Mid-American Conference (23-12, 10-6)
Big Wins: 12/3 at Niagara (63-59), 2/26 at Buffalo (62-57), 3/12 vs Miami Ohio (73-63)
Bad Losses: 11/29 vs Eastern Kentucky (57-69), 2/15 at Northern Illinois (79-83), 2/21 at Valparaiso (66-74)
Last NCAA Tournament: 1986, First Round loss to Michigan
Coach: Keith Dambrot (First NCAA appearance)
Why They Can Surprise:
Akron usually plays tough defense and that keeps them in just about every game. Coach Keith Dambrot’s squad rarely allows the opposition to take a quality shot and that is even when they can get a shot off. The Zips force a ton of turnovers and usually will get more attempts than the competition. A talented trio of forwards will be counted on to do a majority of the scoring. Nate Linhart is the most dangerous of them all. The 6-8 senior handles the ball like a guard, but has the size of a forward. Linhart is a dangerous outside shooter and will use his size to finish above the rim. Linhart is also the most effective rebounder on the team and the Zips need him on the floor as much as possible.
Linhart might be the most dynamic scorer, but Brett McKnight is the team’s leading scorer with 11.4 points per game. The 6-6 sophomore can hit the outside shot, but is more dangerous attacking the basket. The same can be said for his brother Chris. Unlike his higher scoring brother, Chris is usually in the starting lineup. They have similar games, but Chris is a little tougher on the glass and a better interior scorer.
Why They Can Disappoint:
The frontcourt has some decent scorers, but this is a team that can have long droughts offensively. That is mostly due to a lack of a guard who can create shots for himself. Against a team that plays solid defense, the Zips will have trouble getting a decent look when the shot clock is running down. Anthony Hitchens has done a fine job for a freshman and is averaging 8.9 points per game, but he does not get to the basket very often. Darryl Roberts is the other guard who is usually in the starting lineup, yet most of his shots also come from beyond the arc. If those shots are not falling, the Zips offense is very predictable.
Who To Watch:
When the offense is struggling, Akron needs to find a spark off the bench. The best option is Steve McNees, although he is averaging a mere 5.9 points per game. The 6-2 sophomore has had only one double figure scoring output since December, but he can hit a couple three-pointers and at least provide some instant offense when the team desperately needs it. The only other perimeter player who sees quality minutes is Brett McClanahan. The freshman is still getting into form after missing the first two months of the season, but he is a good shooter who can put some points on the board in a hurry. Like the starters on the perimeter, McNees and McClanahan are both outside shooters first and foremost, so they will not be much help creating shots off the dribble.
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 66.0 (207th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 59.1 (12, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 41.9 (247, 7)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.1 (37, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.7 (117, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 31.7 (239, 8)
Free-Throw Percentage: 72.0 (71, 1)
Rebound Margin: -1.8 (251, 11)
Assists Per Game: 12.3 (227, 7)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.9 (167, 6)
Anthony Hitchens, Freshman, Guard, 8.9 ppg, 2.3 apg
Darryl Roberts, Junior, Guard, 8.0 ppg, 1.6 apg
Nate Linhart, Senior, Forward, 10.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.8 spg
Chris McKnight, Junior, Forward, 9.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg
Nikola Cvetinovic, Freshman, Forward, 4.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg
Mike Bardo, Sophomore, Center, 1.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg
Jimmy Conyers, Senior, Forward, 3.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg
Brett McClanahan, Freshman, Guard, 4.4 ppg, 1.0 apg
Brett McKnight, Sophomore, Forward, 11.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg
Steve McNees, Sophomore, Guard, 5.9 ppg, 1.9 apg
Following the Bracket announcement, more team info will be added, including final RPI, final team statistical rankings, Joel's prediction, and more!