Michigan MAC Men’s Hoops Struggling
In recent years, the Michigan MAC was in the thick of things and managed signature upsets if not outright success, but countless transfers have left things more in doubt in the 2021/2022 season.
Central Michigan (2-12 overall, 1-2 conference) and Western Michigan (4-13 overall, 0-6 conference) are at the very bottom of the MAC. The rest of the conference maintains overall records near .500 or better, but Eastern Michigan (7-9 overall, 2-3 conference) is the lone Michigan MAC program to be clawing out of the gutter.
It is not uncommon for MAC programs to struggle through non-conference play and hit their stride after the new year, but while that trend could be relied on in previous years, EMU and CMU are on two game losing streaks and WMU is on an astonishing 7-game losing slide despite nearly knocking off Akron (10-5) by a point.
Western Michigan, for their part, has been heavily impacted by transfers as MAC standouts left for the Big 10/Big East (F, Brandon Johnson) and Sun Belt/PAC-12 (PG, Michael Flowers). Those transfers followed the firing of longtime Bronco coach, Steve Hawkins. Forward, Chase Barrs, also transferred to Florida A&M and while he never played a huge role for the Broncos as an underclassmen, his size and experience two years later is missed.
Central Michigan has also been slammed by transfers and graduated key players in droves to make matters worse in recent years. PJ Mitchell, Ra’Shad McDaniels, Malik Muhammad and several others in the last two off-seasons. The vacuum created an incredible situation where the Chippewas added an astonishing 12 new players before this season (4 freshman and 8 transfers). The upheaval followed the firing of longtime coach Keno Davis and hiring of Kentucky basketball staff member, Tony Barbee.
Eastern Michigan has graduated key pieces in recent years, but has also managed to develop and, perhaps most importantly, retain their young talent. Those underclassmen have given the Eagles consistency in their roster with names like Darion Spottsville, Thomas Binelli and Derek Ballard providing leadership to a large freshman/transfer class that has made a huge impact. That consistency has given the Eagles’ turnover what the Broncos and Chippewas have been missing: chemistry. The Eagles also have a first year head coach in Stan Heath, but the circumstances for previous coach, Rob Murphy, dismissal was less tumultuous and the new hire has been the only among his peers to see reasonable success.
The jury is still out on what these three programs will produce in the coming years, but it appears each has a long rebuild ahead of it with Eastern Michigan having a legitimate head start.