Akron overcame the arrest and suspension of its vital point guard to rally and win the MAC title Saturday night. Because of that, I'm not sure any mid-major team could have been asked to achieve more in these past seven days.
Alex Abreu's arrest on drug charges shocked the sport. It was a big headline within the MAC. He pleaded not guilty to trafficking in marijuana and possession of marijuana -- and was released from jail. But the team managed to go on without Abreu, and in the MAC title game, the Zips breezed by Ohio -- last year's MAC tourney team, which made a Sweet 16 run -- to the tune of 65-46.
Despite dropping two of its last three to end the regular season, the bye into the league semis meant Keith Dambrot's team only had to get two wins to play its way into the Big Bracket. And so they have.
Something to know on Dambrot: He was LeBron James' high school coach. You'll probably hear that a few times in the next few days. His team is good on defense, solid on the offensive boards and now a bit unpredictable since there's little tape on the team without Abreu -- who was legitimately the team's second-best player to ...
Player to know: Zeke Marshall. The Zips boast a stretch center/possible future NBA player in Marshall, one of the most highly sought recruits in conference history. Marshall was once seen as soft by in-league coaches/teams, but he's come a long way in his senior year and added about six dimensions to his game. He can play inside or out, can guard a big or a small, close or far. Nice weapon.
- Record: 26-6 overall, 14-2 in the MAC
- Most recent tournament appearance: 2011
- Jerry Palm predicts: 13 seed
- KenPom ranking: 60
- Sagarin ranking: 67
- RPI: 48
- Best win: Middle Tennessee State, Ohio
- Worst losses: Coastal Carolina, at Buffalo
- Notable stat: Akron got a good dose of pub for its 19-game winning streak from Dec. 18 through Feb. 27. It's the longest winning streak of any team in the nation this season. Outside of that, the Zips have one of the best 2-point percentage defenses in the country. Dambrot's team holds opponents to 42-percent shooting inside the 3-point line, one of the 10 best rates in the nation. It's by design, and Marshall has a lot of effect on that.
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