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Buffalo Bulls vs Western Michigan Broncos men's basketball preview: Bulls look to stay in MAC East hunt with win over Broncos

The first five games have been tough for WMU and it doesn't get any easier with Buffalo coming to town Saturday

Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo's visit to Kalamazoo could not come at a worse time for the Western Michigan men's basketball team. While WMU is still stinging from a loss at the Ohio Bobcats where the offense once again went cold for long stretches of time, the Bulls are coming to town fresh off taking care of business comfortably against Miami. For the Bulls, the hope is they get out of Kalamazoo with their first win at Univeristy Arena since 2011, avoiding the same fate that befell NIU just a week ago. For the Broncos, stealing the game at home is a must to keep their season afloat.

Despite riding a high from beating possibly the MAC's top team at home the Broncos were unable to put it together offensively in Athens Tuesday, as Ohio took advantage of long WMU droughts to comfortably put the game out of reach. The story is nothing new for the 2016 Broncos as the struggle to find a reliable scorer not named Thomas Wilder or Tucker Haymond continues. Bryce Moore's 24 point explosion against the Huskies seemed to be the light bulb moment the team was waiting for, but proved short lived when the freshman from Indianapolis failed to score a single point last time out.

Buffalo will look to avoid the upset on the road by continuing its consistent play. Other than a poor outing against Eastern Michigan, the Bulls have been very impressive so far in the MAC, and perhaps better than their 3-2 record suggests; especially considering star guard Lamonte Bearden missed the previous two games with injury - both Bulls victories. Bearden is not likely to make his return to the starting lineup on Saturday, but while that may come as good news for Bronco fans, it hasn't hurt the Bulls' play all that much. Instead of going deeper into the bench, Bulls head coach Nate Oats has elected - or likely had no choice due to injuries - to extend the minutes of the starters, with two players even logging all 40 minutes in a win at Central Michigan. One of those two starters is Blake Hamilton, and all he's done as of late is average a double double in his previous three games for the Bulls.

Western Michigan has not yet adjusted to the injury to its star forward Connar Tava. Unfortunately for fans in Kalamazoo the Tava injury is still the story, which is unfortunate given the coming out party for Thomas Wilder is slightly damaged by a 1-4 start. Wilder has been magnificent, averaging 21 points per game in league play and 17.4 in all competition. Wilder's partner in the back court, Tucker Haymond, hasn't played poorly in the team's first five MAC contests by any means - he's averaging 13.2 points per game - but his recent play is a far cry from the hot start that still has him among the conference's top scorers overall. Haymond is likely the Broncos top three point shooter, but hasn't been much of one lately, hitting just over 27 percent of his attempts from behind the arc in league play.

For WMU to pull off yet another upset at home and keep Buffalo winless in Kalamazoo since the 2010-2011 season, it will have to find some offense. Against NIU, the Broncos found that offense in the form of Bryce Moore, but the production quickly dwindled. Buffalo has been consistently good all season and are a close loss at Akron away from 4-1, but will still need to bring their best game on offense against a Bronco team that ranks in the top third of the conference defensively. That may not be an issue given the play of Hamilton as well as WIllie Conner.

The game can be streamed live Saturday on ESPN3