Ohio (24-8) vs. Akron (25-6)
Saturday, March 16, 6:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Quicken Loans Arena (20,562) -- Cleveland, Ohio Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Ohio 16-2, Akron 15-1. Away Record: Ohio 7-6, Akron 7-4. Neutral Record: Ohio 1-0, Akron 3-1. Conference Record: Ohio 14-2, Akron 14-2. Series Record: Ohio leads, 35-22. .
GAME NOTES: The top two teams and co-regular season champions in the Mid- American Conference clash for the league's tournament crown on Saturday evening, as the Ohio Bobcats tangle with the Akron Zips at Quicken Loans Arena.
This tilt marks the third meeting of the 2012-13 campaign between the schools, although the first two did not have a trip to the NCAA Tournament waiting for the winner. Akron won both regular-season encounters, but it had its star point guard Alex Abreu leading the way in both matchups. Abreu was suspended indefinitely near the conclusion of the regular season, which will change the complexion of this third meeting.
These two schools have accounted for the last four MAC Tournament titles. Akron won the 2009 and 2011 tourneys, while Ohio took home the crown in 2010 as well as last season en route to a run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
Ohio lost head coach John Groce from last year's stellar club, but the team has not missed a beat under the tutelage of Jim Christian. The Bobcats earned the triple-bye into the semifinal round by going 14-2 in conference this season, which included wins in both bout with Akron. They took care of business on Friday as D.J. Cooper registered his 23rd career double-double with 21 points and 10 assists to lift the second-seeded Bobcats to a 74-63 win over the West Division champion Western Michigan Broncos. Walter Offutt also had a double-double, scoring 14 points to go along with 11 rebounds, while Reggie Keely contributed 12 points.
Ohio has one of the most productive offenses in the nation with a scoring average of 73.8 ppg. The team also leads all Division I programs in assists with 18.0 per tilt. The Bobcats won seven MAC road games this year to set a new school record. Cooper earned First Team All-MAC honors for the third straight season, while fellow seniors Keely and Offutt were named to the All- MAC Third Team. Cooper, who paces the squad with 14.2 points and 7.2 assists per outing, played an instrumental role in the Bobcats' surprising run through the 2012 MAC Tournament. The senior floor general has some nice weapons surrounding him in Keely (11.9 ppg), Offutt (10.9 ppg) and Nick Kellogg (8.3 ppg).
Without Abreu, the Zips turned to their star center Zeke Marshall in the semifinals of this event, and the senior big man did not disappoint as he registered 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots to lead Akron to a 62-59 win over Kent State, which it had just lost to in its first Abreu-less game in the regular-season finale. Also getting into the action on Friday was Demetrius Treadwell who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Nick Harney tacked on 11 points and four assists off the bench.
Marshall is one of the top centers on any mid-major squad, as he produces 13.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game. "Tree" Treadwell nets 11.2 points and 7.7 boards per tilt. With Abreu out of action, Carmelo Betancourt took over the starting duties and went from a reserve that nets just 1.9 ppg to the most important player in the backcourt for Akron.
Abreu averaged 18.5 ppg for Akron in the two head-to-head meetings with Ohio this season. His absence will open up the door for Cooper to completely take over. Cooper is one of the top point guards in the nation and he should have a field day against the Zips' backup, as long as his teammates knock down open shots to keep the Akron defense honest. Marshall is a tremendous center, but he is not an ideal go-to guy.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio 81, Akron 75
03/16 10:36:22 ET