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Game Preview: Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Western Michigan Broncos

The Bearcats have gotten back into a rhythm. Will it continue against Western Michigan?

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina Central at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati is a basketball school anyway. So let’s get back to the basketball. The Bearcats have recovered relatively well from an opening night loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes, with wins in their last two games against NC Central and Milwaukee. They will try to make it three-straight wins on Monday when they host the Western Michigan Broncos at Fifth Third Arena.

Who are the Western Michigan Broncos?

The Broncos are a deceptive 3-1 to start the season. While there’s no denying that they deserved those three wins, they weren’t exactly against the most difficult competition. With wins against 0-3 Detroit Mercy, 0-3 Oakland and something called Aquinas College, the Broncos still have a lot of work to do in terms of crafting an impressive resume.

As for the actual makeup of the team, the Broncos are still being coached by Steve Hawkins, who has been with them as head coach since the 2003-04 season. He is 273-220 all-time at Western Michigan and has led it to two NCAA Tournament appearances (2004 and 2014). However, things have gotten a bit stale of late. The Broncos have gone three-straight years without a 20-win campaign after seven such seasons in the first 12 years of the Hawkins era.

The Bearcats’ biggest challenge (no pun intended) will be slowing down 7-foot center Seth Dugan. The senior Bronco is scoring 17.5 points per game and averaging 11.8 rebounds to go with it. That production is even after he had a pedestrian effort against Aquinas on Saturday (eight points, eight rebounds).

After Dugan, the Broncos can rely on wings Josh Davis (15 PPG, 6.5 RPG) and Kawanise Wilkins (10.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG) for scoring and playmaking from 6’2” guard Michael Flowers, who poured in 19 points in only 16 minutes against Aquinas. Jared Printy is another scoring option and the team’s most prolific three-point shooter.

Broome is Back

It’s never smart to make any concrete statements after only two games. The sample size is too small and can skew too far into the positive or negative direction. That didn’t make it easy not to panic when senior point guard Cane Broome struggled so mightily in UC’s first two games of the season. As a starter he made only 1-of-10 field goal tries against the Buckeyes and followed that up with a scoreless effort as a reserve in the second game of the year.

Broome didn’t let hat get to him and he returned to his usual self on Friday against Milwaukee. As a starter, he played in 36 minutes of action and scored a team-high 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting. His scoring wasn’t all that made a positive impact, as he handed out four assists and collected three steals while turning the ball over just once.

For the Bearcats to really contend this season, they need Broome to be more like he was on Friday than he was in the first two games.

Scott is Super

One guy who has really hit the ground running and is an early candidate for breakout player of the year is Trevon Scott. The 6’8” junior has taken to the starting lineup as if he was born to be there, helping to make the transition to an entirely new starting froncourt a bit easier. Scott played a team-high 37 minutes against Milwaukee and he stuffed that time with production, tallying 15 points, 10 rebounds and two assists. Scott is taking initiative on offense, and has even enveloped a three-point shot into his game. Through three games he is second on the team in scoring (11.3 PPG) behind Jarron Cumberland (15.3 PPG) with shooting splits of .583/.333/.625 and 6.3 rebounds per game.

Prediction Time!

Defeating the Broncos will require strong play in the front court to avoid letting Dugan dominate. Nysier Brooks will be given that responsibility and he should be up to it. The 6’11” junior had 12 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks against Milwaukee. Even if he needs help, the Bearcats’ have frontcourt depth to provide it.

If Dugan’s efforts are neutralized, then a resurgent Broome and the rest of the Bearcats’ versatile wings should be able to handle the rest. Cincinnati 72 Western Michigan 62