The MAAC is a weird place, man. Weird stuff happens all the time over there and we all kind of miss it because it's such a weird place and weird things make your face hurt. Take last year, a season in which Detroit was supposed to move toward the upper rungs of the MAAC, where Canisius dropped the second-seeded Titans in the MAAC Tournament semifinals on the way to an improbable defeat of Siena in the MACC Tournament championship. We all stared at a lost season for the Saints, but it was Detroit, quietly, that ultimately endured the most pain in 2012: A season that never seemed to coalesce and an ending that didn't meet its potential.
So that's where Detroit will start in 2013. A Midwest afterthought in a lot of ways, Matt Holtz is quietly going about his business at Detroit without fanfare and building the foundation for a program that just graduated its first four year senior class. The schedule that the Titans will play next spring isn't especially imposing, but it is solid for a program in Detroit's position. Let's pick this apart.
I Got Some Ice Cream and You Ain't Got None
March 2: Quinnipiac; March 5: @ Bellarmine; April 17: @ Michigan; April 20: Marquette
Detroit didn't totally sandbag its non-conference schedule. The Titans will play Ohio State, Navy, and Robert Morris in addition to the above. The issue, though, isn't whether Detroit under- or over-challenged themselves this season; the issue is whether they approached their non-conference slate the right way, and I think that Holtz kind of hit his schedule square on the head. Here's why: Detroit isn't winning the national title (it may not even win the MAAC title), so why not further define where the Titans program is competitively and at least try and hang up some wins?
It's a tough racket living in the bottom-third of the country; the neighborhood is full of jealous knuckleheads that love to ruin things for everyone else. The only way to get out of that area is to elevate above the rest. That's why games against the above four schools are so important -- Detroit pulled two of its six wins out of the basket of Quinnipiac, Bellarmine, and Michigan last season, and with Marquette -- a neophyte ripe for hazing in Division I -- the Titans have another opportunity to raise their overall win profile (Detroit has never won more than six games in a season). If the Titans are able to squash their neighbors' dreams, Detroit wins a very defined zero sum game and can move on up; drop these games -- or split them oddly -- and the neighborhood will claim another life tenant.
MAAC Champions? (Why Not?)
March 16: @ Marist; March 23: VMI; March 30: @ Jacksonville; April 6: Manahttan; April 13: @ Siena; April 27: Canisius
Okay, let's just get this out of the way right now: Is it just me, or is it freaky that Detroit is playing a perfectly alternating home-road league schedule in 2013? I don't feel like that happens a lot. Good on you, MAAC Commissioner Obsessive Compulsive.
Now, about that subtitle: Did you expect Canisius to win the MAAC Tournament last year? Of course not (unless you're a sociopath that believes that a small baby dragon lives in the center of the sun and controls our minds by blinking). I don't necessarily think that Detroit is going to win the league, but odd stuff can happen when opportunity meets a total trash fire. After last year I'm not willing to pencil in any games as probable wins -- although Manhattan and VMI are closest to that category (which, of course, the Titans lost to both last year) -- but the fact remains: If Detroit can keep its act together it has a good a shot as any in the league to win the league (maybe).
There's a reason that the MAAC has been the worst-ranked league in the country over the last four seasons, and in that kind of muck you don't necessarily need to be "good" to win; you need to just be a little better than your opponent every day (something that the Titans struggled with in 2012). At the end of the day simply winning means more than league trophies, but it's all there if Detroit has it together.