High screens and chuck up threes, while playing solid defense. That’s the John Groce formula. Last season, it sort of worked, as the Akron Zips lost more than they won. While not ideal, with the departure of coach Dambrot and some serious talent, I wouldn’t call this past season an abject failure. The defense was mostly solid, while the offense struggled to click. When they were hitting, the team was a tough win. For the 2018-19 season, the question is will the Zips stay in the middle, or move to MAC contender status?
On the plus side, they added some offensive firepower with college experience. JUCO transfer Channel Banks, a 6’4 guard, hit nearly 40 percent of his shots from beyond the arch. While I don’t always put a lot of stock in stats when jumping up a division, the three point line is the same in both leagues. Jeremy Roscoe, another JUCO transfer, also comes in shooting over 40% from deep. Another back-court JUCO transfer, Tyler Cheese, was still over 30% from beyond the arch, but also brings in passing ability. These additions to a back-court that includes Jimond Ivey, Eric Hester, and Loren Cristian Jackson should produce more points than last season.
Forward Daniel Utomi can heat up from deep, giving Groce and the Zips what I believe they will need on offense.
The front court has some solid pieces, with gritty players like Emmanuel Olojakpoke. Along with Olojakpoke, There are several player that could have breakout type of seasons, especially if the outside shooters are loosening the lane for them.
Overall, I expect this team to be much improved from last season, and flirt with the 20 win mark. I don’t know if they will quite be MAC contenders, because of the streaky nature of their offense. For that reason, if you are a Zips fan, I would circle November 19th on your calendar. They take on the Clemson Tigers, a traditionally solid team that can have problems scoring. Don’t be shocked if the Zips catch fire and give them a game.