#90 Akron Men's Basketball Preview

Akron Zips

Overall Rank: #90
Conference Rank: #2 Mid-American
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2010-11: 23-13, 9-7
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Keith Dambrot (162-75 at Akron, 270-145 overall)

Akron is rarely the same team in November as they are in March. This is a team that has been to the Mid-American Conference Championship game five times in a row. That was the case during the 2010-2011 campaign as the Zips struggled early in conference play, but Coach Keith Dambrot once again had his team ready to play down the stretch. The result was an average finish in conference play, but a great run through the conference tournament that resulted in an NCAA Tournament berth.

Who’s Out:
Again it may take some time for the Zips to adjust as they lose starters Steve McNees and Darryl Roberts, as well as sixth man Brett McKnight. McNees was the point guard who did a superb job running the offense and leading the defense. He was a decent scorer with most of his shots coming from beyond the arc. When he got into the paint, he would look for one of his teammates instead of finishing himself. Roberts was a do-it-all wing player who averaged 8.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season. Despite his ability to do a lot of things, Roberts was a great pure shooter. McKnight, who has been at Akron for seemingly the last decade or so, finished off his collegiate career as the Zips second leading scorer. Mike Bardo provided some much needed depth and Dakotah Euton could have seen some more minutes had he opted to stick around.

Who’s In:
Chauncey Gilliam, a transfer from UMBC, and Brian Walsh, a transfer from Xavier, highlight the group of newcomers. Gilliam is a big 6-5 wing who had a ton of success during his two years with the Retrievers. He will be a great small forward in the MAC. He can attack the basket, hit the glass and play pretty good defense. He likes to shoot from long range and does it quite well. At Akron everybody seems to shoot well from beyond the arc, so he may be inclined to work on that dynamic of his game even more. However, he will also use his size to attack the basket and that will earn him a starting job right away. Walsh has less experience after suffering through some injuries at Xavier. He is a good shooter and should be able to provide a spark off the bench during his sophomore season. Nick Harney highlights the group of incoming freshmen. The 6-7 small forward would likely be starting if it were not for Gilliam. Either way, he is a great talent. Due to his size and wingspan, Harney could also spend some time at the four spot. He lacks the strength to do that against some opponents, but Coach Dambrot will want to get him in the game as much as possible. Demetrius Treadwell will add more depth in the frontcourt. Adedeji Ibitayo and Blake Justice will look for minutes on the perimeter. Ibitayo is a versatile player who will emerge as a superb defender because of his wingspan. Justice is pretty much a pure shooter at this point in his career.

Who to Watch:
The big questions are in the backcourt where McNees and Roberts need to be replaced. Alex Abreu proved during his freshman campaign that he can run the show. He led the team with 3.6 assists as a part-time starter. He needs to cut back on his turnovers, but Abreu was just a freshman and that should not be as big of an issue this season. Brett McClanahan is back to man the shooting guard spot. He is almost entirely a three-point shooter, but he does what he does very well. He had a breakout season in 2010-2011 and that new found confidence may lead to a little more dynamic offensive attack from the senior. Quincy Diggs will battle it out with the newcomers for backup minutes on the perimeter.

Final Projection:
The frontcourt returns all their stars. Power forward Nikola Cvetinovic led the team with 11.7 points and 6.9 rebounds during his junior campaign. Cvetinovic spends most of his time in the paint and has emerged as a quality interior scorer. That has opened up space for the shooters on the perimeter and will do so again this year. Cvetinovic is a surprisingly versatile player for a 6-8, 230 pound forward. Unlike many others, he is not a shooter, but he is a great passer and can nab a steal here and there as well. Zeke Marshall gives the Zips a size advantage over just about every other team in the MAC. He is not a great interior scorer, but he can grab some offensive boards and finish. Mostly, Marshall uses his size to block shots and it is tough for anybody to score when the seven-footer is standing in the paint.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT

Projected Starting Five:
Alex Abreu, Sophomore, Guard, 6.6 points per game
Brett McClanahan, Senior, Guard, 10.0 points per game
Chauncey Gilliam, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Nikola Cvetinovic, Senior, Forward, 11.7 points per game
Zeke Marshall, Junior, Center, 8.5 points per game

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