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Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Bowling Green Falcons men's basketball preview: Preseason favorites seek first MAC win

CMU was the media's preseason pick to win the 2015-16 MAC championship, but the Chips lost their conference opener by 19. BGSU, who was predicted to finish last in the Eastern Division, is trying to start 2-0 in MAC play for the second straight year.

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The Bowling Green Falcons and Central Michigan Chippewas tangle this afternoon at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio with one team attempting to avoid an 0-2 start and the other seeking to earn two straight wins to begin their Mid-American Conference schedule. However, the teams are not occupying the position that the preseason poll says they should.

The two teams picked at opposite ends of the spectrum in October started MAC games this week with unexpected results. CMU was a unanimous pick to win the MAC's Western Division and the top pick to win the MAC Tournament, but the Chippewas lost at home by 19 to the Eastern Michigan Eagles. BGSU was selected to finish last in the East, but the Falcons earned a solid 11-point home win over the Miami Redhawks.

Wednesday night's game was a picture of everything that has been both good and bad about this season's Chippewas team. CMU's attack against the Eagles featured five double-digit scorers, including Josh Kozinski, who came off the bench for six three-pointers and 18 points. CMU made 11 treys overall and turned the ball over just seven times.

Unfortunately, Central Michigan's offense could not overcome what their defense allowed. EMU shot 66 percent for the game, made 13 threes and 20 free throws, and boasted a 36-25 edge in rebounds. Four players scored at least 19 points, led by Raven Lee's 32.

BGSU continued to use a diverse offensive attack to beat Miami. Zack Denny continued to shine with 20 points and eight rebounds, while Antwon Lillard boasted 16 as part of a 33-point effort from the Falcons' bench. Bowling Green, who ranks fifth in the MAC in field-goal percentage, continued to shoot well by making 44 percent of their shots. They were also far better from the free throw line than in previous outings (24-for-30).

The Falcons' defense allowed Eric Washington and Geovonie McKnight to combine for 36 points, but the Redhawks shot just 34.3 percent from the floor and made only two triples during the game. However, one area of concern for BGSU's defense is opponent offensive rebounds. For the third time in less than a month, the Falcons allowed at least 19 second-chances. They have won all three games, but it is a trend that cannot continue.

If Bowling Green is to win today, they will have to contend with a high-powered CMU attack that features six players who average at least eight points per game and four who average in double figures.

Kozinski, Rayshawn Simmons and team scoring leader Braylon Rayson are all able to consistently bury long-range shots, and that's not good for BGSU, who ranks 9th in the MAC with 113 three-pointers allowed. Simmons is the floor leader of the offense and ranks second in the MAC in assists.

Bowling Green's attack does not produce as many points, but it is very diverse with a deep bench. Denny is BGSU's best long-range option, and he has been deadly from the outside this season. His 46.1 shooting percentage from behind the arc has helped him lead the Falcons in scoring with 13.9 per game. Despite his outside presence, he's an incredible hustler on the boards and leads the Falcons in rebounds, too (7.2/game).

At 13.0 points per game, Spencer Parker is Bowling Green's only other player with a double-figures average, but Lillard, Rasheed Worrell and Wes Alcegaire have shown that they can also have big games at any time. Another player to watch for is Demajeo Wiggins. The freshman from Toledo, Ohio is coming into his own, with 25 points and 20 rebounds in his last three games. That includes six and 11 on Wednesday against Miami.

This is a big game for both teams. BGSU would like to continue their hot start, particularly with a rough stretch coming up that includes games against Eastern Michigan, Toledo and Kent State. CMU desperately wants to avoid that 0-2 start and really needs to get their first win away from Mount Pleasant this season.

Game time is 2:00 p.m. ET, and the contest can be seen on ESPN3.