The Buchtelite's Adam Ferrise wrote excellent stories about how Chase Blackburn and Domenik Hixon's careers took them to the Super Bowl.
Akron almost overlooked Hixon in the recruiting process. Blackburn filled in for the Giants after injuries. Here's another story about their careers in general.
Coaches might limit Jeremiah Wood's playing time tonight because of a knee sprain, the ABJ's Tom Gaffney reports.
Gaffney goes on to assess the problems the team has faced the past two games.
I think it's time to see more Darryl Roberts and Brett McKnight. McKnight, in particular, could become a bigger contributor with more playing time. Roberts could shore up the point guard position while Steve McNees and Nick Dials struggle.
Despite Akron's recent problems, the Zips are 15.5-point favorites.
Prediction -- Nate Linhart should limit Tyrone Kent's production. Akron can wear out Toledo's six-man rotation by running the break. Look for the Zips to break out of this mini-slump by curb-stomping the hapless Rockets. Without any size, Toledo's front line also will be in trouble if Wood does play.
Akron 76, Toledo 55
I plan to liveblog from the game if you aren't attending and have a computer handy.
The Rockets have the odd position of featuring the league's highest scorer, yet being the second-lowest scoring team.
Tyrone Kent scores 18.3 points per game -- almost two points more than the MAC's next best. The 6-foot-5 swingman does a lot of it from long range. He leads Nick Dials by one for the league's most frequent 3-point converter.
The team isn't quite so productive, as a whole, because it shoots MAC's worst free throw percentage and second-worst field goal percentage. The Rockets also are dead last in rebounding margin.
When does Toledo actually win? When they force oodles of turnovers. They milked 23 out of Missouri State and 22 out of Drexel. Both were wins.
As it turns out, carelessness with the ball has been Akron's weakness the past three games. That includes the lucky win against Ohio. MAC teams have figured out that if you bother Steve McNees, he's no longer a phenom. Dials shows that he's just a converted shooting guard.
If Akron did not figure it out this week, Toledo can make the game close.
FoxSports.com wrote a great story encapsuling Domenik Hixon's tumultuous season.
Hixon is such a good person, I can't help but root for the Giants on Sunday. Oh yeah, and they're playing the Patriots.
As a local three-star player and son of Akron's defensive coordinator, Will Fleming was one of the most interesting stories of the recruiting season.
The plot thickened when Hawaii and Boise State offered Fleming a scholarship from across the country.
In the end, Fleming chose to stay home and play for his father, Jim Fleming.
"My dad was really excited about the news," Will Fleming told Rivals.com.
Fleming is ranked as the No. 44 player in Ohio. He is Akron's third three-star recruit, according to Rivals.com. Scout.com says Fleming is the No. 122 safety in the country and gives him two stars.
The Zips dipped to 10th in the Mid-Major Top 25 after peaking at fifth last week.
Kent State climbed from ninth to seventh.
Toledo will visit Rhodes Arena Wednesday. I'll probably break down the Rockets tomorrow.
Chris Pfau, who resurrected Evansville's program and took Princeton to the Final Four as an assistant, will take over as head coach at Akron.
Mack Rhoades succeeded once again in hiring a man who has been a winner at the same level as a head coach. I'm not sure how he does it.
I plan to liveblog during the game today, which starts at 2:30 p.m.
The Odd Corner is fighting to keep its heels dug in at the corner of Union and Exchange streets.
Of the original six property owners contesting eminent domain, two have settled. The other three who are still fighting reside on Nash and Exchange streets.
It should be interesting to watch how Akron responds from the emotional loss at Kent State.
Central Michigan is more than fodder. The Chippewas are a high-scoring, turnover-forcing team.
That's exactly how they blew out Michigan at Ann Arbor -- scoring 78 points and forcing 23 screw-ups.
Giordan Watson was in the middle of that, scoring 22 and grabbing three steals. With stats of 16.5 points, 4.3 assists and 1.76 steals per game, he is one of the MAC's best guards. Watson is in the MAC's top six in each category.
Last year, Akron did a good job defending Watson, who shot a combined 10-for-28 in the Zips' two victories.
