Coach Keith Dambrot and his Akron Zips come to Athens for a Tuesday showdown that could very well (and don't tell the younger children this) LIT. Alright, enough nonsense. Brandon Hickey and Kaleb Carter got together to answer questions about each others' teams.
Brandon: I have to say that just looking at Ohio's conference games, this team is sure a weird one. Lose at home to BG after leading big, get drilled at Central and almost give away a huge lead at Toledo before winning. I feel like the Kent State win on Friday was the most complete win of the season for the Bobcats. Would you agree? And what type of team really is this Ohio team? The one who gets big leads/deficits and can't close, or the team that beat Kent?
Kaleb: Everything is weird Brandon. Every single thing. But goodness it's why I love this conference right now. Akron seems to me to be best set up for the last few weeks of the season and for a MAC tourney title run. And you sure are right, Ohio is CONFUSING. And I'd agree with you, it was the best win Ohio has had this season. I think this is an Ohio team that has immense talent on offense but ultimately is a slightly better than middle of the pack MAC squad. They're not going to go and win five straight games in MAC play. It's just not going to happen. I think we will see an Ohio team that is prepared for the challenge and will embrace the matchup with fervor and will keep it entertaining. This game is going to feature a focused Ohio team by my own predictions (then again, I said the same for the CMU game).
So Akron is PRETTY GOOD MAN. And they're getting healthier right? How dangerous is this team when it gets fully healthy and are the Bobcats in really bad trouble?
Brandon:Yeah, I think they are pretty much at full strength. Noah Robotham and Pat Forsythe seem to be 100%, which is great news for Keith Dambrot. It's easy to say that they will be very dangerous, but they really will be. Akron's biggest advantage - it's probably a small weakness too - is that anyone, and I mean ANYONE could pop for 20 in a given night. Last time out against Ball State it was Reggie McAdams who had 15. The game before against NIU it was Kwan Cheatham (18 points). The one before that Josh Williams had 15 off of the bench. So if you're Saul Phillips, who do you center the game plan around? I didn't even mention Robotham, Forsythe, Isaiah Johnson, Jake Kretzer, or Antino Jackson who could go off for a huge game. That's the toughest thing for opponents.
But it's also a bit of a hindrance. Who do you go to when you need a basket? When all five guys on the floor are looking to get shots, players sometimes look for theirs versus giving the ball up for a better shot.
The one thing that I think Akron has on its side is the fact that multiple players have played in this game before. Only four players on Ohio's current roster played the last time these two met (a 70-58 victory in Akron) - Antonio Campbell, Treg Setty, Khari Harley and Mike Laster. How do you think the new guys - Kenny Kaminski, Jaaron Simmons, and the freshmen - will handle their first taste of the Akron-Ohio rivalry?
Kaleb: It varies based on the night on what you'll receive from Kaminski in terms of contributions. Sometimes that Kaminksi provides is his ability to stretch the defense. They have to take account of his whereabouts on the floor at all times. It's hard to say how he'll contribute but I will say that if Akron lights it up from beyond the arc Ohio will need Kaminski to bring his A-game. as for Simmons, he has to be in attack mode. Phillips wants that more from him, and this is an important game where it is absolutely necessary for Simmons to score and create as many opportunities as often as possible. I'd say Simmons does fine, and I'd also venture to guess that the experience of playing in front of a nationally televised audience this past weekend in a big game will pay off for Jordan Dartis and Gavin Block.
We know how good Akron is at distributing its scoring among the team and not having to rely on one person, but who can you see having success in this one? Does Akron NEED someone to be successful to win this road game? Someone in particular?
Brandon:I see two guys - McAdams and Kretzer - as being those to steal the show. Per Ken Pom, Akron is ranked 31st in 3-point % while Ohio is ranked 330th in 3-point defense. That a huge advantage for Akron's two best 3-point shooters, and those guys can get hot. Kretzer grew up around Athens and I feel like he always plays well in Athens. Those two will be the guys to watch Tuesday night. I think guys like Johnson, Robotham and Jackson will get theirs. But if Kretzer and/or McAdams have great games Ohio will have a hard time winning this one.
Let me turn this question on you - who do you see as the x-factor for OU? I feel like it's Kaminski or one of Dartis/Block/ Setty. If one of those guys blow up and have a really good game Akron could be in for a long game.
Kaleb: Kretzer the Waverly boy. We know of him. Tell him he should graduate already. But you're certainly right. Ohio struggles with guarding the 3-point line and Akron can sink shots.
Good play from Kaminski is probably needed to win this game. So I'm thinking Jordan Dartis could be a difference maker. He hasn't done a ton since his injury kept him out shortly (posted scoring totals of 2, 9 and 7 his last three out), but this would be a great opportunity for him to have a big night
Brandon: So honestly, this is tough. Ohio showed me a lot against the perceived best team in the conference last week and are riding a two-game winning streak. But, Akron is also playing very well, winning four in a row (3 at home) since their two game losing streak. This game being in Athens gives a lot of power to Ohio, but I keep going back to the fact that there are a lot of new players in Bobcat uniforms who may not grasp yet the magnitude of this rivalry. I say this is going to be a high-scoring affair, with Akron sneaking away in overtime 86-83.
Kaleb: Okay, so Akron is the seasoned team with a ton of experience. Tuesday could be a great college basketball environment and I think a Dambrot-coached team is more suited to this environment, especially given the solid team that they have this season. I say Akron pulls one out in comeback fashion, 72-64.