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November 26, 2013

Game preview and staff predictions: Oakland

The Western Michigan Broncos (3-2) host the Oakland Golden Grizzlies (0-6), in what is the third year of a four-year series the two programs agreed to back in 2011. Western Michigan will travel to Rochester during the 2014-2015 season, and it is expected that the series will be renewed beyond that.

The Broncos are 6-2 all-time against the Golden Grizzlies, and are 4-1 at home with the sole loss coming on December 30th, 2000. WMU defeated Oakland 76-72 last year in Kalamazoo.

David Brown is averaging 20.8 points per game this year, second among all players in the MAC, and has scored 20+ points in three of five games this year. Brown recorded a career-high 27 points in the Broncos' loss to North Dakota State. As of November 22nd, he is one of just three players in the MAC averaging better than 20 points per game.

WMU, Oakland enjoying healthy cross-state basketball series

Oakland's zone ($)


Game Predictions

Brian: The Oakland Grizzlies are arguably the best winless team in college basketball right now. Their strength of schedule has just been brutal. Even games that appear to be winnable on the schedule like Louisiana-Lafayette (4-2) and St. Francis, NY (3-3) have proved to be surprisingly stingy opponents.

Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, the schedule doesn't lighten up anytime soon with games against Western Michigan (3-2), Ohio (4-1), Indiana (5-1), #1 Michigan State (6-0), Robert Morris (3-3), and EMU (5-0). Simply put, Oakland is going to arrive in Kalamazoo hungry for a win. However, the Broncos might be hungrier coming off a home loss to North Dakota State last week.

It's unclear how much Duke Mondy and Dante Williams will play in this game following their two game suspension earlier this season, but WMU will of course game plan and account for them. Regardless, I like WMU's matchup both inside and outside, and with tough defense the Broncos should be able to win a close one at home.

Score Prediction: Western Michigan 77, Oakland 73

David: I'm not as high on this Oakland team as some, though certainly their record doesn't tell the entire story by any stretch. The schedule has indeed been brutal, but the fact remains that even with Duke Mondy and Dante Williamsreinstated from their suspension this is not a deep basketball team.

What makes the Golden Grizzlies dangerous is that they may be looking at WMU as their best shot at picking up their first Division I win until Illinois State comes to Rochester on December 16. The Grizzlies' nonconference schedule is very much back-loaded with home games, but a somewhat winnable game like this could be critical for their confidence level with lots of tough ones still to go in the short term.

On the surface, Oakland presents a matchup problem in the form of Travis Bader, an outside shooting threat against a WMU team that struggles defending the perimeter at times. Nonetheless, I'm still of the mind that OU relies too heavily on Bader, who is scoring just over 21 points per game but hoisting 17.5 shots on average. The real mismatch is going to be Shayne Whittington on Oakland's slower Corey Petros. Whittington stuffed the stat sheet last year with 14 points, eight rebounds, six blocks and one steal in last year's matchup, often displaying much higher athleticism than Petros, who was a fairly highly-regarded recruit out of Utica with a WMU offer.

Score Prediction: Western Michigan 76, Oakland 67

D.J.: First things first, do not let Oakland's record speak to their level of play this season. This is a good basketball team and the Broncos will need a full effort performance to get the win. As Brian mentioned, the Grizzlies will play one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country, and they are getting beaten up early.

That being said, I think the Broncos have a great opportunity to get a win against this reeling team. They will need to be better on the the defensive end of the floor if they want to have a chance. Rebounding and limiting possessions as well as on ball defense, should be in WMU's favor, as long as they execute.

In the end, I think Oakland is struggling and will continue to do so on the road in Kalamazoo. Give me the Broncos, but not by much.

Score Prediction: Western Michigan 71, Oakland 68

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