Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 2/10/12
DETROIT -- When an opposing head coach labels a team as a "big-time talent," it's a compliment. When that coach has led his team to two consecutive national title games, it's downright flattering. Following Detroit's victory over Butler last Saturday, Bulldogs head coach Brad Stevens had only praise for the suddenly hot Titans. "The bottom line is, they're a good basketball team," Stevens said following the game. Stevens also called the Titans a "hard out" for the Horizon League and maybe even the NCAA or NIT tournament, should they keep up their stellar play. But if the Titans -- a trendy pick to win the Horizon League before the season started -- are packed full of talent, then an obvious question remains: Why are they just 13-12 (7-6 Horizon) for the season? "We started out on a tough stretch, but we've gotten better in practice and more consistent during games," Titans head coach Ray McCallum at practice on Wednesday. The Titans are 6-2 in their last eight games, meaning that consistency appears to have finally arrived. During their non-conference schedule, the Titans had as few as seven players available for some games. At one point during that opening stretch, they played five games in eight days. The lack of personnel, coupled with the absence of key contributors like Eli Holman, played a major factor in a disappointing 2-4 start. The end of non-conference play didn't provide immediate respite either. The Titans started off Horizon play against Cleveland State, which still owns the league's best record. The Titans closed out December with a 7-9 record overall, including an uncharacteristic loss to Illinois-Chicago and a nail-mutilating victory over Loyola. Bring on 2012. Since Jan. 1, the Titans are 6-3, with two big wins over Butler, including Saturday's win at Hinkle Fieldhouse -- Detroit's first victory in the storied building since 1997. And if there's a silver lining to be found in losing, two of those three losses came to Valparaiso (18-8) by a combined seven points. "The way you play in January determines how you do in February," said coach McCallum. If they can hit their shots and prevent the opposing marksmen to find space on the floor, as McCallum says, choke off the three," the Titans should keep improving. On the offensive end, the Titans need to stay within themselves. Turnovers have been a bit of a bugaboo for Detroit the last couple of years, but this year they have cut that number from 17.7 a game down to 12, while bumping up their assist average to 13 a game. "I think the thing we're understanding is the importance of rebounding and defense, and taking care of the ball," McCallum said. "That was a big thing for us coming into the season. The turnovers are down and the assists are up, which has to do with much better ball movement and body control, not just standing there on offense. When we make shots, defense gets better." By making shots, the team has the opportunity to get set on defense and stay out of the transition game, which can be a defensive nightmare. Power forward Lamarcus Lowe probably benefits the most in a defensive set. If the Titans can "choke off" the three-point shot, then the defense should be able to funnel opposing players into the key, which plays right into Lowe's hands. He averages 2.4 blocks per game, and Holman registers 1.7 per game. Together, with their combined athleticism and talent, those two create one of the most imposing low-post defensive tandems in the Horizon League, McCallum said. Point guard Ray McCallum Jr., who leads the team with 15.7 points per game, has been the offensive catalyst to this point. He's barely taken a day off since last season, attending prestigious summer camps as well as a Team USA showcase, and the hard work has clearly improved his decision-making on the court. As his decision-making has improved, so has the rest of his game. McCallum is now armed with a clean, quiet jump shot, strong moves off the dribble, keen court vision and a high basketball IQ. All add up to his near 16 points per game, 3.8 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals. As long as McCallum and the rest of the Titans backcourt keep the turnovers down, then the they should live up to Coach Stevens' words and be a "tough out" come tournament time.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

NFL Network suspends 3 analysts accused of sexual harassment

Winners and losers from Monday Night Football in Week 14

Patriots safety Duron Harmon yells at teammates in heated sideline exchange

Players avoid suspensions for mayhem in Jacksonville

Russell Westbrook destroys Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with monstrous dunk

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Are the Houston Astros preparing to lose Dallas Keuchel?

Watch Chris Paul embarrass Pelicans player with sick crossover

LaMelo, LiAngelo Ball to join Lithuanian team in January

Carson Wentz out for season with torn ACL

NFL threatens ‘significant discipline’ over mistreatment of referees

Magic Johnson: Lakers could preserve cap room for 2019

The 'Josh Gordon is back and the NFL will have to deal with it!' quiz

Free agent profile: Carlos Santana

The best individual performance from every bowl all time

The naughty and nice athletes list for 2017

Knicks GM: We have no interest in tanking

Sports & Politics Intersect: When Olympic gold corrupts

The 'And the winner is...' quiz

The 14 most intriguing NFL draft prospects playing in 2017 bowl games

Why Antonio Brown deserves to be in MVP discussion

Is this when Zach Werenski and the Blue Jackets really get their season going?

Dissecting the road to the NFL postseason

The NFC playoffs will be loaded from top to bottom

Titans News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

The 'Josh Gordon is back and the NFL will have to deal with it!' quiz

The best individual performance from every bowl all time

NFL Week 14 injury report

Sports & Politics Intersect: When Olympic gold corrupts

The best games of 2017

The naughty and nice athletes list for 2017

The 'And the winner is...' quiz

NHL Weekender: Caps gain ground, Kings ready to rule?

Dissecting the road to the NFL postseason

The 'What's old is new again (but also still old)' quiz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker