The Akron Zips are hot right now. They have won three straight games by an average of 17 points. That's impressive and all, but those wins came against Bryant, Arkansas Pine-Bluff, and Western Illinois. Saturday will be a much tougher game for the Zips as they begin post-finals play with a home game against the pesky Blue Raiders from Middle Tennessee. With that said, the Zips have looked impressive as a whole given the circumstances.
Right now, Akron is shooting 41.5% from the floor and an impressive 35.2% from the three point line. However, the most impressive stat that the Zips have produced this year is free throw percentage. Last year's free throw shooting cost the Zips a few games, but this year they are shooting a whopping 70.6% from the stripe. Now that free throw percentage may not seem as incredible to you as it is to me, but I never thought I would see the day that Akron consistently makes free throws.
Akron has also had some individuals step up this year. There is no star that averages twenty points per game, but Keith Dambrot hasn't had anyone like that in a long time.
Pat Forsythe has stepped up big time in the front court this year. Pat is averaging 11 points and 5 boards per game so far this year. If you have watched the Zips in the past couple of year, you may have seen Forsythe play without confidence, but now, he is playing like he never has before.
Another player who has come to play this year is sophomore Kwan Cheatham. Kwan has already surpassed his minute total of 186 last year through just 8 games. He is averaging 11.2 points and 4.6 boards per game.
The difference seen in this Zips team that wasn't seen last year is a true point guard. In Akron's case, that true point guard is true freshman Noah Robotham from Las Vegas. Robotham is what this team was missing last year. He plays over 30 minutes per game, which could be worrisome, but he is used to playing in AAU tournaments all day long, so that shouldn't be an issue right now. He is another of four Zips averaging double digit scoring with 11.2. He also gets 3 rebounds and assists to go along with a 1.6 assist to turnover ratio. There is no question that Robotham is the real deal.
Let's not forget that the Zips have an opponent to play on Saturday. That opponent is the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, who are led by 13th year head coach Kermit Davis. After losing an exhibition game to something called Martin Methodist by nine, the Blue Raiders have amassed a 4-4 record. Their last game was an overtime victory at South Alabama by a 68-67 final. Other notable games include a loss at home to Murray State, losses to Oregon and Creighton in the Emerald Coast Classic, and a four point loss at Belmont.
MTSU only averages 60.2 points per game and shoot a mediocre 37.7% from the floor. The Blue Raiders only shoot 64% from the free-throw line, but they rebound the ball well, and force nearly 14 turnovers per game. They are lead in scoring and rebounding by sophomore Reggie Upshaw Jr. at 9.5 and 6.8 respectively.
Saturday marks the 27th all-time match up between the two programs. Middle Tennessee leads the all-time series 16-10. The past two match ups between these teams were classic mid-major battles. Two year ago, the Zips won at home in overtime by an 82-77 final. Last year didn't go how the Zips planned as the Blue Raiders were able to defend their home court in Murfreesboro with an 80-73 victory over the Zips. I don't expect this one to be any less than a classic mid-major battle. These are the most exciting games to watch, so make sure you don't miss it!
WHEN: Saturday, December, 13 at 7:00 p.m.
WHERE: James A. Rhodes Arena in Akron, Ohio