Yesterday we gave you an overview of the MAC and its East Division. Today it’s the MAC West.
Central Michigan (4-3). RPI 104. Power rating 74.
CMU, two-time defending MAC champions, lost its first three games to very good teams — Green Bay (5-4, RPI 60), No. 7 Louisville (9-1, RPI 5) and Western Kentucky (7-2, RPI 28). Since then the Chippewas have won four in a row against somewhat lesser competition, the best being Marist (5-2, RPI 103).
Central lost all-MAC players Presley Hudson and Reyna Frost to graduation and coach Sue Guevara to retirement. But junior guard Micaela Kelly is playing like an all-conference guard for new coach Heather Oesterle, averaging 20.4 points a game. Forward Kyra Bussell is seventh in the league in scoring at 15.3 points a game.
In the next three weeks, Central will play South Dakota State (6-4, RPI 67), Bethune-Cochran (6-1, RPI 193) and Central Florida (4-4, RPI 98). All those teams look to be the caliber of the MAC’s first division.
Ball State (4-4). RPI 130. Power rating 104.
The Cardinals have a 2-3 record against five teams in the RPI top 100. Their win over Butler may be the league’s second best (after Ohio’s win at Ohio State.) Games against Providence (7-1, RI 62) and New Mexico (6-3, RI 109) in the Lobo Invitational before Christmas will tell us how good they are.
Ball State has the best field goal defense (36.5%) and the third best scoring defense (63.3) in the league. Junior forward Oshlynn Brown has the third highest field goal percentage (55.6) and is the second leading rebounder (9.5 per game) in the conference.
Western Michigan (4-3). RPI 223. Power ranking 241.
The three Division I teams the Broncos have beaten have a combined record of 3-24. The three teams they’ve lost to have a combined record of 20-6. After exams, they play Chicago State (0-10), Stony Brook (7-1) and Loyola Chicago (8-0). The only non-conference team WMU plays that’s close to its level is Denver (4-4, RPI 299) in the Puerto Rico Classic. It’s hard to get an overall impression from that.
The Broncos have forward Brianna Mobley back from injury. She’s one of the MAC’s best post players, leading the league in rebounding (10.3 per game) and ranking 17th in scoring (12.7). Redshirt sophomore guard Jordan Walker, who like Mobley missed all last season, is averaging 14.6 points per game. Junior forward Leighah-Amori Wool is fourth in the MAC in rebounding (8.4 per game).
Northern Illinois (3-5). RPI 161. Power ranking 196.
The Huskies have lost three close games to good teams — six points to Harvard (7-3, RPI 124), three points to Illinois Sate (5-2, RPI 27) and five points to Purdue (7-2, RPI 25). They also won two games in overtime to teams that are a combined 4-15 and lost to Milwaukee (2-6, RPI 172) by 13. So here’s another team we don’t know quite what to make of.
NIU has preseason all-MAC forward Courtney Woods back from an injury that sidelined her for most of last season. She’s averaging 18.4 points. The Huskies also had four starters back, but none is averaging in double figures.
The Huskies, who averaged 85 points two years ago and 73 last season, are scoring 66.4 this year.
Toledo (2-5). RPI 272, Power ranking 174.
If I had had to guess the MAC team with the worst RPI at this point in the season, it certainly wouldn’t have been Toledo. But here the Rockets are, tied for the fewest wins in the conference. All of their losses have come to teams with winning records and RPIs between 110 and 160 — except for a three-point defeat at Notre Dame (5-7, RPI 73). Four of the five losses have been by fewer than eight points. So the Rockets are another team that might be better than their record.
The Rockets lost last season’s two best players to graduation and haven’t really found replacements. Toledo doesn’t have a player in the MAC’s top 25 scorers or top 15 rebounders. Nakiah Black averages 10.4 points; point guard Mariella Santucci averages 5.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
Eastern Michigan (3-6). RPI 195. Power ranking 246.
The Eagles have played one of the MAC’s toughest schedules — 11th most difficult in the country by one measure I saw. They lost by more than 30 points to No. 19 Michigan State and No. 24 Michigan and four other games by an average of 14. Their best win is against Southeast Missouri (4-2, RPI 162) by five.
Oklahoma State transfer Areanna Combs, a 5-10 junior guard, played her first game Dec. 1 and has averaged 19 points, including 29 in an 11-point loss at 8-0 Binghamton. With her in the lineup, the Eagles also lost by 11 to 5-3 Wichita and beat 3-8 Purdue Fort Wayne by 24. Freshman guard Aaliyah Stanley averages 13.1 points.
MAC statistics, including standings.
RPI rankings are from WarrenNolan.com.
Power rankings from Omni Rankings.