MRI Chutes and Ladders: Three On the Move

USA TODAY Sports

We take a look at those making the biggest moves in this week's MRI rankings, for better or worse.

Now that the holiday season is upon us, we have a few days here with no games to talk about. Whatever will we do with ourselves, you ask?

Why, analyze the analysis, of course. Ben has been posting his MRI rankings for a number of weeks now, and while I've been intending to do a "biggest movers" type piece all along, it's was best served to wait a while to engage in such investigations.

Early in the season, huge swings in numbers are pretty frequent, so Ben asked that I wait a while for things to "normalize" a bit before proceeding.

Well, like any good kid I get all kinds of antsy on Christmas Day, so where better to channel such energy than finally writing up the analysis.

Biggest Gain

  1. Akron (+23.73) - After struggling on the road against Creighton and Detroit, the Zips came home to face Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Cleveland State, and dominated them as they should. By holding their opponents to a combined 32% from the field while they shot 48% themselves, including 31 points from Zeke Marshall, they are on a roll heading into their home tilt against everyone's favorite hard-working squad, Texas Southern - followed by, conveniently, another home game against our #2 squad.
  2. Princeton (+17.37) - Boy oh boy did the Tigers struggle early on, and it continued on through to an overtime loss to Wagner and a loss at home against Fordham. Things are looking better now after decisive home wins against Rider and Bucknell. The bench is only 4-for-13 from the field in those two games combined, and some scoring depth off the bench will be nice as the year goes on, but strong performances from a couple of forwards - sophomore Denton Koon and freshman Hans Brase - give some reason to hope.
  3. Tulane (+15.42) - Not sure if there is anything to be made of this 10-3 team that is 10-0 at home and 0-3 on the road (though those first two losses were at Georgia Tech and Nebraska, and the last two losses were by 10 total points). The Green Wave will always take home cooking though, as three double-digit wins in four days give them some momentum heading into another tough road contest at Alabama. The three-headed offensive monster of Ricky Tarrant, Jordan Callahan and Josh Davis is rearing its head in fine form, as Tarrant dropped 28 against Hofstra, Callahan notched 20 against Pepperdine, and Davis put up 23 against UTPA. Tarrant and Callahan are nothing new, but Davis - in his second season after transferring from NC State - has now posted 17-plus points in all but two games to lead the Wave, while shooting 52% from the field.

Biggest Drop

  1. Kennesaw State (-19.91) - Lose enough game in a row, and you will drop far in the rankings. The Owls' latest silver lining is that they "only" lost to Pittsburgh by 16 points. They did manage an overtime win over South Carolina State, and they have a few close losses, but when your #2 scoring option is a guard who needs 10 to 11 shot attempts per game in order to occasionally stumble into double-digit points, the year is a long one.
  2. South Carolina State (-19.31) - While their opponents have been stout - their Jan 5th tilt against South Carolina represents their third or fourth hardest opponent in their last four outings - their performance is not. Their last three losses have been by an average score of 90-46, and those three opponents each shot 49% or better from the field. Junior Mathew Hezekiah has produced consistently all season, but senior guard Khalif Toombs has seen his points per game drop from 17.3 over the first six games to 7.5 since (and his shooting stats show why). Junior Adama Adams has also managed a total of 19 points over the last four games after averaging 14.5 per outing until then.
  3. Northern Illinois (-19.1) - After struggling on close-to-home road games against Milwaukee and DePaul, the Huskies went further west to face Seattle and Washington, and neither game was pretty. Abdel Nader has provided an offensive boost since returning four games ago from suspension, but he was a ghost against Seattle. Nader's production returned against Washington, but no other player is shooting well on a consistent basis for the Huskies - especially fron three-point range - for the Huskies to compete nightly.
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