Basketball returns for the Eastern Michigan Eagles when they travel to Pittsburgh, PA to play the Pittsburgh Panthers on November 11th as part of the 2K Classic. They then hop on a plane to play the SMU Mustangs in Dallas, TX on November 13th as part of the same tournament. Basketball returns to the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti on November 15th at 11:00 A.M. where they play Rochester in front of the area’s elementary children.
Head Coach Rob Murphy returns for his sixth season as the Eastern Michigan head coach. In that time, he’s built an 83-72 record. He led the team to it’s first ever MAC West Championship in the 2011-2012 season. He took them to the CIT in 2014 and the CBI in 2015. His best record was in the 2014-2015 season when the Eagles went 22-15. That was the first 20+ win season since 1997-1998 for the Eagles.
Last season, Eastern Michigan scored an average of 77.4 points per game while hold their opponents to 74.5 points per game. They finished the season at 18 and 15 while going 9 and 9 in the MAC. This was good enough to get them to 3rd in the MAC West. Their season would come to an abrupt end when they lost to Akron in the 2nd round of the MAC tournament by a score of 63-65.
This season, Eastern Michigan is picked to win the MAC West. Part of that reason might be because Eastern Michigan returns five of their starters from last year. So of the team that played last year they return: Raven Lee, Tim Bond, James Thompson IV, Willie Mangum IV, Jordan Nobles, Blake Brown and Ty Toney. They lose: LaMonta Stone, Brandon Nazione (which could be huge), Jodan Price, Trent Perry, Jordan Martin and Ethan Alvano. They add: Paul Jackson, Terry Harris, Elijah Minnie, Jalen Brown, Quaran Jones, Lama Wofford-Humphrey, Nick Madray and Baylee Steele. Based on the fact that he is 6’11”, I’m hoping that Baylee Steele will fill the void left by Brandon Nazione.
The five players I think could potentially be starters this season are:
Raven Lee returns for his senior season at Eastern Michigan. Last year, he started in the Coach Murphy doghouse but was able to work his way out of that. He would finish the season with 0.416 field goal percentage and a 0.821 free throw percentage. He would lead Eastern Michigan scorers with an average of 15.1 points per game. If he’s on his game, watch out. If he’s not on his game and you’re an Eastern fan, watch out.
James Thompson IV
James Thompson IV burst onto the scene as the MAC Freshman of the year. I forget how many double doubles he had, but there were a few. He would average 14.8 points per game. But that was balanced out by his 10.7 rebounds per game. About the only real knock I have on him was that was prone to foul trouble. Hopefully that will be tempered with experience.
One of the more exciting players for me to watch was Tim Bond. I loved his speed after he would get a steal and race towards the basket. He would average 8.8 points per game. He would amass a total of 67 steals last season.
Another surprise last year was the addition of Ty Toney. He was one of Murphy’s junior college pickups. He would average 11 points per game.
Willie Mangum IV
Willie Mangum IV was another one of Murphy’s junior college pickups. He would average 12 points per game.
So what does all this mean? I am hoping with five potential starters returning from last year, that Eastern Michigan should be able to improve upon their record from last year. I would like to see them improve upon that record to where they put themselves in a position to actually win the MAC Championship. This is one thing that has eluded Rob Murphy all these years. I honestly think that they can do that. I looks like their biggest pre-conference opponent will be Syracuse. They also play in the 2K Tournament. Hopefully that will tune them up for the grind of the MAC Championship tournament followed by a run in the NCAA Tournament.