One more team stands in Akron's path to a third-straight MAC Championship appearance.
More than just Bowling Green, there is another major obstacle. I foresaw it the moment Akron took Toledo to overtime.
I thought, even if Akron advances past Miami, the semifinals will be very difficult. Akron will be playing its third game in four nights. Plus, the Zips will not have the benefit of adrenaline that naturally comes from playing for an NCAA berth. Also, the team's starting point guard is doubtful to play.
Yes. It is a huge obstacle.
But look at it from another angle. Bowling Green also must see tonight's game as a challenge in uncharted waters. The Falcons knew they can beat Ohio. They drubbed the Bobcats by 34 just four days earlier. Akron, on the other hand, has tournament experience and beat the Falcons at home.
In the first meeting, Humpty Hitchens scored 15 points and the Zips held Bowling Green to 28 percent from the floor. That game was at Anderson Arena, and Akron won by 10. In the second meeting, it was Akron who went cold, shooting 30 percent from Rhodes Arena's floor. Brian Moten carried the Falcons and made the play of the game with a deep, fall-away 3-pointer as the shot clock wound down. Bowling Green won by four.
To avoid tired legs (which leads to poor shooting), Keith Dambrot must rely heavily on his bench. He should even consider giving Eric Coblentz and Tim Carroll some minutes.
You can see this as a No. 1 seed vs. a No. 4 seed. I prefer to see it as two equally talented teams who have to climb equally large mental mountains. The winner will get a chance to play Buffalo or Ball State and possibly stamp a landmark moment in its program.