Akron's next challenge on the road to Madison Square Garden is Massachusetts. The teams will play on ESPN Saturday at noon.
The Minutement score a lot of points (81.9), but also allow a lot (75.8). The statistics indicate a porous defense, but that isn't quite true. UMass plays a fast-paced game, so that skews the stats.
The Minutemen's weakness comes at the foul line (66.7 percent) and, despite their size, on the glass. They have a rebounding deficit this season. However, the team averages more than seven blocks per game.
On offense, swingmen Gary Forbes and Ricky Harris are Nos. 1 and 7 in scoring in the Atlantic-10, respectively. Forbes and forward Etienne Brower are Nos. 5 and 9, respectively, in the league's rebounding leaders. Point guard Chris Lowe averages 6.1 assists per game, which is 16th in the nation.
On defense, Lowe and Harris are among the league leaders in steals. Big men Dante Milligan and Tony Gaffney are among the A-10's top four shot blockers.
Akron will face a strong challenge from UMass' size. Forbes is 6-foot-7. Milligan, Gaffney and Brower are each around 6-8 or 6-9. Two things work in Akron's favor. First, the Zips have one of the nation's best wing defenders to stop Forbes. Nate Linhart never has had a chance to guard someone his own size. If he can defend that well with mismatches, he should be able to lock down Forbes. Second, UMass doesn't use its big men as offensive weapons. They are mostly defenders and rebounders.
Those big guys will give Jeremiah Wood problems, however. They also will plug any dribble penetration from the Zips. That means Akron must have its 3-pointers falling to win. UMass defends the perimeter well, so that will be a challenge.
The Minutement average about 5,000 fans per game, but only 2,112 showed up at the William D. Mullins Center to watch the first-round game against Stephen F. Austin. The home court isn't likely to provide much of an advantage Saturday, either.
The winner will travel to Syracuse for a game on Tuesday. The Orange beat Maryland Thursday night.