Back when ESPN (or some committee in a dingy, smoke-filled room) decided Akron's Bracketbuster dance partner, a lot of Zips fans were upset.
Austin Peay didn't seem to make much sense. The Governors' RPI was below Akron's and worse than some opponents of other MAC teams.
Keith Dambrot kept his composure, telling me RPI is not as crucial as some people make it out to be. Austin Peay was riding a long winning streak (which Murray State has broken since), and the Governors seemed like a favorite to win the Ohio Valley Conference.
Austin Peay suffered through a disappointing start to the nonconference schedule. Losing six of the first nine games, coach Dave Loos switched up his starting lineup. Since moving to a smaller lineup that replaces ineffective 6-foot-7 center J.P. Felder with hot-shooting guard Todd Babington, Austin Peay is 13-1.
Of course, that meant Austin Peay starts five players sized 6-5. The point guard, Derek Wright, is 5-9. The lack of height should worry the Governors against Jeremiah Wood, Romeo Travis and Quade Milum. However, Austin Peay has a solid inside player in Fernandez Lockett, who averages 11.7 points and 7.8 rebounds.
But the post is not where the Governors' offense thrives. It's on the perimeter, where Wright, Babington and guard Landon Shipley each take (and make) a lot of 3-pointers. Leading scorer Drake Reed (16.1 ppg) is more versatile. His slashing ability earns him plenty of free throws. (No word yet on Reed and Wright's long-lost teammate Rithmatic.)
On defense, the Governors thrive on stopping the 3 ball. Opponents make only 30.3 percent of them. Wright (2.24 steals per game) and Kyle Duncan (the team's fifth starter) are stingy defenders. Duncan typically D's up the opponent's most lethal backcourt scoring threat, presumably Cedrick Middleton on the Zips.
Here are some random notes...
- Austin Peay and Akron have met 17 times, most of which coming between 1980 and 1986 when the Zips played in the OVC. Akron leads the series, 9-8.
- The Governors are 30th in the Mid-Major Top 25, which is a higher ranking than every MAC team except Akron (No. 10).
- Austin Peay has already clinched a share of the OVC regular season crown. They will head to the conference tournament as the No. 1 seed.
- The game starts at 5 p.m. Saturday. I just called the ticket office. The kind receptionist said fans will be OK to walk up and purchase general admission tickets. ESPNU will televise the game.
- 2013 (110)
- 2012 (199)
- 2011 (225)
- 2010 (266)
- 2009 (380)
- 2008 (327)
- 2007 (561)
- 2006 (605)
- 2005 (89)