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Behind Enemy Lines: Q&A With Hustle Belt

Alex Alvarado from Hustle Belt joins us for some hoops talk ahead of the MSU-EMU tilt at 9:00 PM EST

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Let's be honest. Eastern Michigan is a little bit of a kindred spirit to MSU. Even apart from the green colors, the best way I can explain the WMU-CMU-EMU rivalry triangle is with CMU playing Michigan, WMU playing Ohio State, and EMU playing Michigan State. It ain't easy being green.

They also did us a solid and beat Michigan (at Crisler) and then burnt some couches and vandalized the Michigan Rock. I like those guys.

Anyways, here's my conversation with Alex Alvarado from the incomparable Hustle Belt (a solid follow, too: @ARAlvarado13):

Joe Tuohey: Just three days before shutting down Michigan's offense at Crisler Arena, EMU gave up 74 at Dayton. Any explanation for the 31-point difference other than Michigan ineptitude? (Please tell me it's Michigan ineptitude).

Alex Alvarado: That game was horrible. Not even from a performance on our end, either. Dayton's doing this one thing where they pay the refs under the table to call more fouls on the other team to get them to shoot more free throws. Not really, but it feels like that. The internet has been telling me that Dayton does get a ton of favorable calls at home, and knowing that we're not a team that commits 29 personal fouls a game, I'll buy it.

Also, the better team won last week.

JT: The EMU defense doesn't appear to be a normal 2-3 or 1-3-1 zone defense, but instead features four dudes on the perimeter with just one big down low. Have opponent bigs been able to exploit this?

AA: It's a very aggressive 2-3. Lots of double-teaming up top with the forwards blocking the passing lanes to keep the ball from getting that far. We're not seeing the number of blocks from the bigs like we have the past couple of years, but the unsexy, hand-in-your-face-to-force-a-bad-shot-and-fight-for-the-rebound style of play is working more often than not.

JT: Do you think this 8-1 edition of Eagles basketball is an NCAA tournament team? Is it possible to get an at-large bid from the MAC?

AA: I made a small mention of it on Twitter hours after the Michigan win that none of this matters if we don't win MAC play. That's one of those wins that get you the higher seed once you're in the tourney, but the hard part is beating Toledo and Akron and Ohio and Western Michigan and Bowling Green: because not being successful in MAC play will only make Michigan look even worse instead of stock being built into EMU from a national perspective.

I'll say that getting an at-large bid from the MAC isn't as promising as it would've been last season. The rest of the teams need to start making the bigger conferences worry, which they aren't to this point.

JT: I know Raven Lee has been impressive this year, but are there any other Eastern players that could go off in this one?

AA: Lee's been absolutely great. Not afraid to take the super long-range shots, which is something I can respect. If you feel confident enough to shoot seven feet behind the 3-pt line, then by all means, go for it.

Obviously, Karrington Ward gets the mention for being a great player on both sides of the court. He might even be the smartest basketball player on the team, but don't quote me on that. I also really like the way Brandon Nazione has been playing. He won't start, but he'll get ~20 minutes on the floor where all he does is put his life on the line for a rebound. I'm exaggerating, but I'd be annoyed of him if I'm a fan on the opposition.

JT: Your prediction, please?

AA: MSU 64 - EMU 52 and Anali Okoloji will give me a reason to say "oh yeah, I probably should've mentioned him in that Q&A I did with TOC."

[My answers to Alex's questions are here.]