The Mid-American Conference is having a very good year in women’s basketball.
The MAC has the eighth-best RPI of the 32 Division I conferences and seventh-best winning percentage (64.8), according to WarrenNolan.com, the rating service I follow most closely. That’s about as high as the MAC has been in my time following women’s basketball. The last two years the MAC has been 10th, which is good historically.
Such rankings — which are based on a team’s record and schedule strength — are one thing that might help the conference get two bids to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years.
Five MAC teams are ranked in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25. Undefeated Ball State (11-0) is fifth. Buffalo (9-2) is ninth. Ball State has received votes in both major Top 25 polls.
Here’s a look at how the teams are doing as they head into conference play this weekend:
Ball State (11-0)
- RPI: 22 (of 349 teams).
- Schedule Strength: 140.
- Preseason MAC prediction: Third in West.
- Overview: The Cardinals lost two 1,000-point scorers to graduation but have been the class of the MAC in non-league play. They have two wins over top-50 RPI schools (the entire MAC had none last year). The closest any team has come to Ball State is six points.
- Top wins: Western Kentucky (8-4, 26th RPI), Butler (8-4, 50th), Purdue (9-5, 57th).
- Top players: Senior forward Mariah Monaco (17.0 points, 5.7 rebounds), junior guard Carmen Grande (12.6 points, 10.1 assists, 2.9 steals), senior forward Destiny Wshington (13.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 59.2 shooting percentage).
- Key statistics: 84.8 points per game (first in MAC). +21.5 scoring margin (first). In top three of MAC in 13 of 21 statistical categories.
- Statistical weakness: Foul shooting (67.4 percent, eighth in conference).
- RPI: 66.
- Schedule Strength: 177.
- Preseason MAC prediction: Second in West.
- Overview: Defending MAC Tournament champions have one of the best post players in the conference in Kaayla McIntyre and four players averaging at least nine points a game.
- Top wins: Cleveland State (8-3, 91 RPI), Dayton (7-4, 103 ).
- Top players: Kaayla McIntyre (14.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 65.1 field goal percentage), guard Mikaela Boyd (5.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.8 steals).
- Key statistics: 42.9 field-goal percentage (fifth), 39.4 field-goal percentage defense (fifth), 29.3 three-point defense (fourth).
- Statistical weakness: Foul shooting (64.94 percent, 10th in conference).
Central Michigan (8-3)
- RPI: 104.
- Schedule Strength: 198.
- Preseason MAC prediction: First in West.
- Overview: Chippewas were overwhelming favorites in coaches’ poll to win the West, the MAC overall and the league tournament. They lost their first game to Purdue and last two to Duquesne and Quinnipiac, two perennial good mid-majors. They’re a deep team with two returning all-conference players — guard Presley Hudson and post Tinara Moore.
- Top wins: Iowa State (6-5, 241 RPI), Vanderbilt (3-10, 136, Oakland (6-4, 176).
- Top players: Junior guard Presley Hudson (18.8 points, 4.2 three-pointers , 5.3 assists per game), senior post Tinara Moore (16.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 60.4 field goal percentage).
- Key statistics: Plus-9.2 rebounding margin (first in MAC), 40.1 three-point percentage (second), 82.5 points per game (third).
- Statistical weakness: Scoring defense (68.3 points per game, 11th), three-point field goal defense (37.2 percent, 12th), turnover margin (-1.64, 11th).
Northern Illinois (8-3)
- RPI: 167.
- Schedule Strength: 327.
- Preseason MAC prediction: Fourth in West.
- Overview: As they were last year, the Huskies are a high-scoring, low-defense team. Losses have been to Iowa (12-1) and Albanh (10-2) and Lamar (1-5), and they’ve beaten only one team with a winning record. Strength of schedule is lowest in conference.
- Top wins: Western Illinois (8-3, 114 RPI), Bradley (4-5, 147).
- Top players: Junior Courtney Woods (19.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 39.5 three-point percentage), junior Mikayla Voigt (16.0 points, 4.4 assists, 48.6 three-point percentage), sophomore Ally May (8.9 rebounds, 50 percent field goal percentage).
- Key statistics: 83.2 points per game (second in conference), 9.2 three-pointers per game (second), 39.6 three-point percentage (third), 44.4 field goal percentage (fourth).
- Statistical weakness: Points allowed (76.1 per game, 12th in MAC), field goal defense (41.3 percent, 10th).
Western Michigan (7-5)
- RPI: 75.
- Schedule Strength: 48.
- Preseason MAC prediction: Fifth in West.
- Overview: Broncos have played the toughest schedule in the MAC, and its five losses all have been to teams in the top 50 RPI. But they haven’t beaten a team with a winning record, and three of their victories have been over non-Division I teams.
- Top wins: East Tennessee State (6-8, 162 RPI), New Mexico State (4-7, 214 RPI).
- Top players: Breanna Mobley (16.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 55.1 field goal percentage), Marley Hill (10.8 points), Deja Wimby (5.3 assists, 1.8 steals).
- Key statistics: 62.4 points against per game (fourth best in MAC), 27.1 three-point defense (first), 37.4 field goal defense (fourth).
- Statistical weakness: Three-point field goal percentage (29.5, ninth), three-pointers per game (5.3, 11th).
Eastern Michigan (4-7)
- RPI: 288.
- Schedule Strength: 307.
- Preseason MAC prediction: Sixth in West.
- Overview: Eagles were weakest team in conference last season and so far are again, despite what was supposed to be an excellent freshman class. They’ve beaten three Division I teams with a combined 2-27 record) and a Division II school.
- Top wins: Detroit Mercy (0-11, 268 RPI, Florida A&M (1-10, 319).
- Top players: Freshman Courtnie Lewis (12.3 points, junior Danielle Minott (11.2 points, 1.8 three-pointers per game).
- Key statistics: Steals (11.9 per game, third in MAC), plus-3.8 turnover margin (fourth).
- Statistical weakness: Scoring offense (64.7 points per game, 11th in MAC), scoring defense (64.4, eighth), field goal percentage (37.4, 10th).
MAC East teams will follow in a next post.
MAC statistics, including standings.