Maybe it's better I didn't see last night's game, because it will allow me to better put this season in perspective.
The Zips lost at home 70-66, in front of only 877 fans, allowing another guard to score oodles of points.
Disappointing, sure. But here are some uplifting thoughts...
Akron was the first or second-best team in the conference all year long. The Zips went into the last game of the season with a chance to win the regular-season title. That alone would have been the biggest accomplishment of the decade for half of the MAC's programs.
The Zips also went into overtime with a chance to win the MAC Tournament. The Ohio Bobcats swept through the MAC Tournament, knocking off probably the MAC West's best team (Ball State), the regular-season champion (Kent State) and its archrival (Miami). Akron was the only team that made it competitive against them. That a single D.J. Cooper 3-pointer swished should not determine whether this season was a success or failure. It disappoints us as fans, but we cannot project our disappointment improperly by saying that one shot determines whether six months of work for Akron's players and coaches paid off.
Zeke Marshall looked good as a true freshman. He did not dominate the MAC, but he showed flashes of it. He needs to put on a lot of weight, but if he does, look out. Keith Dambrot is right to build the offense and defense around him. That boy needs to eat.
The MAC East is graduating a lot of talent. Buffalo loses its two guards who had basically built the program. Miami loses Kenny Hayes. Kent State loses six seniors. The MAC West is similarly depleted. Yes, Ohio looked really good. And the team is young. But now it will be the Bobcats' turn to go through the conference with every team looking to knock off the MAC Champions (the bull's eye, for you cliche lovers). We might find that, like Akron last year, Ohio simply got hot in the past couple weeks. The real Bobcats team is somewhere in between the one that lost four games to start the MAC season and the one that looked unbeatable in Cleveland.
It's true that the Zips lose their best player (Jimmy Conyers) and a key rotational player (Chris McKnight). This team will still be very deep. Here is how I see the depth chart breaking down in 2010-11...
PG — McNees, Steward, Hitchens SG — Hitchens, Roberts (equal minutes), Sullivan SF — McKnight, McClanahan, Euton PF — Cvetinovic, Green/Egner C — Marshall, Bardo, Sweich
The Zips will have two senior guards, a senior swingman and a versatile frontcourt.
Last night must have sucked. But the program is still heading in the right direction. This year and last year were supposed to be rebuilding seasons. Dambrot parlayed it into an NCAA Tournament appearance, a CBI appearance and 47 wins.
The next two years were the seasons that people have looked forward to. There is no reason why that should change.