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MAC Basketball Tournament Semifinal Preview: Akron Zips vs. Ball State Cardinals

The Zips and Cardinals battle for a spot in the finals

NCAA Basketball: Akron at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Akron Zips pulled away in the second half from the Eastern Michigan Eagles, while the Ball State Cardinals had to battle all 40 minutes to beat the Western Michigan Broncos.

Game Details

  • When: Friday, March 10th, 5:30 p.m.
  • Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland
  • Watch: CBS Sports Network
  • Listen: Fox sports 1350 in Akron/ WLBC 104.1 in Muncie

Scouting the Cardinals

Ball State is second in the MAC in scoring per game. A big reason why is their shooting ability from outside. They are second in the MAC in 3 point field goal percentage.

The Cardinals may be without Tayler Persons, their leading scorer who was injured in the quarterfinal game with Western Michigan. His loss would be huge.

The trio of Franko House, Tahjai Teague, and Trey Moses do a great job of closing down the lane, which will be a huge focus against Akron and Isaiah Johnson.

Scouting the Zips

The Zips are second in the conference in scoring defense, and do everything well.

They rely heavily on their MAC Player of the Year award winning center, Johnson. They run a lot of their offense through him. He is an effective passer that commands double and triple teams inside, leaving wide open looks for their shooters.

Players to Watch

Isaiah Johnson, Akron: The 6’10, 290lb Johnson isn’t just a big body in the middle, he can finish effectively, and is a good passer.

Kwan Cheatham Jr., Akron: A streaky shooter, if he is hot, it’s next to impossible to beat the Zips.

Francis Kiapway, Ball State: The junior guard is averaging 8.1 points per game this year, but will need to step up big if Persons can’t go. He had 16 against the Broncos.

Trey Moses, Ball State: The sophomore big man for the Cardinals is going to have his hands full with Johnson, but he has the size to at least slow him down a bit. Especially if he can get some help from Franko House, another big body in the middle for the Cardinals.

Keys to the Contest

The Cardinals need to shoot the ball well. They didn’t do a good job last time out against the Zips, and it cost them the game.

For Akron, it’s just a matter of playing their game, and not taking bad shots from outside. They also can’t suffer a letdown if Persons can’t go. The Cardinals are one of the deepest teams in the league, with 7 players averaging over 8 points a game. Teague, a great defender, is throwing in 6.9.


I am going with Johnson and the Zips until someone knocks them off. It doesn’t hurt their cause that Persons may be out, and the Cardinals had less time to rest and played a tougher game. I think the Zips win, 75-70.