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Akron Zips vs. Western Michigan Broncos men's basketball preview: Can the Zips repeat the MAC opener?

Post-play from Akron and poor shooting killed the Broncos the first time around. Akron can replicate that, but it remains to be seen how much Western has improved.

Akron's Deji Ibitayo
Akron's Deji Ibitayo
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Akron Zips and Western Michigan Broncos will play for the second time in this early MAC season, taking the court at 2pm Eastern this Saturday in Kalamazoo. When the two squads tipped-off in the first game of conference play, the Zips dominated, winning 72-52.

Since then, the Broncos have won four straight games and are 13-5 overall. The Zips are currently 3-2 in the MAC, and are coming off a coming off a 64-61 loss at NIU on Wednesday. That puts Akron at 12-6 on the year.

Last time around, the Zips controlled much of the game because of their strong down-low offensive presence, particularly the play of junior center Pat Forsythe. Forsythe went six-for-six from the field, scoring 14 points overall, and the Broncos had no defensive answer. They'll need one Saturday.

But the Broncos seem more confident offensively since this first matchup. In particular senior guards Austin Richie and David Brown have been on fire from the field. In the Broncos last game against Miami, Richie led the team in scoring with 16, and before that against Toledo, Brown scored twenty, good for second on the team that night. And three games ago, against Ball State, Brown scored a career-high 35 points in a double overtime contest.

The Zips will have to look out for WMU's athletic junior forward Connar Tava as per usual. And if Tava, Brown, and Richie all get hot, it could be a tough night for the Zips.

Akron has serious offensive threats on a pretty deep bench that will keep the Broncos busy though. That'll require Western to keep offense running high. The Zips' leading is scorer is off-the-bench senior guard Deji Ibitayo, scoring 10 points per game. And just last Saturday junior, non-starting forward Reggie McAdams went off for 31 points against the Chippewas. Long story short, Akron has a bunch of different people who can make you hurt.

I predicted the first times these two teams played it would be close, and I was dead wrong. But Western has improved significantly and we've seen that Akron is not impossible to beat in the MAC. I think the University Arena crowd will push this one over the edge for the Broncos. Final score prediction: Western 76 - Akron 73.

Who do you think will earn the victory in Kalamazoo?