Little has changed since the University of Akron beat Ohio in early February.
At least that’s the way coach Keith Dambrot sees the situation as his Zips venture to Athens to play in the OU Convocation Center tonight.
Dambrot told the Zips prior to the first game that it didn’t define their season.
“It’s the same thing, and we may have to play them again,” he said. “It’s not going to be the final definition of the season win, lose or draw. What we have to do is stay as even-keeled as we can and treat each game the same.”
Dambrot is right in one regard as the ultimate goal, winning the Mid-American Conference’s postseason tournament to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, hasn’t changed in the least.
For any professional gambler, it would be an even money bet that the Zips (22-4, 12-0) and the Bobcats (20-7, 11-1) will meet for a third time in the league tournament. That’s not meant to insult the rest of the MAC’s teams, but with UA and OU running nearly neck-and-neck in the MAC East, it reflects conventional wisdom.
But as much as Dambrot wants to believe that this game is just like the one Feb. 2, the Zips, winners of 18 in a row, have a lot more on the line in the present than the Bobcats. With their first ranking in a national poll coming this week — No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches Poll — UA will face more scrutiny at the national level. That includes from the national sports media as well as those who have input into who makes it to the NCAA’s postseason dance as an at-large entry.
Center Zeke Marshall said the Zips shouldn’t allow those factors to put any pressure on them as the season winds down.
“Obviously, it’s a big game, but we can’t make it more than what it is,” Dambrot said. “Last year, they beat us bad. They beat us really bad. It still didn’t affect the championship game.”
Pumping it up
The Zips won’t go into the Convo Center unprepared for the noise level.
Dambrot expects there to be 11,000-12,000 fans there to cheer on the Bobcats. To combat it, he had a member of the support staff come to practice Tuesday and patch into the Rhodes Arena public address system to simulate game situation noise. The team practiced amid the sounds of crowd noise, Metallica and other loudness.
“We’re trying to make sure we simulate excitement, handle adversity and most importantly be able to communicate through the noise,” he said.
Rhodes Arena doesn’t come close to the size of OU’s facility, but Dambrot said he was happy with what it provided his team.
“It’s close enough. It serves its purpose except no one is calling us [expletives],” he said.
Working out kinks
The only thing to mar junior forward Demetrius Treadwell’s game on national TV last Friday was his 3-of-11 performance from the free-throw line. Treadwell always spends extra time after practice working on that aspect of his game, and this week was no exception.
Treadwell said he has been overthinking at the line.
“It’s all mental right now,” he said. “You’ve seen me after practice every day making them all. I have to stay focused when I’m on the line, remember my routine and follow through with it.”
“It’s all between his ears,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with his stroke. We need to play him because he rebounds everything during crunch time.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at https://ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.