Zips vs Bobcats? Sounds like fun! Print E-mail
Written by J. Scott Fitzwater   
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An automatic bid to the NCAA tournament is at stake tonight at 6 p.m.  Two opponents quite familiar with each other will decide the MAC tournament champion.  Forty minutes was not enough to determine a winner the last time they met.  Will overtime(s) beckon again?

No. 3 Akron Zips (24-9, 12-4)
No. 9 Ohio Bobcats (20-14, 7-9)
6 p.m.

The Zips and the Bobcats will square off for a third time this year.  Akron took both contests, winning 67-62 in Athens Jan. 13 and 91-88 in double overtime Feb. 14 at the JAR.  This is Akron's fourth consecutive title game appearance.

Akron's Jimmy Conyers has feasted on Bobcat this year, scoring 36 points and pulling down 25 rebounds in the two contests.  Ohio's DJ Cooper has prospered himself against Akron, scoring 44 points, securing 10 rebounds, dishing 10 assists and swiping 6 steals.

The Zips have been unable to stop hot players this week.  Eastern Michigan's Carlos Medlock scored 42 in the double overtime quarterfinal and David Kool scored 39 for Western Michigan last night in the semifinal.  They will next have to contend with Armon Bassett, who has already set a new MAC tournament record for points scored with 91.  Medlock and Kool both had double-digit free throw attempts and Bassett is averaging 15.6 attempts per game in the tournament.

Bassett's backcourt mate, Cooper, has struggled in Cleveland.  He has 4 points, 6 assists and 4 turnovers in the two games at Quicken Loans Arena.

Akron has a big advantage on the glass.  They are the best offensive rebounding team in the conference and victimized the Broncos for 16 second chance points on 15 offensive rebounds.  However, they are also the worst defensive rebounding team, getting only 63.6% of their opponent's misses.  Though they don't do it as well as Akron, Ohio does like to try and rebound their misses.  Expect a lot of second and third chance opportunities.

The inside game also is to the Zips' advantage.  While Devaughn Washington has been playing like a man possessed, Reggie Keely has struggled of late and has seen reduced minutes.  Kenneth Van Kempen is a capable interior defender, but Akron will throw out Chris and Brett McKnight, Zeke Marshall and Jimmy Conyers.  Akron outscored WMU 30-18 in the paint last night.

Even with Cooper's below-average play the last two games, Ohio has the perimeter advantage with him, Bassett and wing Tommy Freeman.  Their press gave Miami  fits and they will likely use it against the Zips, who turned the ball over in bursts at times against WMU.

This game could come down to pace.  While Ohio beat Miami at the RedHawks' own game of deliberate play, it's still expected that the Bobcats will try and make Akron run with them.  Akron is nowhere near as slow as Miami and they'll get out on the break if they have the opportunity, but they prefer to work their inside-out game in the halfcourt set.  Ohio will try to force turnovers and score in transition. 

Akron coach Keith Dambrot has to decide if he wants to play Ohio's penetrating guards straight up or go to a zone and risk the drive-and-dish.  For Ohio's part, coach John Groce needs to figure out how to stop Conyers, who has had no problem having his way with the 'Cats.  They played more man defense than Miami expected, and that might continue tonight as Ohio might allow Akron to make hay inside instead of hazarding one of the Zips' guards heating up from outside.

Depth is a major advantage for the Zips.  Akron goes nine deep and no player on the team averages 30 minutes a game.  Despite two tough games (one very long), they should be relatively fresh.  On the other hand, only seven men are in the Bobcats' regular rotation plus a handful of minutes for Ivo Baltic.  Four of Ohio's starters played 30 or more minutes last night against Miami.  The same applies for Thursday's quarterfinal against Kent State.

Off the court, this is a match up of the two most dedicated student sections in the conference.  The two teams relish the opportunity to beat each other, and the O Zone and the AK-Rowdies are sure to go back and forth with each other.  It should be a great atmosphere and a fun final.

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