Random Musings: Homestretch Edition
The good news is that Eastern picked up their first road win of the season on Saturday with a solid performance at Ball State. The bad news is they were thoroughly outclassed by a superior Ohio team last night. This confluence of events leads us to the homestretch of the season. Time for some Random Musings as we begin the endgame.
- EMU is finished with the MAC East, and has a 2-4 record to show for it. The team was humbled by Ohio and Kent, but held their own against Akron. A 3-3 record could have happened as a victory against Bowling Green was certainly a plausible outcome; the BG loss still stings.
- The other conference loss that left a bad taste in our collective mouths was the home loss to Ball State. For a few minutes last Saturday it appeared BSU may pull the sweep on EMU, but the Eagles turned things around quickly, and took over. A standout performance by J.R. Sims may secure him a place as the starting point guard.
- With the emergence of Sims at the point, it appears that the lineup combo of choice is Sims, Thompson, Harrison, Bryant, and Riley, with Murphy playing the hot hand (or utilizing defensive match-ups) off the bench among Strickland, Harris, and Balkema up front and Ross and Harper in the backcourt. That is not to say that this will be the starting lineup, but in my opinion the most effective.
- That grouping moves Bryant to the four, where he has less of a size advantage. This is overcome by the tremendous athletic advantage Bryant enjoys against most opponents. If he lets the game come to him, Bryant can dominate from the four spot. He’s shown flashes.
- The MAC West title may be eluding Eastern this season, but there is obviously still much to play for. I see two tangible goals that remain: a strong finish in the MAC West that includes an end of season record over .500, and a run in the MAC Tournament. The second half of the MAC West season is favorable to EMU, as home games are against top teams Western Michigan and Toledo, while Central Michigan and Northern Illinois are winnable road games. The team can finish 16-15 with a win over MO State on Saturday and three out of the last four. It can be done.
- What constitutes a run in the MAC Tourney? I suppose that will be determined after the season has ended. Another first round loss is nothing sort of a severe disappointment. The next step is the important one. If Eastern shows up and plays well in Cleveland, maybe even picking a game or two off, that would certainly be considered success. Getting clowned in the first game in Cleveland would still qualify as a disappointment.
- As for the rest of the MAC — considering the success of Ohio and Akron — in previous years we would be talking up a two team contingent for the NCAA Tourney. That seems out of reach now, and of course as a fan of MAC hoops I loathe that way of thinking. Akron or Ohio, if they run the table to the MAC Tournament final and then lose, deserve an at-large bid. I would rather see one of those two teams than a twelve-loss ACC or Big East team. Ohio boasts a senior point guard who has schooled the tourney field in the past. Our cousins down the road surely remember this. The MAC deserves to be a two-bid league this year.
- To close on a positive note, I hope Eastern athletics enthusiasts caught the SportsCenter segment on freshman EMU Track standout Latipha Cross. Abandoned by her mother, assaulted by her father, abused by her adoptive parents, and twice stricken with cancer, as a high school student Cross still managed to win the 400 meter event in the Michigan State Finals as a junior, and finish second as a senior. While undergoing cancer treatment. She seems to have found a home at Eastern, and her story got me thinking about the payday football games that bother us so much. If getting pounded into submission by a BCS program twice a year means Latipha Cross (and others like her) can get a scholarship and a meaningful opportunity at Eastern, then I say keep ‘em coming. Let’s play at ‘Bama and Oregon next year, it’s for a good cause…