Ohio was the clear favorite to win the Mid-American Conference women’s championship this season. The next best teams were pretty unclear.
After eight or so non-conference games for league teams, it’s even more unclear.
With almost all MAC schools on break this week for students to take finals, it’s a good time to take stock of the MAC.
Ohio is 6-2 with the league’s only marquee win, a six-point victory over Ohio State in Columbus. But Ohio has only the third highest RPI in the conference. Kent State and Buffalo rank better.
The league doesn’t look as strong as it’s been for the last two years, when it ranked eighth in the country. By most rankings I’ve seen, the MAC is about 11th this season.
Just Kent State (65th) and Buffalo (88th) are in the top 100 in the RPI rankings of WarrenNolan.com,the service I used most. Central Michigan (102), Ohio (106) and Bowling Green (111) are fairly close.
At the end of last season, the MAC had six teams in the top 100, led by Buffalo (26), Ohio (31 and Central Michigan (35).
RPI is based 25% on a team’s record, 25% on its opponents’ record and 50% on its opponents’ opponents’ record. Road wins and home losses are weighted more heavily. There are 351 Division I teams.
Omni Power rankings, which takes into account other factors like recent results and margin of victory, also has two MAC schools in the top 100 — Central Michigan at 74th and Ohio at 77th. (Kent State is 150th behind Ball State, Bowling Green and Buffalo).
Only Buffalo (7-2), Ohio (6-2) Kent State (5-3), Bowling Green and Central Michigan (both 4-3) have winning records.
The league’s non-conference record is 48-45 against Division I competition, a 51.6 winning percentage; last season it was 87-41 —70.0%. Two years ago it won 65% of its non-conference games.
Buffalo is better than expected, considering graduation losses. The Bulls have the best freshman in the conference — Dyaisha Fair, who is second in the country in scoring.
Bowling Green was picked last in the MAC East and is 4-3 and has shown a pretty potent offense. But the Falcons haven’t beat a really good team yet. Ball State is 4-4 with wins over Butler (6-3) and Lehigh (6-2) and losses of less than 12 points to Cincinnati (5-4), Wisconsin (6-3) and Western Kentucky (7-2).
Surprise teams in a disappointing way are Toledo, which is 2-5 after being picked third in the West, and Northern Illinois, 3-5 after being picked in a virtual tie with Central Michigan.
Most teams have three or four non-conference games left. Ohio plays at TCU (7-1, RPI 27) and Texas (5-4) next week. A win or two would be impressive. Central Michigan plays South Dakota, Belmont, Bethune Cookman and Central Florida, all good mid-majors. Almost every other team plays at least one strong team; some upsets could shake things up and boost the league’s overall RPI ranking.
Here’s a look at the MAC East. MAC West post is here.
Buffalo: 7-2. RPI 89. Power ranking 114.
The Bulls lost the MAC’s leading scorer, Cierra Dillard, and have replaced her with the MAC’s new leading scorer, freshman DyaishaFair. She’s averaging 23.4 points per game. Senior forward Theresa Onwuka is averaging 18.8 points per game.
The Bulls’ schedule makes it hard to figure how good they are. The best team they’ve beaten is Drexel, which is 5-4 with an RPI of 65. They lost at No. 1 Stanford by 19 points.
Wild card for the Bulls is the status of Summer Hemphill, one of the best best post players in the conference. She hasn’t played at all because of an injury.
Ohio: 6-2. RPI 108. Power ranking 77.
The Bobcats are picked to win the MAC. After just missing the NCAA tournament last season, they scheduled a much tougher schedule. So far they’ve lost to Syracuse of the ACC and beaten Ohio State. They’ve lost fairly close games to Syracuse and Butler, both good teams. How they do against TCU and Texas may tell us if Ohio is a national-caliber team.
OU has the league’s best scoring defense at just 58.9 points per game, best 3-point defense at 25.4% and second-best field-goal defense at 37.4%.
The four starters returning from last season — senior guard Amani Burke, junior guard Cece Hooks, sophomore wing Erica Johnson and junior forward Gabby Burris — all average in double figures.
Kent State: 5-3. RPI 66. Power ranking 150.
The Flashes have beaten five mid-majors of varying quality and lost to three Big Ten teams that are in the top 40 in RPI rankings. They’ve added freshmen Nila Blackford (8.3 rebounds per game) and Katie Shumate (6.0 rebounds) to the starting lineup, and they are KSU’s top two rebounders.
Kent State has struggled on defense — its field goal defense of 47.2% is last in the league by three percentage points, but its last two games have shown improvement. KSU is averaging 72.4 points per game, more than seven points about last season.
All five starters average in double figures.
Bowling Green: 5-3. RPI 110. Power ranking 112.
The Falcons lead the MAC in points per game (79.5), field goal percentage (47.2), 3-point percentage (41.2), and rebounding margin (plus-7.5). They have the league’s leader in shooting percentage — 6-2 junior center Angela Perry at 72.3% and in 3-point percentage — junior Madison Parker at 51.2%.
But the best team BG has beaten is Cleveland State, which has a 7-1 record but an RPI of 152. They’ve lost to Valparaiso (4-3, RPI 107), Green Bay (5-4, RPI 59) and San Francisco (5-4, RPI 95).
Bowling Green plays at Loyola-Chicago (8-0, RPI 64) and at Purdue (7-2, RPI 24) later in January.
Akron: 4-4. RPI 169. Power ranking 159.
The Zips beat 5-3 Youngstown State and played well against No. 24 Michigan, losing 80-71. But the other teams they’ve beaten — St. Bonaventure, Purdue Fort Wayne and Detroit Mercy — have a combined two wins against Division I competition. They’ve lost three in a row to Cleveland State (7-1, RPI 152), Duquesne (8-2, RPI 112) and Butler (6-3, RPI 78).
Their plus-4.1 turnover margin is third in the MAC; their field goal defense of 44% is second worst. Junior college transfer Jordyn Dawson, a 5-11 forward, is fifth in the conference in field goal percentage (48.8) and fifth in steals (2.4 per game). Senior forward Haleigh Reinoehl is fifth in the league in rebounding at 7.9 per game.
Miami: 4-5. RPI 154. Power ranking 162.
Returning stars Lauren Dickerson (17.2 points per game) and Savannah Kluesner (12.8 points, 8.2 rebounds) have played well, and Redhawks have added freshman guard Peyton Scott, who averaged 27.4 points in high school and is averaging 12.8 in college.
But Redhawks’ only victory against a team with a winning record is against Eastern Kentucky (5-3, RPI 201). They’ve lost to No. 16 DePaul by 19, No. 25 Miami of Florida by 18 and Cincinnati (5-4, RPI 146) by 30. Miami is last in the league in field goal percentage (36.6) and 10th in field goal defense (43.4).
Link to the MAC West rundown.
MAC statistics, including standings