Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series. Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days. This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days. We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
Perhaps the only team standing in the way of Kent State winning their third straight MAC Championship is the Western Michigan Broncos. With all five starters back from a team that won 21 games a year ago, WMU should contend for the conference title.
WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS
Last Season: T-2nd, 11-5 in MAC, 21-13 overall
Predicted MAC Finish: 2nd
Projected Depth Chart
C: Matt Stainbrook (So)/Caleb Dean (Sr)/Nick Stapert (So)/Shayne Whittington (So)
PF: Flenard Whitfield (Sr)/Muhammed Conteh (Sr)
SF: Nate Hutcheson (Jr)/Juwan Howard Jr. (So)
SG: Demetrius Ward (Sr)/Brandon Pokley (Jr)/Hayden Hoerdemann (Fr)/Austin Ritchie (Fr)
PG: Mike Douglas (Sr)/David Brown (So)
Gone: SG-Alex Wolf
Balance was a major asset for the Broncos last season and that should once again be the case in 2011-12. Only two players averaged more then double figures led by shooting guard Demetrius Ward who dropped 13.8 points per night. He returns at shooting guard but WMU has to replace key reserve and three-point specialist Alex Wolf.
Mike Douglas led the team in assists, steals, and three-point percentage and will return to his role as starting point guard. David Brown used a medical redshirt last season after an ankle injury limited him to nine games. He could see some time at the point or head coach Steve Hawkins can slide Ward from shooting guard to the point.
Everybody from a year ago returns to the frontcourt. 6-9, 290 pound Matt Stainbrook provides a ton of size inside and made his presence felt right away as a freshman. Flenard Whitfield is a nice compliment to Stainbrook in starting line-up due to the senior’s length and athleticism. There are several options off the bench that bring size to the table with Muhammed Conteh seeing the biggest role last season.
Nate Hutcheson and Juwan Howard Jr. figure to compete for the fifth and final starting spot. Hutcheson is the incumbent, but Howard Jr. put together an impressive freshman campaign and might be ready to take over the role. Both guys are capable of playing either forward spot and will see significant playing time.
The Broncos face a challenging non-conference slate that should prepare them for MAC play. However, it will all come down to peaking at the right time and winning the conference tournament since only one MAC team will likely be invited to the dance.
Player to Watch: Juwan Howard Jr.
His lineage served him well in his freshman season at Western Michigan as he emerged as the team’s sixth man. His versatility allows him to play multiple positions on both ends of the floor which is a huge asset for Coach Hawkins to have. Howard Jr. has ended up being a great get by the WMU staff and he should only improve this year as a sophomore.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/17 vs. Temple (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
11/18 vs. Purdue/Iona (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
11/20 vs. Alabama/Maryland/Wichita State/Colorado (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
11/26 at Gonzaga
12/30 at Duke
OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#82 Dayton Flyers
#83 Stanford Cardinal
#84 Yale Bulldogs
#85 Georgia Bulldogs
#86 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
#87 Richmond Spiders
#88 Ball State Cardinals
#89 Utah State Aggies
#90 Arizona State Sun Devils
#91 Marshall Thundering Herd
#92 Oregon State Beavers
#93 Washington State Cougars
#94 Iowa Hawkeyes
#95 Ole Miss Rebels
#96 Nebraska Cornhuskers
#97 Oklahoma Sooners
#98 South Florida Bulls
#99 LSU Tigers
#100 Colorado Buffaloes
#101 DePaul Blue Demons
#102 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
#103 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#104 Seton Hall Pirates
#105 Providence Friars
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 South Carolina Gamecocks
#108 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#109 Penn State Nittany Lions
#110 Boston College Eagles
#111 Utah Utes
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.