Coming off a year in the big dance, Akron is relegated to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament and will take on the IPFW (Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne) Mastadons in their opening game Wednesday night at 7 p.m.. The Mastadons will play host to the Zips in Fort Wayne, Ind.
How They Got Here:
The Zips received a bye to the quarterfinals of the MAC tournament by finishing fourth in the conference. They started off strong holding off their rival Ohio 83-77 in a rematch of last year's MAC championship. The Zips were well on their way to appearing in their seventh straight MAC championship game when they were dominating Western Michigan 34-17 at halftime of the MAC semifinals. A combination of free throw woes, turnovers, fatigue, and some great play from Western Michigan led to a second half Zips collapse. The Zips fell to the Broncos and would not return to the MAC Championship and subsequently did not earn a NCAA tournament bid.
While no NCAA tournament bid this year for the Zips is a disappointment, the 2013-2014 season has already been a banner year for the Mastadons. Coach Tony Jasick led IPFW to the most wins in school history finishing with a 24-10 record and placing second in the Summit League. The Mastadons continued to make noise in the Summit League tournament annihilating IUPUI 85-47 in the quarterfinals and then holding on to win 64-60 in the semifinals against South Dakota State. The school's first NCAA tournament bid was within their cusp as they held a lead for much of the championship game against the top seeded North Dakota State Bison. Much like the Zips, the Mastadons faltered in the second half and fell to the Bison 60-57. The Mastadons fell just short of the grand prize, but this season marks their first postseason appearance since joining Division I.
Who to Watch For:
We've sang their praises all year long, but Quincy Diggs and Demetrius Treadwell are the two men to watch for the Zips. Treadwell leads the team in both points and rebounds with 14.9 an 8.7; respectively. Diggs seems to come up huge time after time when the Zips need him the most. He averages 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds for the Zips.
The Mastadons are primarily a 3-point shooting team led by Luis Jacobo, who averages 14.5 points and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 39.2% from 3-point range. The Mastadons also have a strong inside presence with Steve Forbes who averages 12.1 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting an impressive 60.5% from the field.
Why the Zips Will Win:
Coach Dambrot and the Zips are the more experienced team and have been in many postseason tournaments before. Diggs and Treadwell will continue to take control for Akron working the Mastadons inside and earning some hard fought lay-ups. While those two work the ball inside, someone is bound to get hot between Deji Ibitayo, Jake Kretzer, Nyles Evans, and Reggie McAdams knocking down the outside shot.
Why the Mastadons Will Win:
The upstart Mastadons are hungry for postseason success after falling just short in the Summit League tournament. They'll be playing in front of their home crowd and can attack the Zips with many weapons. If the game is close towards the end, Akron's free throw struggles will prove their achilles' heel again.