Where: Breslin Center, East Lansing, Michigan
When: 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020
TV/Radio: Big Ten Network/Spartan Sports Network radio
Western Michigan (0-1): No. 237 (Kenpom)
1 - B. Artis White (6’0” so), Josiah Freeman (6’4” fr)
2 - William Boyer-Richard (6’1” jr), Rafael Cruz (6’1” sr), Daylan Hamilton (6’3” fr)
3 - Jason Whitens (6’4” jr)
4 - Titus Wright (6’8” so), Patrick Emilien (6’6” jr), Chase Barrs (6’9” so)
5 - Greg Lee (6’9” sr)
Western Michigan lost their opener to a very solid Butler team (No. 62 in Kenpom) by only four points, on the road. In that game, B. Artis White, Patrick Emilien, and Rafael Cruz all had big games, with the latter two sparking the Broncos off the bench. WMU locked up the defensive glass (allowing only 18 percent of Butler’s misses to be gathered by Butler), and drilled some three-pointers (all three of the players I mentioned).
This was a close game throughout, and the Broncos did not allow the solid, albeit unspectacular, Butler Bulldogs to get any separation. After dealing with the disjunction of a COVID-related pause to basketball activities, the Broncos will begin their season again, this time against a better opponent seeking to redeem itself after a sub-par showing. Unless WMU hits contested three-point shots all night, this should be a much more comfortable win.
White, Cruz, and Emilien are the major scoring threats, but keep an eye on Greg Lee, who had a poor game offensively but competed well on the interior. If Lee has a better showing against the inconsistent Michigan State front-court, then a bit more space could open up for White and Cruz in particular.
None of these players have been consistently outstanding performers in any area of the game, but after a strong start to the season, you can bet that Tom Izzo will be preparing the Spartans as if this is the second coming of the ‘89 Pistons Bad Boys.
While Josh Langford will likely return to the lineup, do not be surprised if Joey Hauser gets the night off in order to rest his knee for the upcoming brotherly-showdown against Virginia. Look for Izzo to be focused on Rocket Watts’ running of the team, the front-court battle, and the continued effort to get AJ Hoggard minutes.
Hoggard was generally excellent against Detroit Mercy, and that should give him confidence heading into this contest against a less-competent opponent. Look for Hoggard, Watts, and Foster Loyer to all get time running the point guard spot, and look for Julius Marble and Marcus Bingham Jr. to attempt to further lock-down their control over the minutes in the center rotation. Defend, rebound, run, and execute in the half-court.
This should be a far more comfortable matchup for the Spartans. The Broncos do not have any mystery transfers joining the program, and their coach, Clayton Bates, should begin his head coaching career 0-2 after this one. Hopefully Izzo sends him a bottle of champagne for his first win, and hopefully he does not order it tonight.
MSU 85 WMU 62