The Buffalo Bull’s post-season run left little doubt who stands atop our 2018 MAC Reporter Online Final Power Ranking.
Not only did the raging Bulls knock off all comers in the MAC tourney, No. 13 seed Buffalo shined on the national stage by thumping No. 4 seed Arizona 89-68 in NCAA tournament first round action.
It took another hot team – Kentucky – to finally close out the Bulls.
As for the other teams, well, it many good arguments could be made about the position of several teams. Indeed, it seems like several spots should be shared. I forced myself to resist that – this time – and settled on the following.
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1. BUFFALO (15-3 MAC, 27-9 OVERALL)
There weren’t a lot of hiccups in UB’s season. A nine-game winning streak that began in late December got their Bulls off to a great start in the conference. They never lost more than one in a row after that and defeated their last six MAC opponents.
Junior guard C.J. Massinburg and junior forward Nick Perkins earned First Team All-MAC honors, while junior guard Jeremy Harris was a second team selection.
2. TOLEDO (13-5 MAC, 23-11 OVERALL)
The Rockets lost twice each to Buffalo and Eastern Michigan, but they were mighty good most of the year – good enough, in fact to get head coach Ted Kowalczyk a contract extension. Tre’Shaun Fletcher, meanwhile, earned MAC Player of the Year honors and most recently was named to the AP All-American Honorable Mention squad.
His tournament injury dealt a blow to UT’s efforts to defeat Buffalo on the MAC finals.
Junior Jaelan Sanford garnered Second Team All-MAC honors.
3. EASTERN MICHIGAN (11-7 MAC, 22-13 OVERALL)
The Eagles were a menace down the stretch, winning six straight and eight of nine to grab a third seed in the MAC tourney. Eastern’s nasty zone defense remains a key, making opponents work hard for every point. The Eagles field goal defense ranked No. 1 among MAC teams and EMU was second in scoring margin (+4.9). Senior guard Tim Bond and junior forward James Thompson IV were part of the All-MAC Defensive team. The latter was a First Team All-MAC honoree, while R-Jr. Elijah Minnie made the Third Team and R-Jr. got a nod for Honorable Mention.
It looks promising for the Eagles next year, but they’ll want to pick up that free throw percentage (68.3% - 112th MAC) next year. Charity tosses can be critical in low-scoring games.
4. BALL STATE (10-8 MAC , 19-13 OVERALL)
The Cardinals had a roller coaster season, with some significant peaks and valleys. The win over No. 5 Notre Dame was part of a nine-game winning streak.
After sputtering through much of January and early February, BSU caught fire again, winning five straight. That, however, was followed by four consecutive losses to close the campaign. Gone are the days of seemingly perpetual losses, but the Cardinals need to fill in some of those valleys and find a way to finish strong.
Junior guard Tayler Persons (Second Team) and junior center Trey Moses (Honorable Mention) earned All-MAC honors.
5. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (7-11 MAC, 21-15 OVERALL)
The Chippewas managed to close out their season with a relatively positive streak, winning three straight before falling to the rolling Buffalo Bulls in MAC tourney play. Central then posted two wins in the College Invitational tourney before bowing out.
CMU ranked third among MAC teams in scoring and had five players with an average of 9.8 ppg or better. The Chips were third best in scoring margin (+4.8 ppg).
6. WESTERN MICHIGAN (9-9 MAC, 17-15 OVERALL)
The Broncos had a difficult time keeping the good times rolling. Aside from a four-game win streak in late December through early January, WMU never won more than two straight games. Of course, it lost more than two straight just two times. Hence, the Broncos hovered around .500 much of the season. Three losses at the end of the season was disappointing, especially the setback at home against Akron (79-78) in MAC tourney first round action.
Senior guard Thomas Wilder finished second in the MAC scoring race, averaging 18.9 ppg overall on the way to All-MAC First Team honors. Junior guard Bryce Moore made the MAC All-Defensive Team.
7. KENT STATE (9-9, 17-17 OVERALL)
The Flashes won four of five games before falling to Buffalo in the MAC tourney semi-finals. That late run allowed Kent State to finish right at .500 for the campaign. The 9-9 MAC mark put them second among East Division teams – albeit well behind the Ragin’ Bulls.
