Here's the Rasor's Edge that ran with the Buchtelite's preview of men's basketball team preview on Tuesday...
As I grew up in Stow, Kent State basketball was huge. Forget the Cavaliers; everyone loved the Flashes.
That is no longer true. The media predicted Kent to tie for third place in the six-team Mid-American Conference East Division this season. That's quite a fall from the Flashes' 2002 trip to the Elite Eight.
For two weeks in 2002, Kent State basketball was the talk of the sports world. In 2005-06, the Flashes will battle Buffalo and Miami to stay out of the MAC's gutter.
In the preseason poll, Akron was predicted to finish second in the division behind Ohio, the reigning MAC champion. Five of 26 voters also said Akron will win the MAC Tournament. Only Ohio had more votes (14) in the conference.
Do you see what I'm getting at?
Kent State is terrible, and the team has left a void in Northeast Ohio sports. The Zips must start the season hot to tap into the new market.
Winning three of its first five games should be easy. Akron will play at home against Youngstown State, Duquesne and Denison in the first two weeks of the year. The Zips will also have a huge chance to make a name for themselves early in the season with games at California and No. 8 Louisville.
If the Zips win one of those away games, they will be much more likely to get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament or the NIT.
After that, Akron will spend half a week in Puerto Rico for the San Juan Shootout. The games will not count in conference play, but they will certainly matter when the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee convenes in March.
Basketball pundits say early-season success is overrated. That isn't true for Akron.
But to keep Dick Vitale happy, the Zips will play their best basketball late in the season. The Zips will use a 10-man rotation, rather than the traditional eight. This will keep them healthier and more energized than any team in the conference.
Up-tempo teams typically have larger rotations so they will always have fresh legs on the floor. Although the Zips are equipped to use the fast break, that is not coach Keith Dambrot's reasoning. He recognizes his team's incredible depth at all positions, so the team will play better with an extended rotation.
Now that sophomore Nick Dials, an Ohio State transfer, is healthy, Akron will use a four-man guard rotation that also includes junior Dru Joyce and sophomores Cedrick Middleton and Bubba Walther. Any of them could start on most MAC teams.
The forward positions are also solid. Dambrot is happy to have junior Romeo Travis and senior Darryl Peterson back. They comprise the best forward combination in the conference. If Travis continues his Carlos Boozer-like play (before Boozer became a scumbag), he might go down as the best player in Akron history. Sophomore Quade Milum, who is an athletic freak, can back up both spots.
Junior forward Jeremiah Wood's status is up in the air. His road to recovery from knee surgery has been difficult. If he does not improve, Dambrot may red shirt his super-talented, yet oft-injured, forward. But don't worry, the Zips played two-thirds of last season without Wood, and have enough big men to do it again.
At center, Akron will have seniors Rob Preston and Matt Futch. Preston was a spark off the bench last year. If he can keep that energy level over extended minutes, Akron's interior defense and rebounding will improve over last season.
Akron's depth, however, is irrelevant to many experts who say Ohio is the next MAC powerhouse. ESPN.com's Andy Katz called Ohio his "It" team, a squad that will make waves in the postseason.
The Bobcats have two outstanding sophomores in point guard Jeremy Fears and forward Leon Williams. The team won last year's MAC Tournament and nearly ousted Florida in the first round.
But they fear Akron after last year when the Zips beat the Bobcats by 32 combined points in two regular-season wins. Ball State and Toledo are good, too; but the conference will come down to Akron and Ohio.
With a quick start and steady finish, Akron will play its first postseason tournament game since Bob Huggins led the Zips to the 1989 NIT.