Posted: 2:01 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31, 2014
The defending MAC champion Akron Zips have experienced bumps in the road, but remain a top MAC contender.
14-6 (6-1 MAC)
The thrilling victory over their rival Ohio in Athens ranks tops among wins this year. It took two overtimes and a dogfight in a rematch of last year's MAC Championship game, but the Zips showed they're capable of repeating as MAC champions.
On the non-conference side of things, Akron had an early season victory in Hawaii over Oregon State. And Obama was there! A win here was much needed as the Zips would drop the next three games after a presidential hangover. This will hopefully lead to a MAC upset pick in this year's Baracketology.
Five of Akron's six losses have been by 10 points or more. They lost twice in a row to South Carolina including an ugly affair in a 78-45 loss on December 28th. They kept up with strong teams such as Iowa State and St. Mary's at times before falling off in the second half.
The Zips only have one loss in conference play, but it is probably the most telling for the team's chances for the rest of the season. Six days after a key victory in Athens, the Zips fell at home to Toledo 75-61. Akron never really threatened the lead and Toldeo remained in control throughout. While you cannot count out Ohio, it appears this could have been a MAC championship preview and Akron did not look like they could compete with Toledo.
As the majestic Michael Reghi would say, "The man they call Tree". Demetrius Treadwell has been a leader for the Zips again this year averaging 13.8 points and 8.4 rebounds. Quincy Diggs returned from suspension this year to be another key player for the Zips averaging 12.7 points per game. Diggs was at his best in the aforementioned game against Ohio scoring 20 points and grabbing seven boards and showing off his clutch gene down the stretch.
Carmelo Betancourt took over point guard duties this year after the maligned Alex Abreu era came to an end. He has left much to be desired and does not provide the same penetrating and scoring ability as Abreu. Nyles Evans is another guard who can fill in the point guard duties, but he has not been an improvement over Betancourt. He has shown some shooting prowess, but has fallen into a slump of late. Expecting another Alex Abreu is unrealistic, but Betancourt and/or Evans will have to improve to give the Zips a more reliable option at the point guard position.
Akron has done pretty much what I expected of them at this point. They struggled in their non-conference schedule against some of their tougher opponents, but remained strong in the MAC. Quincy Diggs has been a bright spot for the Zips and a legitimate scoring option with Treadwell. The Zips still lack a top notch guard at this point of the season which was to be expected.
A teacher of mine once told me that if you do what is expected, you deserve a C grade. She was wrong and I hated her. So I will give the Zips a B grade as they are still a top three MAC team, but have yet to take that next step to deserve an A grade.
February 1st @ Kent State
February 5th vs. Eastern Michigan
February 9th @ Bowling Green
February 12th @ Eastern Michigan
The Zips have traditionally started slow before coming together in MAC play and making their run during the conference tournament. Treadwell and Diggs are two top players in the MAC and can mask the deficiencies at the guard position. Jake Kretzer is able to stretch the floor with his shot and allowed Treadwell and Diggs to work inside. The Zips have one of the most impressive MAC wins over Ohio in a tough place to play. They are experienced and can again win the MAC tournament after securing a top two seed.
The blowout losses to South Carolina, Iowa State, and St. Mary's are more of the norm rather than the exception. There is no threat at the guard position which can and will be easily exposed the rest of the regular season and into the MAC tournament. You can argue that Toledo is the clear MAC favorite and have already dominated the Zips in Akron. The losses of Zeke Marshall and Alex Abreu may prove too great for Keith Dambrot and the Zips to overcome.
The Zips have some bad losses but they still remain a top team in the MAC. They are currently tied for first in the MAC with Toledo and can again position themselves nicely in the MAC tournament. A top two seed is of course vital as Akron hopes to earn that double bye. I'll say Akron finishes either 8-3 down the stretch with Buffalo (twice) and Ohio looking like the toughest opponents down the stretch. That'll put Akron at 22-9 (14-4 MAC) and hopefully a top two seed.