Death From Above: Western Michigan

Submitted by Ace on December 4th, 2012 at 5:36 PM


WHAT Western Michigan at Michigan
WHERE Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan
WHEN 8:30 PM Eastern, Tuesday
LINE Michigan –22 (Kenpom)

Right: Buster Bronco, (s)toked. Yes, I'm not-so-subtly implying that Western's mascot is Snoop Dogg levels of high.


Western Michigan is 6-1 on the season, though that hot start has come against a pretty weak early slate—KenPom ranks their SOS #309 nationally thus far. Their opening road loss to #241 Cornell dampens the resume, though they do boast a five-point away win over #93 South Florida, a tournament team last year.

The team's top scorer is 6'7" senior wing Nate Hutcheson, who's scoring mostly via volume shooting—his 13.7 points per game come while shooting 45% from two and 33% from three. An impressive knack for getting to the line can't save an ugly efficiency rating.

Those familiar with Illinois basketball will be shocked by this: 6'8" freshman forward Darius Paul, brother of notorious chucker Brandon, is averaging a very efficient 11.7 points per game on the strength of 53% shooting from two. He's 3-11 from three this year, so he's still upholding the Paul name with pride in a way, at least, while also doing good work on the offensive boards.

Rounding out the front line is 6'10" center Shayne Whittington, who doesn't finish well inside (47.2 2P%) but has the #8 defensive rebound rate in the country (28.3%) and a very high block rate (8.4%). Whittington also gets to the line with regularity; along with Hutcheson, he could test the new-found depth of the Wolverines up front.

Starting two-guard Brandon Pokley is Western's primary outside shooting threat, knocking down 15-of-33 three-point attempts so far this year. He's also drawing fouls at an impressive clip, despite rarely attempting shots inside the arc, and knocks down over 80% of his free throws. Point guard Austin Richie is mostly a distributor, albeit one with serious turnover issues—his 29.4% assist rate is nearly matched by his 28.1% turnover rate.

Off the bench, 6'1" guard Jared Klein is a solid outside shooter with 11 steals already this season and, bizarrely, a 17.4% defensive rebound rate; he's also struggled with turnovers. The rest of the rotation plays limited roles and the Broncos don't have a true backup big—when they go to the bench, they also go small.


As stated above, the schedule hasn't exactly been a gauntlet. Along with USF, victories have come against NAIA squad Marygrove, Loyola Chicago, Maryland East Shore, High Point, and Oakland, with their lone loss at the hands of Cornell.


Four factors, with national ranks in parentheses:

  eFG% Turnover % Off. Reb. % FTA/FGA
Offense 48.9 (156) 20.2 (142) 31.4 (183) 41.2 (93)
Defense 45.3 (87) 18.2 (277) 26.2 (31) 31.1 (95)

Major caveats apply due to strength of schedule; even without those, the numbers are very average aside from an ability to keep opponents off the offensive glass, something they probably can't replicate against a big, talented Michigan squad.

Also of note: Western's opponents are scoring right around a third of their points from three-point range, a very high rate, despite connecting at a 34.3% clip, which is only a little above average. This suggests that opponents are getting a number of good looks, so... hello, Nik Stauskas.


Hello, Nik Stauskas. Do what you do, kid.

Protect the glass. Western isn't a stellar shooting team, nor are they great defensively; just about the only way Michigan can lose this game is to allow Paul and Whittington to dominate the offensive glass and get a ton of second-chance points. Michigan is currently the third-best team in the country at preventing opponent offensive rebounds despite playing some big, athletic squads, so... yeah, they're probably gonna win.

Keep doing what you've been doing. I mean, yeah. (Until they lose, this is staying in the previews.)


Michigan by 22


UMHoops preview. Holdin' The Rope preview. Tremendous preview.


Blue boy johnson

December 4th, 2012 at 5:50 PM ^

Now that Coach B has decided to make Levert part of the rotation, it will be interesting to see how the  minutes shake out. Amazing to me how one change in the rotation made the team decidedly more athletic. Count me in as liking the Levert for Vogrich/Akunne swap.

Levert must have been kicking ass in practice. I can't see Vogrich, Akunne, or Stauskas staying in front of Levert off the dribble and he has more defensive upside than all 3. Don't misinterpret this as a knock on Stauskas; He is one of the best freshman in the land. I'm just saying there is much to like about Levert.


Son of Lloyd Brady

December 4th, 2012 at 5:57 PM ^

Not to be a douche, Whittington's name is spelled Shayne (sorry, he's my nephew). He has gotten a lot better since high school. I'm a generous 6'3" and was my high school team's starting center, and needless to say he didn't do that much damage to us. He only dropped 8 & 10 on me our senior seasons, I'm pretty proud of that.


December 4th, 2012 at 6:51 PM ^

I know there are a lot of inside giggles on Crisler/Carver one that I missed? Since Carver is in Kalamazoo with Western (but not where they play ball), I assume it's just a simple slip. Carry on.


December 4th, 2012 at 6:55 PM ^

I have watched more Michigan basketball in the last three years than I have in the last 15 combined. I think we have found the answer to what would happen if Michigan got some high level of tallest. I was talking to a coach about this team and what he was most impressed by was the fundamentals, even from the freshmen, and that speaks volume about coaching.

I also have wondered why the late game comebacks. Is it freshmen, the pressure, or just the basketball version of playing a prevent defense?