Akron Madness: Zips take on VCU Rams

USA TODAY Sports

The 12th seeded Akron Zips take on the 5th seeded VCU Rams tomorrow night at 9:45.

With over 90% of college basketball fans (acc. to ESPN brackets) selecting VCU to advance, the Zips face a tall task in pulling off the upset. As a basketball fan in general, I love to see the mid-majors take on teams from the power conferences in these 5-12 games, but nonetheless the committee matched up two mid-majors in this 5-12 match-up. This could not be more of a friendly battle as Shaka Smart is a former Zips assistant and the teams seem to have a deep respect for one another. With coach Keith Dambrot wearing his favorite Rams shirt and Shaka Smart sending the Zips a 45-second video message prior to the MAC tournament, it almost seems like these teams don't want to beat each other. I can assure you that it is not the case in this "mentor-protege" match-up.

Everyone was surprised to see the Zips come into the tourney as a 12 seed as all the experts had Akron squarely pegged as a 13 seed. More good news for the Zips came with the Detroit venue, which is a very make-able 3 hour drive from Akron. This good news cannot overcome the fact that VCU is a very good team who former Akron-lover Jay Bilas now predicts to make the Final 4 (ESPN Insider). VCU is now famous for their uptempo style on both ends of the floor that could wreak havoc on the inexperience ball handlers of the Zips. For Akron to pull off the upset, they will have to slow the pace down and play their own style. If Akron can play ugly and take care of the basketball, they can take advantage of their size with Demetrius Treadwell, Zeke Marshall, and Chauncey Gilliam and earn some easy buckets. The play of Carmelo Betancourt will be most crucial as he will be the primary ball-handler for the Zips and most exposed to the daunting press defense of the Rams.

The Zips come into the game as an 8 point underdog, but this is a major step-up from their last tournament appearance against Notre Dame where they were 15 point underdogs in a 2-15 match-up. I remember the spread because I watched the game in a Las Vegas sportsbook that erupted in agony after a late Steve McNees 3-pointer led to the Zips covering.

The MAC made a lot of noise with Ohio advancing to the Sweet 16 last year and the Zips are looking to bring the MAC more success in the tournament. The Zips do not have the same sleeper potential they had earlier in the year when they were on the nation's longest winning streak and prior to Alex Abreu's suspension. They have overcame adversity and managed to win the MAC tournament with an impressive pouncing of Ohio. It is time for them to shock basketball fans everywhere and pull off the upset.

Also: Tree is hungry for some Ram


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