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Western Michigan Broncos vs Eastern Michigan Eagles men's basketball preview: Can EMU even up the cross-state series?

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Or will the Broncos give themselves the chance to go undefeated against the other Directional Michigans this year?

EMU's Ty Toney
EMU's Ty Toney
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Eastern Michigan Eagles and the Western Michigan Broncos sit in the bottom two spots of the MAC West, these two squads have a lot to play for when they take the court tonight in Ypsilanti. Namely, these teams are fighting for a Michigan MAC title. The Eagles have already beaten in-state foe CMU twice this year, but dropped their first match-up against the Broncos back in January. Western just beat Central this past Saturday and is hoping to ride the momentum of taking two of its last three games.

Last time Eastern and Western hit the court, the game was dominated by WMU's Thomas Wilder. He went off for 35 points in that game, a career high, going 5-5 from three-point land. Wilder is also just had a very strong game Saturday in which he put 26 points and was 10-16 from the floor. Unless the Eagles have a new containment strategy for him, it's very possible Wilder will have another stellar night in Ypsi.

Ty Toney was Eastern's most effective offensive option last time out against Western. The guard had 23 points in that contest, and is coming off a 17 point game in the Eagles' Saturday win over Toledo. Movement on the perimeter can be a problem for the Broncos defensively, so it's possible the Eagles will try to highlight Toney again on offense, as well as getting Raven Lee more in the mix. Lee is averaging 14.8 points per game on the season. And lest we forget guard Willie Mangum, who hit five three-pointers in the Eagles' last outing.

Eastern faithful can also hang their hat on the abysmal conference road record the Broncos have going - Western has only won a single MAC road contest this year, a 74-68 win over Bowling Green. The Eagles are 5-2 at home in MAC play on the season.

The battle at the #5 spot will also be intriguing Tuesday night. The Broncos' center Drake LaMont just put 18 points against Central while Eastern's freshman center James Thompson is averaging a stellar 15.3 points per game and had 17 last time he faced Western. Thompson also had 11 rebounds in the January outing against WMU.

Both Western and Eastern have had very up-and-down seasons. When the Eagles' offense gets going it's one of the best in the MAC, but the team has struggled defensively. WMU has been unable to get a consistent string of strong games together. It's tough to predict which version of these teams will hit the court and grab an in-state win tonight.

And even though Western is sitting at 5-9 in MAC play and the Eagles are 6-8, because of the cluster of 7-7 teams above them in the MAC West, there is still a lot of MAC Tournament seeding implications in this game. Late-season conference play gets pretty intense. We'll see how this one shakes out at 7:00pm Eastern (streaming on ESPN3).