Outside of Watson, the Chips' lineup has been in flux. Twelve players have started at least three games. The team also lacks consistency in the front court. Only two players average more than three rebounds per game -- and one is a swingman (Nate Minnoy). Minnoy has been cold since conference play began, shooting only 37 percent.
The game starts at 2:30 p.m. today and will be on Fox Sports Ohio.
Prediction -- After Kent State, Akron should not have a problem with motivation to beat this MAC West opponent. Combine that with the fact that the Zips are good at shutting down a team's star -- especially when that team is one-dimensional, like CMU is. The Zips are 6.5-point favorites, but I think that's five to 10 points off. The Chippewas have a chance to beat the spread (not win) if Steve McNees keeps up his Yinka Dare approach to offense management.
Akron 85, Central Michigan 67
With such an upstanding basketball program, the naughty characters are usually not as prominent.
Case in point is Haminn Quaintance. Despite Jim Christian's disciplined program, Quaintance's true color showed again last night as he mocked Akron players after the game.
The ABJ's Patrick McManamon wrote about the trashiest player in the MAC.
As the MAC appears to be a two-team race, this game will be an indicator of how the seeding will develop.
Kent State and Akron are similar in many ways. Both rely on defense and have an offense that does not feature any one player.
Point guard Al Fisher gets the most shots. As the Jim Christian tradition goes, Fisher is a transfer from Redlands Community College in Oklahoma. His assist-to-turnover ratio isn't great, but he is scoring more than he did at junior college.
Everyone remembers Haminn Quaintance, the long-armed post player who gets a lot of rebounds and blocks a lot of shots. Although he leads the MAC in field goal percentage, Quaintance does not have the post moves to create his own shot.
Mike Scott leads the Flashes in scoring. He is a versatile offensive player with post moves and shooting ability. The senior forward is a good rebounder, too.
Akron won't have to worry about Kent State shooting many 3s, but the Flashes do run a swift offense that gets easy buckets. While the strength of Akron's defense is on the perimeter, Kent State's length and size makes it excel at interior defense. If there is one game all season that you can guarantee a close, low-scoring matchup, this is it. Tom Gaffney wrote about what the coaches expect of the atmosphere.
Akron's top golfer has transferred to Ohio State, according to Amanda Aller, UA's sports information director for men's golf.
Vaughn Snyder has been central to the Zips' rise in the MAC. He will now play at the same school as Jack Nicklaus.
Under first-year coach Louis Orr, Bowling Green (7-8, 2-1 MAC) has transformed from a 3-point jacking squad to one that clamps down on defense.
The Falcons hold opponents to the lowest field goal and 3-point shooting percentages in the MAC. Give some credit to Otis Polk and Marc Larson, BGSU's sophomore centers who are third and fourth, respectively, in the conference's blocked shots rankings.
With the graduation of 3-point marksman Martin Samarco, Nate Miller is a bigger part of the offense. His numbers (13.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg) have not improved much because he is shooting only 42 percent from the field.
You might remember point guard Joe Jakubowski. Akron recruited the freshman who chose Bowling Green instead.
The teams play tonight at 7 at Rhodes Arena.
Here is an amateur clip of the final play from last night from YouTube..
I missed SportsCenter today. Does anyone know if Nate Linhart's shot made the Top 10? It really should have.
More on Bubba...
Last night, Bubba Walther would build up confidence for a few minutes, then release it with an adrenaline-filled 3 pointer. To make a long jump shot, you must have your wits about you. In my mind, that defines a good clutch player. It's not who's the best shooter or who practices hardest; it's who can be calmest under intense pressure. I digress.
The fans won the game for Akron last night. Walther is a much better shooter than what he demonstrated under that fan-created pressure. He is simply not a clutch player. Sure, Linhart's tight defense played a role, but Walther usually drills a few wild 3s. The two 3s he hit last night were fairly reasonable shots.
That said, I empathize with Bubba. Did he really deserve such harsh treatment? I don't think so. His crime was leaving town because of a perception of diminished playing time. Of course, he took a parting shot at Nick Dials. He also cost the team money by traveling to Puerto Rico before announcing his transfer -- even though his mind was made up. Watching him warm up and converse with teammates, the guy appears to be introverted. But he's a senior, so he shows some of that forced, unnatural leadership. That is probably why he screamed a few times and jawed with fans.
