Here is the Rasor's Edge where I talk about a new offensive look from Keith Dambrot's Zips...
Three weeks ago, I was worried. The men's basketball team was in serious trouble.
Forget that the team was 15-5. The Zips offense looked like five guys who had never played together. The team lacked an offensive leader, so the Zips would make a few passes around the perimeter, then brick a 3-point shot.
And once the Zips gained a lead through its stingy defense, a lousy offense would disintegrate the margin quickly. Leads of 21, 20, 19 and nine disappeared in just minutes. The Zips still won two of those games after blowing the big leads. So the media attention continued to be positive.
The team was getting hype that it hadn't since the late '80s. It was the formula that I believed would disappoint the Akron community when the Zips performed poorly in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
That was before the Zips' 76-61 win against Ohio on Saturday. If you tuned in to ESPN2 or went to the game Saturday, you would have noticed a totally different team during Akron's win.
All of a sudden, the Zips played like the San Antonio Spurs. Sometimes they increased the tempo to catch the Bobcats off guard. When they went to a half-court offense, coach Keith Dambrot designed sharp plays that put players in position for a short jump shot or a layup. Through their offensive creativity, the Zips confidently built on their lead in the second half against Ohio.
Earlier in the season, that lead might have disappeared.
On Saturday, Romeo Travis and Rob Preston played as solid as any big-man combination in the MAC. Nick Dials, Dru Joyce, Nate Linhart and Cedrick Middleton played with poise and selflessness. Thanks to smart passes and good ball distribution, five Zips scored in double figures.
And they continued to play the same strong defense that won games the first half of the season.
The Ohio game proved that the Zips have learned to keep a lead the right way - with crisp screens, cuts and passes.
Actually, Akron started playing smarter in its loss at Miami Wednesday, despite a three-point loss. In that game, the Zips couldn't keep up with the RedHawks' red-hot shooting. Miami made 53.3 percent of its 3-point attempts. When a team shoots that well in its own building, the result is usually a blowout.
Dambrot seems to strive to minimize a game's variables, which will lead to consistency. For example, Dambrot wants the Zips to excel mainly on defense because he knows the offense will be stagnant on some nights. A defensive-minded team will stay competitive even if the shots are errant.
Also, by getting players to play in a more fluid offense, Dambrot is minimizing the effect of a poor shooting night. This planning should make Dambrot a lock to win the MAC Coach of the Year Award.
Thanks to him, the Zips are ready for the MAC Tournament. Akron still has two difficult games before playing at Quicken Loans Arena - at Buffalo tomorrow and at home against Kent State Saturday.
In all likelihood, the Zips will be the MAC's No. 3 seed. The probable seeding would give the Zips minimal competition until the tournament championship against Kent State.
If Akron can continue to run a fluid offense and confidently control leads against Buffalo and Kent State this week, the Zips should be everyone's favorite to be the MAC's representative in the NCAA Tournament.
They are already mine.
Swimming and diving
Danielle Beland is the Buchtelite's Zips Athlete of the Week for winning the MAC Championship in the 100 and 200 butterfly. These Athlete of the Week interviews are usually pretty interesting. Mike Hixenbaugh does them well. If only he would update his blog...
Tom Gaffney wrote a great feature on Mack Rhoades. It really gives you a grip on how big of a rising superstar Rhoades is said to be.
Sophomore slugger Kurt Davidson won MAC Player of the Week for the second-straight week. Last week, he was 5-for-12 with three homeruns and eight RBIs. Pat Bangston's Zips are 4-1.
As reported a couple days ago, the Zips defensive line coach Terrell Williams is leaving Akron to do the same job at Purdue. Coach J.D. Brookhart credits Williams for helping to resurrect the defense the past two seasons.