A number of surprising results forced some extra deliberation for this weeks rankings. Ball State s victory against Buffalo stopped their free fall and created some extra clutter at the top of the conference.
At this point, the MAC has delineated itself into distinct sections: The contenders (Ball State, BG, Buffalo, Kent, Miami), teams searching for the missing piece (Akron, Ohio, Western Michigan), one-man shows (Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois), and Toledo.
1. Kent State (15-7, 6-2) (LW: 1)
The Golden Flashes remain the only team not to stumble against the West and thus claim first place in the standings. Amazing how the cross-division games so often make the difference, and not the East wars. As previously noted, Carlton Guyton makes the KSU offense much better. He has an effective field goal percentage of 52.1% in his six MAC games this year. The defense continues to gel too, giving up less than .9 points per defensive possession the last four games.
This week: Eastern Michigan (Wednesday), @ Northern Illinois (Saturday)
2. Buffalo (14-7, 6-3) (LW: 2)
No shame in a 1-point loss at a desperate Ball State . Its worth noting that Byron Mulkey turned in possibly his worst game of the season and his first poor performance since losing at Miami Jan. 13. Even a below-average showing from Mulkey would have pushed the Bulls over the top. More and more, it becomes clear the Bulls go where their fifth-year senior point guard takes them. Should Reggie Witherspoon be worried about overtaxing Mulkey? He did not leave the floor in four contests (including a double-overtime game against Bowling Green Jan. 8) and has logged 35 minutes or more in another eight games.
This week: Central Michigan (Tuesday), @ Eastern Michigan (Saturday)
3. Miami (11-12, 6-3) (LW: 6)
Talk about responding the right way to adversity. After a tough overtime home loss to Western Michigan, the RedHawks found themselves down 13 in the first half to Ball State and with 3:46 to go at Eastern Michigan. Both times, they stormed back to win. Incidentally, they mark the first two wins of the season for Miami after being down at the half. Reduced in number by injury, the Hawks have seen freshmen rise to the occasion; Josh Sewell against Ball State and Jon Harris at Ypsilanti . Miami has made 11 or more three-pointers on four occasions this season and has won all four of those games.
This week: Northern Illinois (Wednesday), @Toledo (Saturday)
4. Bowling Green (11-12, 6-3) (LW: 3)
Falcon fans have to be tired of Steve Hawkins; BG is just 1-10 against the Western Michigan head coach. In their own gym, the Falcons were dominated in just about every facet of the game, especially on the glass. They managed just 15 defensive rebounds to WMUs 16 offensive grabs. A win over Ball State , though, will go a long way to showing it was just a bad day at the Office that Roars. The bright spot was Auston Calhoun, who shot 14-28 from the field last week and converted all 9 of his free throw attempts to go with 18 rebounds. Calhoun has seen heavy minutes since conference play started.
This week: Ball State (Wednesday), @ Central Michigan (Saturday)
5. Ball State (14-8, 6-3) (LW: 4)
Finally, a win. Beating Buffalo will help restore what had to be flagging confidence after dropping four straight. Jauwan Scaife threw in 44 points and committed 6 burglaries last week. But the normally-staunch defense got blitzed, allowing 1.287 D-PPP to Miami and 1.135 to Buffalo . Two road games this week wont make things easy. Amazingly, the Cardinals could find themselves out of first place this time next week.
This week: @Bowling Green (Wednesday), @Akron (Saturday)
6. Western Michigan (12-9, 5-3) (LW: 5)
Yes, the Broncos win their one game but drop a spot anyway. These things happen when you cant make it to your other game. Very big win for WMU at Bowling Green , led by Juwan Howard Jr.s double-double, a third-straight strong performance. Given the strength of their offensive rebounding and the deficiencies of their opponents, the Broncos could very easily steal a win at the JAR and sweep the week by taking care of Ohio at home. If they do that, they might sneak into first place in the West. At the very least, they insert themselves in the conversation for a bye in the tournament. Is this the sleeper team?
This week: @Akron (Wednesday), Ohio (Saturday)
7. Ohio (11-12, 4-5) (LW: 7)
Three teams in the MAC are 11-12. Weird. The Bobcats continue their inconsistent ways, laying a large egg at Mt. Pleasant then downing the Huskies in a stronger effort Saturday. Ivo Baltic highlights this inconsistency; he played 10 ineffective minutes at Central Michigan then set a career high in the first half against Northern Illinois en route to 31 points. This is somewhat unfair to Baltic, as his general trend is one of improvement as the season progresses. Undersized senior Adetunji Adedipe is an energy guy Ohio could probably use more of.
This week: Toledo (Wednesday), @ Western Michigan (Saturday)
8. Akron (13-10, 4-5) (LW: 8)
The Zips have really struggled on the road this season. Saturdays win at Toledo was the first triumph away from the JAR since a 54-52 victory at Illinois-Chicago Dec. 4. As much as Akron fans have been pulling their hair, Ohios win Jan. 12 is the only home blemish on the home slate. Five of the last 8 games on the schedule are at home, so if Keith Dambrot can get them going on the road, they can make a late run for a bye.
This week: Western Michigan (Wednesday), Ball State (Saturday)
9. Northern Illinois (7-14, 3-6) (LW: 9)
Recent injuries and illness havent helped as the Huskies are struggling to find wins. Freshman forward Nate Rucker was the latest to go down, leaving the Ohio game after playing just six minutes. The 83-70 loss at Ohio was the teams fifth in the last six games, albeit three of the setbacks were by three points or less. Rucker could return for Miami, one of two big challenges as NIU finishes is competition against the MAC East.
This week: @Miami (Wednesday), Kent State (Saturday)
10. Eastern Michigan (6-16, 3-6) (LW: 10)
The Eagles have to feel cheated after a winning buzzer-beater was erased Saturday, especially when one tape (not used by referees) showed the shot got off with 0.1 seconds left on the clock. Ouch. That would have given them back-to-back wins against Division I opponents for the first time since February 2010. Brandon Bowdry collected his third straight double-double. Hes putting up Player of the Year-quality numbers, yet nobody is noticing. John Bowler sympathizes.
This week: @ Kent State (Wednesday), Buffalo (Saturday)
11. Central Michigan (6-16, 3-6) (LW: 11)
The 91 points Wednesday against Ohio was by far the most theyve been able to score this year then Kent State nearly halved that. Trey Zeigler watch: A strong 10-18 performance against Ohio did not portend good things, as the Flashes stymied him to a 4-13 tune, but he was able to extend his double-digit score streak to 13 games and 20 of 22 games overall. He shot 6-11 from the line.
This week: @Buffalo (Tuesday), Bowling Green (Saturday)
12. Toledo (4-19, 1-8) (LW: 12)
If I wrote for ESPN, I would think of some lame way to make fun of the Rockets. Actually, I wouldnt even be allowed to acknowledge half the conferences existence, so lets hear it for independent media! Where was I? Oh yes, freshman forward Hayden Humes has struggled shooting this year (36.5% from the field), but he went 7-12 last week with 10 boards. Malcolm Griffin is proving reliable from the outside, going 4-9 from three.
This week: @Ohio (Wednesday), Miami (Saturday)