Posted on: November 10, 2011 10:27 am
Edited on: November 10, 2011 10:46 am

Akron's Dambrot realistic despite upset

By Jeff Goodman

It had been four years since Keith Dambrot's team knocked off a BCS school.

This coming from a MAC program that has won at least 20 games each of the past six seasons - and made the postseason each of the past four years.

Last night Dambrot's Zips pulled off the first upset of the young 2011-12 college basketball campaign with a 68-58 victory over a talented Mississippi State team.

"Usually, we're not very good early in the year," admitted Dambrot, whose honestly is refreshing in an industry in which it's also a rarity.

Dambrot said this was the worst his team has looked in practice in any of the eight seasons since he took over in 2004.

"I honestly didn't know what to expect," Dambrot said. "We've got a lot of good pieces, but we have a lot to learn."

While Akron was led by Quincy Diggs in the scoring column, the key was developing 7-footer Zeke Marshall - a former Top 100 player who could be a pro due to his length and defensive ability.

"He affected every shot," said Dambrot, best-known for coaching LeBron James early in his high school career. "He's such a great kid and he keeps getting better."

"I called him a basketball virgin when he came here because he had no idea how hard to work and didn't know a lot about the game," he added. "He was a blank canvas."

Marshall finished with 10 points, six boards and five blocks and helped keep Mississippi State's inside duo of Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie in check to 20 total points. Diggs, a New Orleans transfer, led the team with 19 points.

Despite the victory, Dambrot remained level-headed. He's not upset that his team isn't going to New York City next week while the Bulldogs will advance and play at Madison Square Garden - even after the loss.

"I'm a mid-major coach," he said. "Nobody understands that better than me. That's the way this tournament is. Nobody wants to watch the Akron Zips next week. They want to watch the big boys. I want us to get to that point, but I wouldn't invite us right now, either."

"Most likely we're going to have to win in March to get in the NCAA tournament. I'm a realist," Dambrot said. "This wasn't going to make or break our team."

Photo: AP
Posted on: August 18, 2011 1:35 pm
Edited on: August 18, 2011 1:37 pm

Trippin': Can Zips make another run at MAC title?

In our Trippin' series we're talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin' related stories.

By Matt Norlander

Akron's among the best mid-major teams that you never think about. The Zips have had a healthy run the past seven years under head coach Keith Dambrot. They reached the NCAAs last season, falling to 2 seed Notre Dame in the second round.

The team just got done with its Canadian trip to Toronto and Montreal. The Zips went 5-0 in their exhibitions. Nice -- even if that didn't mean too, too much. Dambrot's a pretty level guy, by the way. When talking to him about his group, he didn't seem as reactive to what'd transpired on his trip the way other coaches do. Maybe that's why he's been able to average well over 20 wins since 2005.

What Dambrot learned: "Well, we have a lot to learn. We're behind mentally from the teams we've had in the past, but we're more athletic than we've been. We still have to figure out the rotation."

What impressed him: "We played hard defensively and shared the ball well offensively. I was glad to be able to get six new guys out there to play." Yes, Akron will bring in six green guys to the roster this season. It's a turnover Dambrot hasn't dealt with in some time. 

What concerned him: "Just the lack of being game-tested. We lost four guys who've been in four straight MAC title games." Two of those players are playing professionally. Steve McNees is now in Austria and Brett McKnight, a leading scorer for four years, signed in Germany.

-- Freshman Nick Harney led the team in scoring, Dambrot said. The other two standouts were Chauncey Gilliam (a transfer from Maryland-Baltimore County) and Brian Walsh (a Xavier transfer).

-- The good news is the team has no major injuries it's dealing with. Everyone's healthy, Dambrot said, save for one minor wrist injury which won't be an issue in the coming weeks.

-- The Zips also lose, in addition to McNees and McKnight, Darryl Roberts and Mike Bardo. Roberts was really key, as he was a very disciplined and very reliable point guard for Dambrot. All told, it's about 45 percent of the team's minutes played from last year are up for grabs.

-- If the team is going to thrive, it's going to have to ride Nikola Cvetinovic. Now, Cvetinovic did not make the trip with the team, but it wasn't disciplinary; he's currently playing in the World University Games for his home country, Serbia. Because of the Games, in fact, Akron went against all-star teams that didn't have true all-star rosters -- many a player is currently playing in the event in China.

-- There are only three seniors on this year's team -- Cvetinovic, Brett McClanahan (who will move from small forward to shooting guard) and Kyle Petersen -- and they'll all see playing time. Dambrot said he's got a good idea of the starting lineup. Cvetinovic and McClanahan will line up with junior 7-footer Zeke Marshall, sophomore point guard Alex Abreu and junior forward Quincy Diggs.

-- Dambrot ended by saying his team's ability and confidence can be seen in his seven-year run. He won't change his strategy, even with a lot of experience gone. What he is concerned about is the strength in the MAC's East division. HE admitted the Zips probably have "the least amount of impact players coming back ... so it's no definite thing."
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 12, 2011 8:34 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2011 9:59 pm

Welcome to the Dance, Akron Zips

Nikola Cvetinovic celebrates the MAC titleAnother chapter in the rivalry between Akron and Kent State is in the books. The No. 6 seed Zips upset the No. 1 Golden Flashes in QuickenLoans Arena to claim the MAC auto bid on Saturday, March 12. The final score was 66-65 after a single overtime period.

