The Wildcats head South this week to face the Western Michigan Broncos in a Thursday matinee that will kick off the 2016 Charleston Classic in Charleston, South Carolina. The tournament will also feature Wake Forest, Texas-El Paso, Mississippi State, UCF, Boise State, and the hometown College of Charleston.
The Broncos, out of the MAC (#MACtion!), are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2015-2016. Western Michigan finished 13-19 (7-10) and lost 11 games by six points or less. Plagued by injuries all year, the team bowed out of the first round of the MAC tournament and were not invited to any postseason tournaments. The Broncos last appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 2014 as a #14 seed, in a game that ended in a Syracuse win that has yet to be vacated.
The Broncos are coming off a 17-point loss to Oakland on Monday night after the Golden Grizzlies forced 16 turnovers. Wilder and Haymond went a combined 7-25 from the floor and 1-5 from three in the losing effort.
Experience is in Villanova's corner
Villanova’s experience should be, and probably will be, an immediate difference maker in this one. The Broncos are an extremely young team with nine out of their fifteen players coming into this season as freshman. There are still learning to play together and Villanova should be able to capitalize on that inexperience to force turnovers and beat WMU in transition.
The Broncos are led by junior Thomas Wilder, a preseason all-conference selection, and senior Tucker Haymond. Wilder, a 6’3 point guard, was a Second Team All-MAC selection last season and averaged 18 points a game. He’s efficient, shooting 42% from the field last year and 40% from deep. He has a great handle and is a great distributor averaging 3 assists a game.
Leading the team with Wilder is lone senior Tucker Haymond. The 6’6 guard averaged 16 points a game last season and finished the year second on the team in points, rebounds, and assists. He’s versatile and plays more of a forward/guard combo role, especially when the Broncos play small. Haywood and Wilder both averaged over 31 minutes a game last year.
Good match-up for Villanova on both ends of the floor
Against Oakland, the Broncos had just 5 assists with 4 of them coming in the second half. They had trouble moving the ball and struggled opening up the floor. Oakland had ten (!) steals and the Broncos resorted to long threes, which they made at a brutal 20%. On the flip side, Villanova loves moving the ball. Against the young Broncos defense, ‘Nova will look to use quick passes to create openings from where nearly every player on the floor can create opportunities. Combine that with the Broncos propensity for turnovers and WMU could be in for a long afternoon.
Jenkins and Paschall look to bounce back
Kris Jenkins and Eric Paschall struggled against Purdue on Monday night and both will look to bounce back in a quick-turnaround tournament that should help shake off the cobwebs. Jenkins went 3-12 from the field and 2-6 from three and never seemed to find his rhythm, while Paschall fouled out after a gutsy effort that never allowed him to get into the flow of the game.
Both were asked to play bigger against Purdue, clogging the middle and rebounding by committee. Against WMU, the Wildcats should be open up the floor and give both Jenkins and Paschall the space to get back into a rhythm.
2016 Charleston Classic Bracket