The Broncos and Bobcats will go head to head on Tuesday night sporting 1-3 records and are positioned near the bottom of their respective divisions. But while both teams' current records are similar, their paths to 1-3 have been anything but. For Ohio, a 1-1 start had them looking strong and poised for a return to a top finish in the MAC East, even topping out at number three in the Hustle Belt Power rankings. However, back to back losses to Bowling Green and Kent State slid the Bobcats to fifth in the East, sitting above only zero-win Miami. For WMU, an 0-3 start had them right where they are now, towards the bottom of the league, but a big win over the MAC West leading NIU Huskies has provided a bit of hope for a team that was reeling from an overtime loss to Kent State and being outlasted by Akron and Ball State.
The struggles for Ohio can be pinned almost exclusively on the defensive play, giving up a MAC worst 83.3 points per game in conference. Specifically, the Bobcats efforts in the second half have been less than ideal, surrendering over 50 points in back to back games to the Falcons and Flashes, even giving up nearly 60 to the former. Western Michigan, on the other hand, has been the exact opposite, struggling heavily on the offensive end. WMU ranks 9th in the league scoring just 71 points per game, and that was with the 80 point explosion against the shorthanded Huskies. It also struggles hanging onto the basketball, turning it over 58 times through four games in the MAC.
Despite its struggling defense, the Bobcats do not want for offensive production. Ohio is top three in the league in scoring at 83 points per game and is led by forward Antonio Campbell who is coming off of a 21 point, nine rebound performance in a loss against Kent State. Not far behind Campbell is guard Jaaron Simmons, who despite efficiently scoring the basketball is perhaps most effective sharing it, averaging just under six assists per game. Simmons, the former Houston transfer, leads the MAC with 117 assists and has recorded double digit assists in two games so far this season. Another player to watch for is Kenny Kaminsky, a high volume three point shooter who has the potential to score in bunches.
WMU may struggle overall offensively, but its back court is the highest scoring in the conference. Thomas Wilder is averaging over 20 points per game in the MAC, is fourth in the conference in overall scoring and will likely be the primary weapon for WMU in attacking a struggling Bobcats defense. Wilder is joined by teammate Tucker Haymond in the leagues top five leading scorers at just over 16 per game. Haymond's cold shooting as of late has exposed the Broncos desperate need for a third option on offense, and not surprisingly they seem to have found it in yet another back court player. Bryce Moore, a freshman from Indianapolis, is coming off of a 24 point performance against NIU in his first career start, an encouraging sign for a team starved for points.
Tuesday's game is a classic clash of offense and defense, and it could come down to a few bounces here and there for either team. If you're looking or a giant edge for either team, Ohio is much better at maintaining possession of the basketball, turning it over just 43 times to WMU's 58, and in a game that promises to be close that could make all the difference. Western Michigan holds a clear edge in rebounding, leading the league in total and offensive rebounds.
The game can be viewed on on ESPN 3 at 7:00 p.m.