Getting to know: Eastern Michigan basketball
No. 5 Kansas will look to bounce back from its first loss of the season to end 2018 on a high note.
Saturday’s afternoon tilt with Eastern Michigan at Allen Fieldhouse will be the last tuneup before the start of Big 12 play. This will be the first meeting between these two teams. According to KenPom.com, Kansas (10-1) is ranked No. 5 and Eastern Michigan (6-6) is ranked No. 190.
By KenPom standards, this will be the easiest team the Jayhawks face all season. However, KU coach Bill Self told reporters Friday morning that his team can’t underestimate its opponent.
"They have really good athletes," Self said. "They have had a couple of bad games where they really labored to score. And they are going to play zone. When you play zone with us, you worry about making shots."
Tipoff is slated for 1 p.m.
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BREAKING DOWN EASTERN MICHIGAN
No. 2 — F/C James Thompson IV | 6-10, 240, sr.
To start the season, Thompson is averaging 9.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game through 12 contests, including 11 starts.
Thompson is the NCAA's active career rebound leader with 1,216 during his three-plus seasons with Eastern Michigan. He needs 210 boards to pass all-time EMU record holder Kennedy McIntosh. Thompson is also first in the NCAA in active career double-doubles with 62 and trails McIntosh as EMU's all-time leader by 16.
Last season, Thompson was third on the team in scoring with an average of 14.5 points per game. Thompson, Paul Jackson and Elijah Minnie accounted for nearly 65 percent of the scoring from last year’s squad that went 22-13.
No. 3 — G Paul Jackson | 6-2, 175, r-sr.
Jackson is the team’s leading scorer with an average of 12.6 points per game.
In Eastern Michigan’s game notes, Jackson is listed as a reserve but he’s started in 11 of the team’s 12 games and leads the team with an average of 30.5 minutes per contest. Jackson began the year with a pair of 20-point performances, which marked the first time in his career that he went for 20 or more points in consecutive outings.
This season, Jackson ranks fourth in the MAC in assists with 4.2 assists per game and he’s 15th in scoring.
No. 5 — G/F Elijah Minnie | 6-9, 200, r-sr.
Minnie was last year’s leading scorer with an average of 16.8 points per game.
This season, Minnie is scoring 11.5 points per contest on an average of 26.7 minutes per outing through 10 games. The past four games, though, Minnie has seen his production rise by scoring 24, 16, 15 and 10 in each of previous four contests. Over that span, he has shot 41.5 percent from the floor.
Minnie is a nominee for the Julius Erving Ward, while Thompson is a candidate for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award. EMU is the only Mid-American Conference school to have two players named to Naismith Starting Five teams
No. 12 — C Boubacar Toure | 6-11, 241, r-jr.
Toure has played in 11 games, making 10 starts for the Eagles.
In an average of 26.3 minutes per game, Toure is scoring 10.4 points per contest to go along with 8.4 rebounds per outing.
Toure began the year with a pair of double-doubles, which marked the second time in program history that a player has began his respective career with EMU by accomplishing that feat. George Gervin was the only other player in program history to do so.
Eastern Michigan has used six different starting lineups in its first 12 games, as the matchup against Siena Heights marked the fifth consecutive game with a new starting five.
ONE THING EASTERN MICHIGAN DOES WELL
A majority of Eastern Michigan’s points will come from inside the arc. In fact, 62.1 percent of the team’s point production has come via 2-pointers, which is the fourth-highest clip in the nation. The Eagles are shooting 48.2 percent on its 2-point shots.
ONE AREA EASTERN MICHIGAN STRUGGLES
Eastern Michigan has struggled at the 3-point line on both ends, shooting just 27.3 percent from downtown on offense, while allowing opponents to shoot 35.7 percent. The Eagles have made (66) 3-pointers and have allowed (117) so far this season.
MEET THE COACH
The Eagles are coached by Rob Murphy, who is 135-116 in his eighth season at the helm. Eastern Michigan will be looking for its first road win of the season on its fifth try when it visits Allen Fieldhouse Saturday afternoon.
Kansas is a 22.5-point favorite over Eastern Michigan via OddsShark as of Friday afternoon. KenPom projects the Jayhawks, who are just 5-6 against the spread, to win by 22 points over the Eagles. I think KU wins, but it won’t be by more than 22 points, so I’ll take the points in this one.
My prediction: Kansas 79, Eastern Michigan 62
Record against spread: 4-7