Round One of the “Clash of the Titans” in the Mid-American Conference women’s basketball power rankings went to Central Michigan, which beat Buffalo Wednesday.
But that was far from the only big news around MAC women’s basketball last week. One bit of “news” was that the race for first-round byes in the tournament, which go to the top four seeds, tightened thanks to Ohio’s win over Ball State. Those two teams have four losses, and four more schools — Eastern Michigan, Miami, Toledo, and Western Michigan — are just one loss behind.
The other news is that the race for first-round home games in the tournament is becoming clearer. Of the six teams mentioned in the previous paragraph, four will likely host as Kent State is two games behind in the loss column, and the other three teams in the league — Northern Illinois, Bowling Green, and Akron — are behind the Golden Flashes.
But do not forget: There still are games to be played. And this season, there’s only one thing that is predictable: Unpredictability.
Here are the latest MAC power rankings for women’s basketball this season.
1) Buffalo (17-4, 8-2 MAC) – The Bulls had some shooting troubles in the loss at Central Michigan (and only lost by six) before rebounding with a good victory at Toledo Saturday. Three of Buffalo’s next four games are at home, including a rematch with the Chippewas that is must-win if UB wants to be the top seed in the MAC tournament (Last week: 1).
2) Ohio (12-9, 6-4 MAC) – The Bobcats suffered a tough loss that almost dropped them to third in this division. Ohio stays in second, though, because of its strong home win over Ball State on Saturday. The road ahead is extremely difficult, though since the Bobcats will host Central Michigan Wednesday before facing road challenges against Kent State and Eastern Michigan (Last week: 2).
3) Miami (11-5, 6-5 MAC) – The RedHawks renaissance this season makes new coach Megan Duffy one of the front-runners for MAC coach of the year. Last year’s struggles are forgotten as Miami has won four in a row, including three wins on the road. The RedHawks are home this week, but things sure won’t be easy because Toledo and Buffalo come to town this week (Last week: 3).
4) Kent State (11-12, 4-7 MAC) – The schizophrenic Golden Flashes drubbed Bowling Green at home, then lost at the MAC Center to a hobbled Northern Illinois squad. Next up for Jekyll and/or Hyde is a road challenge at Buffalo Wednesday, followed by home contests in four of KSU’s next five games. Three of those games are against Ohio or Miami, so wins are a must if the Flashes want to climb in the East (Last week: 5).
5) Bowling Green (10-12, 2-9 MAC) – The Falcons could use a break as they struggle with a five-game losing streak. Two of the losses were blowouts by a combined 63 points; the other three came down to the fourth quarter with BG still holding a chance to win. I would expect the Falcons will have two close games this week as they host Western Michigan Wednesday before playing at Northern Illinois Saturday: Can BG find a way to turn the close losses into wins? (Last week: 4).
6) Akron (7-15, 1-10 MAC) – The Zips say, “Thanks for nothing, schedule-maker.” It was hard to build any momentum from the win over Kent State when the next two contests were on the road against Ball State and Western Michigan. This week Akron has a better chance as it hosts Northern Illinois Wednesday, but then it’s back to the road for contests against Eastern Michigan and Buffalo. Yeesh (Last week: 6).
1) Central Michigan (18-3, 10-0 MAC) – The Chippewas took Round 1 of their heavyweight bout against Buffalo on Wednesday, then suffered no letdown in a 23-point win at Eastern Michigan Saturday to remain unbeaten in league play. Over the next two weeks that unbeaten record will be challenged by road games at Ohio and at Buffalo sandwiched around a home contest against Toledo (Last week: 1).
2) Ball State (18-4, 7-4 MAC) – The Cardinals suffered another MAC loss at Ohio, which puts them another step behind division leaders Buffalo and Central Michigan in the MAC tournament standings. Worse, it allows Ohio to match them in the loss column with four. And things don’t get any easier for the Cards this week as they host resurgent Eastern Michigan before playing at dangerous Western Michigan (Last week: 2).
3) Western Michigan (13-10, 6-5 MAC) – The Broncos were without Jasmyn Walker in a critical home loss to Toledo last week. And although WMU bounced back to beat Akron, the “road” ahead is a tough one as the Broncos look to hold off challenges from EMU and UT while trying to catch BSU. Western Michigan is at Bowling Green Wednesday, then hosts Ball State before playing at Toledo and at Ball State. Ouch (Last week: 3).
4) Eastern Michigan (9-12, 5-5 MAC) – Is the magic starting to wear off for the Eagles, who now have lost their last three games? The jury is still out, because the last two losses were to Buffalo and Central Michigan. If Eastern Michigan can find a way to win at Ball State Wednesday, the Eagles have a chance to flip that streak as they host Akron and Ohio next (Last week: 4).
5) Toledo (15-8, 6-5 MAC) – The Rockets got some momentum from an important win at Western Michigan Wednesday, but they were not able to turn that “big mo” into a home win over Buffalo. UT will have to figure out something quickly as it returns to the road for important contests at Miami (a team with a similar record) and at Central Michigan (a victory that would give the Rockets a huge tiebreaker) this week (Last week: 5).
6) Northern Illinois (11-11, 3-8 MAC) – The Huskies are halfway to making my prediction last week come true. Don’t you remember? I said over the next four games NIU would win at least twice, and the Huskies claimed a win at Kent State after losing at Miami. All it will take is a win at Akron or at home against Bowling Green to make the prediction happen. Book it (Last week: 6).
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