#132 Western Michigan Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Western Michigan Broncos

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #132
Conference Rank: #5 MAC

Western Michigan Team Page#132 Western Michigan Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Western Michigan Basketball Tickets

Over the years, it’s become quite apparent that the “Eastern” portion of the Mid-American Conference is quite a bit tougher then the “Western” portion. This is good for Steve Hawkins, the long-time coach of the Broncos. To find consistency in a DI college basketball program isn’t easy. Even the big dogs like Duke, Kentucky, and UNC have their off years every once in a while. However, for Western Michigan, an “off year” has happened really only twice in Hawkins’ coaching career (2009, 2011). The other ten years, the Broncos have finished either with a +.500 conference record or finished first, or tied for first, in the weak MAC West. Needless to say, the Broncos have established themselves as not only one of the most consistent teams in the MAC, but also one of the most consistent mid-major teams in the entire country over the past decade. Hawkins doesn’t have a whole lot of returning talent for next season (compared to past years) but you know his team will at least be fighting for the first spot in the MAC-West; even though the section of the conference has gotten stronger with the resurgence of programs such as Central Michigan and Toledo.

2014-15 Postseason: CIT
Coach: Steve Hawkins
Coach Record: 224-169 at Western Michigan, 224-169 overall

Who’s Out:
Losing two out of nine double digit MPG players from last season may not look too bad at first glance. Seven of them are coming back…what’s wrong with just two leaving? Well, when the two combined for nine seasons of ball at the school and over 2,300 career points the loss of those seemingly random two players’ starts to look a little cloudy. The two players leaving, senior guards Austin Richie and David Brown, were both great WMU players and will not be forgotten for a very long time. Let’s start with Richie. Coming out of high school as a basically unknown recruit from a small town in Indiana; Richie wasn’t supposed to have much of a career at a solid program like WMU. In his first season, however, back in 2011, he blew away expectations, dropping over five points in 19.7 minutes per game while simultaneously showing a nice stroke from downtown (30.3%). They aren’t jaw-dropping numbers by any means, but they aren’t bad for someone who was supposed to be one of the last players off the bench. His second season, however, was when he really came into his own. He only averaged just over six points per game, but shot a rock solid 37.5% from downtown and improved drastically on the defensive end. He received a boost in his minutes (26.6 mpg) and had established himself as a starting wing moving forward in his career. After another rock solid season in 2013-14, Richie was expected to step up in an even bigger way in his senior season. He didn’t do quite as well as expected (10 ppg, 2.3 apg, 39.1% FGP) but his leadership both on and off the floor as a guy that’s been around for four years didn’t go unnoticed by head coach Steve Hawkins, who still gave him significant minutes (32.4 mpg) despite the drop in production. He was never the most talented guy on the floor, but his growth as a shooter, defender and overall player was extremely impressive. He will be greatly missed both on the floor and in the locker room next season. David Brown had a crazy college career riddled with disappointment, dominance, and a ton of playing time. In his first fully healthy season (2012-13) Brown showed off his true potential, doing a ton (11 ppg) in only 23.8 minutes per game. He wasn’t shy about shooting (14.5 shots per 40 minutes) but he was making quite a lot of those looks. The 2013-14 campaign was his best season stats wise (19.1 ppg, 41.1% FGP) and he was a huge reason the Broncos were able to snag a spot in the NCAA Tournament. His scoring was down in 2014-15 (15.3 per game) but he was still the leading scorer on the year for the Broncos while also shooting a career best 42.4% from the field. He also dished out a career high 2.1 assists per game. Losing Brown is a crushing blow to Hawkins and his squad. Brown wasn’t only a terrific scorer and shooter, but he hit big shot after big shot for this club and always had the ball in his hands when the seconds were ticking down.

