2011-12 MAC Women's Basketball Preview

Who will take Kourtney Brown's place as conference player of the year? More importantly, who will try to take her place in the Bulls' lineup? (Bulls Athletics)

There are few surprises heading into the women's basketball season. Bowling Green, fresh off their seventh consecutive MAC title, is looking to reload, while the Rockets are looking to put together the right coordinates out of Toledo in order to succeed in knocking the Falcons off their perch.

Wow. I need a break for how amazingly, metaphorically cliched that sentence was.

Anyways, there are few surprises now, but that does not mean there won't be any at all during the course of this season. Follow after the jump for a rough idea of the lay of this year's land. My apologies for some teams being a bit more detailed, but these team's media guide info are painfully scatter-shot.

Bowling Green

Last Season: 28-5 overall, 13-3 MAC, MAC Champion

The 4-1-1: Last season, the Falcons ran a pretty consistent nine-player rotation led by Lauren Prochaska and lost only five games, three of those by a single point. The Falcons now will figure out how to replace everyone on that list except Steffen, Slagle, and Havel, who are now co-captains. Having to reset hasn’t really been a problem before for coach Curt Miller, as evidenced by his .734 win percentage and consecutive conference championships – there was winning basketball before Prochaska, and there likely will be after.

Buffalo

Last Season: 16-16, 8-8

The 4-1-1: The Bulls enjoyed the last season of the Kourtney Brown era – all 22 points and 12 rebounds per game of it, as she took home both overall and defensive player of the year honors in the conference. Now the team will miss her, we just have to find out how much. The squad also lost PG Ashley Zuber (7.7 ppg, 6.5 apg), but will return the remainder of their starting lineup and simply seek to bolster the gaps with their incoming freshmen. We will see if the boost they got from redshirt sophomore Nytor Longar (19 points, 8 rebounds) against Buffalo State is any indication of what is to come.

Kent State

Last Season: 20-10, 12-1

The 4-1-1: The Flashes will most certainly experience growing pains this season…actually, that is likely an understatement. The Flashes will enter the season with a roster of only ten players, six of those are freshman, and only two of the team’s four upperclassmen (all juniors) played at all last season. With a talented enough freshman class that could be a moot point, but it is still a significant turnover that requires the basic college transition (Bob Lindsay’s system, the college pace, etc.).

Miami

Last Season: 3-13, 11-19

The 4-1-1: On the downside, the RedHawks did not finish last season on a high note, losing 11 of their last 12 games, most of them not by small margins. They’ll likely be the better for it, though, as the team only lost one player in the offseason, and that player saw 26 minutes of playing time all season. This is a tight group, with the entire starting five entering their third year playing together, though we’ll see if that means more wins or just more close losses.

Northern Illinois

Last Season: 13-17, 7-9

The 4-1-1: The Huskies lose leading scorer and top three-point shooter Marke Freeman, which may wind up a really bad thing (more in a second). During the same time last year that Miami OHIO finished by losing 11 of 12, the Huskies went 7-6, with half of those losses coming by three points or less. This season may again be a struggle, as evidenced by the exhibition against Indiana Wesleyan – sophomore guard Danielle Pulliam looks like a talent, but the only other player to top six points against IWU did so from eleven free throw attempts. That’s just unacceptable against a team that is ranked #3 – in the second division of NAIA.

Akron

Last Season: 14-16, 6-10

The 4-1-1: Everyone who mattered last season is back except for Kayla Murphy, the team’s leading scorer – slack that Carly Young and Taylor Ruper should have no problem picking up. More importantly, "everyone that mattered" includes Rachel Tecca. Sounds like a productive recipe for a team that finished just below .500 and saw six losses by seven points or fewer. I sense...an above .500 season. That's as far as I'll reach.

Toledo

Last Season: 29-8, 14-2

The 4-1-1: Not much to say about the Rockets, because not much has changed. Most of the roster returns, including leading scorer Naama Shafir (15 points, 5 assists per game) and the Rockets are gunning for the top again this season.

Ohio

Last Season: 9-22, 4-12

The 4-1-1: Leading scorer Tenishia Benson returns, along with three more of the starting five. Which may or may not matter for a team that only won nine games last season. Here's hoping the Bobcats find a way to avoid the defensive game plan of "shut down Tenishia and dare everybody else to score."

Ball State

Last Season: 9-21, 4-12

The 4-1-1: They have two tall seniors in Susann Grossnickle (6’2") and Amber Crago (6’). Unfortunately, this team went 9-21 last year and lost the only two players who scored more than six points per game - this from a team that already got held under 55 points in a third of their games. Might get worse before it gets better, because someone has to occupy last place.

Central Michigan

Last Season: 20-11, 11-5

The 4-1-1: Last year’s top two scorers, Shonda Long and Kaihla Szunko, are gone, but the rest of the rotation from a 20 win season returns. Perhaps Brandie Baker takes charge as the most experienced of the few upperclassmen this team has?

Western Michigan

Last Season: 9-21, 5-11

The 4-1-1: The Broncos return only half of last season’s eight woman rotation, including none of the three players who started every game. That trio included the top two scorers and top two rebounders. We will see if an influx of freshmen (half of the roster) can improve a team that won only nine games last season, most of them by five points or less.

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