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2014-2015 Preseason Men's Basketball: Akron Zips

After a disappointing ending to last season, where do the Zips find themselves heading into this season?

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

A weird thing happened to the Akron Zips last year: they didn't suit up on the second Saturday in March.

For the first time in seven years, Keith Dambrot didn't coach in the final game of the MAC Tournament. He almost stretched the Zips' MAC Tournament final appearance streak to eight if it wasn't for those pesky Western Michigan Broncos. Akron let an 18-point second-half lead slip away and ultimately lost in overtime.

It was a fitting end to an up-and-down season. Akron never went on a long winning streak like they did the season before. Their longest winning streak was five games, and they also had a three game losing streak which a Dambrot-coached team hardly ever has to endure. It always seemed like the talent was there to win the MAC, and if the team put it all together they'd be the best team in the conference. Chemistry issues and awful free throw shooting were the Zips' harbingers last season, but the good thing is those are things that can be improved over an offseason.

The Zips return nearly seventy percent of their scoring from last year. Gone are Quincy Diggs who graduated, Nick Harney who transferred down to Division II, and Carmelo Betancourt, who is no longer listed on the Akron roster. Diggs is the biggest loss, as he was the second-leading scorer last year. Harney and Betancourt were both starters, but didn't contribute as much as fans would have liked them to.

When talking about Akron it starts and ends with Demetrius Treadwell. The wide-bodied, tenacious and ferocious power forward can dominate a game as he did many times last year. He is nearly unstoppable around the basket and collects rebounds like no other. Treadwell was fourth in the conference last year in rebounding and sixth in scoring. If there is one negative about his game it's free throw shooting, which is a major problem for the entire team. Dambrot will look to Treadwell to be the team leader this year and rely on him to put the ball in the basket a majority of the time he's on the floor.

This team isn't all Treadwell though. Jake Kretzer and Reggie McAdams are the most experienced returnees other than Treadwell, and both know how to light it up from deep. McAdams has the second highest 3-point percentage among returning players in the MAC last year and Kretzer's ability to hit clutch shots makes him dangerous.

Deji Ibitayo will likely start at the two-guard. He had an incredibly inconsistent season last year; in one game at Buffalo he played six minutes and didn't score. The next game at home against Ohio he played 26 minutes and scored thirteen. With the graduation of Diggs, Ibitayo will see a lot more floor time and will have the opportunity to be a featured scorer in the system. Nyles Evans also returns and will battle with two freshmen (more on them later) for the starting point guard spot.

The frontcourt is solid, as alongside Treadwell either junior Pat Forsythe or sophomore Isaiah Johnson will start. Johnson has the most upside; at 6-foot-10, 290 pounds he's a match-up problem on both ends. Forsythe had shown some improvements in his game last year but needs to take his game to the next level this year in order to stay on the court. Kwan Cheatham, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, looked good in spots last year but should be able to do more with more playing time this year.

Five newcomers are on the roster this year, although only three are true freshmen. B.J. Gladden and Aaron Jackson both red-shirted last year and will be looked upon to provide meaningful minutes this year. Gladden is a 6-foot-6 wing with an impressive high school resume from North Carolina. He'll swing back and forth between the shooting guard and small forward positions. Jackson is two inches taller and should be active around the glass. The Zips will need him to be effective because of Akron's lack of depth in the frontcourt.

The other three newcomers are freshmen, and at least two should factor into major playing time.  Noah Robotham was a Gatorade Player of the Year his senior year in Nevada and could be the Zips' starting point guard this year. Robotham is a pass-first point guard that excels on the fast break. I took a deeper look into his game back when he committed in May and if you watch the videos you can really see how good of a point guard he can be.

Antino Jackson comes to Akron all the way from Houston. Lightly recruited, the uber-quick guard can get up and down the floor in a hurry. He'll be a nice change up when Robotham needs a breather and can feature when Akron wants to go up-tempo. Jimond Ivey from Glenville High School in Cleveland is another promising guard, but he'll likely red-shirt.

The schedule is manageable and features only a few games that will really challenge Akron. The highlight is the Charleston Classic, where Akron will face off with USC in the first round. The Zips will play either Drexel or Miami in the second game and Penn State, Charlotte, Cornell and South Carolina are on the other side of the bracket. That's at least two quality games and possibly a third if the Zips face Penn State, Charlotte or South Carolina.

Tough games at Penn State and at North Dakota State are the only true road games. The Zips get Marshall, Middle Tennessee and Bryant at home which won't be easy. The rest of the teams on the schedule are cupcakes. Akron got a little unlucky with the conference schedule, as they'll have to play both Western Michigan and Toledo twice in the East-West crossover games.

Once again Akron has all of the pieces and parts to contend for the MAC Championship this year. They were picked in the preseason to win the East Division, but will have to put up strong challenges from both Ohio and Buffalo. If Treadwell and another of the Kretzer/McAdams/Ibitayo group step up and be big-time scorers, this team can be really scary. If no leader emerges and the putrid free-throw shooting hasn't improved, then this year could end up being a carbon copy of the prior season. Now, twenty-win seasons are never a bad thing. This is the Akron program we're talking about though, where twenty wins just isn't enough.