YPSILANTI --- Uncle Mel sat in his seat surrounded by 843 friends Monday night March 5, 2012 and together we watched the Eastern Michigan University men’s basketball stumble and fumble there way through the opening game of the Mid-American Conference Basketball Tournament. We watch a team that only won three conference game this entire MAC season do what it took to win and walked off the court at the home of the Eagles the Convocation Center proving that this is the friendliest basketball arena in the whole Mid-American Conference and in the entire Great Lakes region. Uncle Mel and the rest of his 843 friend kept waiting for the West Division championship to arrive and take care of business on the court but you know what nieces and nephews - it never happen! Northern Illinois University served the Eagles a very healthy plate of sour grapes and the Eagles sat right down and wasted no time in getting to the table to dine. The Huskies defeated the West Division crown winners 55-52., and continue their season and spring trip with trip to the sunny shore of Lake Erie and the city of Cleveland, Ohio. The nephews and nieces next to Uncle Mel had plenty to say during and after the game but the content of the description is best left alone, perhaps Uncle Mel can say this, the folks that watched were not pleased or entertained. The cleanest question that can be asked is, What happen? First Uncle Mel needs to set the stage and try and find the answer to the question. It all started Saturday afternoon March 3, 2012 at the University of Toledo, the Eagles looked like they played about seven minutes of the game and remembered that they have all ready won the West Division and so we will try and not embarrass themselves and get ready for the tournament. It did not work, the Eagles did get embarrassed by Toledo 76-51. Their solution did not solve the problem, it only added to the worry that Uncle Mel saw and more important what Eastern Michigan University basketball coach Rob Murphy witnessed on the Bob Nicholas Floor inside Savage Hall. Murphy told Uncle Mel after the game perhaps the Eagles were looking past Toledo and looking ahead to the opening game of the Mid-American Conference Tournament at home in Ypsilanti. Uncle Mel almost crumbled to the ground in hysteria. Looking past the hottest team playing in the conference since the Rockets were defeated inside at the Convocation Center, Saturday Jan,21, 2012 and displaying a not so stellar execution of offense displayed by the Toledo offense and perhaps the Eagles number one rival in the State of Ohio should have only fanned the flame of competition for the Eagles. It did not hold the interest of the Eagles long enough to show that they are the West Division champion. Next is Monday night at home with the pomp and pageantry of the conference tournament against a team that you have all ready beaten twice this season. Murphy told Uncle Mel he thought his players came out of the locker room prepared for the game but there must have been a lid on the basket because the Eagles could not make a basket and that produced panic. Panic against Northern Illinois University! Really panic against a team that you have seen twice and defeated, a team with only three wins in the conference and a team with only five overall wins! The panic all season for Eagles fans was watching the offense search every where for points including the Convocation Center parking lot. Can Uncle Mel keep it real for minute! Winning the Mid-American Conference West Division championship is nice and it is worthy to note that the accomplishment is a history making achievement for the Eagles but not making it past the Huskies makes the winning of the division feel dirty. Murphy said after the game against the Rockets and again after the lost to the Huskies that his team prepared the same way for every game. Let us be true to ourselves nieces and nephews, the Mid-American Conference West Division is not an elite division and some would argue that there is just too much parody in the division and some would argue that the division is just going through a phase. In the west only two teams have a overall record that is above the .500 mark, Ball State University and the University of Toledo, but in conference play the Eastern Michigan University is the only team that finished the conference schedule with a winning record of 9-7 but finished with a losing overall record of 14 wins and 18 losses. A team winning a division championship with seven defeat in the word of Murphy that describes the accomplishment is the Eagles were fortunate many Eagles fans would say the Eagles were just plane lucky. Murphy and many other basketball coaches tell Uncle Mel that the numbers produced during the game do not tell a lie. So here it is nieces and nephews the number one reason for the Eastern Michigan University stumble and fall. The Eagles could not score points consistently to be so full of themselves that they expected to walk on the court either at the Convocation Center or especially on the and have the opponent worried about the game. The Eagles shooters were the worst in the league from any where on the court according to the numbers. The offense resides in the basement of the conference scoring just 53.2 points a game. Where is the fear here? The offense did one spot better when came to making the shot finishing the season just ahead of the same team that showed them the door of the tournament Northern Illinois by making 37.5 percent of their shots from the floor and when the Eagles could find the open man with an attempt of a three point shot the Eagles were again last in the conference converting a whopping 30.6 percent from behind the arc. Last season the Eagles coach Charles Ramsey said that getting any rebound is the simple idea of working harder and having more desire to get into position and getting the ball. As poor as the Eagles shooters were at getting points many would think that offensive rebounds would be naturally there and they were except for the Eagles. Under the there boards the Eagles were out hustled, out of position and gave away too many offense rebounds, averaging 31 offensive rebounds which placed them at the respectable position of 11 out of 12 teams. Many times rebounds just waiting for any of the durable hands of any Eagle on the floor would slip right through those waiting hand and many times you wonder if they would let go of a slice of pizza that easy. Yes the Eagles played the number one defense - a stingy 2-3 zone defense because it is the only defense Murphy said he wanted to teach and knows but they stayed the entire season in that zone defense with the only variation was a 2-2-1 full court pursuit that quickly fell into the 2-3 zone defense. Uncle Mel does like the zone defense too and the idea of making the opponent shoot jumpers over the defense is a solid philosophy but being in position for rebounds is the key for any kind of success in play the zone defense. Murphy received the honor at being named by the Mid-American Conference Basketball Coach of the Year and he said he is humbled but except the award with pride. Many Eastern Michigan University basketball fans would have accepted with humility and pride of getting hotel reservation in the city of Cleveland, Ohio and walking from the parking lot and to the ticket window at the site of the Mid-American Conference Tournament the Quicken Load Arena and purchase a ticket and game time refreshments. Instead like the old saying that follows the Chicago Cubs, the fans of the Eastern Michigan University men’s basketball team will have to wait until next season.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.