During the press conference on Saturday night, Keith Dambrot iterated the importance of getting a favorable first-round matchup. Then he reiterated it.
Indeed, the opponent makes a huge difference for Akron. The Zips can beat a certain brand of team. And there is a brand of team that the Zips have no chance against.
The former is a team like Michigan State (or many Big Ten squads) that rely on defense without being stunningly athletic. The latter is a team like Pitt, that can score 100 points if the breeze is going the right direction and that has a roster chock full of NBA talent.
When it's a defensive showdown, Dambrot has his Zips playing on par with any team in the country. When it's a shootout... Well, Akron just can't keep up.
Gonzaga, as you have probably inferred, plays a brand of basketball that Akron will struggle mightily to compete with. They average 78.8 points per game, which is the nation's 15th highest total.
The Zags also have gross height advantages at almost every position. Comparing the starting lineups, Akron is giving up 17 inches. Those inches will account for a lot of rebounds and air space for shooting. Consider the shooting guard matchup: 6-foot Darryl Roberts and 6-5 Matt Bouldin.
Also, Akron's depth was a huge advantage in Cleveland, where opponents were dealing with back-to-back-to-back games. In Portland, Gonzaga will have had 10 days to rest since painlessly putting a sleeper hold on St. Mary's in the WCC finals.
Can Akron win? Ehh...
Here is what has to happen: The Zips have to shoot better than 50 percent from the field. Gonzaga has to miss a lot of 3s and have some of its important players get in foul trouble.
Prediction: Gonzaga 77, Akron 61