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Zips to play exhibition on Thursday

By mrasor Published: November 3, 2008

Men's basketball
With all the football frenzy, it's easy to forget Akron's basketball team will tip off Thursday. The exhibition game against Walsh starts at 7 p.m.

    Here are some questions I would like to see answered, at least partially...
    Are the point guards remotely ready to lead the team? Keith Dambrot has suggested that Steve McNees and Darryl Roberts will play shooting guard. That leaves the team's most important position to two guys who have played a total of zero college basketball games. I think Ronnie Steward's baptism will be ugly at times -- much like McNees' -- but he will eventually be a dependable court general. His immediate value will come on defense and offensive slashing. It might take time to understand the system and share the ball effectively. As for Humpty Hitchens, he looked raw. He will be a defensive pest, but it might take time for him to become confident with the ball.
    Will Brett McKnight become a leading scorer? This guy is a diverse scorer. You could sense his potential from the day he became eligible last season. Akron's problem is that it needs someone to score 15 points a night consistently. Can Nate Linhart or McNees do that? Probably, but McKnight has the highest offensive potential of anyone on the team. The sooner he meets it, the better chance Akron has to be a force in the MAC.
    Can the defense keep Akron in games? Early in the season, the offense will look ugly. Playing green point guards (and not having a stud swingman) almost guarantees that for any team. The Zips can put together one heckuva swarming defense, though. The unit of Steward, Roberts, Linhart, Jimmy Conyers and Mike Bardo is as good as it gets defensively. Until Steward (or Hitchens) becomes an offensive asset, however, it probably can't score on a lineup of streetwalkers. If the defense can win games, then the Zips have a chance to maintain their streak of winning 23+ games.
    Who gets minutes, (and who's getting redshirted)? My guess is that Dambrot will use four guards (McNees, Roberts, Steward and Hitchens), four forwards (McKnight, McKnight, Conyers and Linhart) and a center (Bardo). The coaches might want to add another big man. Look to see who gets that role: Nikola Cvetinovic, Andrew Parrish, or Steve Swiech. Swiech should get the first opportunity, considering you don't need to burn a redshirt with him.

Toledo coach Tom Amstutz announced this morning that he will resign at the end of the season.
How will that affect Wednesday's game? One would assume that the Rockets will be motivated to win out the season for their coach. If the Zips jump out to an early lead, that could crush the emotion.
    Other notes...
    Akron is a 4.5-point favorite to win on Wednesday.
    The weather Wednesday will be fantastic (68 and sunny). Because the game starts at 8 p.m., fans should have one last opportunity for enjoyable tailgating at the Rubber Bowl.
    Amstutz told Toledo's Independent Collegian Akron has good skill players and specifically mentioned Kevin Grant on defense.
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