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2014 MAC Tournament Preview: Central Michigan at Eastern Michigan

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

It's a directional Michigan Round 1 showdown Monday night in the 2014 Men's MAC Basketball Tournament (presented by Barbasol). The No. 6 seed Eastern Michigan Eagles are playing host to the No. 11 seed Central Michigan Chippewas in a Michigan MAC showdown.

2014 MAC Tournament Coverage

2014 MAC Tournament Coverage

The two squads have faced off twice already this year, with EMU getting the better of the Chips both times. The Eagles beat CMU 72-59 on Jan 18then did it again 64-42 on Feb. 26. EMU's zone defense was too much for CMU to handle in either game as the Chippewas shot a combined 30 percent (I rounded up to be nice) on a total of 32-for-107 from field goal range. Come Monday night, expect more of the same.

The problem with CMU's offense, which is actually among the higher-scoring in the conference despite the Chips lowly finish, is that while it features some good shooters, there is no frontcourt presence to speak of. This allows EMU's defense to clamp down on the Chippewas and force them to shoot from outside all night long.

But wait, you say, doesn't CMU have some of the better 3-point shooters in the conference? Yes, sort of. The Chips did lead the league in 3-pointers made in 2013-2014, but also shot way more than anyone else. And yes, typically the best way to bust a zone defense like EMU's is with a hot shooter, but when the defense knows all you're going to do is shoot 3s, it becomes a near-impossible task to actually make those shots.

On Jan. 18, CMU went a combined 6-for-26 from 3-point range, that's nearly nine whole percentage points off from the team's yearly mark for 3-point shooting percentage. Than on Feb. 26, things improved from deep, with CMU's percentage shooting up to 34.8 percent on the game, but the Chips still only drained eight, and were even worse from the rest of the floor.

EMU features one of the best defenses in the country, holding opponents to just 36 percent from the field. For a team like CMU that is not capable of creating, let alone converting the high-efficiency inside buckets, this causes migraines. Expect this to happen Monday night as well.

Oh, there is one glimmer of hope for CMU. In the 34-year history of the MAC Tournament, these two teams have met up in the tournament twice, with CMU winning both, including in 2012 (not last year, because this year is 2014, even if this blogger refuses to move on) when the 12-seeded Chips knocked off the 5-seeded Eagles in Ypsilanti.

But EMU didn't have Karrington Ward and Mike Talley then.

The game tips off at 7:30 p.m. from Ypsilanti and can be streamed online via the Digital Network and the MAC WatchESPN Digital Network.