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Buffalo Bulls at Eastern Michigan Eagles Men's Basketball: Previewing EMU with Alex Alvarado of Hustle Belt

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

You know the drill: I talked to Alex, he talked to me. This time Hustle Belt got my answers published first, so head over there to see what EMU fans might be concerned about. As for me:

Matt Gritzmacher: Raven Lee is a Romulus Guy! I was going to ask if anyone out there has a clue how dangerous he is, but now I know Oats does, at least. He hasn't played much this season, though. What's up with that?

Alex Alvarado, Hustle Belt: Well, he started with a 6-game suspension then came off the bench but now he's back in the starting role, as he should. Lots of turnover on the roster meant that Murphy needed to figure out how his rotation chess game would work with the new faces.

MG: In his stead, it's been Willie Mangum IV. How does he hurt teams?

AA: The guy loves to shoot. He leads the team with 189 attempts, making 39 percent of his shots (30 percent behind the arc). Some days he catches fire, some days he just has a bad game shooting. More often than not, he's beneficial with 14.1 points per game. Also, EMU is one of the nation's best in terms of stealing, and he's got 24 of them already. He's speedy, distributes the ball well, he's, overall, a good JUCO pickup for this squad.

MG: KenPom loves the Eagles, and I love KenPom, but which recent game is more indicative of the whole season so far: 99-80 over CMU, or 63-80 against Northern Illinois?

AA: Weird, because I too love the Eagles. I don't think either are all-telling, but I think there are some takeaways in both contests that could tell you a lot about this team. The Central game, when this team gets to scoring, things can get dicey. I don't expect Jodan Price to put up double-digits in scoring all the time, but I do expect Raven Lee to be an offensive leader like he was there. The NIU game showed that when Lee starts off very cold and other players don't truly step up, things get too tough. It showed that the 2-3 zone can easily be beaten by having a real 3-point shooter can make things difficult and foul trouble is not fun.

MG: On that note, EMU gives up a lot of points, so many that I had to check to see if Rob Murphy was still the coach. Is it a pace thing? Buffalo also gives up plenty of points, so this could be a fun one.

AA: It's weird, man. I'll have to check the stats later, but this team is not grabbing the defensive rebounds like they should be doing. That's in large part due to the lack of depth they have at the big man positions. Hopefully the offense perks up a bit now that MAC play is in full-swing.

MG: Longer term, the Eagles have only two seniors and a huge junior class, and are already a solid contender for a MAC Tournament bye among the crowded second tier of the conference. What's the ceiling for this group between now and March 2017?

AA: GET OUT OF MY HEAD no but really, I'm very much with you here. Thompson's a beast. Tim Bond is skilled. Lee will be a senior next year. Ty Toney is a dependable point guard, who will also be a senior next year. Nick Madray is sitting out this year after transferring from Binghampton, should be a good scoring option at the 4. Big thing for me is Jodan Price [needs to continue to improve in many aspects of the game and] and Jordan Nobles need to bulk up. I love their length, but they need to be bigger bodies for the positions that they're in. Hard to think that they won't be better next year.

MG: Prediction of course

AA: I like EMU, especially at home. I think they've got the talent (read: James Thompson) to take care of business. I'll go Eagles 71-60.

The game thread should be up shortly.