KALAMAZOO, MI – Western Michigan University’s men’s basketball team opens the 2012-13 season with a trip to Ithaca, N.Y., for Saturday’s noon game at Cornell.
This is the first-ever meeting between the Broncos and Big Red, and only the second time that the WMU men’s basketball program has played an Ivy League school.
Western Michigan is coming off a 14-20 season, in which the Broncos were picked to win the Mid-American Conference West Division but because of injuries and other issues, went 6-10 in league play and tied for third.
The Broncos were predicted to finish third in the MAC West this season behind preseason favorite Toledo and Eastern Michigan.
Cornell was 12-16 overall last season, and finished fifth in the eight-team Ivy League with a 7-7 mark. Three seasons ago, the Big Red advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament and compiled a sparkling 29-5 record.
Cornell was predicted to finish fourth in the Ivy League this season.
WMU’s home opener is 7 p.m. Tuesday against Marygrove at University Arena. After that, the Broncos hit the road again and head south for next weekend’s South Florida MTE invite in Tampa, Fla.
Here’s a look at Saturday’s game:
Western Michigan at Cornell
When: Noon Saturday at Newman Arena.
History: This is the first-ever meeting between these programs.
Live audio: WKZO-96.5 FM (Kalamazoo area); WMAX-96.1 FM (Grand Rapids/Muskegon areas); WVIC-94.1 FM (Battle Creek/Lansing areas)
Live blog/stats: wmubroncos.com or cornellbigred.com
About WMU: The Broncos feature a young team with eight freshmen, three sophomores and three redshirt juniors. Leadership could come in the form of the senior trio of Nate Hutcheson, Brandon Pokley and Dan Loney. Hutcheson was a preseason All-MAC West first-team selection after the 6-foot-7 forward averaged 9.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game in 2011-12. Projected starters for WMU include sophomore Austin Richie (6-3) and Pokley (6-4) at guard, Hutcheson and freshman Darius Paul (6-8) at forward, and redshirt junior Shayne Whittington (6-10) at center. Richie averaged 5.6 points and one assist last season, Whittington delivered 4.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest, and Pokley produced 4.6 points. Freshman Connar Tava (6-5, 230) could contribute as well. The rugged forward scored 21 points in an exhibition win over Kalamazoo College, but did not play in the second exhibition against Roosevelt because of illness.
About Cornell: The Big Red lost who were arguably their top two players from last season in guards Chris Wroblewski and Drew Ferry, whose eligibility expired. Wroblewski was a 1,000-point scorer, three-year starter, first-team All-Ivy League selection, and graduated as the program’s all-time assists leader. Ferry was a sharpshooter for Cornell, which was heavily reliant on the 3-point shot last season. The Big Red return Ivy League Rookie of the Year Shonn Miller, however, after the 6-7 forward averaged 8.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.3 steals per game last season. The Big Red have six seniors on their roster, including Errick Peck (6-6 forward), who missed last season with an injury after he ranked second on the team in scoring in 2010-11. Johnathan Gray (8.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg), a 6-3 senior, returns to lead the backcourt.
Prediction: Cornell 68, WMU 62