Semifinal MACtion: EMU vs. Toledo Preview
Last night was so much fun I think I’ll stick around for one more day. Maybe a trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Maybe lunch at Iron Chef Michael Symon’s restaurant, Lola, even though everyone knows that Hiroyuki Sakai is the unquestioned god and master of all Iron Chefs.
Tonight, Eastern and Toledo will play the rubber match, having split the previous two games. EMU dominated the Rockets at the Convo, and last weekend at Savage Hall UT handled Eastern with relative ease. Tonight will be different. Odds are we will see a close game.
Contrasting forces are at work tonight. Eastern has already played three games in four days. So far no sign of fatigue, but let’s revisit that question tonight during the second half. I do think the “tired legs” issue can be overblown, these are 18-23 year olds. EMU has depth to counteract this phenomenon, as evidenced by Darell Combs coming off the bench for crucial offense last night.
The other side of this coin is that Toledo could be covered in rust by now. We’ll see how they come out of the gate tonight.
The x-factor is Toledo’s history in the MAC Tournament. It isn’t pretty. As I wrote in my tourney preview, “[Historically] the Rockets have had about as much success in the MAC Tournament as the Italian Army has had on the battlefield.”
Last night, EMU dispatched another team with a history of MAC Tourney collapses, and UT could feel the pressure if they fall behind early. I can’t help but think this is overblown, too. But remember this team missed the MAC Tourney last year. They have waited a long time for this opportunity. There will be butterflies.
Eastern will no doubt have a spirited support group, but the crowd will be overwhelmingly pro-Toledo, if Rocket fans can pry themselves away from the cosmopolitan culture of the Glass City and visit lowly Cleveland.
Toledo has a collection of really talented guards. Juice Brown, Justin Drummond, and Rian Pearson are a formidable trio. But UT does not have interior talent to compete with Glenn Bryant and DaShonte Riley.
For Eastern to win, it will take a complete team contribution. Not just Bryant and Riley, but Harrison and Sims. Scoring from Raven Lee, Karrington Ward, and Darell Combs. Mike Talley needs to play the way he did in the second half. Mo Hughley also contributed some quality minutes last night. EMU will need Big Mo tonight as well.
It has been a long time since either of these teams has won a MAC Tourney title, 1998 for EMU and the Mesozoic Era for Toledo. More than anything, tonight should be a lot of fun.
Tune in for my liveblogging during the game, and follow @eagletotemblog on twitter for the cascade of witty observations you can only get from Eagle Totem.
See you tonight, and Go Green!