I watch a lot of college basketball, but I will be completely honest with you. I had no idea there was a university in Binghamton, N.Y., until the Bearcats showed up on Akron's schedule.
Last year, this was a pretty decent team. Binghamton, Akron's opponent on Wednesday, went 12-4 to be the runner up for the America East Conference's regular season title. The Bearcats made it to the conference semifinals before losing to Vermont.
Unfortunately for Binghamton, that may have been the program's peak. The Bearcats graduated two players who finished 1-2 in rebounding and scoring.
Coach Al Walker thinks the team can replace those guys. That's because he's doing it the cheap way -- with junior college transfers.
That includes this season's leading scorer, junior guard Richard Forbes. He leads the Bearcats in scoring this season at 14.7 points per game.
Two of Binghamton's other top-five scorers also are juco transfers. One is power forward Duane James, who averages 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. At only 6-foot-6, guarding James will be a relief for Akron's frontcourt, which must be exhausted with playing taller players.
Senior swingman Steve Proctor, another juco guy, is a slasher who averages 8 points per game this season.
Binghamton's best returning player is probably junior point guard Mike Gordon. In the Buchtelite's game preview, coach Keith Dambrot says Akron needs to stop both Gordon and Forbes.
Senior shooting guard Troy Hailey rounds out the starting lineup. He had ankle problems last season.
Binghamton has played a lackluster nonconference schedule, and the Bearcats haven't done particularly well with it, either. At 3-3, they have beaten Niagara, Mt. Saint Mary's and Cornell; they lost to Colgate, Rider and Long Island.
ESPN ranks Binghamton in the following areas:
As a team, Binghamton has struggled shooting at 37.5 percent. As you might expect with a bunch of juco guys, their offense is not working that smoothly. The Bearcats have only dished 7.8 assists per game, compared to their opponents' 11.7.
From what I gather, the team lacks any sort of identity, which might actually make the Bearcats harder to prepare for. Binghamton usually gets good attendance, too. Coach Walker has a good reputation as having solid defensive teams. But forget all that, Binghamton's offense might not score 50 against Akron if the Zips want to play the same defense they did the past few games.
Prediction: Akron 68, Binghamton 51.
The Buchtelite's Adam Ferrise spoke with J.D. Brookhart about recruiting season.
Although coaches cannot talk about individual recruits, he discussed about how hectic it will be.
Here is my column from today's Buchtelite.
I outlined four storylines Zips fans should pay attention to during winter break...
Commuter schools, such as the University of Akron, typically struggle to support their athletics.
Now consider for the next month, this campus will be as barren as the UA chapter of Bubba Walther's fan club.
You might even find it easy to forget you're a Zips fan. Since the Buchtelite is taking a six-week recess, here are some storylines to follow through mid-January.
Will Jimmy Conyers and Chris McKnight find roles?
These newcomers have enormous potential to be stars for Keith Dambrot's men's basketball team. The question is, when?
Conyers, a versatile sophomore, would fit in perfectly as the Zips' fourth guard and back-up small forward. McKnight, who looks like a Romeo Travis clone, would fit in well as the fourth big man.
The difference between Akron being a good Mid-American Conference team and a top-25 team just might be the speed of Conyers' and McKnight's development.
Will people show up?
397, 349, 223 and 344. No, those aren't my bowling scores this week. That's how many fans the women's basketball team has drawn for its home games this season.
Chalk that up to the women providing such an awful product the past several years. A turnover record that would make Allen Iverson blush and an abysmal win-loss record doesn't translate to a packed Rhodes Arena.
My real concern, however, is for the men's team. Just 1,671 fans attended the home opener against Tiffin.
I'm worried because of an apparent lack of advertising around the city. This time last year, billboards across the Akron area promoted the Zips and their "Fantastic Four." Since football season began, you're more likely to see Kent State's "On the Hunt" campaign than anything UA has put together.
It certainly would be embarrassing if there isn't a sellout at some of the big games this winter, such as versus Nevada, a possible top-10 team by the time they come to Akron on Dec. 22.
Can talented freshmen continue performing? Point guard Sarah Tokodi is one of Akron's highest profile recruits in years for the women's basketball team. She has delivered on her reputation so far, averaging 13.3 points per game and 3.7 assists. Riana Miller, a 6-foot-3 forward, isn't far behind. She adds 7.4 points and 2.9 rebounds off the bench for first-year coach Jodi Kest.
Don't overlook the swimming team. Freshman Katelyn Lofland has not only shattered school records, but she's broken her own school records, too. Mind you, we're only nine meets deep into Lofland's career.
These talented women could be the difference for their teams. Or they could trail off, as freshmen often do.
What does J.D. Brookhart have in store?
Call me a sports nerd, but football recruiting is exciting, especially when Akron's J.D. Brookhart continues to beat Big 10 teams at it.
This weekend, his staff received a verbal commitment from the 29th-best offensive guard in the country, who de-committed from Michigan State. Brookhart's staff also pulled in a defensive back, who turned down a scholarship offer from his hometown school of Pittsburgh.
Those examples are why athletic director Mack Rhoades extended Brookhart's contract until 2012. He's an awesome salesman for UA who could probably sell condoms to permanent Father of the Year candidate Shawn Kemp.
You can follow these storylines on my Zips blog, which has daily updates on recruiting and other inside information you won't find in the daily newspaper. It is linked on Ohio.com, or you can just type in the URL: http://blogs.ohio.com/rasor.
When we return to classes, Akron could boast a top-25 basketball team and another Big 10-quality recruiting class in football.