It could be a case of postseason giddiness for one team and tournament apathy for another if the University of Akron men’s basketball team allows it.
The Zips left Akron on Tuesday to make the trip to Fort Wayne, Ind., to play the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Mastodons in the opening round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, the Mastodons’ (24-10) first postseason appearance and UA’s first time playing in the CIT.
IPFW comes off a regular season in which it almost won the Summit League.
“They’re a good team,” UA coach Keith Dambrot said after Tuesday’s practice. “They’re really good offensively. They’re big and strong, good shooting with good penetration. I know they’re good because North Dakota State is very good and they could have won that game and the championship.”
The Mastodons showcase two players, 6-foot-5 senior forward Luis Jacobo (14.6 points per game) and 6-9 forward Steve Forbes (12.1 points per game).
The Zips (21-12) fell in the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament to Western Michigan on Friday at Quicken Loans Arena, stopping any chance of appearing in the NCAA Tournament that begins this week.
“It’s kind of a disappointment for us,” forward Demetrius Treadwell said. “We have high expectations here and expectations every year and goals every year to get to the NCAA Tournament.
“So, for us to not be playing in it is kind of difficult.”
Forward Quincy Diggs, a senior who returned to the Zips in the hopes that the team would repeat as conference champion, agreed.
Diggs, who said he will begin workouts to help him extend his basketball career after the season ends, said he was disappointed for himself, but especially for the team. But he is still focused on the here and now.
“Now we’ve got the CIT,” Diggs said.
For him, motivation is easy. It could very well end up being his final college game if the Zips are unable to get up for this tournament. How do they get up considering plans have gone awry?
“I don’t know. You have to challenge their competitiveness,” Dambrot said. “If you have pride and you have competitiveness, you’ll play. And if you don’t, you won’t.”
Ultimately, it falls on the heads of team leaders. Diggs isn’t ready to be done, nor is Treadwell, who said motivation should not be a problem.
“We’re going to go out there. We’re going to give it our all and come back with a trophy,” he said. “We still have the opportunity to play basketball, and if everybody here loves the game like they say they do, they would bring their all to this basketball game.”
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.