Junior guard Jaylin Walker earned All MAC third Team honors after averaging a team-high 16.6 ppg. Junior big man Adonis De La Rosa showed improvement, providing 11.8 ppg and pulling down 7.6 rpg. – fifth in the conference. Senior Kevin Zabo (12.9 ppg) and junior guard Jalen Avery (10.3 ppg) also averaged double figure scoring.
As a team, KSU put up 73 ppg and allowed 73.6 points per outing. The Flashes were 11th in field goal percentage overall, and last (12th) in 3-point shooting percentage, so shooting improvement will be on the agenda for next season.
8. MIAMI REDHAWKS (8-10 MAC, 16-18 OVERALL)
Nobody knew what to expect out of the RedHawks this season after a coaching change and major roster turnover. New head coach Jack Owens brought in a new style, along with some talented players. Nike Sibande and Dalonte Brown made the All-Freshman team, while junior transfer Darrian Ringo was a huge addition. He led the conference in both steals and assists. In fact, his 6.9 helpers per game ranked seventh nationally. Ringo was an All-MAC Third Team selection, while Sibande made Honorable Mention.
Owens also managed to get a pretty good senior season out of forward Logan McLain. The RedHawks, who were the last team to beat Buffalo before Kentucky in the NCAA tourney, can be even more dangerous next season if:
-- the young inside game develops.
-- Owens can add a few pieces
-- MU can improve at the line (68.6% last season was 11th in the MAC).
9. OHIO (7-11 MAC, 14-17 OVERALL)
The ‘Cats edge Bowling Green for the ninth spot thanks to a stronger finish. Ohio won four of five to close the regular season, with the only loss in that span coming to Buffalo. Of course, Miami ended OU’s season with a first-round MAC tourney victory after Ohio took the first two matchups.
Junior guard Jordan Dartis was an All-MAC Honorable Mention selection. Teyvion Kirk made the All-Freshman team.
Things generally went well for Ohio when the ‘Cats were beyond the arc. They were third in 3-point field goal percentage (36.9%) and first in defending the trey (32.3%).
Among the departing is senior guard Mike Laster, one of three Ohio players in double figures. He averaged 14.5 ppg.
10. BOWLING GREEN (7-11 MAC, 16-16 OVERALL)
The Falcons were 16-10 overall and 7-6 MAC in mid-February. They failed to win another game, dropping six straight to close the campaign.
Junior forward Demajeo Wiggins was a Second Team All-MAC selection, while R-Fr. Justin Turner earned Honorable Mention and All-Freshman honors.
While the Falcons were fourth in scoring (75.9 ppg), they were last in scoring defense. That left them 10th in scoring margin (-1.9 ppg). BG was also last in overall field goal percentage (42.1%) and 11th in 3-point defense (36.8%).
11. AKRON (6-12 MAC, 14-18 OVERALL)
Staff and personnel changes hit the Zips hard as UA dropped form 27 wins in 2016-17 to 14 in 2017-18.
Sophomore forward Daniel Utomi led Akron in scoring (16.7 ppg) and joined the All-MAC Honorable Mention squad. Senior guard Malcolm Duvivier (14.3 ppg) and junior guard Jimond Ivey (13.1 ppg) were also in double figures.
The Zips were 11th among MAC teams in scoring (71.8 ppg) and 10th in scoring defense (75.9 ppg). That left them last in scoring margin (-3.6 ppg).
There are plenty of areas for improvement next year. Akron finished 11th in rebounding margin, 110th in field goal percentage (43.5%) and 10th in turnover margin.
It’s no guarantee, of course, but the Zips rich history suggests they will bounce back in the relatively near future.
12. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (6-12 MAC, 13-19 OVERALL)
The Huskies had trouble putting things together. They were unable to win two straight games after Thanksgiving and lost four of their final five games.
A 90-88 overtime victory over Buffalo in DeKalb was certainly among any season highlights.
Sophomore Eugene German (Second Team All-MAC) led all MAC scorers, averaging 20.6 ppg. He had a season-high 31 points against Western Michigan in Mid-February.
The Huskies were 11th in scoring margin, scoring 72.5 ppg and allowing 75.2 ppg. They ranked fourth in overall field goal percentage (45.6%), but were last in field goal percentage defense (46.2%).