Scouting Western Michigan

Syracuse will try to make the Final Four for the second consecutive season after struggling down the stretch of the regular season. First, they have to beat Western Michigan in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. CuseNation.com scouts the Broncos inside.

Syracuse starts the NCAA Tournament with the MAC Champion Western Michigan Broncos, who feature a pair of senior leaders.

Backcourt

Everything with Western Michigan runs through senior guard David Brown. The 6-foot-4 combo-guard can do it all offensively. He has a quick first step, can finish at the rim, and has a lethal outside shot.

To top it off, Brown has a solid handle and runs the offense well.

Brown is prone to turnovers at times, however, averaging one more turnover than assist per game. Still, he is the Broncos best offensive player and could be a weapon to short over the top of the Syracuse zone or penetrate off the bounce.

While Brown starts at the two, Austin Richie runs the point. He is second on the team in assists and boasts a nearly two-to-one assist to turnover ratio. Richie is a solid point guard who is the team's best outside shooter. He can push tempo and is strong in transition.

Richie is an average defender, however, and struggles against quicker opposing guards.

Taylor Perry is the primary reserve for the Broncos. He is a bigger, more physical guard who does most of his damage slashing to the hoop. Perry is a strong rebounding guard as well. Jared Klein also rotates in for a few minutes per game. He is a deadly outside shooter.

Frontcourt

Up front, the man in the middle is the primary option offensively. Shayne Whittington is a 6-foot-11, 245-pound center who controls the paint for Western Michigan. He has a strong low-post game and can hit the mid-range jumper when facing up his defender.

Whittington is a strong rebounder at over nine per game. He uses his feet well to get in proper position, and is strong enough to box out players inside. He is an average rim protector and does not have elite explosion when he jumps. Whittington also struggles with more athletic big men, which could help Syracuse in their matchup.

Tucker Haymond starts at small forward. Nearly half of his shots are from beyond the arc. He has a solid stroke from the outside and rebounds well despite being undersized for a wing.

Defensively, he struggles with traditional wings with slower footwork and lack of physicality. This should be a matchup problem as he tries to contain C.J. Fair or Jerami Grant.

Connor Tava is the third player averaging double figures for the Broncos. He is a bulky power forward who plays with strength on the inside. He is a bit shorter than preferred at only 6-foot-6. He is an efficient scorer, however, shooting over 60% from the floor with decent touch on his jumper.

Tava is a skilled rebounder despite his height and is athletic enough to stay with quicker forwards.

Reserve A.J. Avery can play either forward spot and has a solid mid-range game. He is leaner than Tava and struggles with shot selection at times. Avery can get pushed around by bigger forwards on the glass.

Mario Matasovic or Kellen McCormick will rotate in if Whittington gets into foul trouble. Both are undersized bigs who are not as athletic as the senior starter.

Defensive System

Western Michigan plays primarily man-to-man. They generally do not trap or press the opposition. Their guards do not pressure as much as some, and play a bit back to prevent penetration.

On screens, the Broncos go underneath more often leading the outside open. Look for them to do this frequently unless Trevor Cooney or Tyler Ennis get hot. Western Michigan is vulnerable on the inside, and struggle with guards that like to drive.

Whittington is the best shot blocker, but does so in his league more so because of his size rather than natural rim protecting ability.

Zone Killers

Look for Whittington to start in the high-post for Western Michigan. He is a better than expected passer and can hit the mid-range jumper which could open up the middle of the zone.

Avery off the bench can play the same role, but doesn't have the same height. Tava is less likely, without the same touch on his jumper. Haymond could see some time in the high-post as well.

Look for Brown and Richie to take a lot of shots from the outside against the Syracuse zone, with Haymond getting a few cracks as well.

Team Stats

Western Michigan shoots 47% from the floor and 33% from three-point range. They turn it over 14 times per game, but shoot a stellar 72% from the free-throw line.

Final Thoughts

Syracuse is more talented and athletic than Western Michigan. Against the zone earlier this season, they scored only 37 points in a loss at Eastern Michigan. The Broncos shot just 29% from the floor and were 5-20 from three-point range.

The Syracuse zone has more length and athleticism than Eastern Michigan's which could be a big advantage for the Orange. The key will be how Syracuse can defend the outside shot and contain Whittington inside. It should be a fun one, and interesting to see if Syracuse can turn things around offensively.


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