The virtual trophy, which was dreamed up but Carter Adler from Eagle Totem, has never rested in Buffalo's hands. On the grid iron UB is 0-2 and last seasons upset on the hardwood is the final component of EMU's record.
This year EMU makes the trip to Alumni and the Bulls might just be able to wretch the golden sandwich from the Eagles Talons.
So in honor of the golden sandwich Carter initiated this weeks blog swap.
1) Is any team in the west for real this season? So far there are a couple of teams that have, at times, looked pretty good. At the same time Ball State is the only team in that division to escape non conference play with a winning record.
With the new MAC tournament format, the goal is to finish first or second in the regular season, and all that matters for that is the MAC record. Non-conference play doesn't matter, and wins over West Division teams count the same as wins over East Division teams.
With regard specifically to EMU, remember that this is a team learning a new system and adjusting to a new coach, and that takes some time. Add in that point guard Austin Harper just joined the team this fall and center Da'Shonte Riley was only cleared to play a month ago (first game was December 20). Then remember that this team had a prolonged road trip, going from November 28 through January 10 without a single home game. Before the season started, I suggested that the non-conference season would be rough, but that we'd see the team start to gel, especially defensively, somewhere around mid-January, and that's exactly what's happened. I think it's realistic for EMU to continue to show significant improvement right through the end of the season, particularly as they continue to integrate Riley into the offense.
2) It's been a great start to EMU's conference slate the eagles are playing better on the football field and now as a hoops team. Is EMU on its way to being a constant factor in the revenue sports?
I've said it before, but it bears repeating. The EMU administration, from President Martin and the Board of Regents on down, has thrown a lot of support to Rob Murphy and the basketball team, and they've really gone all in on Ron English and the football team. That's a little scary, because if things go poorly for the football team, the pressure will mount to drop to a lower level or even shutter the program, but it's a necessary step. As I consider the football team's success in 2011, the women's basketball team's success last season and so far this season, the quicker-than-expected turnaround of the men's basketball team, and the ongoing football recruiting, it's hard not to feel optimistic about the future of EMU athletics.
3) What are the keys to this game for EMU?
Force the Bulls to play EMU's game and be ready to adjust the zone to defend Filzen's three-point shooting. EMU is going to try to slow the game down at both ends, play tenacious defense, and scramble for every loose ball. Buffalo is averaging 74.1 points per game, which is about the same as the 73.8 that Toledo was averaging before EMU held the Rockets to 38. 60 points is probably the magic number: EMU is 8-1 when holding opponents under 60 but 1-8 when allowing more than 60.
4) What should Buffalo really worry about from EMU?
EMU is a defense-first team, and while they rarely score a lot (most recently there were no players with double-digit scoring on Saturday), they do have some guys with the potential to drop a bunch of points on you. Darrell Lampley, who seems to have mostly shifted from point guard to shooting guard, scored 37 points on Colgate in December, and Derek Thompson, Antonio Green, and Quintin Dailey are each capable of scoring 13 to 18 points. Finally, we haven't seen much yet from Da'Shonte Riley, who's been shaking off about a year-and-a-half of rust from an injury redshirt in 2010-11 and then waiting for his transfer hardship waiver to be approved last fall, but one of these days he's going to have a breakout game.
5) What games do you see the Eagles to win in cross over play.
Their games at home against Bowling Green and at Miami should be winnable. I'd like to see them find a way to split the intra-divisional play at 3-3, which probably means those two plus either Buffalo or Kent State.