Team: Western Michigan Broncos
Coach: Steve Hawkins
Record Last year: 23-10, 14-4 MAC
Early 2014-15 record: 8-4
*All rankings/stats are among MAC teams unless otherwise noted:
Standout big man Shayne Whittington (Indiana Pacers) is gone, but when guard David Brown was granted another year of eligibility, it meant the Western Michigan Broncos would once again be a major player in Mid-American Conference basketball this season.
The Broncos shared a MAC West title last year and then thumped West co-champ Toledo, 98-77, in the conference tourney title game. Brown had a big part in that game, which put WMU in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 10 years. But then, Brown played a big part in many things over the course of a season in which he led the league scorers with a 19.1 ppg average.
Three other solid starters are also returning, so opponents have plenty to worry about once again. If the Broncos can work out kinks in the center position and tweak a few other things (e.g. turnovers), they should be right there in the hunt. Of course, so will several others as the MAC West should be particularly strong this year.
So, how has it been going for WMU thus far?
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-- Western Michigan ranks 27th nationally in field goal percentage. It’s 48.3 percentage is second in the MAC, one spot behind Central Michigan (49.6).
-- The Broncos are next-to-last in field goal defense. Opponents are connecting on 45.1 percent of their attempts.
-- WMU’s 73.6 ppg production is third in the conference while it is 10th in scoring defense (68.1%). That leaves the Broncos seventh in scoring margin (5.5 ppg).
-- Western is eighth in 3-point goal attempts (210), but it is nonetheless fairly successful when it does, connecting on 40.5 percent (second in MAC). Of course, opponents are also doing well in that department as the Broncos are last in 3-point goal defense (36.5%).
-- WMU ranks fourth in free throws made (186 total, 15.5 per game) and fifth in free throw percentage (71.8%). Opponents have converted 178 tosses (14.83 per contest).
-- Forward Connar Tava is third in MAC scoring (13.8 ppg). Brown is ninth with a 13.8 ppg average. Others in double figures are Tucker Haymond (12.8 ppg) and Austin Richie (11.8 ppg). All four are returning starters from last year’s title team.
-- Drake Lamont a 6-10 freshman center, is averaging 4.8 points and 3.8 rebounds. Sophomore forward Kellen McCormick (6-8) has a 5.9 ppg average and is pulling down 1.6 rebounds per outing. Both are potential parts in effort to fill at least some of the departed Whittington’s contributions. That project is very much a work in progress as WMU is last in blocked shots (1.83).
-- Western Michigan ranks 11th in rebounding (30.4), trailing only Miami (29.2). However, the Broncos are tied for first in rebounds allowed (30.3 rpg).
-- The Broncos average 2.17 turnovers (fifth) and are third in assist/turnover ratio (1.08).
-- The Broncos open MAC play Tuesday, Jan. 6 at Akron. The two teams last met in last year’s MAC tourney semi-final, with Western pulling out a 64-60 overtime victory.