Getting to know Western Michigan

By Steve Dimiceli

The Dukes complete a home and away series with Western Michigan Broncos at the AJ Palumbo Center tonight in a nationally televised game. The game starts at 7 and will feature on NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus).

This year's Western Michigan team has reloaded since the one the that beat the snot out of the Dukes in Kalamazoo last season 85-71. Gone are C Matt Stainbrook (transferred to Xavier), SG Demetrius Ward (Graduated - Playing in Germany), and PG Mike Douglas (Graduated - Playing in Kosovo). However, Nate Hutcheson and Brandon Pokley, who combined for 40 points against us last season, return. The Bronco's again create a difficult matchup problem for Duquesne as they will possess a significant size advantage. They'll start 3 players between 6'7''  and 6'10''  including junior C Shayne Whittington and frosh F Darius Paul. Paul is the second leading scorer on the team.

While I haven't seen them play, Western Michigan seem to prefer a slower paced game. They rank 250th in possessions per game. As one might expect for a team of their size, the Broncos are a stout defensive rebounding team and only allow an offensive rebound 25.9% of the time good for 29th in the nation. Interestingly enough, the Dukes are the 29th best team at grabbing second chance opportunities. With the exception of Pokley, they don't shoot particularly well, but they play a fair defense statistically speaking. Like Robert Morris, the Broncos are very good at getting the free throw line though they're not particularly strong once they get there ranking 215th in the nation in FT shooting percentage.

The Dukes will need to stay out of foul trouble, and focus on post defense while denying Pokley the ball. If the Broncos are going to beat us, make them do it beyond the arc without the help of their best shooter. The Dukes will need to grab rebounds and get the big men running. It's unlikely they'll wear Western Michigan out as the run a deep lineup, but Dukes should have the distinct advantage in transition.

This looks like a much more difficult game than it did at the beginning of the season. Western Michigan could end up with a better record this year than the more talented but ultimately disappointing team that took the court for them 2011-12. Many, including myself, thought they would make a run for the MAC title last year but finished with a losing recording.

 In the end I think the Dukes win, but it will be a battle.