This is college basketball, where J.J. Redick's mother became the focus of stadiums across the ACC. Akron fans could have been worse than chanting "Bubba sucks." Still, you have to feel bad for an amateur athlete whom fans treat so poorly.
This is not to take away from the AK-Rowdies' accomplishment. They came prepared out with signs and loud voices. I mean it when I say they were the difference in the game. They disgraced Walther and fired up Akron's defense to limit a good Bobcats offense to 54 points. You just have to feel some sympathy for Walther. Don't you?
The Bobcats' nonconference schedule is full of quality wins: New Mexico State, at Maryland, at St. John's, at Bucknell and Miami.
Ohio has close quality losses, too. The Bobcats fell by a combined four points at Temple and Holy Cross.
Still, I am not impressed. Neither is Kyle Whelliston from ESPN.com, who calls Ohio a "pretender." Tim O'Shea's teams -- or maybe the players who comprise it -- are inconsistent. They don't play a whole lot of defense, either.
Still, you have to respect Leon Williams -- whom Keith Dambrot calls one of the best rebounders in Division I. He reminds me of Romeo Travis in many ways. Jerome Tillman and Bubba Walther can score, but from their play is where much of the inconsistency derives. On a more positive note, point guard Michael Allen has a 1.97 assist-to-turnover ratio in his first year since transferring from junior college.
Walther is the main outside threat, although he's shooting only 32 percent from 3-point land. Tillman gets the most shots, although Williams has a much better field goal percentage.
Overall, the Bobcats' main advantages are rebounding and post play.
The Zips have shown they can defend star guards and small forwards. Williams and Tillman present a problem not seen this season. As a result, I think you will see more Mike Bardo and less Quade Milum, whose blocking ability is better against guard-heavy offense. Bardo, on the other hand, has muscle for rebounding and keeping Williams and Tillman out of the deep paint.
Jabari Arthur caught five passes for 88 yards in Monday's Hula Bowl. That was the top performance for a receiver on either team.
Arthur's team won 38-7.
Keith Dambrot discussed several issues surrounding the team in his weekly press conference.
Akron is sixth in this week's Mid-Major Top 25.
Despite a scare against Buffalo, Kent State remains ahead at No. 5.
The Flashes actually added to their lead over Akron in points, despite nearly losing to a team at home (Buffalo) whom the Zips beat on the road. Also, the Zips' first opponent of the week (Miami) is stronger than Kent's (Bowling Green). Maybe you can take that as evidence that the voters aren't paying as close attention as you might like.
Ohio sits at 28th in the poll. Miami fell significantly.
If you had to pick one game not to witness, this was it.
The Zips won a physical, draining contest 76-68 at Buffalo tonight.
"They don't try to be dirty, but that's what they're taught in practice," said Cedrick Middleton, who scored 15.
Strong free throw shooting carried Akron through the night as the Zips made 28 of 31. Quade Milum especially impressed by drilling eight of nine. On the downside, Buffalo forced 14 turnovers compared to 11 Akron assists.
"Places like Buffalo are places you'll have to win to win a championship," Keith Dambrot said. "You have to win here because we know how hard it is to play at some other places in our league."
From the sounds of it, the Akron fan contingent was strong. That impressed Dambrot after the game, too.
Jeremiah Wood led the Zips with 16 points. Nate Linhart grabbed seven rebounds.
Next up is Ohio, who will visit Thursday at 9 p.m. for a special ESPNU start time.
The line is Akron minus 6.5.
Prediction -- The Zips should win by more. Tap on timber, but to date, Akron has taken care of the inferior teams. It would take a horrendous shooting night by Akron and a career game for one of Buffalo's guards to give the Bulls a shot.
I will liveblog during the game. You can combine that with watching Buffalo's Webcast for free. ZipsNation.org usually has a good discussion, too, during away games.
Akron 71, Buffalo 55
Many Zips fans sat in front of their computers Sunday afternoon, hoping Buffalo could sustain a 13-point lead over Kent State at the M.A.C. Center.
