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Game 19: at Eastern Michigan (3-17, 1-5)

It's been a tough year to say the least for the fighting Eagles from Ypsilanti.  Before the season began, starting point guard Carlos Medlock went down with a season-ending injury, making it 2 years in a row Eastern has lost a starter for the year.  With Medlock, Eastern was expected to contend for the West Division title, so Coach Charles Ramsay loaded up the non-conference schedule with Purdue, Georgia, St. John's, Michigan, and Illinois among others.  Left without Medlock, the Eagles have been forced to rotate senior Tyler Jones and freshman L.J. Frazier, both significant downgrades from Medlock.  The results have not been good, especially considering the Eagles notched their first win against a D-1 opponent just a couple of weeks ago, beating Central in double overtime.  Now, the Eagles are without Solomon Farris, their 3rd leading scorer, who has been suspended for the rest of the year.  No senior leadership plus no confidence has translated into a tough year for Eastern Michigan.

Starters (No weights given on their roster webpage)

Tyler Jones, 6'2" Sr.  6 pts, 3 reb.  34% FG, 22% 3PFG, 58% FT.  Dual sport player who is back in basketball shape and has taken over the starting point guard job.  Has good quickness and vision, especially in transition.  Not much of a jump shooter.

Zane Gay, 6'5" Sr.  6 pts, 4 reb.  37% FG, 37% 3PFG, 67% FT.  Best and most consistent 3 point threat.  Strictly a catch and shoot guy, no threat to go by you or pull up from 15 ft.  Want to crowd him on defense because he has a quick, high release on his jumper and is capable of hitting 3 or 4 triples in a game.

Will Cooper, 6'6" So.  4 pts, 4 reb.  43% FG, 25% 3PFG, 32% FT.  Athletic swing player who crashes the offensive glass hard.  Gladly give him the outside shot because he wants to go baseline and try to get to the rim. 

Brandon Bowdry, 6'6" So.  16 pts, 7 reb.  46% FG, 22% 3PFG, 68% FT.  Really good player, more like a big 3 than a small 4.  Very quick, can take you off the dribble with either hand.  Can hang in the air while in the lane and score.  When he puts it on the deck, he's under control.  Good jump shooter from 17 feet in, hasn't quite expanded his range to 3 land yet, but his jumper is fundamentally good enough he'll be able to do so at some point.  He can also make the tough hoops underneath.  The only negative is because Eastern relies heavily on him for offense, he'll try and do too much and turn the ball over.  He has a 1:3 assist/turnover ratio, which on most teams would get you benched.

Justin Dobbins, 6'8" Jr.  10 pts, 5 reb.  51% FG, 63% FT.  Strong post player underneath.  Can go either way with his back to the basket.  Finishes just as strong with his left as with his right.  He can't stretch the D like Bowdry.  When he catches the ball out high, he'll try and back you down as far as possible before trying to score.  He and Bowdry play very well together, they do a good job of looking for one another.

Off the Bench

L.J. Frazier, 5'10" Fr.  6 pts, 3 ass.  33% FG, 37% 3PFG, 72% FT.  Your typical talented freshman point guard.  When he's good, he can be pretty good.  At times makes great decisions, finding people and taking the shot when left open.  Good outside shooter, but needs space to shoot over taller defenders because his release is a little low.  But he can also struggle, not handling ball pressure well, throwing the ball away as it appears he just wants to get rid of it, and trying to force a shot when nothing's there.

Branden Harrison, 6'8" Fr.  3 pts, 2 reb.  42% FG, 19% 3PFG, 50% FT.  Athletic freshman who does a good job on the boards. 

Wendale Farrow, 6'7" Sr.  2 pts, 4 reb.  36% FG, 43% FT.  Another athletic wing player who is good in the lane but is not threat to light it up from the perimeter.  Very long defender who is tough to score on.

Kyle Dodd, 6'11" Jr.  2 pts, 40% FG, 56% FT.  Still developing big man who scores primarily off of dumpoffs.  Very awkward and not comfortable with the ball at all.  Doesn't get much lift when battling on the boards.

Offensively, think a very poor man's version of Dayton.  Eastern will play the 4 out, 1 in offense mostly, starting Bowdry and Dobbins down low as the ball is brought up.  Then, the 2 bigs will flash hard to the foul line, looking for an entry pass.  If Bowdry gets the ball, he's looking to create for himself; if Dobbins gets the ball, the ball will be reversed or he'll look for Bowdry down low.  Bowdry will look for Dobbins on the high-low action as well.  The Eagles want to spread you out, use their athleticism to get inside, get a shot up, then crash the boards hard for any 2nd chance opportunities.  To say the Eagles have trouble scoring is an understatement.  Against D-1 competition, the Eagles are averaging just 56 points (10th worst nationally in off. efficiency) while shooting 39% from the field (13th worst in shot selection nationally), 27% from 3 (5th worst nationally), and 18 turnovers (11th worst nationally in turnover percentage).  In conference play so far, Eastern is averaging 54 points on 35% shooting, only tallying 9 assists against 15 turnovers.

Defensively, the Eagles will change up their looks often.  Because they play so many guys, they will put a lot of pressure on the ball and their athletes are good at doing that, forcing 15 turnovers a game.  But, they don't execute their defensive plan well.  When they matchup man-to-man, the backside is slow to rotate over to dribble penetration and weak side box outs.  When they put on their 2-2-1 press, you can drive a Mack truck through it.  The idea of the 2-2-1 is to force everything up the sideline.  Well, Eastern's press lets you go up the sideline and right down the middle for easy baskets.  If they decide to go 2-3 zone, the middle is wide open for the foul line jumper or the dump down underneath.  Against D-1 competition, Eastern gives up 69 points on 46% shooting, 38% from 3 (bottom 20 nationally).

I think there's only one key to the game and that's focus.  If we stay focused, play our game and play with the same kind of energy we played with Wednesday night, it will take an incredible performance from Eastern.  Bowdry and Dobbins are arguably the best frontcourt in the league, but the offense is all on them and we'll be able to rotate Dierkers, Fletcher, Mavunga, and Ballard on them.  At the other end, if we don't fall in love with the jump shot and work it around, we should get good shots.  But all of that comes back to focus, playing our game and executing the game plan.

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