MAC action here at the Western Michigan Broncos host the Akron Zips. Western Michigan has been a bit of a disappointment this season and they enter this one at 11-14, while Akron has been a pleasant surprise at 19-6. Oddsmakers unsurprisingly have Akron as a sizable favorite for this one, which will be streamed by ESPN+.
Akron SurgingI don't think anybody thought the Akron Zips were going to be this good this season. After hovering right around .500 in each of the past two years, they've been enjoying a breakout campaign this time around. They enter this one with only six losses overall and are 9-3 in conference play. Their three non-conference losses were all to likely NCAA tournament teams in West Virginia, Louisville, and Liberty, and they hung tough in all three games.
On the road against an elite Louisville team, they took the Cardinals down to the final seconds. They are currently a half-game behind Bowling Green for the best record in the conference, so every game from here on out means a ton. When you dig into it, it isn't too hard to see why they have taken such a big step forward. They are extremely experienced, and each of their top six scorers are juniors or seniors. They have four different guys averaging at least 11 points per game, and all of them can shoot. As a team, they are connecting on an impressive 37.4 percent of their attempts from downtown.
Junior guard Loren Cristian Jackson has been absolutely on fire recently, scoring at least 28 points in four of his last six games. He is their best player and over his last nine games, he has connected on 38 of his 68 attempts from beyond the arc, good for a ridiculous 55.9 percent clip. They just beat Central Michigan by 13 on the road in their most recent game, so they clearly don't have too much of an issue playing away from home. They are 6-1 in their last seven road games, with five of those six wins coming by at least 12 points.
Western Michigan Back To MediocreThings haven't been going nearly as smoothly for the Western Michigan Broncos. They finished last year at just 8-24, so I guess you have to view this year as somewhat of a relative success. Before their terrible year last season, they had always been mediocre, and it looks like they are right back to mediocrity this time around. They enter this one at 11-14, but things have been worse in conference play. Since MAC action started, they are just 4-8. Three of their four conference wins came by only four points, so it easily could be a lot worse. In their most recent game against a bad Eastern Michigan team, they got blown out by 18.
They produced only 51 points in that game. The offense has been bad, but the defense has been even worse. They rank 276th overall in defensive efficiency according to advanced analytics site kenpom.com, and they relatively routinely give up huge totals despite playing at a pretty slow pace. A few games ago against Central Michigan, they gave up 85, and two games before that they gave up 90 to Buffalo. When they had to play Akron a little over a month ago they gave up 84 points while losing in lopsided fashion. The offense hasn't been nearly good enough to make up for those defensive issues, and they only have two guys averaging more than eight points per game. They shoot only 31.3 percent from downtown, and 41.3 percent from the floor overall.