"There's always next year."
You hear that a lot when you grow up a Cub fan. But this saying really comes into play for Western Michigan fans in relation to their men's basketball team. While the natural reaction is to hang heads and pray for a CBI or CIT invite (because lets be honest, the MAC was so weak this year the NIT probably wont pick up anyone but the MAC runner-up by default), the better reaction is to wait for November 2011.
Hear me out:
- This team was PROJECTED to be the 4th best team in the MAC West and ended up winning the whole thing, along with rapping up a legitimate 2-seed in the MAC tourney. Even if this is a "down" year for the MAC, that's still very impressive.
- This is a fairly young team with a lot of talent. Losing one senior, Alex Wolf the 3-point specialist, is not bad when the ENTIRE starting line-up will return. Replacing Wolf shouldn't be that hard talent-wise.
- Remember who we had to replace this year, MAC Player OF THE DECADE in David Kool. Should have been a huge hurdle, and instead Western ended up better in the standings, with the same end result.
- Look around the MAC, and see that most teams are losing some key player or two.
You have to like the scenario. Before this year only Flenard Whitfield, Nate Hutcheson, Mike Douglas, and Demetrius Ward played considerable minutes (avg 15 or more per game). Add in Freshmen like Matt Stainbrook and Juwan Howard Jr, and the improvement in Muhammed Conteh's game.
The one thing that concerns me with Western is attitude. Towards the end of the year, Western players got really "in your face" and it cost them at times: 3 techs, 1 suspension, and 1 ejection. Also, some players really didn't respond to negativity at times throughout the season, be it coaching or general on-court struggles (that did change though luckily).
This worries me. Emotions make and break you. In a good season like this one, they are great. They give you momentum and really give you the swagger to succeed. But when they are bad, you get games like the Akron one, where you can't right the ship and just struggle all night.
Nevertheless, I still like Bronco basketball next winter to be very much on the upside, and possibly finally get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in (what will be) 8 years.
Until then, there's always football season.