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November 8, 2013
Staff Predictions: WMU basketball travels to Hawaii for opening weekend tournament
The WMU men's basketball team officially kicks off the 2013-2014 season this weekend at the Outrigger Hotels and Resorts Rainbow Classic in Honolulu, HI. They'll face the New Mexico State Aggies on Saturday, November 9th at 1:30 a.m. (ET), the Hawaii Warriors on Sunday, November 10th at 12:30 a.m. (ET), and conclude the tournament against the Tennessee State Tigers on Monday, November 11th at 7:00 p.m. (ET).
New Mexico State finished the 2012-2013 season in third place in the WAC, with an overall record of 24-11 (14-4). The last time the Broncos played the Aggies was in the Top of the World Classic hosted by Alaska-Fairbanks in 2004 (L 65-61 in OT). WMU is 0-2 all-time against New Mexico State.
Hawaii finished the 2012-2013 season in fifth place in the Big West, with an overall record of 17-15 (10-8). Tennessee State finished the 2012-2013 season in third place in the Ohio Valley Conference, with an overall record of 18-15 (11-5).
This will be the first-ever for the Broncos against both Hawaii and Tennessee State.
The BroncoBlitz.com staff makes their weekend tournament predictions below.
At first glance, the untrained eye may look at this tournament and see a handful of average mid-major programs. However, the fact remains that these four teams (New Mexico St., Hawaii, Tennessee St., and WMU) combined for a 81-54 overall record in 2012-2013, all having received postseason tournament bids. Hence, this tournament will pose a significant, but not unattainable challenge for the Broncos.
The Aggies pose the biggest challenge and are easily the favorites to win this tournament, as they return several key veterans and skilled players including Sim Bhullar and Daniel Mullings. The host team, Hawaii, is conversely young and relatively inexperienced, yet still a dangerous team with some skilled players. Forwards Christian Standhardinger and Isaac Fotu are the matchup problems I fear the most for the Broncos in this one. Beating the Warriors on their home floor will not be an easy task.
The Tigers are an athletic bunch, however they are a much better matchup on paper for the Broncos after losing a couple of key big men over the offseason. It's returning All-OVC First Team point guard Patrick Miller that I believe may create the most problems for WMU, especially due to the NCAA's new foul rules. Miller will look to be aggressive throughout the entire tournament, and it won't be any different against the Broncos. To me, this is the game in the tournament that I have circled as the lone win for the Broncos.
If the Broncos want to walk away from Hawaii with three wins, they'll need a strong tournament from their guards; David Brown, Austin Richie, Jared Klein, Von Washington and even Tucker Haymond. Three-point shooting and getting to the free-throw line often will result in success not only in this tournament, but throughout the year for the Broncos. Overall, I believe Western Michigan will struggle offensively, therefore I have them going 1-2 in this tournament.
New Mexico St. 74, Western Michigan 59
Hawaii 68, Western Michigan 66
Western Michigan 72, Tennessee St. 69
WMU doesn't exactly get the easiest draw as they head out to Hawaii, with probably the most winnable game coming on the last day of the tournament. New Mexico State is an obvious runaway favorite in the vastly weakened WAC, with preseason player of the year Daniel Mullings and massive 7-foot-5 Sim Bhullar leading the way.
Hawaii doesn't have nearly the expectations of the Aggies, but will certainly provide their own challenges with home court advantage and an acclimation to the time zone change. With a couple of key guards out, though, including Dayton transfer and starter Brandon Spearman (9.6 ppg), the Warriors may suffer from some tired legs down the stretch as well.
The Broncos will close with Tennessee State of the OVC, who was picked fifth in their division in the preseason media poll. TSU is coming off of a last second, 69-68 win over Lemoyne-Owen in an exhibition. While far from meaningful much of the time, that performance could be an indication of problems for a TSU team that loses star forward Robert Covington among others from a solid 18-15 squad.
Overall, the pieces are more than there for WMU to post a 2-1 record this weekend. While I'd normally lean towards taking Hawaii in a close one at home, I think injury and depth issues will catch up to the Warriors and WMU has an overall talent edge against Tennessee State. New Mexico State is not a great matchup and will likely coast to an NCAA bid this year, but the rest of this tournament is very doable for the Broncos.
New Mexico St. 67, Western Michigan 54
Western Michigan 71, Hawaii 67
Western Michigan 66, Tennessee St. 50
The Broncos open up in Hawaii this weekend and will get some tests right out of the gate. New Mexico St. looks to be the class of the field out of the WAC and could give WMU all kinds of trouble with its size.
Hawaii will be the measuring stick for me because the teams will be evenly matched. Though the Rainbow Warriors have a great home field advantage, having made the trip before, I think WMU will be poised for the win.
Tennessee State is a team that the Broncos need to win in order to build confidence for the rest of the non-conference schedule.
New Mexico St. 72, Western Michigan 59
Western Michigan 77, Hawaii 73
Western Michigan 72, Tennessee St. 57
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