Women’s basketball in the Mid-American Conference had its best season in history last year. This year’s could be as good.
The MAC ranked eighth among the 33 Division I leagues in RPI, according to WarrenNolan.com, the ratings service I use most. Central Michigan and Buffalo reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament, the first time any mid-major conference had done that. It was the first time in 20 years two MAC teams had made the tournament. Five MAC teams, led by CMU (15) and Buffalo (20) had RPIs in the top 100 in the country.
As conference play begins this week, the MAC ranks ninth in RPI. It’s very close behind the American Athletic Conference, which is eighth and includes No. 1 Connecticut. The American Athletic is considerably weaker than the MAC from about fourth place down.
Five MAC teams are again in the top 100: Central (44), Buffalo (58), Ohio (61), Toledo (82) and Northern Illinois (90).
Warning: the rest of this post in really number heavy and wonky. Skip to the bulleted rankings to see the bottom line on the conference.
MAC teams won 67 percent of their non-conference games, seventh best in the country. Ohio (11-0) is among seven undefeated teams in the country. Only Ball State (5-7) has a record below .500.
Non-conference records are Ohio (11-0), Akron and Miami (9-2), Central Michigan (9-3), Buffalo and Toledo (8-3), Northern Illinois (8-4) Kent State, Bowling Green and Eastern Michigan (7-4), Western Michigan (6-5) and Ball State (5-7).
Records include all games. All other ratings system don’t count games against non-Division I teams.
The conference has four teams — more than any other league — in the CollegeInsider’s Top 25. Ohio, CMU and Buffalo are 5, 6 and 7. Toledo is 23.
Perhaps most important for the chance of getting two bids to the tournament again, MAC teams have some quality wins, something that wasn’t true last year until Central and Buffalo knocked off rated teams in the NXAA tournament.
CMU beat then-No. 24 Miami of Florida (RPI 39) on Miami’s floor, 90-80. The Chippewas beat Central Florida (19 RPI) in Mount Pleasant, 75-68. They took No. 3 Louisville to the final minute before losing 72-68 at home.
Buffalo beat mid-major power South Dakota State (34 RPI). 61-55 in a Thanksgiving tournament, and lost at home to No. 8 Stanford (10-1, RPI 4), 62-55.
Ohio beat Purdue (10-5), RPI 73). 80-73, and Lamar (3-4 and strangely No 26 in the RPI apparently because of two wins over highly ranked teams), 87-62.
Toledo beat Belmont (RPI 46), another strong mid-major, on the road and lost to No. 2 Notre Dame by 16 at home.
Rankings are all from the most recent AP Poll, which obviously doesn’t always track with the RPI. That system is based 25 percent on a team’s record, 25 percent on its opponents’ records, and 50 percent on its opponents’ opponents’ record. Road wins and home losses are rated heavily.
The biggest thing going against the MAC statistically is strength of schedule. As a whole, the league ranks 26th of 33 conferences. Only Central Michigan (65) is in the top 100.
Undefeated Ohio is 299. Akron and Miami (both 9-2) are over 300. So are Eastern Michigan (316) and Western Michigan (342). That’s out of 351 teams. So Western had the ninth easiest schedule in the country and is still only 5-5 against Division I opponents.
I averaged five rating systems to compare MAC teams, giving a team one point for first, two for second, etc. The results were pretty consistent. Here’s what I came up with:
- Ohio (10)
- Central Michigan (10)
- Buffalo (18)
- Toledo (19)
- Miami (27)
- Northern Illinois (28)
- Kent State (37)
- Akron (37)
- Bowling Green (44)
- Eastern Michigan (49)
- Ball State (51)
- Western Michigan (56)
The five systems were:
Record (see above).
RPI, which ranks teams like this:
- Central Michigan (44 nationally): Buffalo (58), Ohio (61), Toledo (82), Northern Illinois (90), Miami (131), Kent State (152), Bowling Green (154), Akron (207), Eastern Michigan (222), Ball State (235), Western Michigan (435).
Her Hoop Stats, a really interesting analytics site that rates teams based on its own offensive and defensive ratings.
- Rankings: Central Michigan (33 nationally), Ohio (52), Buffalo (64), Toledo (91), Miami (99), Northern Illinois (100), Kent State (100), Bowling Green (133), Akron (161), Eastern Michigan (175), Ball State (223), Western Michigan (294).
Elo rankings, which are based on a complicated system of head-to-head competition. Teams get points for winning, especially against higher-ranked opponents. Here’s Wikipedia’s explanation.
- Rankings: Central Michigan (25 nationally), Ohio (43), Toledo (51), Buffalo (59), Kent State (121), Northern Illinois (122), Ball State (149), Miami (163), Western Michigan (174), Akron (187), Bowling Green (215), Eastern Michigan (245).
WbbFlashes’ own system, which gives points for wins against RPI-ranked teams: Four points for the top-ranked 50, three points for 51-100, two points for 101- to 200, one point for 300 and above.
- Rankings: Central Michigan (21), Ohio (19), Toledo (14), Buffalo and Northern Illinois (12), Miami (11), Akron (8), Kent State and Eastern Michigan (7), Bowling Green and Ball State (6), Western Michigan (5).
Some of the rankings, especially RPI and Her Hoop Stats, change daily. So don’t hold me to the precise numbers.
Later in the week, we’ll look at each team and give our keys to the conference season for Kent State.