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2017 MAC Basketball Tournament Quarterfinal Preview: Western Michigan vs. Ball State

The rubber match between two teams that split during the regular season

NCAA Basketball: Western Michigan at UCLA Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Ball State Cardinals beat the Western Michigan Broncos back on January 28th. Since then, the Broncos have been on a terror, only losing once, and decimating the Cardinals, 80-55. I don’t think they will have that easy of a time in the tournament, though.


Game Details

When: Thursday, March 8th, 30 minutes after the finish of the Akron/EMU game that starts at noon.

Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio

Watch: ESPN3 or via Stream on the WatchESPN App

Listen: WZOX 96.5 in Kalamazoo or WLBC 104.1 in Muncie


Scouting the Broncos

The Broncos are riding a 9 game winning streak. A big reason why is they are playing much better team defense, and doing a better job with shot selection.

The Broncos are led by a trio of veterans, Thomas Wilder, Tucker Haymond and Drake LaMont. LaMont’s acceptance in his new role as a reserve is a key factor in their winning streak. The sophomore Seth Dugan responded well to his new duties, and LaMont still gives about the same amount of quality minutes from the bench.

With the guidance of the veterans, a lot of new faces have been stepping up for the Broncos, including Reggie Jones and Brandon Johnson.


Scouting the Cardinals

Coach Whitford has done a fine job of surrounding veterans Franko House and Ryan Weber with a pair of super sophomores, Tayler Persons and Trey Moses.

The Cardinals are 2nd in the league in offense. On defense, they do a really good job of packing the middle of the floor, forcing teams to shoot from outside.


Players to Watch

Franko House, Ball State: The senior forward is one of the most complete players in the league, and has a high basketball I.Q.. He rarely takes a bad shot, and his hitting 53.7% from the floor.

Tayler Persons, Ball State: The Northern Kentucky transfer is scoring 16.2 per game while dishing 5 assists.

Tucker Haymond, Western Michigan: A streaky shooter, he had a season high of 35 points against Kent State.

Thomas Wilder, Western Michigan: The junior point guard is one of the best players in the MAC.


Keys to the Contest

It’s not hyperbole when I say two of the best point guards in the country are going to be doing battle in this game.

Western Michigan must take and make good shots, because Franko House, Trey Moses, and Tahjai Teague do a great job of locking down the middle of the lane.

Someone other than Persons will have to step up in the scoring column for the Cardinals. I believe he will be locked in a battle with Wilder that will mostly be a wash.


Predictions

I expect this to be a close battle, where the last team standing wins. I believe that team will be Western Michigan, 80-79.