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MAC Championship Tournament EMU versus NIU

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight at 9:00 pm the Eastern Michigan Eagles and Norther Illinois Huskies will face off in the second round to the Mid-American conference tournament. The winner of tonight's game is going to face Buffalo in the quarterfinals of this seasons MAC Championship in Cleveland.

These are two teams that have made tremendous progress over the last few years. They are not a whole lot more interesting to watch but they are most certainly vastly improved squads from the teams that played one of the worse basketball games in history not too long ago.

The reason they are not too much fun to watch, and the reason they might really challenge Buffalo, is that they play a suffocating brand of defensive basketball. EMU and NIU are the 1 & 2 squads in the MAC when measured by their scoring defense. Hustle Belt Notes that They're also among the best at holding opponents to a poor field goal percentage.

EMU leads the nation having held opponents to 36.5 percent from the field this year. NIU is fourth in the conference with a 41 percent field goal percentage against mark.

Against These Teams This Year:

This season Buffalo swept two from Northern Illinois and pulled away late from Eastern Michigan in their lone meeting.

UB Opened up MAC play against NIU in a game I believed would be close but a snow storm kept the Huskies from arriving until very close to game time. They had a terrible start and were prevented from catching up in no small part because of Javon McCrea's eight blocks. In the game four Bulls hit double figures as McCrea scored 18, Will Regan added 15 points, Shannon Evans scored 11 and Joshua Freelove tallied 10.

Right after hosting NIU the Bulls had Eastern Michigan at home. Eastern Michigan and Buffalo played to a tie in the first half and were separated by only a point at the six minute mark. The game turned when Jarryn Skeete got hot and scored nine of his season-high 19 points in the final six minutes.

When UB made the trip to Deklab for their second game against NIU they put out a slow start which nearly matched what NIU did in Amherst. Northern Illinois jumped to a 9-2 lead early but UB clawed their way to a small lead on a 3-pointer by Regan, then pulled ahead for a 34-29 halftime edge.

NIU tied the game at about the 14 minute mark of the second but McCrea, Evans, and Oldham took UB on a 6-0 run which gave the Bulls a lead they would not relent.

Both teams have shown that they can keep close to UB and shut down the Bulls offense for a protracted period of time. It remains to be seen if UB has improved enough throughout the year to come strong out after five days off or to hold any lead the build up.