Teams: Syracuse Orange (10-2) vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles (8-3)
Day & Time: Wednesday, December 27, 2017, 7:00 p.m. ET
Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
Radio: Syracuse IMG Network, WAER 88.3, Sirius 93/XM 193
Eastern Michigan blog: Hustle Belt
Rivalry: 4-1, Syracuse
Current Streak: 4, Orange
First Meeting: During the largely disastrous 1996-97 campaign, the Eagles came to Syracuse and scored a shocking 68-65 upset. SU was outrebounded by Eastern Michigan and were lit up largely by two players — Earl Boykins (16 points) and Derrick Dial (24 points). Not ideal, obviously.
Last Meeting: EMU didn’t have much fight in them against the Orange last season. They lost by 48 and eight different Syracuse players scored in double figures. It was impressive and gave us false assumptions about where this team could potentially go.
Head Coaches: SU: Jim Boeheim (42nd year, 1,014-359); Eastern Michigan: Rob Murphy (7th year, 97-100)
Coach Bio: After playing at NAIA Central State (in Ohio), Murphy returned to Detroit as an assistant at Detroit Central High School. He got his first head gig at Crocket Technical High School, then head to Kent State for a couple years. Murphy joined Syracuse’s staff in 2004, and stayed there until 2011. He’s been at EMU ever since. The Eagles won the MAC West in year one, then invited to the 2014 CIT and the 2015 CBI. Eastern Michigan has been better since Murphy arrived, but still can’t break through in the MAC.
Last Year: The Eagles had their first losing season since 2012-13, going 14-17 overall and 7-11 in the MAC. EMU was a pretty bad defensive team all year, while relying heavily on transfers playing in a 2-3 zone (sound familiar?).
Last Game: Oakland ran right through Eastern Michigan in the first half, besting EMU by 12 through the first 30 minutes. The Eagles roared back in the second half, scoring 50, but still lost 86-81. Four EMU players scored in double figures, led by Paul Jackson with 25. Both teams shot better than 49 percent from the floor.
"Fear Me, I've Killed Hundreds of Timelords": EMU actually has some size down low, relying heavily on Elijah Minnie and James Thompson IV. The two players combine for nearly 36 points and over 19 rebounds per game. Though Thompson’s a liability from the free throw line, he’s incredibly efficient from the floor (69 percent shooter).
If you’re looking for a random three-point performance, direct your attention to Tim Bond or Jordan Nobles, the only regular rotation guys to shoot better than 40 percent from distance.
If Syracuse Wins: SU’s back on track for the most part. An 11-2 non-conference record is about where we all saw things before the year started. And while it may have occurred differently than we assumed, it still provides a solid starting point for the Orange as they hope to return to the NCAA Tournament.
If Syracuse Loses: Utter disaster given what happened in the last game and how SU has needed to play things pretty tight over the last couple weeks.
Fun Fact No. 1: EMU is the third MAC team the Orange face this season. While they played two MAC teams in 2013-14 (Eastern and Western Michigan), the latter was in the NCAA Tournament. SU hasn’t faced two or more MAC teams in the regular season since 1965-66 (Bowling Green and Kent State).
Fun Fact No. 2: Murphy is one of two former Boeheim assistants currently serving as college head coaches — the other is obviously Washington’s Mike Hopkins. Rick Pitino was also on the list until just before this season, when he was let go by Louisville.