EMU at Massachusetts
This afternoon, the EMU men’s basketball team will play at UMass, in the final pre-conference game of the season.1 It’s been a short turnaround from the Kentucky game, particularly when you count the travel involved, and although they’re not the national power they were in the mid-90s under John Calipari, UMass is certainly not a team to be taken lightly.
|Strength of Schedule||#35||#72|
|RPI Top 50||0-2||0-3|
EMU has played a harder schedule and has the worse record to show for it, though the Massachusetts schedule has been nothing to sneer at. The highest RPI opponents the Minutemen have faced have been the University of Miami (#10, lost 75-62), North Carolina State (#12, lost 94-76), Harvard (#56, won 67-64), and Tennessee (lost 83-69).
It’s worth noting, however, that the Minutemen have only played four true road games, against Miami University, Northern Illinois, Northeastern, and Siena (no, not Siena Heights). Miami has the highest RPI of those teams, at #134, and the Minutemen escaped Oxford with a one-point win. Call me an apologist if you want, but I do think there’s a big difference between playing Tennessee and NC State in a neutral site (the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, played in such a small venue that it truly is neutral) and hosting Harvard and the University of Miami, versus playing Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, playing Michigan in the Crisler Center, and playing Kentucky in Rupp Arena.
This “series” has a history, but not a meaningful one. EMU has only faced the Minutemen once, on December 29, 1972, when the Eagles lost, 68-61, in the Motor City Tournament, hosted by Detroit Mercy. EMU finished that year a miserable 8-17, the first of nine years of consecutive losing seasons, following directly after five consecutive winning seasons under Jim Dutcher.
The Minutemen regularly go about 8 or 9 players deep, but that’s a bit illusory. 42 points per game — nearly 60% of the team’s scoring — comes from three players: juniors Chaz Williams and Jesse Morgan, and senior Terrell Vinson. There’s a sharp drop-off after those three.Morgan is the team’s top three-point shooter, making 34 of 96 attempts this season.
They’re a relatively small team — only Izzy Freeman is listed as taller than 6’9″, and he isn’t a meaningful contributor — so rebounding is a team effort, with seven players between 41 and 63 rebounds for the season.
Watching the game
- Not the final non-conference game, however, as the Eagles will participate in the ESPN BracketBuster game on February 23. [↩]