It's hard to characterize 2007.
Looking back on the year, you might call it an utter disappointment. The basketball team failed to reach the postseason. The football team won four games. The soccer team got upset in the first round.
On the other hand, you could call it a success with Keith Dambrot winning 26 games and having the best men's basketball team ever to play at Akron. The athletic department revealed its gem of a stadium. The soccer team returned to national rankings and got great play from two freshmen.
Here is the list of most notable moments from the year. Please add your memories for each one.
1) Penno's Prayer -- You won't see many heartbreaks like this in sports. Cedrick Middleton's free throw went off the front rim. Then 6.6 seconds seemed like an eternity as the ball found Doug Penno, who found backboard and twine. If you want to torture yourself, watch the Youtube video. I don't think I have ever written with such anger. What I wrote
2) Miracle at Kalamazoo -- You won't see many finishes like this game, either. Andre Jones took a pitch and cut out Western Michigan's heart. "Everything but a band on the field," ESPN's commentator said about its top play of the week. If you want a reason to drop the noose from Penno's Prayer, watch this video. Unfortunately, the rest of the season was a huge downer. In the MAC, however, you never can say next season won't be better. What I wrote
3) Zips flush Flashes four times -- Is there anything sweeter than beating the Golden Flashes THREE times in one basketball season, including eliminating them in the MAC Tournament? Naa. Top it off with a victory in the teams' final meeting in the Rubber Bowl. That should silence the Kent State fans for at least 12 months. Winning at the MAC Center will prove to be essential to the team's confidence during this conference season. Here's a video of the KSU band solemnly playing at The Q. I assume it was after the fate of its team was known. What I wrote
4) Stadium revealed -- Since 2004, we have heard promises of a new stadium. A concrete announcement came in July. It seemed like a great day for everyone involved. Well, except for the property owners who are losing their homes and businesses. This stadium will be the MAC's finest. If it does open in 2009, the Zips will have no excuse for not competing at the highest level of any mid-major team. I had to threaten legal action in order to receive the rendering before the announcement, and that was fun. What I wrote
5) Soccer success -- The Zips returned to the level of success under Ken Lolla. Akron should sustain it too, because two of the key players Anthony Ampaipitakwong and Steve Zakuani were freshmen. The team lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but Caleb Porter will have the Zips contending for the foreseeable future.
Appropriately named, Illinois-Chicago seems to have flames coming off the ball.
UIC is a hot-shooting team that makes 45 percent of its 3-pointers, which is fifth in the nation.
At 8-4, the Flames have beaten Bradley, DePaul, Central Michigan and Toledo. It is a better team than the one that beat Akron last year 86-80. The Flames won by outrebounding Akron 45-32, but Jeremiah Wood didn't play because of an injured hip. Also, the Zips went 11-of-22 from the foul line.
Seven-foot center Scott VanderMeer grabbed nine of those rebounds. He could be a menace on the boards again. Point guard Josh Mayo is the real power behind UIC's attack. The 5-foot-11 junior averages 19 points and 3.4 assists per game. Most impressive is that he has made 60.6 percent of his 3-pointers. That's Tim Legler territory. You also have to pay attention to young guards Spencer Stewart and Robert Kreps on the perimeter.
Luckily, Akron plays good perimeter defense. You will see a lot of Darryl Roberts and less Steve McNees than usual. The Zips are 10-point favorites, and that's probably appropriate.
This is the first home game that the Zips actually might lose. But they won't.
Prediction: Akron 72, UIC 61
This might interest you...
A member of Protrade.com -- the sports stock market Web site -- says Akron is a good buy.
If I had some spare time, I would be tempted to toss away $50 to see if the Zips can earn me some money -- you know, to make up for all the heartbreak over the past few years.
Often, a mid-level player will have MAC scholarship offers and "interest" in bigger schools.
Conversely, there are some players who have other D-IA scholarships, but still want one from Akron. There are 25 to be exact.
Akron's strength of schedule is 326th out of 341 schools in the nation.
That is asinine, after the Zips missed out on last postseason because their schedule was too easy.
However, eight of Akron's next nine games will come against teams with a higher RPI than the Zips' number of 161...
UIC (109) @ Dayton (16) Miami (28) @ Buffalo (131) Ohio (42) Bowling Green (292 -- the exception) @ Kent State (72) @ Central Michigan (125) Toledo (117)
Akron will probably win six of those nine games, but it's probably too late to salvage any hopes of an at-large bid. Miami and Ohio certainly are in that conversation, however, with a strong MAC season.
This has been your weekly whining about Akron's weak scheduling and refusal to learn from last year.
The ABJ's Michael Beaven updated readers on how Romeo Travis (Spain) and Dru Joyce (Germany) are doing in Europe.
There is still more than a month remaining in recruiting season, but the Zips seem to be having their worst year since J.D. Brookhart's arrival, according to the recruiting Web sites.
If you have some spare time, read this feature about Cedrick Middleton which I just came across from the PD's Elton Alexander.