The Bulls blew it, but showed the team can compete against the league's best.
Reggie Witherspoon has a balanced 11-man rotation with no player receiving more than 25 minutes per game. You can take that as "balanced" or lacking a good player. Regardless, the Bulls play hard and force a lot of turnovers.
Buffalo doesn't have much shooting talent. Nor is there a consistent post threat. But Buffalo can beat you if one or more of its guards get hot. Against Kent State, it was Andy Robinson who scored 25. Robinson has been the team's leading scorer lately.
For the season, guard Sean Smiley is the leading scorer. Smiley, who comes off the bench, is the team's best 3-point shooter.
Buffalo has some size, but the Bulls are not particularly good at rebounding. They have an atrocious assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.8. Still, as Keith Dambrot said after the Miami game, Buffalo can beat you at their place. The game at Buffalo will be pivotal in determining the MAC East Champion.
Akron retained its ninth position in the Mid-Major Top 25.
Kent State continues to lead the MAC teams and sits only two voting points ahead of the Zips. Ohio and Miami also received points.
As an aside, this year's Kent State/Akron matchup should be good for the community to see. Many casual basketball fans probably thought the Zips would fade once Romeo Travis and Dru Joyce graduated.
It has only been two games, but the way the Zips have played has me thinking the team might have its easiest path through the conference schedule since Keith Dambrot arrived. The lineup of Nick Dials, Steve McNees, Nate Linhart and Jeremiah Wood makes me all warm inside.
As you can tell, I only listed four players. Cedrick Middleton needs to be more consistent in order to move Linhart to the four. Either that or Chris McKnight and Quade Milum must start earning their minutes.
Speaking of McKnights, what is the point of burning Brett McKnight's redshirt if he's sitting the bench? On Saturday, he entered the game with the reserves at the one-minute mark. I have a hunch that he is one of the best players on the roster once Dambrot commits to giving him solid minutes. I have another hunch that Dambrot is giving him heck about his lack of defense. A third hunch tells me that the positives of playing him outweigh the negatives (see McNees).
In essence, I felt it necessary to ramble about the Zips because so many of you are ready to lynch me for my recent Buckeyes post. (Man, they stunk.) One of my friends said fans might stop following Ohio State after all of these disappointments in national championships. I don't think that's possible, but it's a nice thought.
Most hardcore Zips fans hate Ohio State. They are right to believe the Buckeyes take potential fans away from Akron.
However, I believe all Zips fans should root for Ohio State to win the national championship tonight.
Here are five reasons why...
1) Jim Tressel coached at Akron and went to graduate school here. He has had nothing but good things to say about UA. He is one of the classiest coaches in the country, and you really can't root against him.
2) Akron played Ohio State competitively. The Zips led 2-0 after the first quarter and went into halftime trailing 3-2. If this was 2006, the Zips probably could have scored a couple more touchdowns and won. In basketball, we root for our opponents because it shows our own team's proficiency. Why not in football?
3) Chris Wells is an Akron guy. I remember hearing rumors of him visiting campus after he committed to Ohio State. Did he ever seriously consider Akron? Probably not. But he's still a local guy.
4) If Ohio State fans learn that you're rooting for LSU because you're an Akron fan, that will eliminate any chance of them going to a Zips game with you, or perhaps following Akron as a secondary team.
5) It's LSU. What connection do you have with Louisiana, besides a possible trip to Bourbon Street during college? Ohio State IS Ohio's team, whether we like it or not. We live in Ohio, and spite should not override that.
Despite thumping Miami and taking No. 20 Dayton to the wire, Akron did not receive a vote in the AP Poll or Coaches Poll.
The Zips' RPI is up to 110, however.
The new Mid-Major Top 25 comes out later today. I'll post it when it comes out.
Maybe the schedule makers knew the Zips couldn't wait for another shot at Miami.
Maybe that's why these teams will meet in the MAC opener at Rhodes Arena Saturday at 7 p.m.
I never have heard so much hype from fans about a regular season game -- Kent State included. I have received several e-mails from alumni expressing excitement. The AK-Rowdies sent me a Facebook message, urging everyone to attend. The players certainly looked for this game the moment they received the season's schedule. Jeremiah Wood recited January 5 as if it was his birthday when asked about Miami at an early season press conference.
