On Saturday, February 2nd, something wll happen in MAC men's basketball that has not happened in at least a dozen years when two undefeated conference opponents will face-off as the Ohio Bobcats
(6-0) travel to Rhodes Arena to take on the Akron Zips
(7-0). While there have been other 7-0 starts in conference play, Toledo in 06-07 and Kent in 05-06, neither faced an undefeated conference foe this late in the season. Even during Kent's outstanding 16-1 season in 01-02, the Golden Flashes started 1-2.
Akron and Ohio have been quite sucessful over the last few years, alternating NCAA tournament appearances over the previous four years. The Zips own 6 straight MAC championship game appearance while the Bobcats have three NCAA tournamment victories. They also know each other quite well, having faced each other twice a year in the regular season and in two of the last three years in the MAC Championship game.
Both are led by recognizable star players, the Zips 7'0" senior center, Zeke Marshall, who is the MAC's all time leading shot blocker and the Bobcats senior point guard DJ Cooper who is the MAC's all-time assists leader. Not surprisimgly, the Zips lead the MAC in blocked shots and the Bocats in assists. These teams are far from a one man show, however, with 10 players on each team averaging more than 10 minutes per game and 7 Zips averaging at least 6 points per game, led by Marshall's 12.8, while Ohio counters with five players averaging at least 8, led by Coopers 14.6. The two teams are neck and neck in overall scoring offense with 74.8 for the Zips and 74.5 for the Bobcats. The defense is almost as close with Akron giving up 62.3 per to the Bobcats 63.3. Ohio is the best 3 point shooting team and Zips are tied for the leading rebounding team.
This should be a down-to-wire contest, with the winner getting a leg up on the race for the #1 seed in the MAC tournament, but more importantly in the players minds for who the best team in the MAC is this year. The winner could potentially run the table in the MAC, and as good as these two teams are neither is likely to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament no matter how the rest of their seasons go so this one could be a critical determining factor on who gets to participate in March Madness.
This post was submitted by one of our esteemed readers and does not necessarily reflect the opinions or thoughts of Hustle Belt or SB Nation.