Also, here's a story about Zips recruit Manley Waller, the Atlanta-area cornerback who chose Akron over Ohio.
The 5-foot-9, 158-pounder apparently had a really crummy visit to Athens.
I hope everyone has an enjoyable, relaxing Christmas tomorrow.
ESPN.com's Kyle Whelliston wrote a fascinating article about Keith Dambrot's vision for building the program.
He hinted toward the weak schedule being a problem, but allowed Dambrot to justify it. You should definitely read it.
No. 2 UCLA predictably blew out the Penguins in the season opener.
Since then, YSU (3-9) has played close with Notre Dame and Kent State, yet lost some games it should've won.
No stat really jumps out to explain the poor record, except a 34-point disparity in the first halves of games.
This should be a game where Akron jumps on the Penguins' throat and maintains the lead throughout, much like against North Carolina A&T.
In last year's game, Quade Milum and Nate Linhart were huge factors. YSU focused on limiting Romeo Travis, Dru Joyce and Jeremiah Wood -- and succeeded. Still, it was allowing two role players combine for 32 points led to the 70-61 win.
The Penguins relied heavily on senior guards Quin Humphrey and Keston Roberts, but those guys are gone. Byron Davis became the leading scorer (14.7) after being more of a pass-first player last season. Post player John Barber leads the team in rebounding (5.8) and also scores 12.7 points per game.
The PD's Elton Alexander attempts to answer, "How good are the Zips?"
The ABJ's Tom Gaffney reports that A&T coach Jerry Eaves says he wants his team to emulate the Zips. You might recognize Eaves' name because he played four years in the NBA.
Maybe there's hope for Nate Linhart yet.
The Zips' small forward who seems to be a dogless blind man on offense dropped 17 points against Austin Peay. He won MAC East Player of the Week as a result.
The Zips will play North Carolina A&T Wednesday at 7 p.m. I'll be back to liveblogging for that game.
Sarah Tokodi won her second-straight MAC East Player of the Week award after tallying 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in a 81-76 win over Houston on Sunday.
That is a ton of boards for a point guard in a 40-minute game. Tokodi is a gem and the key to Jodi Kest's rebuilding effort.
(Wait. If you never were built in the first place, is it still "rebuilding"?)
Akron plays Austin Peay tonight at 8:30 in a return game for last year's BracketBuster spanking.
The Zips are just 2-2 away from Rhodes Arena this season. They Governors are 3-1 at home and 4-5 overall.
In last year's 74-57 win at Akron, four Zips scored double figures, including Jeremiah Wood, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The Governors get killed on the boards and can't stop good interior offense. They have a six-man rotation that lacks height. The Zips should be able to bleed AP to death in the half-court game if they want.
Prediction: Akron 71, Austin Peay 64
Jabari Arthur is on Phil Steele's All-American Honorable Mention team.
It's the highest honor a Zips player has received since Dwight Smith in 2000.
Steele also put nine Zips on the All-MAC squads.
Remember to vote for Zippy. It's the finals, so you need to step up your support.
Zippy made it to the finals, where she will meet Goldy Gopher from Minnesota, whom she beat by about 5,000 votes a few weeks ago.
My exam are going well, but as you can see, it's cutting into blogging time. I'll be back full-time starting next week.
Remember to vote for Zippy this weekend. She is in a tough fight to go to the championship with Otto from Syracuse.
Even if you're not an Akron fan, take time to vote. Syracuse's mascot might be the dumbest thing I've ever seen.
It's a giant orange. Sweet.
In the last five minutes of Tuesday's game, Akron relinquished a 10-point lead and gave Winthrop one of its own.
The Zips lost 68-58, in what might be their hardest road game of the season, despite 17 points and 13 rebounds from Jeremiah Wood. Coach Keith Dambrot blamed 4-for-20 combined shooting between Nick Dials and Cedrick Middleton.
Akron received a commitment from Manley Waller, an athlete from Georgia who had offers from Bowling Green, Ohio, Alabama-Birmingham and the MAC Champion Central Michigan.
Zippy is still battling Otto and winning by 350. Remember to vote.
Catherine Byrne resigned as Akron's coach after building the program from its infancy.
Everytime I spoke with her, she was a kind person, who appeared incredibly dedicated to advancing Akron women's soccer.
The amount of work she put into the job is commendable, but the team had not been improving at the rate the university would like to see. The Zips went 6-7-6 this season.
I have said this before, but forgive me if I don't post much for the next two weeks. School is getting really hectic.
If you're killing for Zips news, check in with ZipsNation.org as much as possible. There are a lot of informed Zips fans over there who certainly can provide good perspectives.
Also, remember to vote for Zippy whenever you can. The marsupial is putting a whoopin' on Otto from Syracuse. Don't let up.
The ABJ's Tom Gaffney previewed tonight's game versus Wyoming by talking about the Zips' free throw shortcomings.
The Zips are 11-point favorites. The over-under is 139.5.
I'm a game-time decision. I want to go but the studying is really piling up. If I do, I'll liveblog it again.
Prediction: Akron 75, Wyoming 71
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