Our good friend Rob Murphy is bringing his Eastern Michigan Eagles back to the Dome for a December 31 showdown with the No. 2 Syracuse Orange. SU is looking to cap an undefeated non-conference schedule and head into ACC play 13-0. The Eagles are looking to rebound from a rough loss to the Duke Blue Devils. Probably not the best back-to-back scheduling decision ever made...
We chatted with Alex Alvarado of The Hustle Belt, SB Nation's MAC site, to find out more about this EMU squad and what we can expect from our old buddy DaShonte Riley and his cohorts. You can check out my Q&A with them over here.
So far, the Eagles have been mediocre under former SU assistant Rob Murphy. How is pivotal Year Three shaping up?
Aside from the embarrassment a few days ago at Duke, things have been very pleasing for EMU. Three out of four losses came against ranked teams, and the Kentucky game was very impressive. Murphy loves his defense and this team has really bought into his system. On a more important note, this is the shiniest his head has ever looked, too.
What's our old friend DaShonte Riley up to? Can we expect to see him work some magic in his final Dome appearance?
He's doing pretty good. Still goofy-looking, but a much better defender than he was last year. He already has more than half of total blocks he had last year, and only slightly better than last year when it comes to scoring. Not sure if he'll be able to work some magic today, I doubt he knows any magic tricks. He did only have three points last year at the Dome, so it'd be hard to do much worse than that.
The easiest way to break the zone? Make tons and tons of threes. Does EMU have a guy capable of such devilry?
I wouldn't go as far as to say that there's a real 3-point threat on this roster. If I'm forced to pick one guy to shoot it, it's Karrington Ward. He's 39% 3-point range (16-for-41), but he's easily the team's best scorer. He's also leading the team in rebounds (68) and steals (17), so he's capable of all sorts of devilry.
If EMU is going to pull the upset, what three things will happen?
1. Have Riley and Lekan Ajayi stay out of foul trouble.
2. Mike Talley needs to stop pushing the ball to the hole on almost every possession.
3. Ward and Daylen Harrison both need to go off with double-doubles, 15+ points each.
But those don't seem all too possible. I think we're just better off trying to slip some laxatives into your water cooler.
Game predictions and prediction for the EMU season?
For the game, the Orange are going to win. I've already had to suffer through the EMU football season, this doesn't pain me to say that. It'll be good defensively. But talent's going to win this in the second half. Final 76-61. As the season goes, they just need to beat Toledo. The MAC is a really good basketball conference, so there's not going to be many probable cakewalk wins outside of Northern Illinois and Ball State. The talent is there to be successful. Anything less than a 20-win season would be an embarrassment.
Head on over to The Hustle Belt for more on EMU.