WHO: Western Michigan Broncos (1-2)
WHEN: 7:30 PM CT (Monday, November 21)
WHERE: Carver-Hawkeye Arena (Iowa City, IA)
TV: BTN (Kevin Kugler, Jess Settles)
RADIO: Hawkeye Radio Network (TuneIn, or local listings) | SiriusXM Ch. 195 (?)
MOBILE: Fox Sports app
TWITTER: @IowaHoops | @IowaAwesome | @IowaOnBTN
LINE: Iowa -29 (TOTAL: 149)
KENPOM: Iowa -27 (Iowa 99% win probability)
The name "Western Michigan" conjures up angst among Iowa fans but that angst is purely the function of the football team's failures against the Broncos' particular brand of #MACtion (said failures have happened not just once, but twice). The Iowa men's basketball team has no such angst associated with Western Michigan and based on the quality of this year's Bronco team, that shouldn't be changing anytime soon.
This year's Western Michigan team is not good. They are 1-2 so far, but the one win was a 76-58 win over Hope College, a tiny liberal arts school in Michigan. (I will admit, though, that "Western Michigan defeats Hope" is a fairly disconcerting thing to write.) Their other two games involved a 90-46 bludgeoning at the hands of Michigan State and, most recently, an 80-63 defeat at the hands of Saginaw Valley State last Thursday. Saginaw Valley State does not have a Division I men's basketball program. There are bad losses and then there's "getting manhandled by a Division II program."
WMU is "only" 288th in offensive efficiency this season (per KenPom), but that figure is being propped up by a dazzling turnover rate; they've only given the ball away on 14% of their possessions this year (18th best in the NCAA). They are terrible in every other major offensive category. They don't hit the offensive glass (23% offensive rebound rate, 289th nationally) and they don't get to the free throw line often (just 15% of their possessions, 353rd nationally). But the main thing they don't do is make shots. Like, at all. They have the worst effective FG% rate in the country, at 30%. They're converting just 33% of their 2-point attempts and 18% of their 3-point tries. (They're not even good at free throws, making just 50% of their freebies.) We've seen plenty of cold-shooting teams play Iowa and enjoy some soft defense and friendly rims at CHA, but WMU's shooting has been so dreadful so far this season that it would a significant improvement just to be "merely bad."
The Broncos are also not very good on defense, ranking 334th in defensive efficiency in the country. They're allowing teams to crush them on the offensive boards (opponents have an offensive rebounding rate of 53%) and teams are draining an absurdly high 64% of their 2-point attempts against WMU. In other words, Keegan Murray could absolutely FEAST in this game. Opponents are making just 21% of their 3-point tries against WMU so far, but that's probably a small sample size result. Alabama State entered the game with Iowa last week with a solid percentage in 3FG% defense -- and Iowa proceeded to make a school-record 20 three-pointers in that game.
There's every reason to expect that Iowa will be able to do whatever they want on offense in this game, whenever they want to do it. Western Michigan has shown little evidence that they can slow down any offense this year, let alone a high-caliber offense like Iowa's. And on defense the Broncos ought to pose little threat to Iowa as well, given their miserable shooting figures so far this year. (Small sample size issues apply there as well, but it seems fanciful to think that they're going to get particuarly good at shooting overnight.)
Really the only useful thing to know about Western Michigan is this, the best WMU-related picture on the internet:
WMU's mascot (Buster Bronco) no longer looks like that, but he does look like he's traded a crippling addiction to downers for an equally crippling addiction to uppers:
Someone get that mascot to rehab. Until then, though, Iowa has a bad basketball team to beat up tonight.