Mid-Majors Ready for March Madness, But Look to the Big East for Surprises

(Left to right) Yeikson Montero, Thomas Binelli, head coach Rob Murphy and Ty Groce of Eastern Michigan answer questions at the post-game session after beating CMU 67-63 on Senior Day at the Convocation Center. Photo Courtesy of Jeff Weiser

YPSILANTI– It is a very up-down and fluid end of season basketball year. Providence has beaten five ranked team in a row. The Big East will have a slew of teams in the NCAA Tournament. The Pac-12 is definitely back and like the Big East, will get very favorable seeding and many selections. UCLA has won seven in a row.

But before March Madness…….conference champions will have to be crowned. The Mid-Majors usually only one team per conference.

It was Senior Day at Eastern Michigan University and the men’s basketball team was suffering. They trailed the Central Michigan Chips by double digits with around five minutes to go. EMU got the faithful at the Convocation Center buzzing and vibrating as they had a spectacular 16-2 run. This earned them a very hard but rock-solid 67-63 victory. The Eagles (16-13) got their first lead in the game when junior Thomas Binelli (Bologna, Italy) set up senior Boubacar Toure (Dakar, Senegal), who dunked with two-hands.

Toure was chopped at the basket and sank the foul shot for a three-point play. This extended the lead to 63-61 in favor of Eastern Michigan. That was at 1:14 of the second-half. It was EMU’s first lead of the game. On the season, CMU fell to (13-16).

Toure ranks first in EMU program history with a 65.7 field-goal percentage (245-of-373). Head coach Rob Murphy said post-game that Toure was a dream to coach. “He is also a great student,” Murphy added. Murphy coached his 300th career game (160-140) at EMU. 

First things first, after the Mid-American Conference Tourney and any further post season play, Toure will definitely get some pro offers.

Eastern Michigan ranks second in the nation in steals per game (10.0). Ty Groce (Ypsilanti, MI) leads the way with 54 steals followed by Yeikson Montero (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) with 53 and Noah Morgan (Mt. Vernon, N.Y.) with 43.

Eastern Michigan clinched the Michigan Mid-American Conference Trophy. The trophy rotates and is held by the team who has the best head-to-head record in each season of each sport.

The men’s basketball trophy originated in 2006 with Western Michigan claiming the inaugural trophy. It is sponsored by the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.

Down along the I-94 Freeway, the Horizon League recently announced that three-point sensation, Antoine Davis of Detroit Mercyand Xavier Hill-Mais of Oakland were First Team honorees. All-Defensive Team accolades went to Chris Brandon of Detroit Mercy and Blake Lampman of Oakland was named to the All-Freshman squad.

Next week after conference champions are determined it will be bracket-time for NCAA March Madness. Las Vegas will again be ground-zero for spectacular spectator action and plenty of sports-talk about the science of basketball bracket-ology. There will be plenty of excitement Coast-to-Coast, because in March…..anything can happen.