On a normal Tuesday, the University of Akron basketball team prepares for its next opponent on Wednesday.
Not this Tuesday.
The Zips practiced just as intensely as if there were a game to be played tonight, but they know that nothing will be coming until North Dakota State takes the floor of Rhodes Arena at 7 p.m. Friday in a nationally televised BracketBusters game on ESPN2.
Senior guard Brian Walsh called Tuesday’s practice the best the team has had in a month and suggested that a weeklong break might be what was needed.
“I think it’s good for us to catch our legs and recover,” he said. “A couple of guys, including me, have been feeling a little sick. So it ended up being perfect timing for shaking our colds.”
Coach Keith Dambrot agreed.
Tuesday’s practice was intense, but shorter than it might have been had there been a game.
He’s been faced with the question of how much rest the Zips should get.
“You want to freshen them up, but you want to stay [practicing] hard,” he said. “I thought today we looked pretty good, just freshness wise.”
This isn’t a normal situation for Zips. With a 17-game winning streak, the nation’s longest, on the line, an interruption to routine might prove detrimental. For Dambrot, it boils down to a fundamental question.
“Can you keep your precision?” he asked.
Then he quickly answers the question: “We haven’t been very precise anyway, so I hope our precision improves.”
Walsh said that the benefits have been revealed already.
“I think we’re really focused and hungry. It’s going to be nationally televised and sold out,” he said. “This week will give us time to prepare a lot, because we don’t know anything about them.”
The Zips are the odds-on favorite to win the Mid-American Conference regular-season title, but the problem remains that only the tournament winner is guaranteed a slot in the NCAA Tournament.
It would be unwise to assume the Zips will get an at-large bid even if they impress with their record and RPI rating, which is hovering in the high 40s or low 50s, depending upon the survey.
Despite the fact that they have a center in Zeke Marshall that people are watching nationwide, star power likely won’t be enough to get them in.
“I think reputation does [get teams in], which certainly doesn’t help us. What I mean by that is that we’re not Alabama. We’re not Ohio State,” Dambrot said.
Dambrot said he didn’t want to look beyond the present.
“My thing is if I start worrying about that, my feeling is I’m not focused on what I’m supposed to do,” he said.
Shake it up
Both basketball teams and a bunch of UA students filmed a version of the Harlem Shake, a goofy dance that’s gone viral on college campuses throughout the country.
Zips students can see it at a pre-game pizza party Friday at the North Dakota State game and at the women’s game against Ohio on Feb. 28.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.