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MAC Championship preview

By mrasor Published: March 15, 2008

Men's basketball

    Here's what the newspapers had to say about last night...
    Akron Beacon Journal -- Patrick McManamon says Northeast Ohio got the game it wanted.
    Akron Beacon Journal -- Akron keeps proving people wrong.
    Kalamazoo Gazette -- The Zips would have scored plenty of points on Quicken Loans Arena's usual tenant.
    Plain Dealer -- It was a street fight of a game.
    Plain Dealer -- Knowing its their only chance to dance, MAC teams play incredibly hard this week, Bill Livingston writes. -- Here is the chat transcript from last night. We will have another chat tonight, too. As always, I will liveblog from The Q. Gametime is 7 p.m.

    Some notes about last night...
    WMU coach Steve Hawkins talked about Akron's shooting as being the difference. That's not how I saw it. Sure, the Zips shot almost 60 percent, but Akron got a lot of easy buckets. I believe Akron really won because it was able to frustrate David Kool. Hawkins quickly dismissed Akron's defense on Kool at the press conference.
    An awkward moment occurred during Miami's press conference. Interim coach Jermaine Henderson said something to the effect of "We got our best player a three foot shot to tie the game." That suggested a breeze of blame onto the RedHawks' best player, Tim Pollitz. Maybe it was unintentional. If Henderson did intend it, his career as a head coach won't last. No player wants to be stabbed in the back, especially not a guy who has given four great years to the program.
    Kent State coach Jim Christian discussed the new tournament format that saw his first-seeded Flashes play the late game, which will leave them with three fewer hours of rest. He said, "I talked to the league office about it. I guess it makes some sense. I would’ve rather played at 7 if I had a choice.”
    Christian was asked whether his team deserves an at-large bid. He resisted, but eventually said, "In my opinion, our conference has done a great job of putting teams in a position to get multiple bids. A team under 30 RPI with the quality wins we’ve had, I assume we’d be one of the 64 teams." (My deep-down hunch is that KSU must win tonight to get in.)
    The No. 10 play on SportsCenter was Shawntes Gary's swat of a Cedrick Middleton layup. I don't even remember that play. The more appropriate MAC play would have been Al Fisher's floater that sent KSU to the MAC Championship.
    KSU's Jordan Mincy had this to say about playing Akron: "We have a great respect for Akron. We know it’s going to be a hard-fought game. We know it will probably come down to the end of the game. We’re excited. I expect it to be crazy. The crowd is going to be into it."
    Kent State is a one-point favorite tonight. The over-under is 126.5.

Prediction --
Kent State has an effective plan of disrupting Akron's offense. It denies Jeremiah Wood from getting the ball in good position. It frustrates the ball handlers by applying pressure.
Those techniques have worked, but Akron's biggest foe has been shooting trouble against Kent State. In the game at the M.A.C. Center, Akron went iceberg cold in the second half. The Zips made only 3-of-23 3-pointers in the second meeting. If Akron players learn how to calm their nerves, rather than spazzing out over a game against their rival, the Zips will win their first MAC Championship.
Another factor is stamina. The Zips are the deeper team. Keith Dambrot's rotation has been around eight players (that's not including Quade Milum and Mike Bardo). Christian played only six guys more than five minutes last night.
Akron's starters played an average of about 29 minutes last night. Kent State's starters went an average of 33 minutes. All this might seem trivial, and it is when you have four days off between games. However, both teams are playing their third game in three days. Akron also has that extra few hours of rest.
Now consider that Akron played a stress-free game last night. Kent State went down to the last possession.
The argument swings both ways, though, because Middleton and Wood need more rest than the average player because of their knees. Stamina could work in either team's favor. Or it could be irrelevant, considering the amount of adrenaline sure to flow from the rivalry.
The real issue will be 3-point shooting. If Akron hits at least 30 percent of its 3's, the Zips are headed to their first NCAA Tournament since most of the AK-Rowdies were born. With 50.0001 percent certainty, I believe that will happen.
Akron 65, Kent State 59
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