention in Indiana. How can the Cardinals entice fans to devote time and money to them? Perhaps they need to hire a shaman to exorcise some bad spirits.

This week: Western Michigan (Tuesday), Toledo (Sunday)

6 Kent State (8-9, 1-2 MAC) Last week: 6

One bright spot for the Flashes: They've suddenly morphed into the best free throw shooting team in the conference, converting 76.3% of their attempts from the charity stripe. Aside from that, they've been thoroughly average: Sixth in offensive and defensive points per possession, sixth in floor percentage, sixth in effective field goal percentage, seventh in points per weighted shot, sixth in rebounds per game. Most of these numbers, by the way, closely align with their overall season numbers. With both games this week on the road, a 1-4 start is a serious possibility.

This week: @Buffalo (Wednesday), @Akron (Saturday)

7 Akron (9-7, 1-2 MAC) Last week: 3

Let's be frank here: Akron is the worst offensive team in the conference. They can't shoot`(42.6% eFG, 12th in the MAC, 48.1% TS, 11th in the MAC), they aren't efficient at all (.883 offensive points per possession, last in the MAC) and they aren't moving the ball well (11th in assists per game, assist/turnover ration and assisted basket percentage). Most of their numbers, though, are behind their overall season numbers, so we may see some regression to the mean. What is keeping the Zips in games is the excellent defense. Akron is third in defensive points per possession (.901), first in opponent field goal percentage (35.7%) and first in opponent turnover rate (24%). They're also dead last in rebounds per game (27) and rebounding percentage (42.5%), so the Zips are going to need to give themselves more possessions by pulling down some boards or shoot at least a respectable percentage. Asking for both is probably unrealistic.

This week: @Ohio (Tuesday), Kent State (Saturday)

8 Bowling Green (8-8, 1-2 MAC) Last week: 7

Frankly, they're only a hot-shooting first half against Buffalo from being 0-3. The Falcons have hidden their terrible shooting ability so far by not turning it over (second in turnover rate and turnovers per game). Their solid rebounding, however, is not covering up their awful defense (last in defensive points per possession, last in turnovers forced). There's little here to indicate BG is not the worst team in the East.

This week: Miami (Tuesday), @Ohio (Saturday)

9 Northern Illinois (4-11, 1-2 MAC) Last week: 11

How to sort through this mess? This bottom four is woeful. The Huskies, at least have a close scoring margin (-.4). Interestingly, the Huskies are averaging 8.4 fewer possessions per game in conference play than they are overall and forcing two fewer turnovers a game. In other words, other coaches are wise to what NIU is up to and are adjusting accordingly. Ricardo Patton needs to answer. Freshman Mike DiNunno has been playing better, shooting 43% and sporting an assist/turnover ration of 2 in conference play.

This week: Eastern Michigan (Tuesday), Central Michigan (Saturday)

10 Eastern Michigan (3-14, 1-2 MAC) Last week: 12

The Eagles have been more efficient on both sides of the ball and have cut the turnovers down significantly, which has made them more competitive than their early results would suggest. Tyler Jones has helped step into the void created by Justin Dobbins, whose disinterest could not be more clear. How about a benching, Rams?

This week: @Northern Illinois (Tuesday), Western Michigan (Saturday)

11 Central Michigan (4-11, 1-2 MAC) Last week: 9

The win over a depleted Ball State team gives the Chippewas their first win in more than a month. Jordan Bitzer is doing his best Jose Calderon impression, shooting free throws at a 94.4% clip. CMU is actually shooting the ball quite well, sporting a 50.6% eFG and 1.071 points per weighted shot, and they're forcing the most turnovers per game (16.3). The problem is when the opposition gets to shoot, they're connecting 46.6% of the time, 38.5% of the time behind the arc.

This week: @Toledo (Tuesday), @Northern Illinois (Saturday)

12 Toledo (3-14, 1-2 MAC) Last week: 10

The Rockets rank 11th in both offensive and defensive points per possession, as well as 11th in turnover rate and opponent turnover rate. Suffice to say, that is a recipe for failure. A small bright spot is sophomore big man Justin Anjiyong, who is coming along well. He and freshman center Ian Salter lead the team in effective field goal percentage, at 45% and 51.4%, respectively. This season is a lost cause, so it would behoove Gene Cross to get some of their more promising young players at least 20 minutes a game, which he appears to be doing. Freshman guard Larry Bastfield does not have good overall numbers, but he played 79 of a possible 80 minutes, dealing 9 assists to only two turnovers, pulling down 9 rebounds (remarkable for someone 5'11") and being selective in his shooting, going 3-5 from the field. He has the makings of a good point guard.

This week: Central Michigan (Tuesday), @Ball State (Sunday)

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