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Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles men's basketball preview: Can EMU slow an ascending Chippewa squad?

This match-up features two teams on very different points in their seasons. EMU started hot, while CMU started slow. Now, the tables have turned for their second match-up of the season.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Something tells me that this match-up will be much closer than the first time these two teams met in early January. At that point in the season, the Eagles improved to 9-5 (now 11-12), and the Chippewas fell to 7-7 (now 13-10). In the present, Central Michigan (6-4 in conference play) finds themselves second in the MAC West, while Eastern Michigan has taken a fall down to fifth place (3-7 in conference play).

The 99-80 defeat the Chippewas suffered from Eastern Michigan was a perfect exhibit of the awful defense that seemed to haunt Keno Davis's team in the early going. The Eagles shot 65% from three, with 32 points from Raven Lee and 19 each from James Thompson IV, Willie Mangum IV, and Jodan Price. They could not miss, as it seemed to be that kind of night for Eastern Michigan where everything went in. However, it has been a much different story since that game, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Central Michigan has only given up 80 points or more in two games (Akron, twice) out of nine since then.

Eastern Michigan hopes to turn their season back around with a win over their rival Central Michigan. The Eagles have lost seven of their last nine games since their last meeting with the Chippewas. Raven Lee's inconsistent play can be attributed to some of those losses, as evidenced by following his 46-point blow-up performance over Miami with a 0-point showing in just shy of 10 minutes of playing time against Western Michigan. In his last two games since then, he's scored a total of 20 points. It's been proven that the Eagles have a much better shot at pulling out a victory when Lee has a good night, but we can't ignore the super freshman (James Thompson IV), who has been averaging a double double this season (15.7 ppg, 11.0 rpg). Central Michigan had an incredibly difficult time guarding Thompson IV last game, so it will be a major key for Rob Murphy to secure his freshman stud major touches.

The Chippewas have won four out of their last five, with their most recent loss coming against MAC-leading Akron, 92-87, on the road on national TV (#MACtion!).  Momentum is definitely in favor of Central Michigan in this game, with their top performers in, Chris Fowler, Braylon Rayson, and John Simons, playing their best ball of the season. Things seem to be going well in Mt. Pleasant, and Keno Davis will look to bring that momentum with them to Ypsilanti on Tuesday night.

Be sure to check this game out on Tuesday night, at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN3.