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2014-2015 Akron Zips men's basketball season in review

After being hit with a ton of adversity, Keith Dambrot's Zips proved, once again, that they should never be overlooked.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

While everyone was getting googly-eyes over Bobby Hurley, MAC Coach of the Year Keno Davis, and Rob Senderoff in the 2014-2015 season, Dambrot probably out-coached every single one of them. He took one of the most inexperienced teams in the MAC that was in the middle of recovering from the loss of a former All-MAC performer to suspension, and took them further than anyone (outside of Akron's fan base) expected them to go.

On top of that, one of his best friends in Dan Peters passed away just before the season started. Before the season began, his father Sidney was having medical issues. So, Dambrot flew to Florida, and back multiple times in the few weeks leading up to the season. I also shouldn't forget to mention that one of his point guards (Carmelo Betancourt) left before training camp was over.

After the suspension of Demetrius Treadwell one game into the season, the Zips were taking a trip to Charleston to play in the Gildan Charleston Classic. The first game without Treadwell was against the USC Trojans out of the PAC-12. The Zips had no trouble at all. Junior center Pat Forsythe had finally broken through the barrier that had been holding him back in his college career. He led the Zips with 15 points and 9 rebounds in a 66-46 dismantling of the Trojans. The Zips defeated another team in the South Carolina Gamecocks just three days later.

It was clear that the Zips didn't need Treadwell to be good.

Freshman Noah Robotham became a fan favorite at point guard, not only because of his awesome last name, but also his impressive play. Before suffering a torn ACL in late February, Robotham averaged almost 10 points per game along with 3.3 assists while shooting the three-ball at 36 percent. He was properly awarded for his efforts by being named to the MAC All-Freshman team.

Playing behind Robotham was another freshman who stepped in March. Antino Jackson came to Akron from Cypress Springs high school in Houston, Texas. Jackson stands at 5-foot-11 and weighs just 160lbs. Before being put into the starting role, he played out of control at times. He was the leader of the team throughout the end of the season.

In the season finale at Kent State, Jackson score 16 points and went 4-6 from the three-point line in the narrow loss. He scored the game-tying layup with just seconds remaining. He gave Akron hope despite not having Pat Forsythe or redshirt freshman B. J. Gladden.

The semifinal run in the MAC tournament was made possible by Jackson. In the upset win in the quarterfinals over Kent State, Jackson was the hero once again by scoring big shots late in the game.

Junior Jake Kretzer continued his consistent play this past season. Kretzer, #20 on our preseason countdown, saw his scoring take a small dip, but he did shoot the ball just a little bit better from 38 to 40 percent from the floor, but much better at the free throw line going from 71 to 90 percent.

Two players that grew immensely throughout the season were Kwan Cheatham and Isaiah "Big Dog" Johnson.

Cheatham probably would've been a redshirt if it weren't for the "Tree" Treadwell situation. He is 6-foot-9, but plays more like a guard. His defense developed nicely during the season, but he could be a real load to deal with if he develops a strong low-post game in the offseason.

When Pat Forsythe suffered a turf-toe injury, Isaiah Johnson moved into the starting role. Even as Forsythe eased back into the rotation, Johnson still started. At 6-foot-10 and 300 pounds Johnson is hard to play against. He gets frustrated sometimes when he gets constantly hacked. It is just hard for the referees to see because he is so big and is hard to knock down. The same thing happens on defense.

The seniors that were left after the early season incident were Deji Ibitayo and Nyles Evans. Evans ran both guard positions last season, but was limited to playing more of a 2 with both Robothan and Jackson running point. He played in every game this year, but averaged a little less than five points per game. Ibitayo was the only four-year starter for the Zips. He had a strong senior year averaging 10 points a game, but fell short in the MAC Sixth Man of the Year voting.

For Akron, the injuries began to stack up, which became a huge concern  Akron was second in the nation with 3-point attempts in the regular season with 937, but only shot at a 35 percent clip. They ended up going 9-9 in conference play, with only one of those losses being decided by more than nine points.

After the MAC Tournament, the team decided to turn down a postseason bid. That was for the best: they've gone through enough.

Looking ahead to next season, the future could not be brighter. There are big shoes to fill in Nyles Evans and Deji Ibitayo, and Akron is bringing in a few players that should be a big help.

My final thoughts on the season are pretty simple. Most of the season followed the description that Keith Dambrot used to describe the quarterfinal win over Kent State: It was like a trip to the dentist. The Nova-cane starts to wear off and you have to get through it.