The Akron Zips were many experts favorite mid-major team for a vast majority of the season. They seemingly had everything you can ask for in a team. Whether it was big man Zeke Marshall, his post playing buddy Demetrius Treadwell or the offense being controlled by Alex Abreu — all was right in the world of Akron hoops.
Then an unfortunate thing happened, Abreu was done for the rest of the year. Once a possible at-large quality team, now with the Abreu loss, Akron had to win their conference tournament to earn a pair of dancing slippers. They ended up doing just that and on Selection Sunday, the Zips found out that they would be playing the VCU Rams in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Not a favorable draw for the Zips, but it is what it is.
VCU is a better team, especially since Akron is Abreu-less. So the Zips are going to have to do what they do best to have any chance at upsetting the Rams. Although, it really isn’t what they do best more than who they have that is best, Zeke Marshall.
Marshall is a 7-foot behemoth, who is likely an NBA second round draft pick. Laugh if you want at being “only” a second rounder, but that means he is one of only 60ish guys who will get a legit look at getting on an NBA roster next season. Marshall is a fair rebounder (he goes in spurts), a terrific shot-blocker and while his offensive game needs work, is good enough to give a team massive troubles.
Akron needs to run nearly every offensive set through Marshall. Even though most of it will be for show, the constant threat of Marshall posting-up on the low-block will force double teams or at the very least a massive defensive rotation. If that were to happen and ball movement was solid, it should leave several open Zips on every possession.
The Zips will need to play perfect, use Marshall to the point of nausea and hope a little luck goes their way, but they have an honest shot to be one of the “Cinderellas” later this week.
Oh, and they can’t turn the ball over in bulk, Nick Harney.
Joe is a Senior Writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone