#82 Akron Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Akron Zips
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #82
Conference Rank: #2 Mid-American
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With a 13-5 record, Akron easily won the MAC regular season title. But, as always, the conference’s NCAA Tournament bid comes down to a few days in Cleveland. The Zips managed to put away Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green to reach the conference title finals, but the team could not get the job done against Buffalo, falling 64-61. As a result, Akron had to head to the NIT where they lost in the first round at Ohio State. With the return of Isaiah Johnson and a slew of other talented players, Coach Keith Dambrot and company should have NCAA aspirations. Johnson is a big 6-10, 295 pound senior who led the team with 13.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Johnson only started nine games last season, but he finished games. The offense will work through Johnson and he could average closer to 20 points per game if his free-throw shooting improves.
2015-16 Record: 26-9, 13-5
2015-16 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Keith Dambrot
Coach Record: 278-130 at Akron, 386-200 overall
Who’s Out:
Johnson will almost certainly be starting more than nine games this year now that Pat Forsythe is gone. The 6-11 center missed some games last season, but he started in 19 of his 22 games played and averaged 8.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. The more significant loss is wing Reggie McAdams. He was the only player on the team to start all 35 games last season and averaged 11.4 points and 4.0 rebounds. McAdams was the most prolific shooter on a team loaded with shooters. He knocked down 41.0 percent of his 239 attempts from beyond the arc. Another wing, Jake Kretzer, is the other departure. He was second on the team in three-pointers made and connected on 41.8 percent of his attempts. Unlike McAdams, Kretzer was mostly just a shooter, but he was very good at it. He was pretty good at helping out on the glass and using his length to play defense too.
Who’s In:
Coach Dambrot has reloaded his backcourt and wing talent with this class. Junior college transfer Craig Eubanks will add some size and athleticism to the backcourt after redshirting last season. Tavian Dunn-Martin is a big-time scorer who can handle the ball too. He will likely spend most of his time off of the ball, but having another secondary ball handler available off of the bench is never a bad thing. More importantly, he can help replace the shooting lost with McAdams and Kretzer. Daniel Utomi, who redshirted last season, is a big 6-6 wing who is more of direct replacement for McAdams. He might be better than McAdams too and should fight for a starting spot right away. Ty Dalton is another big guard who can score in bunches and Marquelle McIntyre and Peter Agba figure to add emergency depth to the perimeter. The newcomers in the frontcourt are Michael Hughes and Emmanuel Olojakpoke. Hughes can get up and down the floor extremely well for a 6-9, 265 pound center and he will need to replace quite a few of Forsythe’s minutes.
Who to Watch:
All of the newcomers join an already loaded backcourt. Antino Jackson was second on the team with 11.8 points per game. He was not as consistent last season with his outside shot as some other players on the team, but Jackson is a dynamic scorer who can attack the basket effectively and be a major outside shooting threat. Jackson also dished out 3.5 assists per game. Noah Robotham was the team’s assist leader, dishing out 3.7 assists per game. He will again run the show with Jackson off of the ball. Robotham is a very consistent shooter who connected on 40.0 percent of his three-point attempts, but he does not do much scoring inside the arc. Josh Williams had a very good freshman campaign and could find himself in a starting role if Akron does not mind playing a little smaller than normal. He is only 6-2, but would have to play out on the wing where the Zips are used to having a bigger 6-5 or 6-6 wing. Starting or not, Williams is a very dangerous shooter who needs to add a little more to his offensive game. Jimond Ivey is a bigger sophomore who can attack the basket and, at 6-7, Aaron Jackson is even bigger. Those two, along with Utomi, will fill in most of the minutes when the Zips have their traditional big wing on the floor.
Final Projection:
Kwan Cheatham will join Johnson in the frontcourt. Cheatham is a big 6-10 forward who can stretch the defense with his outside shooting ability. Cheatham is not a big scoring threat in the paint, but he has more than enough size to help out on the glass and block a few shots. The concern for Akron this year will likely be depth inside. The backcourt should have no problem finding new shooters to help replace McAdams and Kretzer, but there is a lot of pressure on the newcomers in the frontcourt to provide quality depth behind Cheatham and Johnson. Players like Aaron Jackson and Utomi may have to spend some time at the four spot. That would help keep Akron’s best players on the floor, but this team cannot afford to lose out on too many possessions due to poor rebounding.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Noah Robotham, Junior, Guard, 9.7 points per game
Antino Jackson, Junior, Guard, 11.8 points per game
Josh Williams, Sophomore, Guard, 6.6 points per game
Kwan Cheatham, Senior, Forward, 7.2 points per game
Isaiah Johnson, Senior, Center, 13.6 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 76.6 (84th in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 68.0 (77, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.2 (212, 9)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.0 (51, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 11.7 (2, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 38.3 (32, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.4 (226, 9)
Rebound Margin: -0.1 (197, 9)
Assists Per Game: 14.5 (93, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 10.9 (31, 2)