1. They magnified the gap between top teams and the “rest of the pack.”
2. They caused some significant movement in this week’s rankings.
At least as far as the past week’s results are concerned, there was a precipitous dropoff in success midway through the list. While the schedule may have played a part, it was still remarkable. The top five teams won 9 of their 10 contests. The bottom seven squads pulled out just three victories in 14 games.
Despite all that winning at the top, there was significant movement in the rankings, beginning at No. 1. Let’s take a look:
(CLICK READ MORE TO CONTINUE . . . )
2. Central Michigan (17-5, 7-4 MAC) – With two straight wins, the Chippewas have won three of the last four. The one loss was in overtime to Bowling Green. When the Chippewas are rolling, they are very hard to beat. If they can pull out a road win at Buffalo Saturday, they follow that with two home tilts against teams at or near the bottom of this week’s rankings.
3. Toledo (16-8, 8-3 MAC) – The Rockets got through two road games unscathed to make it six straight wins. Five players reached double figures in a win over Buffalo. UT connected on 63.3 percent from the floor and an even more remarkable 85.7 percent (12-of-14) from beyond the arc. The 51 second half points would have been more impressive if UT hadn’t surrendered 55 in the period! With Kent and Akron on tap this week, points may be a little harder to come by.
4. Bowling Green (16-6, 8-3 MAC) -- The Falcons are for real. They’ve already got a share of the MAC East lead with Ball State and Miami for the next two outings. BGSU ranks first in scoring defense (59.2 ppg.) and second in field goal defense (36.8%).
5. Kent State (16-8, 7-4 MAC) – The Flashes took the biggest drop of the week despite splitting their two games. The loss at rival Akron wouldn’t have been all that devastating on its own, but the only win KSU has over the last four games is a 61-60 decision over struggling Miami, who blew a lead down the stretch. The loss of leading scorer Jimmy Hall (15.1 ppg) to mononucleosis hasn’t helped.
6. Buffalo ((15-8, 6-5 MAC) – The Bulls hold on to sixth place despite losing two straight. At least it was to quality competition (at Akron and home vs. Toledo). Both games were close. The Bulls can certainly put points on the board and are third (74.0 ppg) behind two very good scoring teams (CMU and Toledo). Justin Moss still leads the conference scorers (18.3 ppg). He’s the only player in the top 49 without a three point goal. On the other hand, he has 113 free throw points and has hit 145 field goals.
7. Eastern Michigan (15-9, 4-7 MAC) -- The Eagles avenged an earlier loss to Miami with an 83-69 win over Miami. The two teams combined for 46 turnovers – an indication that both teams aren’t exactly at the top of their game. Karrington Ward, on the other hand scored 22 points. His return to form would be a boost for the Eagles.
8. Western Michigan (14-10, 5-6 MAC) – The Broncos dropped both games last week and have one win in the last six tests. That one-point victory over Kent State was the only home game for WMU in the last five outings. They’ve got three straight home contests coming up, so its time to make a move. Bowling Green’s defense stymied the Broncs Tuesday, allowing just 49 points. Freshman Thomas Wilder was the only WMU player to reach double figures (16).
9. Ohio (9-13, 4-7 MAC) – The Bobcats took two of three on their recent home stand. This week offers road tilts at Miami and Western Michigan. Saturday’s game in Oxford could go either way. The RedHawks haven’t been all that consistent – even within single games. Four Ohio players are averaging 9.0 ppg or better. Javarez Willis (15.0 ppg) and Maurice Daly Ndour (14.9 ppg) lead the way.
10 Northern Illinois (10-12, 4-7 MAC) – The Huskies are showing signs of life, winning two of the last three with a 69-65 loss to Bowling Green mixed in. Of course, the two wins were against Miami and Ball State – both below NIU in this week’s rankings. Northern is 10th in scoring offense (65.3 ppg) and fifth in scoring defense (64.8 ppg).
11. Miami (8-16, 3-8 MAC) – Until Tuesday, the RedHawks big issue was “finishing” games. Against the Eagles, MU was basically finished well before the end. Miami’s offense is prone to droughts, but the defense is more troublesome. MU ranks last (71.0 ppg) in scoring defense and is also last in scoring margin (minus-4. 8 ppg).
Miami is also last in 3-point percentage defense (37.2%).
Miami one home tilt in a five-game stretch is Saturday when MU retired former head coach Charlie Cole’s jersey on a day when the RedHawks host rival Ohio. Will Miami turn it up or turn it over?
12. Ball State (7-15, 2-9 MAC) – The streak continues as BSU is now at nine straight losses and counting. Both games this week (BGSU at home and Kent State away) will be big challenges.
Three Cardinals are averaging in double figures: Sean Sellers (12.3), Zavier Turner (10.5) and Franko House (10.2). However, BSU is 10th in scoring (65.3 ppg) and averages 13.4 turnovers per game.