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EMU men's hoops 'on the bus,' finally set to play first game in 25 days

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

For the first time in 25 days, Eastern Michigan men's basketball is about to finally play a game.

Well, that's the plan, anyway — though given what the Eagles have gone through this season, nothing's set in stone until the ball is tipped.

Eastern Michigan is set to play at Kent State at 2 p.m. Saturday for its first game since Jan. 26, because of COVID-19 and contact-tracing issues. Contact tracing led to not enough players being available to play.

EMU coach Rob Murphy

"They are getting on a bus soon heading that way," Eastern Michigan athletic director Scott Wetherbee said in a text message Friday afternoon, adding two hand-prayer emojis.

The Eagles (4-8, 1-7) have dealt with COVID-19 issues since the start of the season, when they played at Michigan State with just seven available players.

They've played eight conference games, fewest in the Mid-American Conference. Some teams in the league have played as many as 15.

Eastern Michigan has had 13 games either postponed, canceled or rescheduled this season. Of the last six games that have been postponed, only two will be made up, Wetherbee said — at home against Bowling Green on Tuesday and at Ohio on Thursday. That will make for a three-game week for the Eagles, with a home game against Northern Illinois scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 27.

Eastern Michigan will not make up the game against rival rival Western Michigan, which was postponed Jan. 19. The teams are scheduled to play in Kalamazoo on March 5, in the regular-season finale, ahead of the following week's MAC tournament.

Eastern Michigan, with a veteran roster that includes transfers like JUCO All-American guard Bryce McBride as well as mainstay senior forward Ty Groce (14.2 points), was picked to finish middle of the pack in the MAC this season, the last on coach Rob Murphy's contract. Eastern Michigan was swept by another state rival, Central Michigan, picked to finish 11th in the league.

Western Michigan (4-13, 3-9), Central Michigan (6-12, 2-9) and Eastern are a combined 12-32, and occupy three of the last four places in the MAC.

The Eastern Michigan women's team (9-6, 6-4) has postponed its last five games, but is scheduled to return Sunday at home against Toledo, followed by home games against state rivals Western Michigan (Wednesday) and Central Michigan (Saturday, Feb. 27).

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984