While a regular season conference title is a feather in the cap of any team, the conference tournament championship, and the NCAA Tournament birth that comes with, is the sugar plum in every MAC player’s head as it hits the pillow at night. The first step is one of four first round byes earned by being a top 4 regular season team. With their win against Northern Illinois, the Eastern Michigan Eagles have announced they are a legitimate contender for one of those spots.
Currently, the Eagles are alone in third place with a conference record of 5-2. The turn around from last season has been incredible.
The Eagles have had some success as a program, so them being good isn’t all that shocking, unless you actually watched them play last season. I don’t mean to be harsh or particularly mean, but they were terrible.
This season, they looked much better in pasting some patsies, but then hit a slump, losing 7 in a row. They polished off a few more pasties, putting them at a 5-7 non- conference record. While I did think they were better than last season, I didn’t have much hope for this team, especially since they were in a loaded MAC West. I figured they would be a better team than they were last season, but with a similar record.
I was wrong. They are vastly improved.
While I do believe they are a contender, just how much of one will be determined in their next 4 games. After playing a Miami squad that is also improved, they head to Buffalo, host Central Michigan, and then head to Ball State. The three current favorites for a first round bye all in a row, 2 of them on the road. After that brutal run, they have to play those 3 teams again.
It’s certainly quite possible with that brutal of a schedule coming up that the Eagles go on another losing streak. What I don’t want to get lost in a bad record if that happens is just how remarkable the current run has been. Not only is the record much better than it was at this point last season, the team looks a lot better. They are scoring much better, which is helping what was already a solid defense. They are also rebounding much better.
Even though the season isn’t half over, I just wanted to congratulate the Eagles on a job well done. I am not usually a fan of participation trophies, but sometimes it’s o.k. to give a premature pat on the back.