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Blog fill-in guy Dan here. Rasor is out of town. Apologies in advance for what is to follow.
Anyway, so it is here. For the first time since 1986, the Akron Zips are dancing. Make sure to scroll through the rest of this blog to find beat writer Tom Gaffney's reports from Portland and Rasor's analysis.
Rasor predicted a 16-point Gonzaga victory. Columnist Patrick McManamon predicts a 12-point Gonzaga victory. Naturally, I predict an eight-point Akron loss, with Gonzaga taking it 62-54.
Most point to several factors, but this game should come down to two things: How well Akron is making and defending threes and the foul situation. Should Josh Heytvelt and Matt Bouldin - two tough size matchups for the Zips - get in foul trouble, the Zips have a chance.
Akron starters are expected to be Steve McNees, Darryl Roberts, Nate Linhart, Chris McKnight and Nikola Cvetinovic. Gonzaga is going with Heytvelt, Bouldin, Austin Daye, Micah Downs and Jeremy Pargo. Still no official word on the health of Humpty Hitchens.
Outside of die-hard Akron fans, who actually thinks the team has a chance of winning? Artie Lange, sidekick on the Howard Stern Show. That's right, you have to be a heroin addict to predict a Zips victory. Hat tip to Kiel Fleming for that line.
The Zips game got pushed back to a 7:40 p.m. start. Looking at the entire NCAA Tournament, it's too bad Akron didn't get the 14-seed American University received. The Eagles are playing Villanova, a guard-centric squad Akron could probably do well against.
It has been six years since a Mid-American Conference team has won an NCAA Tournament game. That was when Chris Kaman and Central Michigan beat Creighton.
Before the game, I really hoped Vern Lundquist wasn't the announcer. Who is the announcer? Kevin Harlan, who did good work during the Browns games. Oh, and immediately it is 2-0 Gonzaga after the tip.
Humpty Hitchens didn't start, so his ankle must still be a problem. However, I really expect to see him at some point.
Currently up 8-7, Akron is doing fairly well shooting, hitting two of three three-point shots.
Austin Daye is giving the Zips guards a lot of trouble. He's already blocked three shots and is easily shooting over defenders.
Someone in the journalism world actually picked the Zips. Joe Posnanski went with Akron. However, it should be noted that he filled out his bracket in 64 seconds and seems to enjoy the name "Humpty." No word on if he likes heroin.
Chris McKnight is looking a little more than overmatched so far in this game. With 11 minutes left in the half, Hitchens is in the game for the first time. It makes you wonder if Akron plans on opening up the game a little more.
I'm notoriously poor at filling out NCAA Tournament brackets. In the AK-Rowdy contest, I'm far out of first place already. That's the bad. The good? I'm tied with Romeo Travis.
Matt Bouldin is the latest in the long, and lame, Gonzaga tradition of having a goofy mop cut. His curly locks follow in the tradition of Adam Morrison and Dan Dickau.
A big three-point shot by Jeremy Pargo puts Gonzaga up 22-18. The Zips are having a little trouble getting back in transition. Gonzaga's players are just bigger and quicker.
Akron is really staying in the game thanks to tough play from Nate Linhart, who already has 10 points. The Zips are on a run right now and need to keep it up. For some reason, Gonzaga has gone away from the low post game.
Miami University re-signed head coach Charlie Coles to a three-year contract extension today. Good move by Miami. Not only is Coles a good Mid-American Conference coach, but he has quite possibly the best scowl in collegiate sports. Watching Miami games might be boring. Watching Coles' expression is not.
Akron is up 33-28 thanks to smart play in the low post. Akron is really using a lot of finesse moves down low with success. Gonzaga's low-post offense is much better than its defense. Austin Daye now has five blocks.
Mike Bardo is in the game, but you wouldn't know it by watching the game. He has done almost nothing and doesn't box out on rebounds.
Akron is going into the half leading 38-35. Incredible. Thank Linhart. He has 13 points with three three-pointers. Someone pass the heroin!
The Zips are doing a nice job collapsing on Heytvelt in the post. On offense, Akron continues to live behind the three-point line with Roberts hitting another. I think that makes Akron six for 11 on threes.
Three minutes into this half, there is some bad basketball being played. Bad shot selection, bad fouls, bad passing. Akron needs to settle down a little and try and put a few good possessions together. It could start with Chris McKnight's three off the top of the backboard.
Chris McKnight lost a contact lens. He may or may not lead the nation in lost lens.
Mike Bardo almost ripped down the basket on a dunk. That was followed with a silly foul by Bardo. Oof. 46-41 Akron.
I didn't hear all of it clearly, but Harlan just talked about the "Humpty Dance" and his wife in the same sentence. I am fortunate to not have heard it.
Live and die by the three. Gonzaga just made one, putting them ahead 50-49. That forced the Zips to take a timeout. Akron needs to get back to getting shots for Linhart, who has no points in the second half.
Fun, and annoying, factoid with 11 minutes remaining: Gonzaga has shot 15 free throws to Akron's eight.
A silly push off foul by Jimmy Conyers already puts Gonzaga in the bonus with just under 10 minutes left. That's no good. Also no good is Brett McKnight shooting one for six.
CBS has switched to the Michigan/Clemson game. I know the pain of Michael J. Hixenbaugh.
Gonzaga is currently on a 14-3 run to go up 57-52. Bummer. Still no points in the second half for Nate Linhart. If he doesn't get back into the action in a big way, Akron won't win this game.
Heytvelt is really starting to take over the low post in this game. He has 16 points and keeps finding himself wide open near the basket.
Brett McKnight is just having a bad game. No more, no less. He just threw the ball to Gonzaga that led to a Zags basket and followed that up with an offensive foul.
The game has quickly slipped out of Akron's grasp with Gonzaga going up 64-52. If Akron loses this game, you'll know why by looking at the combined field goal percent of McNees and Brett McKnight. Currently they're one for 12 shooting.
Seemingly, everything Gonzaga is shooting is going in. Everything Akron is doing in the second half is not working. The Zips have gone 10 minutes with a made field goal.
Pargo just made a highlight-reel slam dunk, which punctuates this game for Akron. in the last several minutes of this game, it has become readily apparent the Zips have no chance.
Hey, hey! Akron made a basket! Darryl Roberts sinks a three bringing it to 74-58 Gonzaga.
Linhart gets the honorary substitution. He was electric in the first half of this game, but has done almost nothing in the second half.
Tim Carrol (or perhaps Tim Carroll) in the game. What, did the Wizard of Wadsworth finally run out of eligibility? Sorry. This second half has made me quite bitter.
Game over: Akron 64, Gonzaga 77.
Final note from me: This was a good season for Akron. Although this game turned out to be a disappointing one, there is nothing for the Zips to be ashamed of this year. All of the players except Nate Linhart are back next year and some promising young player will be in Rhodes Arena. That all makes Akron the prohibitive favorite to take the MAC next season.
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