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Toledo Rockets vs. Central Michigan Chippewas Preview: Chips have a chance to prove themselves against Toledo

The conference season starts with a bang on Tuesday with two big match-ups. MAC West favorites Toledo will play host to the young upstart Central Michigan.

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

There was a time not so long ago, I believe the year was 2014, when Central Michigan going on the road to play Toledo in basketball would have been chalked up as an easy win for the Rockets. But now it's 2015 and things are changing. An African-American is president of the United States, gas is below $2 a gallon, and Central Michigan might actually stand a fighting chance against Toledo.

People expected improvement out of Central Michigan going into Keno Davis' third season as head coach, but even given their weak schedule thus far, a 10-1 record is better than most people expected from the Chips going into MAC play.

By far, their best win of the season came on December 17th at Northwestern. The lone loss for Central Michigan came on the road against Bradley when they were defeated 84-73. That 73-point night was actually the Chips worst offensive effort of the season. CMU has had a fast, high-powered offense all season so far and is averaging just under 88 points per game, which is good for 2nd in the nation.

Toledo enters Tuesday's game with an 8-5 record, but they have played a much tougher schedule than the Chippewas. The Rockets have competitive road losses against the likes of VCU and Duke, but despite those good performances don't have a signature win against a good opponent.

The only common opponent between the two teams is McNeese State. Both teams defeated the Cowboys, CMU by a score of 87-58 and Toledo by a score of 83-69.

It has been difficult to judge just how good this Central Michigan team really is because of their weak schedule, but the away win against a B1G team goes a long way toward proving their legitimacy as a contender in the MAC this year.

To no surprise, Toledo has been led this season by MAC player of the year candidate Julius Brown. Juice is one of the conference's leading scorers and passers at 15.5 Points per game and 4.8 assists per game. The matchup between Brown and his CMU counterpart Chris Fowler will be a key to this game. Fowler leads the Chips with 13.2 Points per game, and leads the MAC with an even 6 Assists per game.

Both teams have been enigmas this season, so it's tough to make any strong claims about how this game is going to go down. This game will be a true measuring stick not only of how good the Chippewas really are, but also the Rockets. CMU is fighting for respect in the MAC, and Toledo is fighting to show that they belong on top. A lot will be on the line on tuesday night, so look for both teams to come out and scrap for a victory.