Though Eastern Michigan couldn't parlay its deep run in last week's MAC Tournament into an NCAA berth, the Eagles will have a chance to continue their season on Tuesday when they host Norfolk State in the CIT.
The Spartans, who fell in the semifinals of the MEAC Tournament to eventual champion North Carolina Central, enter the CIT with a modest 19-14 record. But don't be fooled, there are still plenty of ties to the 2011-2012 team that shocked America by knocking No. 2 seed Missouri off in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, most notably Pendarvis Williams.
Even though he was just a sophomore for the Cinderella run two years ago, Williams has emerged as the Spartans' team leader. The 6-6 guard is averaging 15.8 points per game and grabbing five rebounds. Despite his size, Williams isn't afraid to let it fly, as he proved on a national stage in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. He was 4-4 from beyond the arc, scoring 20 points in the victory over MIzzou.
Williams will need to make some deep shots on Tuesday if Norfolk State hopes to knock off Eastern Michigan. The Eagles' vaunted 2-3 zone has opponents scoring just 58.7 points per game, making them the best defensive team in the country. By contrast, the Spartans average 71.9 points per game.
The long, lanky Spartans will have a height advantage at just about every position on the court (the shortest man on Norfolk State's roster Jamel Fuentes, is listed at 6-4), except one. Seven-footers Brandon Goode and Da'Shonte Riley will be battling down low for supremacy on the block. Goode has the edge in both points and rebounds per game, with 15.5 and 7, respectively.
Though he will be by far the smallest man on the court, that won't stop Eastern Michigan guard Mike Talley. Talley leads the Eagles in assists, averaging 3.6 per contest. He also is the team's second leading scoring, putting up 10.2 per game.
Though Norfolk State's offensive production seems to blow Eastern Michigan's out of the water, it's easy to see why when looking at its schedule. The Spartans have played only two teams that reached the NCAA Tournament this season: Virginia and NC Central. Against these teams, the Spartans are a combined 0-3 while averaging just 57 points per game. Eastern Michigan, on the other hand, played a much more difficult non-conference schedule, taking on Kentucky, Massachusetts, Duke, Syracuse and Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti.