Keep refreshing your browser for updates during Akron's first round NIT game at Northwestern...
No. I'm not in Evanston, Ill. No one is paying (or would pay) to send me out there. Based on the Zips' belly-flop two years ago against Wisconsin-Green Bay, there's a potential that it would be giant waste of money. If Akron makes it to Madison Square Garden (a mere three wins from now), I'll try my best to be there.
The prior game, UMass vs. Mississippi State, is going to overtime. Viewers in the Cleveland and Chicago markets are getting the Zips game feed. If you are watching from afar, you can watch Akron's tipoff at this link, so long as you sign up through your cable provider.
Akron will start the same lineup as in the past, say, 20 games.
Is it just me, or does the purple on Northwestern's floor look like someone vomited after drinking too much red wine?
Zeke Marshall converted a dunk. Next season, it would be great to see him seek to slam more. If you have a 7-foot-6 wingspan, you can almost dunk from outside the paint, right?
My first impression is that Northwestern does not have BCS-type athleticism nor size. Keith Dambrot alluded to that fact in today's ABJ, saying the Wildcats use unconventional styles to keep up with better athletes.
The jumphook from Marshall is the reason scouts are interested in him. Seven-foot stiffs are a dime a dozen in the NBA (cough, Ryan Hollins). The guy who shows touch on offense has a very valuable tool. It's going to require 1) scoring consistency and 2) rebounding for Marshall to have a legitimate sniff at the first round.
15:44 - Akron 10, Northwestern 10
More poor shot selection from Brett McClanahan. He's 2-for-26 over the last 11 games, the announcer said. It's hard enough to break a funk, much less when you're shooting off-balance with a hand in your face everytime.
Attendance at Wine Vomit Arena looks awfully poor. The sideline bleachers are almost vacant.
Alex Abreu lobbed a pass over Marshall's head, out of bounds. You have to tip your cap to Abreu, however, because he made quite an improvement this season in taking care of the ball. Not since MAC season got going have I had occasion to whine about the Zips' assist-turnover ratio.
The Wildcats are on a 12-2 run, thanks in part to John Shurna's ugly 3-point stroke.
11:00 - Akron 14, Northwestern 22
I like this broadcast team. Fran Fraschilla knows a good deal about the MAC. As a former mid-major coach, he doesn't talk down about teams from non-power conferences (i.e., not every mid-major is the little engine that could). Mike Patrick, the play-by-play guy, is a big-league voice.
UMass pulled out a double-overtime win. Now the rest of the world can watch this game.
Akron is on quite a dry spell on offense. They scored four points in eight minutes. At the same time, Northwestern is hitting its 3s and getting all the bounces on loose balls. This is how the Wildcats have opened a big lead.
Akron needs to get Marshall more touches inside. I don't know why the Zips got away from this strategy. Heck, I don't know why we haven't seen it since December.
6:33 - Akron 19, Northwestern 29
My sleeper for the NCAA Tournament? Harvard. I have them in the Elite Eight.
Nik Cvetinovic went baseline for a dunk. Last year, it was his patented move. This year, he's done it three times (by my count). I was somewhat disappointed that Cvetinovic did not take a step forward this year. In 2010-11, he averaged 11.7 and 6.9. This year, it was 9.9 and 5.4.
3:48 - Akron 23, Northwestern 35
This is ridiculous. Do they miss? Drew Crawford has 19 points already, on 7-of-9 shooting. JerShon Cobb is 4-of-5 with 11 points.
I have no sympathy for Northwestern not making the NCAA Tournament. If you can't break .500 in your conference, don't bother applying. Heck, I'm in favor of applying conference limits. How are you supposed to say: "The Big Ten deserves 23 teams in the NCAA" when they've only played each other for the past three months? There is no independent measuring stick.
As bad as Akron's offense was at times, and as hot as two Wildcats were, the Zips are still in this thing at halftime.
Halftime - Akron 34, Northwestern 42
You might have witnessed the final spurt of the season. The Zips snapped off a quick nine points to bring the lead down to two.
15:19 - Akron 45, Northwestern 49
The second round games will take place between this Thursday and next Monday. The Washington v. Texas-Arlington game is tipping off now on ESPNU. If the Zips win, I might do a little scouting.
I find it astounding that Northwestern has never been to the NCAA Tournament -- particularly considering the ease at which power conference schools are offered bids. ... "What's that? You split a home-and-home with Iowa!? That's a phenomenal body of work!"
Brian Walsh just tied the game with a free throw. Nick Harney gave the Zips a lead on a transition layup. That escalated quickly. Northwestern does not look like the same confident team.
