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Eastern Michigan Eagles vs. Akron Zips men's basketball preview

Akron needs a win to stay with Toledo in the MAC standings while the Eagles are trying to get a home game in the tournament.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

After a win over Miami on Tuesday, the Eastern Michigan Eagles (15-9, 4-7) want to unseat the Akron Zips (17-7, 8-3) from atop the MAC East. The Eagles are starting to play a little bit better as of late. They have won three out of their last five after losing five of their first six. After the win at Michigan on December 9th, the Eagles had a lot of teams scared to play them once the conference season came around. However, two straight overtime losses to begin MAC play, and a loss at Kent State put the Eagles at 0-3 in the conference before they got a win over Northern Illinois.

Despite giving up more points than usual, Eastern Michigan is still playing some of the best defense in the nation. They have just struggled to score in some games. They are 53rd in scoring defense, and 11th in steals at nearly nine per game, nationally. Offensively, the Eagles are somewhat of an enigma. There are some games when the offense flows well, and there are some when they shoot just north of 30%. For example, a couple weeks ago, the Eagles beat Ohio by a 76-40 final, but lost to the exact same team 76-73 a couple of weeks later.

Sophomore guard Raven Lee leads the way at nearly 16 points per game. He shoots the 3-pointer at a decent 37.8%, and he fills it up at the free-throw line at nearly 80%. Lee has scored in double figures in each of the last eight games.

Senior high-flyer Karrington Ward is one of the most exciting players to watch in the conference. He has the potential to make people look silly on huge dunks, but he can also shoot the ball well. He is shooting 30% from the three-point line this year, which is a full 8% lower than last year, but he hit five of six on Tuesday, and he definitely has the potential to put a serious dent in the Akron defense.

On the other side of things, Keith Dambrot feels like Eastern Michigan is one of the hardest places for a team like Akron to play. They aren't used to playing a real game inside of a big arena with a lot of empty seats, and it can get into players' heads. He says that it is kind of like playing a scrimmage.

As far as basketball goes, the Zips have won two in a row, including a 61-52 victory over arch rival Kent State on Tuesday. Leading the way for the Zips this year has been junior center Pat Forsythe. Forsythe scores nearly 11 points per game along with five boards. He plays great on both sides of the ball, as he can block shots as well. However, Forsythe isn't the player you should watch in this game.

The Syracuse style 2-3 zone that Rob Murphy uses as Eastern Michigan is far from perfect. There are many ways to beat that zone. Check out this analytical piece done by the Wake Forest SB Nation blog, Blogger So Dear. Once you take a look at that, you'll understand why juniors Jake Kretzer and Reggie McAdams have the potential to fill it up on Saturday with corner 3-pointers. Those two are shooting really well right now, and can make this game impossible for Eastern Michigan if they make shots.

Check out the video below from the 1:33-2:23 to see what Jake Kretzer did at Eastern Michigan last year.

I know that Reggie McAdams isn't in that video, but he is probably the best shooter that Akron has, and he could do some serious damage in this game.

Obviously, this game can go either way. If Akron fills it up with outside shots, then Eastern Michigan will be forced to play great offense. If Akron isn't shooting well, then they have to make Eastern Michigan turn the ball over and hope for fast breaks.

The game is on Saturday, February 14, at 2:30pm. Don't miss this Valentine's Day MACtion!