The Detroit Titans were supposed to be one of those mid-major schools this season. Talent, experience, offensive firepower, it appeared that everything necessary was in place for Ray McCallum Sr.'s team to make a serious run into the Davidson, Siena, and George Mason territory as a mid-major bracket buster.
But here we are not even a month into the season and the Titans are quite literally grasping for air. A cruel concoction of issues (leave of absences, ineligibility, injuries) has left McCallum with just eight scholarship players on his roster. And the latest blow, a season-ending ACL injury to senior forward Nick Minnerath, might be the harshest of all, as it forces Detroit to significantly alter its offensive set (again).
Minnerath was already carrying the offensive load for All-Horizon League big man Eli Holman, who remains on a leave of absence over an assault charge at a frat house. To make things worse, the Titans have also been without 6'10" forward John Hoskins, who randomly left the team earlier this month, and guards Chris Blake and Brandon Romain due to academic problems (each is eligible to play in the second semester).
While the return of Blake and Romain will bolster the offense at some point in January, neither guy offers much low post help, and that's really the only area that Detroit drastically needs right now. This team has already sputtered out of the gate with a 3-4 record, and the Titans' upcoming schedule is daunting even for a team with a full bench. Games against Cleveland State, St. John's, Western Michigan, Alabama and Mississippi State lie ahead on the December slate, all following an absolute must-win date with Youngstown State this Thursday.
But really, everything comes back to Holman, and how his poor decision that night (he allegedly punched a frat member twice in the nose) has made all of this other stuff Detroit has had to deal with roughly 50x tougher. Worst of all, with no recent news on his situation surfacing, it forces fans and coaches to sit around and hope that he'll finally come back to the court and save this team at some point. And that mindset doesn't do anybody any good. The Titans' frontcourt, for the foreseeable future anyway, is in the hands of 6'5" Doug Anderson, 6'7" Evan Bruinsma and 6'11" LaMarcus Lowe, and that's it.
It's worth mentioning that Anderson weighs in at 220lbs, Lowe barely cracks 200 and Bruinsma is a mere 190. So if pure height is a noticeable weakness for this team, then girth is its Achilles' heel. Detroit's three not-so-big men have combined for 65 fouls after only seven games, averaging out to just over three per player each night. And on a dead-tired team running down the floor, you can expect those average to rise significantly without Minnerath in the fold. And considering that, it ultimately begs the question of whether we'll see a 5 on 4 match-up in the waning minutes at any point this season.
Horizon League foes still have Chase Simon and Ray McCallum Jr. to worry about, despite the fact that the once-powerful upstart everyone figured capable of slaying the resident dragon (Butler) has already fallen to its knees in a months time. All of the great things so many of us predicted for the Titans are still attainable, but it looks like it's going to take an undermanned roster on extremely tired legs to pull it off.