Please, if someone actually cares what Barack Obama's bracket looks like, get a life. ESPN is "unveiling" the president's bracket tomorrow at 9 a.m. Call off work for this event. ... I don't think even CNN would allow the Democrat president to have free airtime for such a puff piece. Don't worry Syrians, it will all turn out OK. Obama has Ohio State in the Final Four.
The Zips are in a critical position in the game. They can't allow Northwestern to recapture its swagger.
Marshall is having one of his best games of the season offensively. He's 7-for-9 from the field, for 15 points, and also seven boards. Chauncey Gilliam is also a big help. He's made all five of his attempts. Abreu is having a tough shooting night, but has eight assists.
11:48 - Akron 53, Northwestern 51
Ugly possession. But it didn't matter. Quincy Diggs drilled a 3 with one second left. The guard at the tip of Northwestern's 1-3-1 zone is causing much more chaos than one person should be capable of.
This is going to be a white-knuckle ride until the buzzer. These are both scrappy teams.
7:29 - Akron 61, Northwestern 63
Holy shmolie! I've never seen a 7-footer dunk like that on a fast break, except for Tyson Chandler. That was an amazing sight to see Marshall run the floor like that, catch a pass in stride and slam.
Akron's getting buckets exactly when the team needs them. Most recently, Cvetinovic and Diggs scored in the paint. Then it was Diggs with a 3.
Gilliam lost his shoe on offense. Play did not stop, and Northwestern scored on the other end. Gilliam complained to the ref and appeared to narrowly avoid a technical foul.
2:20 - Akron 70, Northwestern 73
Abreu passed up a wide-open 3 to throw it cross-court to Walsh for a 3 attempt. Walsh was fouled in the act. He made three of three to tie the game.
1:49 - Akron 73, Northwestern 73
Crawford is on the bench with what appears to be a left shoulder injury, or perhaps a stinger.
Shurna rattled in a 3. Walsh missed an off-balance 3 on the other end. Northwestern has the ball and a three-point lead.
0:56 - Akron 73, Northwestern 76
Shurna fumbled it right back to Akron. Timeout Zips.
0:44 - Akron 73, Northwestern 76
Walsh appears very eager to redeem himself for the missed game-winner on Saturday.
Akron's best offense tonight has been on the fast break, before the Wildcats zone gets set up.
Walsh got a clean look at a 3 to tie the game, but it was short and wide left. Akron had to foul with 12 seconds left, down three.
Northwestern missed the first of a one-and-one. Diggs dribbled around and allowed someone to foul him. That's a mistake. You have to chuck that up before a foul.
This is basically a repeat of Saturday night.
0:03.7 - Akron 73, Northwestern 76
Diggs made the first, which was the primary battle.
0:03.7 - Akron 74, Northwestern 76
Fraschilla is suggesting that the two Zips in the lane set screens for each other as soon as the ball goes up. An interesting strategy.
Diggs quick-shot it! A Northwestern player slapped it out of bounds. Akron will get it right back. How cool is it to out-think the Northwestern Wildcats??
0:03.5 - Akron 74, Northwestern 76
Marshall set a screen for Abreu on the perimeter. Abreu pump-faked and got a clean look at the game-winner, but he missed.
Final - Akron 74, Northwestern 76
I really like Akron's strategy. Really like it. Why not go for the win there? Statistically, it's a no-brainer. But even more, it shows Akron was there to affirmatively win, not to extend the game.
That was a fun game to watch. More importantly, this was a fun team to watch. The 2011-12 Akron Zips were a fighting team that ran the floor and never gave up, no matter what the deficit.
Dambrot's coaching performance was perhaps his best ever. After getting drilled for 45 consecutive minutes, he marched the Zips out of the locker room at Kent State and they came out like a new team. Akron competed hard against Ohio on Saturday, despite the Bobcats being at their best. The Zips lost tonight by an eyelash to a Big Ten team that shot 46.8 percent.
There's definitely nothing to be ashamed of for this team.
Notable final stats: Diggs scored 18 and grabbed six rebounds. Marshall had 17 and seven. Abreu had 10 assists but only four points (2-of-8 shooting). Shurna nearly had a triple-double for NU (23, 11 rebounds, seven assists). Crawford had 27 points and seven rebounds. Akron outrebounded the Wildcats, 36 to 29. Northwestern only had six turnovers (Akron, 12).
Looking at next year's roster, Dambrot will need to fill Cvetinovic's 25 minutes in the post. Demetrius Treadwell will get the biggest chunk. Josh Egner stands to get time at the four, as well. But depth on the front line will be the only possible roster weakness next fall. It will also be interesting to see which of the true freshmen, if any, burn their redshirts.