Monday, Oct 15, 2018
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MAC women's basketball power rankings

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    Ohio's Cierra Hooks knocks the ball away from Toledo's Kaayla McIntyre during last Wednesday's game at Savage Arena.


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    Bowling Green State University's Carly Santoro, shown against Ball State earlier this season, scored 15 points in the fourth quarter of the Falcons' comeback win at Akron Saturday.



We now are almost a third of the way through the Mid-American Conference women’s basketball season, so we are starting to see the good teams rise to the top, even though the league still has some “sorting” to do. By that I mean there still is some sifting going on in the middle of the pack.

The MAC has played a number of cross-division contests, so to honor that — and to ratchet up the degree of difficulty — I am going to do this week’s MAC power rankings by ignoring divisions. In other words, this is an early look at how I think the MAC tournament pairings will sort out.

As a reminder, the top four teams in the MAC standings will receive byes in the tournament, the next four teams will host first-round tournament games … and the bottom four will play first-round games on the road.

Here are the latest MAC power rankings for women’s basketball this season.

1) Central Michigan (13-3, 5-0 MAC) — The Chippewas remain the lone unbeaten team in MAC play after thrashing Bowling Green before claiming a narrow win over Kent State at home last week. Things get a little tougher because CMU is on the road this week, but against an injured Northern Illinois squad and a winless (and also injured) Akron team. NEXT week should be interesting, though, since it includes games against Western Michigan and Buffalo (Last week: West 1).

2) Buffalo (13-3, 4-1 MAC) — The Bulls’ narrow home win over Miami is excused because Buffalo followed it up with an impressive road win at Ball State. Wednesday’s road game at Ohio could be tricky, and two home games against Toledo and Eastern Michigan could prove interesting as well. I’ve got to admit that I’m licking my chops in anticipation of the Jan. 31 game at Central Michigan (Last week: East 1).

3) Ball State (14-2, 3-2 MAC) — The Cardinals have to be frustrated by another home loss to one of the top teams in the league, this one coming to Buffalo on Saturday. Ball State can play with both CMU and UB, but two losses in home games have to be put aside in preparation for Wednesday’s important road test at Toledo. After that comes … three straight home games. Those should be wins, right? (Last week: West 2).

4) Ohio (9-7, 3-2 MAC) — This is where my confidence starts to waver a little bit. The Bobcats were rocked in the second half at Toledo, but bounced back with an impressive road win at Western Michigan. My logic is this: The Bobcats have played decently in three tough road games (well, not so much Central Michigan, but certainly for a half at Toledo and for the whole game at Western Michigan). We will see if I’m right when they host Buffalo Wednesday, then wade through a BG-NIU-Miami stretch before facing powerhouses Ball State and Central Michigan at home (Last week: East 2).

5) Western Michigan (10-7, 3-2 MAC) — With a win Saturday over Ohio, I would have given serious thought to the Broncos’ position vis-à-vis “The Big Three” (CMU-UB-BSU). But my confidence was shaken by the Ohio loss, and seeing Meredith Miller injured means WMU will have to shoot its way out of zone defenses without its best 3-point shooter. The Broncos need to make hay in the coming stretch as they play Eastern Michigan, Miami and Akron (Last week: West 3).

6) Eastern Michigan (7-9, 3-2 MAC) — This week I will not resist the temptation that I talked about last week: I think the Eagles are pretty good. They hung with Kent State on the road last Wednesday, and they handled Miami on the road Saturday. EMU needs to keep playing well in a stretch that includes home games with WMU and Miami and a road contest at NIU, because after that comes a UB-CMU-BSU gauntlet, with the first and last of those games on the road (Last week: West 5).

7) Toledo (12-5, 3-2 MAC) — Yes, home seemed to cure some of the Rockets’ ills as UT claimed victories over Ohio and Northern Illinois at Savage Arena last week. Now the Rockets will see how they stack up against a pair of MAC heavyweights as they host Ball State Wednesday before traveling to Buffalo on Saturday. A split is the bare minimum to take steps up the ladder; a sweep would insure it (Last week: West 6).

8) Kent State (9-8, 2-3 MAC) — It probably seems as if I’m punishing the Golden Flashes, who beat Eastern Michigan at home before losing at Central Michigan by just four points. No, this is more of a compliment to what the teams above KSU in the standings did than an indictment of what this team did. The Flashes play an important game at Bowling Green on Wednesday, because difficult tests at home against Ball State and then at Toledo follow (Last week: East 3).

9) Northern Illinois (10-6, 2-3 MAC) — Not only did the Huskies suffer losses at Western Michigan and at Toledo last week, but they lost point guard Myia Starks after Janae Poisson was hurt early this season. NIU’s high-speed offense will need to find different ways to deal with their absence. Considering the injuries, I think Northern Illinois deserves credit for staying close on those two road losses. Unfortunately, the schedule-maker was also unkind: Central Michigan, high-pressure Eastern Michigan, Ohio, and Ball State are the Huskies’ next four opponents (Last week: West 4).

10) Miami (9-7, 1-4 MAC) — The RedHawks gave Buffalo a scare last Wednesday, then struggled against Eastern Michigan’s pressure to lose twice last week. Miami will need to bounce back quickly, and that begins with an important home game against winless Akron. The road after that gets tougher, and I do mean road: After hosting the Zips, Miami will travel to Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan (Last week: East 4).


Bowling Green State University's Carly Santoro, shown against Ball State earlier this season, scored 15 points in the fourth quarter of the Falcons' comeback win at Akron Saturday.


11) Bowling Green (9-7, 1-4 MAC) — Give credit to the Falcons for bouncing back after a lopsided loss at Central Michigan to beat Akron Saturday. And bonus points for posting a late comeback after losing a double-digit first-half lead. Now Bowling Green has to take that momentum and make something of it as the Falcons host Kent State and Ohio at the Stroh Center. (Last week: East 6).

12) Akron (6-10, 0-5 MAC) — Yes, the Zips are the lone winless team in the MAC, which includes a home loss to previously winless Bowling Green. But I come to praise Akron, not to bury the Zips. With two important players injured — leading scorer Megan Sefcik and Shayna Harmon did not play last week — Akron gave Ball State a battle and gave BG a scare. The Zips are capable of winning at Miami, and I predict (if the injured players return in time) Akron will win at least once in its Central Michigan-Western Michigan-Kent State homestand that follows (Last week: East 5).

Contact John Wagner at jwagner@theblade.com419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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