Has everyone recovered from last night? I was driving home on the turnpike when Steve McNees hit his miracle 3. I felt like driving 140 MPH the whole way home. What a thrilling game!
It equally impressed me that McNees took the ball down the floor with confidence and certainty of what needed to be done. He had no interest in passing the ball. He didn't need time to gather his thoughts. He slashed through the backcourt and swished the deep 3 with Brandon Bowdry's hand coming toward his face.
We will never forget Doug Penno ending Romeo Travis' and Dru Joyce's careers. But with Humpty Hitchens' 3 in last year's quarterfinals and McNees' 3 last night, Akron has caught up with karma, if such a concept exists.
McNees has continued to impress me with his poise this season. He is calm, fearless and intelligent--a great combination for a point guard.
Thanks to his six seconds of performance, Akron's season continues tonight against Western Michigan, which also features a cold-blooded guard, David Kool.
One weakness that this team has (and one that most people have ignored) is the lack of a great perimeter defender. Last year, it was Nate Linhart. He could lock down any guard or small forward.
Yes, Jimmy Conyers is defender of the year. But Conyers is only an average perimeter defender. His best work is done in the post, where he can use his strength. Humpty Hitchens is quick, but not laterally. He gets toasted off the dribble at least five times a game. Darryl Roberts has played solid defense in spurts. McNees tries hard, but he can't force stops on a MAC Player of the Year.
We saw how Carlos Medlock was unstoppable last night. Kool scored 30 against Akron on Jan. 27. The Zips still won, 79-70, but only because they shot 53 percent from the floor. That won't happen too often. Akron needs a better strategy against Kool, who is facing the end of his college career.
Akron will need to shoot well on 3s to win. Perimeter defense is not a strength for WMU. We know Akron relies heavily on deep shooting. It's a facet that must go for the Zips.
And the Broncos killed Akron on the boards on Jan. 27. The Broncos are the MAC's best rebounding team. The Zips also need to limit offensive rebounds.
I think most people would agree that Akron is the better overall team. The Zips need to stay focused on getting to the finals, not on whom they may play when they get there and not on the fact that Kent State will be absent.
News and notes...
Akron is a four-point favorite to win. The over-under is between 132 and 134. I would take Akron and the over (if I was in Las Vegas and gambling was legal).
According to WMU beat writer, Graham Couch, the Broncos are a better team than the last time Akron played them because of the emergence of sophomore power forward Flenard Whitfield. The writer also focuses on the energy Akron expended yesterday afternoon. Both are valid points.
The Zips tip off against Bowling Green in the MAC semifinals at 2:30 p.m. today. The Falcons have beaten Akron twice this season.
Tom Gaffney previewed the game.
Here is a Wall Street Journal article calling the MAC the "little conference that couldn't" because no school in the conference has won a national title in 45 years.
The article failed to mention how Akron has two individual national champions in the past two years.