Western Michigan, Akron's opponent Saturday, is a pretty good team -- at home, that is.
The Broncos are 40-6 during Steve Hawkins' three plus years as coach. This year, they are 1-7 on the road, although most away games have been against good teams.
That brings me to the Broncos' strength of schedule, which is 84th best in the nation. Suddenly, their 9-10 record doesn't look so bad, especially once you couple that with a 4-2 mark in the MAC.
Junior Joe Reitz leads Western's attack. The 6-foot-7 center was the MAC Report Online's player of the year last season.
In the Zips' three victories over WMU last season, Reitz was not the force he had been most of the year.
Statistically, the Broncos are the NCAA equivalent of the Phoenix Suns. Score a lot, let the other team score a lot and hope the score is 80-79 in your favor when the buzzer sounds.
WMU is third in the MAC in scoring and gives up the second-most points. They fill the scoring sheets with lots of 3-pointers. Only the Zips have made a better percentage of them. Like Akron, WMU has three good long-range shooters. Michael Redell, Derek Drews and David Kool are all among in the MAC's top seven 3-point shooters.
Defense seems to be optional. No Bronco is listed in the league's top 15 for steals or blocks. As a team, WMU is dead last in both categories. The Broncos are below average in field goal percentage allowed, too.
Reitz (pronounced "rights") gets a lot of easy baskets. He leads the Broncos in scoring (15.1 ppg) and rebounding (8.5 rpg). Reitz is among the league leaders in both categories. This is almost hard to believe, but Reitz has not blocked a shot all year. In fact, he has only swatted 10 in his 83-game career.
Kool starts at shooting guard. The 6-3 freshman was Michigan's Mr. Basketball -- the first such award winner to play at WMU. He is one of four underclassmen guards who logs major minutes for Hawkins. The youthful backcourt might be to blame for WMU's -2.47 turnover margin.
With all that said, the Zips should focus on keeping Reitz off the offensive glass and playing tight perimeter defense. A little backcourt pressure couldn't hurt, either. On offense, Akron needs to work the ball inside. Keith Dambrot's offense always appears more fluid when the ball goes inside, then out.
Maybe I'm starting to think too much like an oddsmaker, but I thought the line should be at Akron minus 12. Low and behold, the line is Akron minus 12. I'll have more tomorrow.