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January 11, 2014
Game preview and staff predictions: Miami
This will be the 123rd meeting between the Western Michigan Broncos (8-5) and the Miami RedHawks (5-7), with Miami leading the series 81-41.
The Broncos are just 7-51 in games played in Oxford, but have won each of the last two meetings.
Western Michigan has not won a MAC road opener since beating Central Michigan on Jan. 11, 2009.
Head coach Steve Hawkins won his 100th MAC game as coach of the Broncos with the win over Toledo; no other coach in Western Michigan history has ever won 100 MAC games.
Connar Tava scored a career-high 25 points with 9-of-9 shooting from the field against Toledo. Tava's 25 points in the Broncos win over Toledo was the highest scoring performance of any MAC player on the opening night of play.
Austin Richie notched a season-high 19 points in the Broncos win over Toledo.
Shayne Whittington recorded his sixth double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds vs. Toledo. Whittington's 18 double-doubles since the start of last season are more than anyone else in the MAC.
WMU should be favored in this game, but I'm not exactly crazy about the matchup considering the Broncos have struggled historically in Oxford. Add into the mix that the Broncos are coming off an emotional conference home opener against the heavily favored Toledo Rockets, and it's a recipe for trouble.
John Cooper's up-tempo style of play has given his players the ability to create turnovers and get them out in the open court and make plays. The Broncos must be careful and protect the basketball and not allow Miami any easy transition buckets. Miami is also one of the more balanced offenses in the league, as eight players are averaging greater than 6 points per game.
That being said, I don't see any major mismatches here that the Broncos won't be able to handle defensively. I expect this one to be closer than most people expect, but they should be able to pull it out if they execute the game plan. I like where Steve Hawkins has his team mentally right now.
Score Prediction: Western Michigan 81, Miami 75
Miami is certainly a team that's improving as the year goes on, but this is a game that Western Michigan needs to win if they're going to be a contender in the MAC. It's a good matchup for the Broncos considering the Redhawks' struggles with interior defending, and Miami is likely to finish towards the bottom of the East division.
Really, this game comes down to whether WMU can bring a high level of play on the road. If the Broncos come close to the effort they brought against Toledo, they shouldn't have too much trouble dispatching Miami. Given their efforts in road games at Missouri and Drake and neutral site games in Hawaii, I think this team is capable.
Score Prediction: Western Michigan 76, Miami 70
Coming off of a big win at home, WMU faces another big conference game. Though Miami isn't projected to finish very highly in the MAC, the Broncos have struggled playing in Oxford in the past. If WMU wants to compete with the top teams in the conference, they need to win these type of games.
After the Toledo game, WMU showed it doesn't need to depend on one, even two people for scoring, which I think can go a long way in conference play. Their depth has begun to show itself, and if they continue to develop a bench they will definitely be a force to reckon with in the MAC. In the end, I think they are able to come home with the win over Miami.
Score Prediction: Western Michigan 74, Miami 66
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