MAC Hoops Power Rankings Print E-mail
Written by J. Scott Fitzwater   
Friday, January 09 2009
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Image Here we are, sitting at the precipice of conference play. At stake is the right to be champion of the worst edition of the Mid-American Conference in at least the last decade.The MAC sits 18th in the RPI, behind such luminous groups as the Southland and America East conferences.A 66-96 record against Division-I competition will do that.

With conference play about to begin, here is how the MAC stacks up.

1 Miami (7-5)

With Kenny Hayes, the RedHawks are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the conference. Without him, they're only slight favorites. Carl Richburg is not the answer at the point by any means. Eric Pollitz is unspectacular, but Kramer Soderburg is intriguing. Julian Mavunga has not made the impact I thought he would so far, but he had a nice showing at Dayton. I feel like I'm saying this every year, but a championship season can put the RedHawks in at-large pool; their strength of schedule ranks third.

Upcoming: Akron (Saturday), Ohio (Wednesday), @Kent (Jan. 17)

2 Buffalo (8-4)

I had Buffalo firmly pegged at the bottom of the East this year and dismissed the optimism of Bulls fans. All UB has done in response is win the Rainbow Classic, beat Temple and take Connecticut to the brink. I'm not quite ready to call them contenders yet-- Buffalo has had strong non-conference showings before, only to falter in the MAC schedule-- but they've impressed to this point. It's going to be a tough start to the season; four of the first six games are on the road.

Upcoming: @Bowling Green (Saturday), @Akron (Tuesday), Ohio (Jan. 17)

3 Akron (8-5)

The Zips have a quality win on the road at Niagara and gave Dayton and Virginia Commonwealth tough games. They don't look to have what it takes to win the conference, but they do seem to have enough to earn themselves a first-round bye in Cleveland. It will be interesting to see how freshman Humpty Hitchens (a really fun name to say) deals with the slower, more defense-intensive nature of MAC play.

Upcoming: @Miami (Saturday), Buffalo (Tuesday), @Bowling Green (Jan. 17)

4 Ohio (7-6)

The Bobcats, with just one win against the top 100, look very much like a middling team. Still, optimism carries the day in Athens with new coach John Groce. As usual, Ohio has good individual talent, with strong contenders for Player of the Year in Jerome Tillman and Freshman of the Year in Steven Coleman. The trick is to avoid the baffling loses to bottom teams that always seem to plague them. If they can do that, they can position themselves for a bye.

Upcoming: Kent (Sunday), @Miami (Wednesday), @Buffalo (Jan. 17)

5 Ball State (5-7)

The Cardinals have mixed encouraging results (win at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, game efforts at Butler and Evansville) with head-scratching (home losses to Arkansas St. and Eastern Kentucky). Still, BSU is in recovery mode but managed to turn in the best performance of any team in the West by far. They might not be better than Kent or Bowling Green, but being first in the West does come with the prize of the #2 seed.

Upcoming: @Eastern Michigan (Saturday), Northern Illinois (Tuesday), @Central Michigan (Jan. 17)

6 Kent State (7-7)

Despite getting punched in the mouth at Temple, the Golden Flashes are a much better team now that they're employing the services of Tyree Evans. It's unclear at this point if Kent is just bad or staggered from playing four top 60 teams in less than 10 days, but there are glaring weaknesses, such as shooting an abysmal 59% from the free throw line, that will hurt them sooner or later.

Upcoming: @Ohio (Sunday), Bowling Green (Tuesday), Miami (Jan. 17)

7 Bowling Green (7-6)

The Falcons only have one win against a top 200 team and did not fare well against Duquesne, a team that compares favorably to MAC competition, so the likelihood of BG being a bit of a paper tiger is high, as much as one can be a paper tiger at 5-6. However, Anderson Arena is still a place that is hard to win in (BG is 4-0 this year at home), and cross-division schedule is favorable. The Falcons can really go either way.

Upcoming: Buffalo (Saturday), @Kent (Wednesday), Akron (Jan. 17)

8 Western Michigan (3-10)

Remember, this is the team picked to win the West and maybe challenge for the outright championship. What's really shocking is that a 2-3 start was the high point of the non-conference campaign. The Broncos proceeded to lose their way completely in the next seven games. A 13-point win over Iona was encouraging, but that was immediately followed by double-digit losses to Southern Illinois and Wisconsin Green Bay. Western owns zero wins against the top 200.

Upcoming: @Central Michigan (Sunday), Toledo (Wednesday), Northern Illinois (Jan. 17)

9 Central Michigan (3-9)

At least the Chippewas have a top 200 win, a two-point victory against enigmatic Wright State. Aside from a near upset of Illinois St., the rest of the results have hardly been encouraging. Keeping it within 10 at home against Detroit is not asking much.

Upcoming: Western Michigan (Sunday), @Eastern Michigan (Tuesday), Ball State (Jan. 17)

10 Toledo (2-12)

The Rockets have been losing to everyone: Teams in the top 20, teams in the bottom 100, teams in the middle. They've lost on the road, at home and on neutral floors. What they haven't done much of is keeping it close; the last four games have seen double-digit defeats. How they managed to log their one win against a team that promptly went out and slayed Kansas is anyone's guess.

Upcoming: @Northern Illinois (Saturday), @Western Michigan (Wednesday), Eastern Michigan (Jan. 17)

11 Northern Illinois (4-8)

What makes the Huskies' record all the more impressive is that they managed it against a schedule ranked 310th. They haven't even played a top 100 team. They're an utterly miserable road team, a bad characteristic to have in this conference. Two of their three wins are at home the other coming at the Great Alaska Shootout, and none are against the top 200.

Upcoming: Toledo (Saturday), @Ball State (Tuesday), @Western Michigan (Jan. 17)

12 Eastern Michigan (2-12)

Then again, you could fail to beat anyone at the D-I level. Goodness, how shipwrecked are the Eagles? Yes, Carlos Medlock is a loss, but not this big of one. Coach Ramsey has to be on an exceedingly short leash right now. A 20-loss season is all but certain, and some Eastern players better find some pride if they want to avoid 25 losses.

Upcoming: Ball State (Saturday), Central Michigan (Tuesday), @Toledo (Saturday)

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