There are a lot of questions regarding the Akron Zips men’s basketball team as we near the start of the 2018-19 men’s basketball season. I am going to start with what I know. Coach John Groce had a lot of success in the MAC before heading to Champaign. If he had success there, he likely wouldn’t be back in the MAC. With what is going on in the major college basketball world, that might not be the worst thing for him.
I know I am not a fan of the Groce offense. There are a lot of high screens and threes. So many threes. However, when it works, it works well. I am a huge fan of the Groce defense, especially with regards to this group. There is a lot of height and athletic ability on this squad. Also a lot of smart players. Charles Barkley once said that anyone can score, it takes brains to rebound. There is some truth to that, and I would throw defense into that category, too.
So I know the Groce system works. I also know some of the players on this squad are really good. Daniel Utomi averaged 16.7 points last season and 5.3 rebounds. The 6’6 forward hit over 40% of his three pointers, knocking down 88 of 219 tries from beyond the arch. He is literally the perfect player for the Groce system. Jimond Ivey is also a great player that averaged 13.1 points and 5.7 rebounds last season. On the 2015-16 team, he looked poised to have a breakout season last year. I think losing Dambrot and a new system hindered that a bit. I am not going to go into the what I suspect part of the preview. I suspect he will have a better season this year. I also suspect a lot of the young talent in the front court is geared to really help this team both get open jumpers and play tough defense.
I currently have the Zips ranked 5th in my power rankings. While they were 6-12 in the MAC last season, I do see this team being improved, so that 5th ranking is pretty close to the floor for me. The bottom half of the MAC is still pretty good this season. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Zips are improved, but still in the 6-10 range. However, I am more inclined to believe the Zips will be better than the 5th ranking I start them at. This team could easily be a MAC contender.