MAC Hoops Power Rankings 2-2-09 Print E-mail
Written by J. Scott Fitzwater   
Monday, February 02 2009
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Image Life on the road sure isn't what it used to be. In 2008, road teams managed just 26 wins. This year, MAC road warriors have taken 16 scalps. Considering we're halfway through the conference slate, 35 or more wins for road teams is a very real possibility. Many road wins could come at the expense of West teams in cross-division play. The East currently sports a 10-2 record against the left half of the map, with both of the West wins coming against Ohio. With four more rounds of East/West play left, a single-digit win total for the West is all but assured and five wins or less is not out of the discussion.

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

1 Buffalo (14-5, 6-1 MAC) Last week: 1

The Bulls are the clear cream of the crop right now. Winners of nine of the last 10, they have already cleared the toughest part of their schedule. They get four of the next six at home and will probably be favored in all of their February games. Buffalo has started to play defense like a championship team, allowing only Western Michigan to score more than one point per defensive possession during their six-game winning streak. This looks like it's finally the year for Reggie Witherspoon.

This week: Central Michigan (Tuesday), Northern Illinois (Saturday)

2 Miami  (12-7, 5-2 MAC) Last week: 3

Interesting, the RedHawks are 3-0 on the road and just 2-2 at home so far. Eric Pollitz has stepped in admirably as the starting point guard for the hapless Carl Richburg. Pollitz, though, cannot handle heavy minutes for long. After logging 109 minutes in the previous three games, he turned in his worst performance of the season in a home loss to Buffalo. In the two games since, his minutes have been more reasonable (24 and 31, respectively) and his production has returned to solid levels

This week: Ball State (Wednesday), @Toledo (Saturday)

3 Ball State (10-9, 5-2 MAC) Last week: 5

It's pretty simple: When the Cardinals play good defense, they win. When they don't, they lose. A dominating defensive performance against Ohio gives BSU the West lead and puts their head back above water. Forward Jarrod Jones has quietly slid into strong contention for Freshman of the Year. Jones has led the Cardinals in scoring four times in conference play and has grabbed at least eight rebounds in four straight games.

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

4 Akron (13-8, 4-3 MAC) Last week: 7

All of a sudden, the Zips have put together a four-game winning streak, including a random game against Youngstown State Jan. 26. Akron is sporting a +11 turnover margin in these four games and have found West opponents to be the cure for their shooting ills. Wins over Toledo and Central Michigan featured effective field goal percentages of at least 55%.

This week: @Eastern Michigan (Tuesday), Western Michigan (Sunday)

5 Bowling Green (11-9, 4-3 MAC) Last week: 8

Bowling Green well represents the lack of consistency seen in the middle of the pack. The Falcons have won three in a row after dropping three straight. It's no coincidence that the defensive performances have been strong in this little streak; in all three wins, BG has held its opposition to worse than .95 D-PPP. They have also been strong performers on the glass, with only Buffalo in the opener outrebounding them. However, BG carries an ugly -11 turnover margin in the three wins. How long can you expect to win when you're continually handing the opposition more possessions?

This week: Western Michigan (Wednesday), @Central Michigan (Saturday)

6 Western Michigan (7-13, 4-3 MAC) Last week: 4

The Broncos have not taken well to cross-division play, dropping their first two games against the East after going 4-1 against the West. Perhaps those seemingly strong defensive showings were more the result of playing weak offenses than ability, as WMU could not do much to stop Buffalo or Kent State. It won't get any easier, as they play three of the next four away from the Zoo.

This week: @Bowling Green (Saturday), @Akron (Sunday)

7 Kent State (10-11, 3-4 MAC) Last week: 6

Much the opposite of Western Michigan, Kent State has found cross-division play to be a healing balm, with the Golden Flashes spanking the Broncos and Eastern Michigan, overwhelming both teams by efficiency margins better than +30. Geno Ford needs to use this time to build confidence in his team if they're to do better than 1-4 the second time against the East.

This week: Toledo (Tuesday), @Ball State (Saturday)

8 Central Michigan (6-13, 3-4 MAC) Last week: 11

The Chippewas shot the lights out against Ohio, then couldn't buy a basket at Akron. The defense still can't stop any halfway decent offense, so they're going to live and die by their shooting. An encouraging sign, though, is a team that had been fouling a ton went -8 in fouls the previous two games. Ending the free throw parade by opponents would go a long way toward keeping CMU in games.

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

9 Ohio (10-10, 3-4 MAC) Last week: 2

Yikes. The Bobcats have been wildly inconsistent and have suddenly lost three straight. Ohio has yet to play a quality game on both sides of the floor. When the offense shows up, the defense does not, and vice versa. Jerome Tillman has been struggling against constant double teams, but Devaughn Washington has taken advantage of the increased space inside, scoring in double figures in back-to-back games. Ohio needs to find a way to play a complete game if they want to get back to winning ways.

This week: Northern Illinois (Thursday), Eastern Michigan (Saturday)

10 Northern Illinois (6-13, 2-5 MAC) Last week: 9

Perhaps Ricardo Patton should invest some practice time in free throws. The Huskies are dead last among 341 Division I teams, connecting at the charity stripe just 57.7% of the time. It gets even worse in conference play, with NIU hitting 50.4%. Mike DiNunno, at 74.2%, is the only regular player shooting better than 65%. What makes it all the more strange is that the Huskies are a good shooting team otherwise, ranking third in the MAC in effective field goal percentage in conference play. Another problem, however, is that they're not getting to shoot it much, as they are turning the ball over 23.6% of the time.

This week: @Ohio (Thursday), @Buffalo (Saturday)

11 Toledo (4-17, 2-5 MAC) Last week: 12

The Rockets are among the nation's worst in several categories: Free throw percentage (303rd), offensive points per possession (326th), turnovers per game (323rd) and turnover rate (337th), assists per game (300th) and assist/turnover ratio (330th). Sadly, they are not in the top 100 in any relevant statistical category.

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

12 Eastern Michigan (3-18, 1-6 MAC) Last week: 11

And yet, the Eagles are worse. EMU has not even been competitive since the win against Central Michigan. The Eagles somehow managed to produce two sub-.7 O-PPP performances in a row, a shocking achievement. With only one win against a Division I team, there is a case to be made for EMU as the nation's worst team.

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

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