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MAC Men’s Basketball Tournament Semifinal Preview: Toledo Rockets vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles

The Eagles and Rockets meet up for what could be some high-flying action at the Q.

NCAA Basketball: Eastern Michigan at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

It’s now Day Two of the MAC Men’s Basketball Tournament in Cleveland, Ohio and in case you missed the action last night, there was plenty of intrigue in the quarterfinals.

In the morning session, Buffalo picked up an expected win over Central Michigan while Kent State had to hold on for dear life against upset-minded Ball State to remain in the mix.

The evening session ended up revealing some of the best action of the tournament thus far. The #2 seed Toledo Rockets evaded multiple attempts from the #7 seed Miami to steal the game at the quick, but eventually triumphed 71-69, while the #3 seed Eastern Michigan Eagles came back from 19 points down early in the second half to stun the #11 Akron Zips (and everybody watching the game) by a final score of 67-58 thanks in part to Elijah Minnie’s 21 point, 14-rebound performance.

The evening action now sets up a rather interesting semifinal matchup between two MAC West programs, as EMU swept the season series in conference play. Toledo will also have concerns about their recently-named MAC Player of the Year Tre’Shaun Fletcher, who sustained a lower-leg injury during the game in the evening session. The transfer form Colorado has logged 18.6 points and 8.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game in his lone season as a Rocket, leading the Toledo offensive attack.

The Rockets average 81.6 points per game, second in the league behind Buffalo, thanks to the strength oftheir extremely efficient shooting prowess. Toledo is second in field goals made and field goal percentage, while taking only 1,010 shots in conference play (good enough for 11th in a 12-team league.) Even with a non-healthy Fletcher, the Rockets will still have plenty of capable weapons, including Nate Navigato (12.6 PPG), Jaelyn Sanford (16.4 PPG) and Luke Knapke (11.1 PPG).

The Eagles rely on stellar defense and a ridiculous amount of length to limit opportunities for opposing teams. They’re second in the league in steals in conference play (139,) first in blocks (114,) first in forced turnovers (242) and first in points allowed per game (65.8,) which makes for tough sledding for any opponent.

Minnie (16.9 PPG,) Paul Jackson (14.9 PPG, 4.5 assists per game) and James Thompson IV (who averages a double-double at 14.9 PPG, 11.2 rebounds per game) will led the Eagles in getting baskets.

The winner of this game will face the winner of #1 Buffalo vs. #5 Kent State in the MAC Tournament Title game, to be played Saturday, March 10 at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.

Game information:

Where: Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio

When: Fri., March 9 at 9:30 p.m.

TV/Streaming: Link to steam here

Odds: Toledo -1.5, over/under 142.5, per OddsShark.