Eastern Michigan vs. Western Michigan — Preview
The first week of MAC play ended in a split for Eastern Michigan, a win at Bowling Green and a tough loss at Buffalo. All in all, a split is not a terrible outcome, as conference road wins are always at a premium. With that being the case, holding serve at home becomes imperative.
Especially when the home game is against an in-state rival or a competitor for the MAC West title. Tonight, fellow Eagle fans, we have both as the Western Michigan Broncos visit the Convo in an early key MAC West matchup.
Western is 2-0 in the MAC, with an impressive home win over Toledo and an overtime road victory at Miami. The Broncos are no dressage ponies, they boast a senior center in Shayne Whittington who may be the best center in the MAC. They also have a big time scorer at guard to complement Whittington in senior David Brown, who is averaging 18.9 points per game. Finally, sophomore Connor Tava is shooting a mind-boggling 64% from the floor. These three make a pretty dangerous trio.
They are led by head coach Steve Hawkins, who managed to pick apart the 2-3 zone in the MAC Tourney last season. EMU was spent by that game, but make no mistake, Hawkins can coach, and knows how to use the high post to neutralize the zone.
Despite their coach and the trio of excellent players, Western has a problem — they lack quality depth. What can you say when your program has lost players like Matt Stainbrook (Xavier), Darius Paul (Illinois), and Juwan Howard Jr. (Detroit) over the last few years? You can’t fully recover from that kind of loss of talent. Hawkins has his Broncos playing well, and they are a legit contender for the MAC West title, but what might have been in Kalamazoo if those three guys stayed.
The key battles tonight are Karrington Ward/Glenn Bryant/Daylen Harrison against Connor Tava, and DaShonte Riley against Shayne Whittington. I feel good about the chances of Ward/Bryant/Harrison making life difficult for Tava, but far less optimistic about Riley’s chances versus Whittington, who is a far more polished player. We could be seeing more foul trouble out of Riley this evening. If Riley responds and blocks shots and grabs around ten boards Eastern will in all likelihood pull this game out.
EMU point guard Mike Talley has played extremely well of late, and has an advantage this game over WMU. Look for a big game tonight from Talley, and an even more assertive Glenn Bryant, who is making this team’s identity his with his emotional play. I say tonight, we see an Eastern victory.
My prediction: Eastern Michigan 68, Western Michigan 63.
Hopefully this is how we will see things play out. Not to be too dramatic about an early game, but this is a huge game for Eastern, and Western. If the Broncos can knock off Eastern and advance to 3-0, they will be in the driver’s seat for the MAC West title with wins over Eastern and Toledo. Rob Murphy can’t let that happen. Time to ship these Broncs to the glue factory.