Central Michigan (10-20) at Eastern Michigan (18-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Monday, March 10, 7:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Convocation Center (6,400) -- Ypsilanti, Michigan. Television: None. Home Record: Central Michigan 8-8, Eastern Michigan 14-3. Away Record: Central Michigan 2-12, Eastern Michigan 4-10. Neutral Record: Central Michigan 0-0, Eastern Michigan 0-0. Conference Record: Central Michigan 3-15, Eastern Michigan 10-8. Series Record: Central Michigan leads, 95-87.
GAME NOTES: The third Mid-American Conference Tournament first-round matchup will be between intrastate rivals Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan, with the 11th-seeded Chippewas traveling to Ypsilanti to face the sixth-seeded Eagles.
Central Michigan had an up-and-down season in non-conference action earlier in the team's schedule, but fell apart once conference play started. CMU is coming off a 78-64 defeat at the hands of top-seeded Western Michigan in the team's season finale Friday. The Chippewas come into the postseason having lost four straight games and boasting a 3-15 conference record.
Eastern Michigan was up-and-down on the season as well, but didn't hit a wall like the team's next opponent once conference play began. The Eagles have won three of their last four games, and are coming off a 77-66 loss to Toledo Saturday in the team's season finale.
Central Michigan owns a 95-87 lead over Eastern Michigan in the all-time series between the rival programs, but the Eagles swept the season series against the Chippewas, winning by 13 and 22 points in the two contests, respectively.
Central Michigan actually held a lead over Western Michigan at the half of Friday's season-ending contest, 38-33. For a brief time, it looked as though the Broncos were going to let CMU spoil their chances at getting the top seed in the tournament. But WMU came roaring back in the second half with a 45- point onslaught to help down the suddenly weakened Chippewas. John Simons led Central Michigan with 16 points in the contest, while Chris Fowler chipped in 15 points and four assists, and Braylon Rayson added another 13 points in the defeat.
Even though the Chippewas had a sub-par season record-wise, they still managed to finish third in the conference in scoring offense with 72.9 ppg. The problem was the team's scoring defense, which gave up a league-worst 73.9 ppg and allowed opponents to hit 49.1 percent of their field goal tries on the season - also the worst in the conference. Fowler was one of the few bright spots on the team, netting 17.7 ppg (third in the MAC) and dishing out 5.3 apg (second in the MAC). The freshman Rayson had a strong second half to the year, finishing the regular season averaging 10.8 ppg. John Simons completed the three-headed CMU attack with 10.7 ppg.
Toledo led Eastern Michigan in Saturday's MAC season finale by three points, 35-32, at the half. The Eagles were in good position to knock the Rockets potentially out of the second seed in the conference, but Toledo came out firing in the second period, netting 50 percent of their shot attempts and added eight points onto their lead. Karrington Ward netted 20 points to pace Eastern Washington, while Raven Lee contributed 14 points and Mike Talley notched 12 with five rebounds and eight assists. The Eagles shot 41.8 percent from the floor, and made 9-of-22 from 3-point range.
Ward (12.5 ppg), Talley (10.5 ppg) and Lee (10.5 ppg) make up the heart of EMU's offensive attack, which averaged an eighth-in-conference 66.8 ppg. The Eagles prided themselves on defense, giving up a league-best 61.8 ppg to opponents and allowing just 36.4 percent of the opposition's shots to fall, which was best in the league. Da'Shonte Riley is tied for the MAC lead in blocked shots, averaging 2.8 per game. Ward's 6.4 rpg average was a team best, while Riley grabbed 6.0 rpg of his own.
Central Michigan's Fowler was a spectacular player this season, but the Chippewas didn't surround him with enough of a supporting cast. Rayson will be the go-to guy in the future, but for now the lackluster Chippewas have an uphill battle to get out of the first few rounds, let alone to the conference final.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Michigan 70, Central Michigan 61
03/10 10:32:52 ET