Akron will play a team on Saturday that, by all objective criteria, should be in the top 25.
Dayton will visit Rhodes Arena. It is another game that would have been crucial to an argument for an at-large bid in previous years. This season, however, it is merely another strong test for a young team.
Still, it will be valuable for Akron to play a skilled opponent at home before Kent State, Miami and the rest of the MAC powers enter Rhodes Arena.
The Flyers beat No. 15 Marquette on a neutral floor on Nov. 29. They did it by shooting 52.6 percent from the field and holding the Eagles to 39.3 percent. That is usually the mark of a fluke upset. Still, at 7-0, Dayton will be the best team to play in Akron this season.
Last season, the Flyers (then ranked No. 23) secured a double-overtime 83-81 victory in Dayton. The Zips' stingy defense and clutch shooting nearly earned the team its first win over at top 25 team, but not quite. Since then, Dayton has lost leading scorer Brian Roberts, who led the team with 18.4 points per game.
Without Roberts, 6-foot-8 forward Chris Wright has shouldered much of the scoring burden. St. Vincent/St. Mary's grad Marcus Johnson is a sweet shooter at the 2. New point guard London Warren has not scored even a third as much as Roberts, but he has been a great game manager and crafty defender.
Despite Warren's performance, Dayton's weakness might be taking care of the ball. The Flyers have averaged more turnovers than assists. Akron might be able to assert an advantage by pressing the ball and taking chances on defense. I would expect Dayton to be a six-point favorite, but I also think Akron will win.