Let's take a look at the two teams from the state of Michigan who are currently at the top of their conference standings.
Oakland would technically have the tie-breaker over Green Bay who is tied with them currently at 5-2 because the Golden Grizzlies defeated them. Still, Oakland is officially tied for first place in the Horizon League heading into this weekend's conference games.
Head coach Greg Kampe and his Golden Grizzlies team after winning their conference opener against Detroit Mercy, lost to Purdue Fort Wayne at home by 21. They then lost on the road to Cleveland State to start Horizon League play at 1-2. However, Oakland has won four start conference games and is now a top contender to win the conference for the first time in their program history since they became a member of the conference.
The reasons for Oakland's success in conference play can be attributed to various reasons. One reason may be that the Golden Grizzlies played a competitive non-conference schedule which prepared them for conference play. Oakland won on the road against Xavier and defeated Loyola Marymount and Marshall in the Cayman Islands Classic. They also played three road games against Big Ten teams in Illinois, Ohio State, and Michigan State in a challenging non-conference schedule.
Another reason is that Oakland has the most depth that they have had in years. They have nine players averaging 12 plus minutes a game and they have seven players averaging six or more points a game. That may not seem like much, but compared to previous seasons these past couple of years, Oakland does not need to rely on their two top scorers and Kampe seems to trust his bench players more and more giving the starter much-needed rest and breaks throughout the games.
Western Michigan is technically in a three-way tie for first play in the MAC currently. The Broncos are tied with Toledo and Akron as all three teams are 3-0. in conference play.
The Broncos won their first two conference games and both of those games were on the road against Miami (OH) and Buffalo. Western Michigan then defeated North Illinois at home in a high scoring game.
No one is claiming that Western Michigan has had the most difficult conference schedule up to this point in the season but the Broncos being in first place can be contributed to various factors. One reason may be that the Broncos are healthy for the most part at this point of the season. For example, Javonte Brown since playing his first game of the season on Dec. 16, has scored 15 or more points four times and is averaging 15 points a game this season. The seven foot center transfer from Texas A&M has helped the Broncos in conference play.
Another reason is the dynamic backcourt play of Seth Hubbard and B. Artis White. Hubbard is averaging 19 points in MAC play and White is averaging just over 19 points and 4-and-a-half assists in conference play. Both players have elevated their game in MAC play and if they continue to play well, Western Michigan and head coach Dwayne Stephens have an opportunity to contend for a conference title.
Both Oakland and Western will be tested in the next two weeks in conference play, however, both teams look to continue their winning ways and contend for a conference title this season.