Akron used defense to corrall the higher seed. 7-foot sophomore Zeke Marshall led the way with a devastating nine blocks to go with his nine points and 11 rebounds. Kent State was held to just 33.3 percent shooting by the team defense of the Zips as well. Akron guard Steve McNeese was the leading starter with 14 points, and Darryl Roberts kicked in 10. Forward Brett McKnight scored 15 in 23 minutes coming off the bench. Star player Nikola Cvetinovic (right) was held to just 4 points, but he was able to add 10 boards to the impressive overall team effort.

The Vitals

Record: 23-10 (11-7)
Colors: Blue and gold
We're thinking: 15 seed
Kenpom ranking: 124
RPI: 117
Best win: Kent State (twice)
Worst Loss: Eastern Michigan
Interesting stat: Six different players had at least one blocked shot in the title game against Kent State.
Most recent tourney appearance: 2009, Lost to Gonzaga in first round.

Posted by Eric Angevine

Photo: US Presswire

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 12, 2011 12:48 am
Edited on: March 12, 2011 12:56 am

MAC championship game preview

Steve McNeeseIt's time for championship-caliber basketball to return to QuickenLoans Arena. March 12 will see a team from Ohio crowned champion on the court.

The participants in the MAC championship game are No. 1 seed Kent State (23-10, 12-4) and No. 6 Akron (22-12, 9-7). The last time a MAC title game was played without one of those two teams in it was 2005, when the Ohio Bobcats edged the Buffalo Bulls for the auto-bid. Even more amazing, this is Akron's fifth straight MAC title game, which they reached this year in spite of a low seed.

The most serious bit of history between the Flashes and Zips came in 2008, when Kent State pounded Akron 74-55 in the final to make it to the NCAA tournament. There have been ample in-season meetings that decided seedings and pure pride as well.

Kent State puts an experienced and balanced team on the floor, led by junior forward Justin Greene (15.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg) alongside fellow upperclassmen Sherman Robinson (13.1 ppg) and Carlton Guyton (12.4 ppg). Akron is led by junior Nikola Cvetinovic, a 6-foot-8 forward who averaged 12.2 points and 6.8 rebounds over the course of the season.

The MAC final will be played at 6:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Posted by Eric Angevine

Photo: US Presswire

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 7, 2011 12:55 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2011 1:42 pm

Conference tourney preview: Mid-American League

This is for all the doubters who think QuickenLoans Arena will never see a championship team now that LeBron is gone. March 8-12, there will be passion, excitement and winning in the home of the Cavaliers again, because the MAC tournament will come to town.

Ohio upset Georgetown in the Big Dance last seasonThe Kent State Golden Flashes (21-10, 12-4) are pretty much MAC royalty. They’ve been in the league’s upper echelon for 13 years running, and have nabbed the top seed in the conference tournament this season. The Flashes are led by 6-foot-8 junior Justin Greene, who paces his squad in scoring (15.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.4). The big man is flanked by two upperclassmen guards in Rodriguez Sherman and Carlton Guyton. Both shoot over 40 percent from deep, making the interior double-team a very dubious proposition for opponents. The Golden Flashes are the favorites to claim the MAC auto bid, but postseason dreams rarely go as planned in the tough Midwestern league, and they know that as well as anyone.

The MAC is divided into two divisions – East and West – and that can make for a bit of illusory superiority sometimes. The four teams that beat Kent State this season were also members of the East division. A quick look at kenpom.com shows a lot of red on the West side of the standings, which means some very bad offenses and defenses live there. It will be primarily up to No. 2 seed Western Michigan (19-11, 11-5) and No. 4 Ball State (18-12, 10-6) to prove the worth of the West when given the chance. The No. 3 Miami Redhawks (16-15, 11-5) are an East team, and will sit out the first round with a bye, as the top four seeds do in the MAC. The first round of competition will get underway on March 8, with the championship game taking place on March 12 in Cleveland.

MAC tournament bracket


Title game: 6:00 p.m. ET, Saturday, March 12 (ESPN2)


  1. Xavier Silas, Northern Illinois
  2. Julian Mavunga, Miami
  3. Justin Greene, Kent State


Conference RPI: 20

KenPom.com rating: 18

Sagarin rating: 17

NCAA Tournament Locks: None

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: None


Last NCAA Tournament Appearance:

Kent State: 2008 (71-58 loss to UNLV)

Western Michigan: 2004 (71-58 loss to Vanderbilt)

Miami: 2007 (58-56 loss to Oregon)

Ball State: 2000 (65-57 loss to UCLA)

Ohio: 2010 (97-83 win over Georgetown (above), 83-68 loss to Tennessee)

Akron: 2009 (77-64 loss to Gonzaga)

Bowling Green: 1968 (72-71 loss to Marquette)

Buffalo: N/A

Central Michigan: 2003 (79-73 win over Creighton, 86-60 loss to Duke)

Northern Illinois: 1996* (74-73 loss to Texas Tech)

Eastern Michigan: 1998 (83-71 loss to Michigan State)

Toledo: 1980 (94-91 loss to Florida State)

*member of Horizon League


Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Eric Angevine

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