Before the MAC Tournament starts tomorrow (! - preview and all sort of Women's stuff in the morning) at Alumni Arena and (for us, at least) Wednesday at the Q, I find myself not at all ready to really look at the bracket and each team's path to a championship.
Considering where we were at the start of this season, with both teams, I'm really quite pleased with things, even if MAC play has been inconsistent for both.
I've written plenty about Men's Hoops' tumultuous offseason, but just to recap as succinctly as possible: Nate Oats has had at his disposal in 2015-16 only three players who ever saw the floor for the 2015 MAC Champions and still found a winning record overall and in the MAC and a trip straight to Cleveland, largely built on recruits who only made their way to Buffalo when spots opened up late in the recruiting process.
I've written less about the other side, but have easily argued that Women's Hoops lost just as much: perhaps the best frontcourt in the MAC to graduation, their promising understudy to transfer, and one of the most dangerous scorers in the MAC to an injury-forced retirement. In what was supposed to be a crowning year for Felisha Legette-Jack's program-building efforts, the coach was instead left with one of, if not the, youngest team in Division I.
Each team has flashed MAC Championship-caliber play this season. Each team has rattled off two-week stretches that would rival any in the last decade. But both are young teams, new to college and each other, and here within the season it's easy to look at the good and use it to make the bad feel even worse.
My co-editors on this site will back me up on my preseason expectations for these teams: For the Men, I thought they'd be between 8 and 10 wins in the MAC and around .500 in nonconference play. I thought it would be hard for them to drop below sixth in the conference, and thought a bye could be in play heading into the final few games.
So that was a hit. The Women? I honestly was preparing for single-digit wins, not a winning season.
So that was less of a hit.
I won't belabor the point, because there's so much more to write this week. If you look at the 6-0 start, or the run to 7-3 in the MAC on an absurdly road-heavy schedule, it's going to be too easy to find disappointment this season. So don't do that. Look at three of the top four scorers being new to the school, or the groundwork laid by a team of underclassmen who have managed to pile both the 'get experience' and 'learn how to win' phases into a single season.
Everyone is welcome to their own standards, but as we hit the postseason, remember not how you felt when these teams were playing their best, but how you felt before they had played at all. From that perspective, I'm pretty thrilled with this season no matter what happens.