MAC Basketball Top 25 - #18 Nick Harney, Akron Forward

Harney will likely be the X-Factor for Akron this season - USA TODAY Sports

We continue our look at the top 25 basketball players in the conference this season with #18 Nick Harney, a forward from Akron.

It was certainly an odd season for Nick Harney.

It started out with that whole compliance fiasco. If you don't remember, the compliance department at Akron didn't file both his and Demetrius Treadwell's paperwork on time to the NCAA. So, the governing body slapped both of them with a three game suspension. Don't think those suspensions made a difference? Akron started the season 1-2 with overtime losses to Coastal Carolina and Oklahoma State. One would think that had those two been available, Akron may have started out 3-0 and done a lot better in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

When he got back on the court, Harney took a little while to get back up to speed. His breakout game was right before Christmas against Cleveland State where he scored a season high nineteen points on 6-7 shooting and collected six rebounds. That was just the beginning for Harney, as late December and early January proved to be his best stretch of basketball the whole year. He scored in double figures in five straight games, albeit against average competition.

By the time conference season rolled around Harney seemed ready to join the big three of Zeke Marshall, Alex Abreu and Treadwell as part of the team's four-headed scoring monster. Harney leveled off after that stretch run, only posting double digit performances in two of the next seven games. The last third of the season was much better to Harney as he averaged ten points per game in the last ten games of the season.

The end of the season was really where Harney's roller coaster ride took an unexpected turn. When the team learned of the suspension of Alex Abreu just one day before the home finale against Kent State, Harney was asked to take over the point. Now, as someone with a history of poorer than average ballhandling skills, this was seen as an interesting decision. Surely someone (other than backup Carmelo Betancourt) would be a better option to play that position like Brian Walsh or Reggie McAdams. But, to Harney's credit, he embraced the change and played well. That game against Kent was a huge adjustment for him and it showed, he only scored four on 1-10 shooting and fouled out. After a week of practice he played better in the conference tournament, putting up eleven in both games and helping the Zips to the NCAA Tournament.

The big change this season is that Akron needs Harney to be more of a factor in the game. He was allowed to have off games because the Zips were so deep that someone usually would pick up the slack. Now, with the losses of Marshall, Abreu and Walsh, Harney can pick it up a little bit and be more aggressive with the ball.

A big part of what makes Harney so interesting is how efficient he is. He only averaged twenty minutes a game last year and was still able to put up nine and a half points per game. Rough math says that's a point every two minutes, which is pretty good considering all the scoring options Akron had last year. When looking at the top 30 scorers in the MAC last year, only three of them averaged less than 24 minutes a game: Reggie Keely, Derek Thompson and David Brown. And all those guys were just a shade under 24. Add four more minutes to Harney's playing time and that's two more points per game using the rough math above. Eleven and a half points per game is good enough for 18th in the conference last year (no coincidence to our ranking).

For comparison's sake, Kris Brewer is Kent State's best player who is getting love from some outlets as being an all-MAC player. His line reads like this: thirty minutes per game and nine points. Imagine what Harney could do if he played thirty minutes a game? An all-MAC first teamer for sure.

There are some weaknesses in Harney's game though. He's never been one who seems to want to play defense, but that seems to be changing. Part of the reason he gets limited minutes is because of Keith Dambrot's known quick trigger on guys not playing D. His rebounding numbers are average as someone at 6'7" could be grabbing more than four boards a game. From three-point land Harney was just 12-51 (23.5%). That should be improved next season along with rebounding. His performance in a local summer league (I know, I know) was fantastic both on the offensive and defensive end.

For the Zips to be a twenty win team again, Harney needs to become more consistent. Akron loses 45% of their minutes played from last season and 47% of points scored. That's a lot to replace and also a huge opportunity for Harney to step into that second scorer role. If Harney can step up to the plate most every game and deliver he has all-MAC first team potential. I'm not saying Akron's success lies directly on Harney's shoulders, but if he takes the next step this team will be sitting in the JAR on Selection Sunday waiting for their name to be called.

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