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December 7, 2013
Game preview and staff predictions: Northwestern
The Western Michigan Broncos (5-2) travel to Evanston, IL Saturday night to play the Northwestern Wildcats (4-4).
It will be the 30th meeting between the two teams, with Northwestern holding a 22-7 advantage in the series. The Broncos have not defeated the Wildcats since Dec. 3, 1955. WMU is 4-17 against Northwestern in games played in Evanston.
Connar Tava and Shayne Whittington both recorded double-doubles against Cornell, the first time two Broncos have done so in a single game since the 2011-12 season.
Tava is the reigning MAC West Player of the Week after averaging 18.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in the Broncos' wins over Oakland and Cornell. The 6-foot-5 sophomore power forward recorded his first career double-double in the win over the Big Red, notching 16 points and a career high 13 rebounds in the win.
Western Michigan has shot 55-of-99 (.556) from the floor in its last two games, averaging 91.0 points per game. After being outrebounded by an average of 15.5 rebounds per game in the first two games of the year, the Broncos have outrebounded opponents by an average of 7.2 rebounds per game since.
Western Michigan has a good opportunity here to pick up a solid road win against a vulnerable high major. I had a feeling this game was winnable when it came up on the schedule, but after doing a Q&A with WildcatReport.com earlier this week, I feel even more confident in that thought. The Wildcats are susceptible to losing these kinds of games at home and with WMU getting the week off, I think it could set up nicely for the Broncos.
WMU will face their biggest challenge defensively at the three and four spots. This has been common (and will continue to be throughout MAC play), but for the most part, they've shown that they are capable of overcoming those mismatches with good outside shooting and Shayne Whittington's strong interior presence. I think WMU pulls out a close one in Evanston and forces people within the MAC to turn heads.
Score Prediction: Western Michigan 75, Northwestern 68
This is somewhat of a lightening of the schedule for Northwestern, who comes in 4-5 after losses to Missouri, UCLA and N.C. State in the past week. I'd have to believe that with the three consecutive losses, the Wildcats will be hungry for a win returning home.
It's a tough call either way. My gut tells me that NU gets it done, particularly since I'm not sure the Broncos have a reliable defensive stopper at this point to put on Drew Crawford. Expect a good scoring battle between Crawford and WMU's David Brown, and give a slight edge to the home team.
Score Prediction: Northwestern 67, Western Michigan 64
Northwestern is on quite a skid as of late. They are not playing good basketball, losing their last three games by double digits. They are an unimpressive 3-3 at home so far, which leads me to believe that the Broncos have a chance.
WMU is perfect on the road early this season and heading into a tough three game stretch away from Kalamazoo, they will need to get off to a good start against Northwestern. Going into this trip, I said WMU would go 2-1, and seeing as Missouri and Drake seem to be the tougher of the opponents, I like the Broncos to pull off the win here.
Score Prediction: Western Michigan 82, Northwestern 77
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