This is big.
Miami and Akron have led different lives this season. The RedHawks have traveled to meet the big boys, and they have enjoyed some success. They beat Xavier, Mississippi State and Illinois. They almost beat USC, Dayton, Cincinnati and Louisville. Kansas, meanwhile, handed Miami its lunch.
Akron, on the other hand, has played cupcakes for the most part and has spanked them. This game could indicate what scheduling method is more effective in preparing a MAC team for an important conference game.
The RedHawks feature a two-prong scoring attack. You will remember Tim Pollitz, who led both teams in the MAC Championship with 19 points. You might call him a redhead version of Wood. He has nifty post moves, isn't as athletic as Wood, but can shoot. Michael Bramos is the shooter/slasher who has struggled in the past two weeks. He is still capable of dropping more than 30 points, like when he scored 36 against Dayton.
Akron has showed it can defend star guards. It helps that Bramos is taller than Brian Roberts and Josh Mayo. That should make it an easier defensive assignment for Nate Linhart. Pollitz is a matchup problem for many teams because of his versatility, but Akron has athletic big men who should make it easier. The problem is keeping him off the offensive glass, where he gets a lot of easy buckets.
On offense, the Zips need to run the floor, get the crowd excited and try to open a giant lead. With Miami's style of play, a 15-point lead can be insurmountable.
The first game of the MAC season always has an unknown factor. Add in the drama because of last year, and this is a game you should not miss.
Mark May’s All-May Day team included Akron’s John Mackey, who missed only three games after tearing his ACL.
The ESPN personality assembled the team to acknowledge toughness. It also included LSU's Glenn Dorsey.
Other MAC players include Kent State’s Fritz Jacquez, Central Michigan’s Red Keith and Miami’s Joey Hudson.
Jacquez also deserves recognition. He returned to the field four games after tearing his ACL.
According to Dayton's media guide, ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit said UD Arena is a close second to Cameron Indoor Stadium for the best college atmosphere.
Before you ask what Herbstreit knows about basketball, realize that most of the nation agrees. The Flyers are the best team on Akron's schedule. Their arena is a difficult place to play.
Dayton whipped No. 6 Pittsburgh 80-55 last week by holding the Panthers to 28 percent shooting. Earlier in the year, the Flyers went into Freedom Hall and beat Louisville 70-65.
Senior guard Brian Roberts common denominator in those wins. He scored a total of 59 points against Pitt and Louisville. On the year, he averages 19.3 points per game and 49.3 percent on 3-pointers. Thanks to Roberts, Dayton is the "it" team around college basketball nowadays.
A win would definitely grab the nation's attention.
How good is Dayton? Its only loss was 67-56 at George Mason, when no one but Roberts could make a shot. The Flyers have beaten two MAC teams. Dayton came from behind to nip Miami 63-62 in Oxford on a last-minute 3-pointer from Roberts. Toledo nearly made up a 20-point deficit, but lost at Dayton 76-70.
How do you beat the Flyers? Miami gained a huge first-half lead on seven 3-pointers by Michael Bramos. George Mason won the rebounding battle and smothered everyone but Roberts. Akron has been excellent at limiting the other team's star in recent years. As Toledo learned, however, freshman power forward Chris Wright is pretty good, too. He dropped 26 points and 12 rebounds on the Rockets.
Dayton is only a five-point favorite over Akron, despite the fact the Flyers just beat the nation's No. 6 team by 25.
I will give my prediction tomorrow. I'm wavering between a Dayton tight win and Dayton blow out win.
A seven-foot costume rescued a season of misery for some Akron fans as Zippy won the Capital One 2007 Mascot Challenge.
The results were announced at halftime of the Capital One Bowl.
The kangaroo mascot plowed through the regular season with an undefeated record, then met Goldy Gopher in the finals.
Those fans who voted incessantly should be proud of their accomplishments. Seven of the 12 mascots came from BCS conferences who have thousands more fans than Akron.
The university will receive plenty of publicity and a $10,000 scholarship as a result.
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