Who’s In:
Four of the freshmen newcomers (Bryce Moore, Joeviair Kennedy, Josh Davis, Seth Dugan) are recruits while the other (Ryan Wade) is a walk-on. Although walk-on’s are usually looked down upon compared to traditional recruits and JUCO transfers, that doesn’t mean they are 100% doomed at the DI level. Ryan Wade, although still raw, has a good body (5-10, 170 pounds) and good instincts at the position. He’s a good passer, likes to get his teammates involved and can even knock down the three if left open. It’s going to take him 1-2 years at least to become a candidate for the starting job, but a solid roleplayer off the bench isn’t bad to have. Josh Davis, an unranked shooting guard out of Detroit, has his work cut out for him at the DI level. He’s not a terrific athlete or shooter so he will need to develop more of a midrange or slashing game if he hopes to survive as a bench player. I think Davis’s ceiling is a 20-25 MPG sixth or seventh man who is solid on both sides of the floor but not spectacular. Bryce Moore, another unranked guard out of Indianapolis, could be a different story. A classic “floor general” at the position, Moore uses his surprisingly sturdy frame (6-2, 180 pounds) and instincts to cause problems for defenders. He’s also a very unselfish player who loves to get his teammates involved in the offense. His shot is decent, but will need to be improved if he hopes to be able to make it a real weapon at some point in his career. Playing behind Thomas Wilder (rising sophomore) for a few years should help him in the long run. Joeviaiar Kennedy, an unranked shooting guard out of Muskegon, Michigan, reminds me a lot of Michael Qualls from Arkansas. Like Qualls, he’s a freakish athlete that loves to throw down emphatic slams in the transition. Also, like Qualls, he’s pretty raw everywhere else in his game. He’s a decent shooter, but has a low release that needs a lot of space to be fired. If he can speed up his trigger shooting and start to work on a midrange game, he could be a special player by his junior season. If he doesn’t, he’ll be a bench player that comes in to bring energy on both ends of the floor. The final recruit is three star center Seth Dugan from Otsego, Michigan. The sixth ranked center in the state, Dugan brings a lot to the table. He’s tall (6-10), strong (230 pounds) and is a beast of a shot blocker on the defensive end. He also runs the floor surprisingly well and loves to rebound inside. His offensive game, however, is still very, very raw. He relied heavily on his size in high school, setting up on the block against a smaller guy and basically muscling his way inside for easy buckets. He doesn’t have a large array of post moves at all. Unfortunately for him, DI college basketball centers are not high school players. They’re bigger, smarter and will not be as easily tossed around down low. He’ll be valuable to WMU immediately because of his defense and rebounding, but he’ll need to pick up his offensive game if he hopes to be a two way player at some point in his career.

Who to Watch:
A deep team last season, it’s not surprising to see a lot of familiar faces coming back for the Broncos this season. The most notable is probably senior Connar Tava, who really came into his own last season. A bench player his first season (4.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 17 mpg), Tava improved greatly in the offseason of 2013, getting stronger and more versatile on both ends of the floor. The hard work paid off, as Tava saw more minutes (29.6 per game) and boosted his stats (11.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 58.5% FGP) in his sophomore season. He didn’t change his numbers all that much in his third season (12.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg) but he remained a solid force down low and on the defensive end. The most interesting thing about Tava is that although he is a power forward, he’s not all that tall (6-6). However, he’s exceptionally strong (235 pounds) and basically uses that weight to bully himself inside. His 5.1 free throw attempts per game was the highest mark on the team, and his ability to also hit from 15-20 feet out makes him a matchup nightmare for any larger power forward. Of course, it works both ways. Tava, although strong, can’t cover larger power forwards and usually needs help down low. He’s a good defender in his own right (1.1 steals per game) but just isn’t big enough to interrupt huge 4’s. He doesn’t have the skills or shooting ability to average much more than 15 points per game, but 12-14 certainly isn’t out of the question. Another big returner is rising junior shooting guard Tucker Haymond. A strong, versatile and athletic wing, Haymond has seen significant minutes (over 23 per game) in each of his first two seasons. I hate to call anybody “traditional” but that’s really what Haymond is. He shoots well from downtown (36.1%) can hit the midrange jumper (49.6%) and defends the perimeter well. Put it all together and you get a rock solid wing who can score from anywhere on the floor (11.8 ppg), rebound effectively (4.3 rpg) and should lead this team in scoring next season (14-17 ppg). Three other notable returners are Thomas Wilder (rsophomore point guard: 7.2 ppg, 1.6 apg, 45% FGP), Drake LaMont (sophomore center: 5.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 47.9% FGP) and Kellen McKormick (junior power forward: 4.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg, .3 apg, 45% FGP, 39.7% three point percentage). None of the three guys listed above are going to have quite the impact that the first two will have on next year’s success, but they are all guys that should see a lot of time and can help in the scoring department.

Final Projection:
With a solid amount of returning talent and a few interesting prospects it looks like (yet again) the Broncos will be competitive in the MAC West. They don’t have a go-to scorer like David Brown around this season, but all arrows point towards rising junior Tucker Haymond (11.8 ppg last season) to take over that role this year. Guys like Connar Tava (12.3 ppg), Thomas Wilder (7.2 ppg), and Drake LaMont (5.7 ppg) will help Haymond, but the real X-Factor for this team is going to be the incoming talent. If Joeviair Kennedy can use his incredible athleticism and defensive ability to get easy buckets in the transition, it would really take the load off of the returners. Overall, WMU should be competitive all year long, but they don’t have the depth to take the conference.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Thomas Wilder, Sophomore, Guard, 7.2 points per game
Tucker Haymond, Junior, Forward, 11.8 points per game
Taylor Perry, Senior, Forward, 2.4 points per game
Connar Tava, Senior, Forward, 12.3 points per game
Drake LaMont, Sophomore, Center, 5.7 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 70.6 (88th in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 69.2 (253, 9)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.4 (78, 3)
Field-Goal Defense: 44.3 (243, 9)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.9 (104, 6)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.4 (81, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.3 (127, 8)
Rebound Margin: 0.5 (168, 7)
Assists Per Game: 12.5 (176, 5)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.9 (114, 6)


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