After knocking off Lehigh in the final seconds Wyoming now faces Western Michigan on Monday. While the football team has plenty of experience in playing MAC teams the same cannot be said on the basketball side. For the second straight week Wyoming will be hosting a school that has brown as their primary color. The MAC is not known as strong hoops conference but this has been one of their better overall performances. That is as long as you leave out Northern Illinois who finished 5-25 overall and scored a NCAA record low total of four points in the first half of game.
Western Michigan is currently 21-12 and finished 10-6 in conference play. Their RPI stands at 124 with a 206 strength of schedule. Their 72-71 victory over North Dakota State in the first round of the CBI is really one of their better wins on the year. The one opponent that Wyoming and Western Michigan share is Illinois State. The Pokes defeated the Redbirds thanks to a huge comeback while the Brocnos were crushed 85-63. Both teams are certainly different now. Wyoming has lost Luke Martinez while Western has seen sixth man David Brown develop into a scoring threat the second half of the year.
The oddsmakers are certainly in the Pokes corner right now. Wyoming is currently a seven point favorite for Monday's game. The long flight and elevation will certainly be a big challenge for the Broncos to handle. I would also expect the crowd to be much higher than the 1500 or so that attended the victory over Lehigh.
The Broncos let their bigmen do most of their scoring. 6-10 center Shayne Whittington leads the team with 13.1 points and 8.8 rebounds. Whittington is tall but lean at 220lbs, he is also a 78% free throw shooter. Forwards Nate Hutcheson (6-7) and Darius Paul (6-8) both average over 10 points per game. Western is a strong rebounding team, particularly on the offensive side. Both Whittington and Paul average over 2.5 offensive rebounds per game. In comparison Derek Cooke Jr. leads Wyoming with just 1.9 offensive rebounds a game. The Cowboy will have a tough time if they are continuously giving up second chance shots.
Wyoming was victorious on Tuesday night despite Leonard Washington missing nearly the entire game. His health will be a key factor for the Pokes. His back has been a causing his issues for several weeks and there have no updates on his status yet. The Cowboy offense is much more dynamic with Washington's ability to play hard inside. At times he has fallen in love with his outside and had little success. Larry Nance Jr. looks to be nearly fully recovered after losing over 10 pounds to a severe flu.
Three point shooting has been hit or miss for the Pokes. Derrious Gilmore was on fire the first half against Lehigh. While you can't expect him to make five consecutive treys the Cowboys can't afford a 1 for 10 performance. There is no certain way of knowing who Wyoming would face in the semi finals if they do end up advancing. The CBI is wacky in that it reshuffles it's pairings after the second round. Likely to try and create the best match ups and TV options.
Remember that you can watch the game on AXS TV if your provider carries it. For DirecTV subscribers AXS is channel 340.