After starting the season 1-2, Akron won 10 of its next 13 games, including a 12-point victory over Oregon State (who, a few weeks later, beat the same Stanford team that beat Kansas in the NCAA Tournament. C'mon Akron fans, get those "We Want the Jayhawks" signs ready!) back in December. Beating one of the boys from a big conference is always something to be proud of, and a double-digit win definitely puts an exclamation mark on that game.
The other high point for the season would probably be the stretch comprising the Zips' final three victories of the year, which came against Buffalo, Kent State, and Ohio. Akron lost to each of those teams earlier in the year, so to come back and exact some revenge in three straight games at the end of the season was really a strong statement from this group of guys (especially against Buffalo).
Akron didn't really have any terrible losses, the worst being consecutive losses to South Carolina and a four-point loss in Oxford to Miami. The obvious low point would have to be anything that happened after halftime of the Zips' conference semifinal game against Western Michigan. Akron held a 34-17 lead heading into halftime of that game but lost any sense of offensive rhythm, going nearly nine minutes without scoring a point in the second half en route to an overtime loss to the Broncos. Nobody wants to be known as the guys who ended an impressive streak. I'm sure the members of this squad won't be solely remembered for breaking the streak of consecutive conference championship game appearances, but at the time that had to be a tough pill to swallow.
Actually, that should probably read "Player Leaving" since the only guy scheduled to be gone is graduating senior Quincy Diggs. Diggs was suspended for the 2012-13 season and came back this past year in a big way, averaging nearly 13 points and five assists per game. Diggs will certainly be missed next season at the small forward position, where he provided six 20-point performances this year (two of those coming in postseason play). If there's one team in the MAC that can lose one of its guys and not miss a beat, however, it's Akron.
So that would leave...everyone else. Of course it's still possible that some roster shakeups could occur between now and the start of next season, but for now Akron returns a team that was one poor half of basketball from reaching the conference title game. Most notably they'll have Demetrius Treadwell back for another season, one of the best players in the conference this past season. The man they call "Tree" ranked in the top-six for both points and rebounds among MAC players, averaging 15 and 8, respectively. Treadwell, who was the first Zip to average 15+ points per game in 10 seasons and who had the team's best rebounding numbers since the late 80's, will be the guy next year, which automatically puts Akron among the teams most likely to contend for a conference championship next year.
In the mid-season edition of this feature we looked at Carmelo Betancourt and Nyles Evans as two guys who needed to step up in the second half of the season. Aside from Evans' 18-point outburst against Buffalo in February, neither guy really took off the way we had hoped. Perhaps an offseason's worth of work will give one of them a stronger hold on the point guard duties come next season.
If you're looking for a guy that can take some of Digg's minutes next year, Reggie McAdams could be a possibility. He ended up being the MAC's second-best three-point shooter this year, hitting his threes at a 42 percent clip.
Season Grade: B-
We gave Akron a B at the midway point of the season and, for some of the reasons I listed above, I knocked them down a tiny bit. It is worth noting that the Zips went 7-7 since we took a look at them in late January, and they ended the season on a sour note with the loss to Western Michigan and an early exit in the CIT.
But, overall, it's hard to be terribly disappointed with another 20-win season and a deep run in the MAC Tournament (well, as much of a "run" as a top team can have in the MAC with the way the tourney is set up. Yet I digress). If you disregard his first season at the helm of the Zips, Keith Dambrot has led his team to at least 20 wins and a MAC Tournament semifinal appearance every season since 2005-06. And that one year he didn't they had 19 wins and lost in the quarterfinals.
Taking that into account, consider this another standard Akron basketball season and, if everything I just said is any indication, expect another one next year.