With another MAC game in the books, the Akron Zips are sitting pretty on the top of the MAC with a three-game lead over the field for the best record in the league following their 90-80 victory at Western Michigan. Adding to the impressiveness of their hot start in league play is the fact that the Zips haven’t tasted defeat since December 10 at Gonzaga. However, is Akron able to maintain its winning ways through February and early March to take the MAC title?
Before we come to any conclusions, let’s take a hard look at the squad from northeastern Ohio, shall we? Since entering MAC play, Akron’s average margin of victory is +7.4 over seven games and is shooting lights out with a field goal percentage of .494, while also posting an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.4 (2nd in the MAC). On the other hand, the Zips have struggled mightily at the free throw line as they have shot 64.1% in conference games (10th in the MAC), have a middling defense that allows .448 shooting from the floor, and forces the least turnovers in the league at ten per game.
UA has had some stellar play from its players as Kwan Cheatham Jr. and Isaiah Johnson are in the top ten in scoring and rebounding in the MAC with 17.4 and 15.6 points per game along with 9.6 and 8.3 rebound per game respectively. Jimond Ivey has been a tremendous asset as well with 13.3 PPG in league play while also boasting the highest shooting percentage on the team with 61.5%. A potential Achilles’ heel might be found on the on the bench as only three players have come off the bench in the last seven games for over 23 points per game, so you have to be concerned about Akron’s depth if it were to get shorthanded via foul trouble or something else.
The schedule for Akron gets mighty interesting the rest of the way, starting Saturday with a home showdown with the defending MAC champion Buffalo Bulls. Following that are tough road tests at Northern Illinois and Ohio (though the Bobcats are depleted due to the loss of Antonio Campbell), while the Zips return home to host a very good Ball State team. After a trip to Eastern Michigan and home games vs. Toledo and Kent State, the slate lightens significantly with trips to Bowling Green and Buffalo before Senior Night against Miami.
As it stands now, the Zips are a very good basketball team but they have some potentially fatal flaws that could keep them from winning a MAC title in 2017. In addition to their defensive and depth woes, the team has had some scares on the road in conference play with four-point wins at Central Michigan and Miami. Despite this, Akron is head and shoulders above every other team in the league and could waltz into Cleveland as heavy favorites to win the league barring any setbacks in the regular season.