Western Michigan (8-5) at Akron (9-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 9, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: James A. Rhodes Arena (5,500) -- Akron, Ohio. Television: None. Home Record: WMU 4-0, Akron 7-0. Away Record: WMU 2-5, Akron 0-3. Neutral Record: WMU 2-0, Akron 2-1. Conference Record: WMU 0-0, Akron 0-0. Series Record: Akron leads, 22-17.
GAMES NOTES: In one of the more intriguing Mid-American Conference openers, the Akron Zips host the Western Michigan Broncos at James A. Rhodes Arena on Wednesday night.
After an 84-68 loss to NC State last time out Western Michigan is 8-5 after its non-conference schedule. That is the fourth best mark among MAC teams as league games begin this week. The loss to the Wolfpack came on the road where the Broncos have managed to go just 2-5 this season. Last season Western Michigan tied for eighth in the conference overall with a mark of 6-10. Up next for the Broncos is a two-game homestand against Ohio and Toledo.
Meanwhile Akron dropped Coppin State, 91-63, last time out as the Zips earned their fifth straight victory to improve to 9-4 overall. That is the best record among MAC teams currently which is bad news for the league as Akron finished at the top of the conference last season at 13-3 in league play. Akron has been a perfect 7-0 at home this season but will travel to take on Northern Illinois next.
These teams met just once last season with Akron taking a 69-66 win on the road. The victory was the seventh straight for the Zips in the all-time series, which they lead 22-17.
Western Michigan was thoroughly outplayed against the Wolfpack. The Broncos managed to hit on just 35.8 percent of their field goal attempts, while NC State clocked in at a 54.5 percent clip. The Broncos were also on the short end of a 21-9 margin on points off turnovers.
The Broncos did manage to own the boards in the contest (42-32) continuing a trend for them. If there is one thing that Western Michigan does well it is rebound. The Broncos are currently the top rebounding team in the conference (39.2 pg) which is among the 50 best marks in the country. While enjoying a nearly +9.0 margin on the glass, the Broncos have just a +2.0 differential on the scoreboard. Western Michigan is powered by a trio of double figurer scorers in the frontcourt. Chief among them is Nate Hutcheson (12.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg), who has managed to led the team in scoring, despite shooting just 36.8 percent from the floor. Darius Paul (12.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Shayne Whittington (11.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg) have also been reliable scorers.
Akron swarmed Coppin State on defense and allowed the Eagles to shoot just 29.0 percent from the field in its win last Wednesday. The Zips shot 45.9 percent themselves and held a huge 61-32 edge in rebounds. Five different players scored in double figures for Akron, including Zeke Marshall, Nick Harney and Jake Kretzer, who all recorded double-doubles.
In non-conference play, Akron largely dominated with a scoring margin of +13. The Zips average 78.0 ppg, and shoot well from the field (.476 FG percentage). They have also cleaned the boards well, ranking behind only the Broncos in the category (37.8 pg). Marshall (13.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg) has been the focal point for the squad on both ends of the floor. The 7-foot center is putting in an incredible 67.5 percent of his shots. Marshall also protects the rim well, ranking fourth nationally in blocks (3.8 pg). Demetrius Treadwell (10.9 ppg) and Alex Abreu (9.3 ppg, 5.8 apg) are the top backcourt contributors.
With Marshall manning the inside the Broncos won't be able to push the Zips around in the paint. With that advantage gone Western Michigan will be hard-pressed to put the first blemish on Akron's home resume.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Akron 74, Western Michigan 63
01/09 10:33:16 ET