What seems inevitable is that the top teams, based on MAC performance, are going to remain that way. (Hustle Belt illustration) KEY: Darker Green: Most returning; Lighter Green: Many returning; Lighter Red: Many leaving; Darker Red: Most leaving
This return matrix took the total stats for all 12 teams, subtracted the departing seniors, and gives us a pretty solid number that determines who's coming back, and in what capacity they'll be back.
Big seniors that are leaving include Xavier Silas (NIU), Brandon Bowdry (EMU), and Jalin Thomas (CMU). Byron Mulkey also gives Buffalo a big need at point guard, and Akron is waving goodbye to four really good seniors.
The reason I went like this is to minimize the repetition of saying "well, they're losing one of their top shooters, rebounders, and leaders." Yeah, that happens to everybody. But how do you compare that to other teams? And that's why total output is being compared.
So the two teams in the best position for next year is Kent State and Western Michigan, two division winners. Hoo boy. Bowling Green is also in a strong position to improve, but Miami and OHIO will hold their ground somewhat. As for Akron ... uh-oh. In the MAC West, you're going to see a bunch of key players leaving, and this could either be disastrous or, much like WMU from 09-10 to 10-11, have a "David Kool effect," meaning that just because one of their recent legends is leaving, that just gives someone else to step up and improve. Could be a blessing. Or it could just be another agonizing year for CMU/EMU/NIU. And Toledo will still be bad, but their seniors were marginal contributors to begin with.
So let us not use the Return Matrix as a direct factor into next year's favorites. Obviously recruiting is important, as is scheduling and luck. Then there are the coaches: points off Kent State and NIU for changing coaches. And there may be others.
But if we had to rank the 2011-12 teams right now: