Not many expected the Akron Zips to be in the semi-finals of the Charleston Classic, but here they are.
The Zips blasted USC 66-46 on Thursday behind strong games from posts Kwan Cheatham and Pat Forsythe, who scored fifteen points each. Freshman point guard Noah Robotham also played well, scoring fourteen points including two threes.
Up next for Akron is undefeated but unranked Miami, who just four days ago knocked off #8 Florida in Gainesville thanks to this incredible shot from junior point guard Angel Rodriguez:
Rodriguez, a Kansas State transfer, leads Miami in scoring on the young season, averaging twenty points per game. He also averages three assists and three and a half steals per game. Another transfer, Sheldon McClellan from Texas, is the second of the 'Canes 1-2 punch. McClellan at 6-foot-5 plays the small forward role and averages fourteen points and five and a half rebounds per game.
Miami's only problem: they are an extremely small team. Of the guys that play meaningful minutes, only three are over 6-foot-5. Tonye Jekiri, a 7-foot center, has been the most effective this year scoring seven points per game. Freshman Omar Sherman and senior Joe Thomas have played decent minutes (both are averaging nineteen) but only average six points between them.
The good news for Akron is that Miami's lineup is similar to USC's: guard-heavy. Although Miami's guards are much more talented than USC's, the Zips will have the advantage down low with Forsythe, Cheatham and Isaiah Johnson roaming the paint. Look for Keith Dambrot to feature the frontcourt early and often against the 'Canes. If any of Jekiri, Sherman or Thomas get in foul trouble, Akron should be able to get anything they want down low.
The onus will be on Nyles Evans and Robotham to try and stop Rodriguez, who is quick and does a little bit of everything on the offensive end. That's a lot to ask for a freshman, but Robotham is a talented enough of a defender to cover the impressive Rodriguez.
The winner of the game will face either Charlotte or South Carolina in the Championship Game at 9:00 on Sunday. The loser of this game will play the loser of the other semi-final at 6:30 that same day.