The big day has arrived. Aside from the opening of InfoCision Stadium, this is the most anticipated game of the school year.
Akron versus Kent. These games leave lasting memories. Chris Singletary's punch. The post-game skirmish in 2007. Al Fisher's dagger in 2008.
And because the teams are so evenly matched, the games make an impact on the success either team enjoys. Two years ago, Kent State beat Akron in the MAC Tournament finals. The year before that, the Zips bumped Kent from the tournament and beat the Flashes a total of three times.
This game won't determine which team goes to the NCAAs, but it will clinch a postseason appearance for one team. It's not an elimination game, but its hype has been building for weeks, as fans and the media realized March 5 would be the conference's game of the year.
Fans, obviously, dislike each other. But the reality is, they have a lot in common. For the most part, both fanbases also root for the Cavaliers, Indians and Browns. For the most part, they are experiencing the same dreadful economy and weather. Both teams are subjected to Tim Misny and Norton Furniture commercials.
As far as the teams go, in Dave Carducci's story Keith Dambrot said:
There isn’t a lot of difference between the two programs. We’ve taken different routes to get here, but we both have the same kind of kids. We both have kids who find ways to win.
In Terry Pluto's column, KSU coach Geno Ford makes another apt comparison:
I don't think people fully appreciate how unique it is to have two schools in the same conference about 10 miles away playing at such an elite level. Neither of us have the best facilities. In fact, they are some of the oldest in the league. But we've been able to put together something special.
If you've been in a cave, you'll want to know that the game starts at 8 p.m. It's sold out. It will be on ESPN2. Akron fans will all wear white. Kent fans will wear gold.
The Zips are three-point favorites to win. Kent State was favored to win by 2.5 at the MAC Center. It shows how evenly the oddsmakers value these teams.
Tonight's game has a big impact on Miami and Buffalo. Buffalo gets the first-round bye if Akron is the No. 1 seed. Miami gets it if Kent wins tonight. Aside from that, the first round games are set:
No. 12 Toledo at No. 5 Buffalo/Miami No. 11 Northern Illinois at No. 6 Eastern Michigan No. 10 Bowling Green at No. 7 Western Michigan No. 9 Ohio at No. 8 Ball State
Mike Hrusch of the Ohio.com Kent blog did a nice job covering all the angles.
The Zips will get off to a quick start. Kent State will whittle Akron's lead. The team with momentum at the end of the game will win. With talent levels being virtually even, that's how these games always work. Statistically, the home team enjoys an advantage.
Akron 71, Kent State 65
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