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In MACtion we trust: How Buffalo Bulls Men’s Basketball conference opponents are faring in non-conference play

After a grueling road trip and returning home to rout Coppin State, Buffalo Bulls Men’s Basketball sits 5-5 on the season. The Bulls journeyed over 8,000 miles to play quality opponents as they tried to work out some kinks as they’re on the uptrend as of late. So, with conference play around the corner next month, we’re going to take a look at how the rest of the MAC is doing. Overall the MAC has three distinct tiers where all of its teams are at in this point of the season.

So before we catch up on how the other MAC teams are doing in respect to Buffalo with a little more detail, here are the KenPom Ratings for each team:

Mid-American Conference Power Ratings

Rank Team KenPom Rating Record
Rank Team KenPom Rating Record
1 Eastern Michigan 89 (6-3)
2 Ohio 91 (5-2)
3 Akron 94 (7-3)
4 Buffalo 109 (5-5)
5 Kent State 144 (7-3)
6 Central Michigan 145 (8-3)
7 Toledo 151 (4-6)
8 Ball State 164 (6-4)
9 Northern Illinois 177 (4-5)
10 Bowling Green 204 (4-6)
11 Western Michigan 213 (3-6)
12 Miami (OH) 304 (5-5) as of 12:00PM 12 December

Tier 1: Championship Contenders

1. Eastern Michigan Eagles (6-3)

I wouldn’t say they’re the best team in the MAC, but they’re in the conversation for sure. Rob Murphy has brought one of the best Eastern Michigan teams in a long time to the table here. The Eagles have four players averaging in double figures, including the 1-2-3 punch of Ray Lee, Willie Mangum IV, and James Thompson IV. EMU is also the 6th best team in the nation at forcing turnovers with their finicky 2-3 zone.

The Eagles only have one bad loss so far to IUPUI, but otherwise have played a relatively easy schedule in which three opponents aren’t even in Division I. Like Buffalo, they challenged Pitt, but to an even greater degree. The Eagles took their game with the Panthers into double overtime.

2. Ohio Bobcats (5-2)

Ohio may not have the best schedule in the MAC, but they’re playing some really good basketball to say the least. MAC Player of the Year Antonio Campbell has picked up where he left off last season as he’s averaging 19.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Jaaron Simmons is also putting in meaningful contributions as he’s averaging 12.6 points and 7.1 assists per contest.

Ohio hasn’t had the best time in their most recent games, but they came out of the gate running—getting decent wins over Sam Houston St. and Georgia Tech. Since then, they’ve lost to an at par Marshall team and a good Iona team.

3. Akron Zips (7-3)

They’re definitely in the discussion as championship contenders, but I think Akron is one of the most overrated teams in the MAC despite being picked #1 in the preseason. Regardless, Keith Dambrot has brought a quality team to the table led by Isaiah Johnson and Antino Jackson. Once again, the Zips are a live by the three, die by the three team this year.

Akron’s loss to Youngstown State puts the Zips in questionable position. Their only other two losses are to nationally ranked opponents but they’ll be a team to keep an eye on for the remainder of non-conference play.

4. Buffalo Bulls (5-5)

UB is the biggest question mark out of the top-four teams in the MAC right now. The Bulls have had problems with keeping the ball in their possession and preventing bad fouls away from the ball. But, there is hope for this Nate Oats coached team as all of Buffalo’s losses were to good teams—even UB’s loss to Nevada. The Wolf Pack have since beaten PAC-12 opponent Washington in their non-conference schedule.

What the record fails to show is that Buffalo was without star guard CJ Massinburg until their two most recent games versus Coppin State and at Pitt. Since the guard’s return, UB’s turnover situation has been much better and the Bulls are a team no one should sleep on in the coming months.

Tier 2: They might compete, they might burn out

5. Kent State Golden Flashes (7-3)

Rob Senderoff’s Flashes are in an interesting spot: they’re not performing at the level they’re expected to. Kent State has one of the easiest schedules in the entire conference and they already have three really bad losses to South Dakota, George Mason, and Northeastern. For a team that returns Jaylin Walker and Jimmy Hall, you’d be surprised to see that they could be a bust this year.

6. Central Michigan Chippewas (8-3)

Central Michigan is my sleeper pick in the MAC this year. After returning a ton of talent and imploding last year, the Chippewas have a nice surprise this time around. Marcus Keene is this year’s Kay Felder. Currently the nations leading scorer at 30.8 points per game, Keene will be a handful for any opposing guard to defend.

7. Toledo Rockets (4-6)

I’ll give Toledo credit here, they’ve played some really tough teams and because of that, their 4-6 record doesn’t rule them out. UNC Wilmington, Middle Tennessee, and Saint Joseph’s are all acceptable losses. The Rockets will have to prove themselves by winning out in the rest of their non-conference schedule full of mediocre teams.

8. Ball State Cardinals (6-4)

There’s no doubt that James Whitford’s Cardinals can compete with top MAC teams after going toe-to-toe with Valparaiso, but can they do it consistently? The Cardinals have some tough losses to Indiana State and IUPUI, while also almost dropping a game to winless Coppin State. Ball State could really use some more help from former MAC Freshman of the Year Sean Sellers in an attempt to compete for a MACC.

Tier 3: The bottom feeders

9. Northern Illinois Huskies (4-5)

Looks like the Huskies only had one good year of basketball in them. NIU has already lost to four teams with a KenPom rating of 150 or worse—which isn’t a good sign for a team that returned its leading scorer in Marin Maric.

10. Bowling Green Falcons (4-6)

Bowling Green still isn’t looking good in year two of the Michael Huger era. The BG alum has lead the Falcons to a 4-6 record with their only wins being against bad teams. They do have one thing going for them, they’re one of the best at stopping teams from grabbing the offensive rebound.

11. Western Michigan Broncos (3-6)

Steve Hawkins looks to be getting a nice dose of karma for what he tweeted back in August.

All jokes aside, the Broncos have been extremely bad this season despite challenging #1 Villanova for a bit. To add gasoline onto the dumpster fire, they’ve lost a key reserve as Joeviair Kennedy has been charged for murder and armed robbery.

12. Miami (OH) RedHawks (5-5)

There are no Eric Washington heroics to save Miami late in the season anymore. Just like in WBB, the RedHawks sit as the premier dumpster fire in the conference. Five losses with the easiest schedule in the MAC isn’t something to be proud of.