Eastern Michigan Eagles
| MESSAGE BOARD
RECORD: 22 - 7
REGION: Mideast SEED: 14
COACH: Suzy Merchant CONFERENCE: MAC
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
|PLAYER TO WATCH|
The junior leads the Eagles in points (13.3), minutes (29.6), steals (2.0) and free-throw percentage (.737), and ranks second in assists (2.9) and third in rebounds (6.5). Coleman notched 14 double-figure games and led Eastern Michigan in scoring in 10 regular-season contests. The All-MAC first-team selection also tallied three double-doubles in league play.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Nothing like a little momentum entering the NCAA Tournament.
Though the Eagles don't have any prior experience in the Big Dance -- they beat Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference championship to earn their first tournament title and NCAA berth in the program's 28-year history -- they've won 12 of their last 13 games and a school-record 22 contests this season.
Ryan Coleman leads the way, averaging a team-high 13.3 points on 41.5 percent accuracy from the field. The junior guard snared nine rebounds and matched her average with 14 points in the MAC final en route to earning tournament MVP honors.
Nikki Knapp, who had 12 points in the conference championship, ranks second on the team in scoring (12.2 points) and rebounds (6.9). The All-MAC second-team pick does most of her dirty work close to the rim; of Knapp's 129 field goals, only three came from beyond the arc.
Balance is a plus for Eastern Michigan. Three players average at least 9.7 points. The Eagles also shoot fairly well from the field, sinking 43.9 percent of their attempts.
They seem to love the deep ball, attempting 569 3-pointers (that's 19.6 a game!) and hitting nearly 38 percent of them. Marion Crandall is the team's top long-range threat, sinking 76 treys. But it's her accuracy that's really eye-popping -- over 29 games, Crandall is 76-for-148 (51.4 percent) from downtown. Coleman adds 39 3-pointers, followed by 25 from Sarah VanMetre (the MAC "Sixth Man" honoree) and Erika Ford's 20. Of note, Eastern Michigan has hit at least five 3-pointers in all but five games this season.
Ford also holds the school record for career assists, and enters the Big Dance with 169 on her résumé and a 5.8 per-game average.
Eastern Michigan, which lost 85-70 to Baylor on Dec. 21, shoots just 64 percent from the foul line, though.
But kudos go to coach Suzy Merchant, a former Central Michigan star (1989-91) who became the first female coach in any sport at Eastern Michigan to capture a MAC tournament title.