EMU MAC Preview

The Eastern Michigan men's basketball team is set to begin conference play Jan. 9 versus Ball State.Staff Writer Harry Eichholtz breaks down the season going forward.

EMU MAC Preview

The Eastern Michigan men's basketball team begins the bulk of their Mid American conference play in January. Their first MAC game will be against Ball State Jan. 9 and they need to start picking up wins if they are to have any hope of making it to the NCAA tournament in March. Right now, the Eagles sit at 6-5 and there is tough competition ahead if they are to win the MAC.

Automatic Bid

For any MAC team to earn a berth into the March madness tournament they will have to win the MAC tournament to earn an automatic bid. The only other way a MAC team could make it into the tournament would be with an impressive record, but the selection committee traditionally only takes one team from this conference.

MAC Favorite

The favorite going into conference play will be Ohio. The Bobcats (8-4) won the MAC tournament last season and currently have the best record in the east division, and have already beaten Oakland, who just recently beat EMU. Senior guard D.J. Cooper leads OU with 14.3 points a game, as they look to repeat as MAC champions in 2012-13 season.

Western Division

Currently, EMU's record is third behind in-state rivals, Western Michigan (8-4) and Central Michigan (7-5). The Eagles have lost three straight, and host Siena Heights (Mich.) Friday, before traveling to Kentucky and UMass before they start conference play.

Three Game Skid

The Green and White started the year good coming out of the gate at 6-2, but have struggled lately. After a huge home win against Big Ten foe Purdue, the team hit the road and picked up loses at UI-Chicago and Michigan. Eastern (6-1 at home) lost their first home game of the season last week to Oakland, 59-57, at the Convocation Center.

Offensive Struggles

Defensive play for the Eagles has been stout with their 2-3 zone, but their troubles have been on the offensive end. Moving the ball and scoring has been a major issue against tougher teams and the team will need to right the ship soon once conference play starts up. EMU coach Rob Murphy is in only his second year of coaching and is known for his defensive specialties but it will be tough to gather conference wins if his team isn't scoring.

Thru 11 games the offense is only averaging 56.9 points a game and has been giving up 60.9 on the defensive end. The field goal percentage is also bad at 38.5 percent and they need to move the ball around more to improve. One of the major problems has been missing open shots and not utilizing good scoring opportunities.

Season Outlook

The Eagles will have a chance to prove themselves with home against their in-state rivals and will have a shot to move up the standings. Right now they sit at third and are in the middle of the pack in the conference. As long as they have a good seed going into the MAC tournament and their defense holds strong they could earn a tournament bid.

When Earl Boykins was on the team in the 90s, the Eagles made it into the NCAA tournament. With strong defense and hopefully, improved offense, the Eagles could make some noise in the MAC conference.

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