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The Morning Dish – Saturday, January 21, 2017

January 21, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

Quiet as it’s kept, Akron has been one of the most consistently good mid-major programs in America. This year has been no different, including dominance on their home floor.

On Friday night, the Zips won their 27th straight game at Rhodes Arena, knocking off Eastern Michigan 70-63. Only Oregon (36) and Kansas (52) have longer streaks, and this win sets a new record for consecutive wins at the arena.

Akron tied the school record for wins with 26 last season, and they could be on their way to topping that this season. They are 16-3 overall and 6-0 in MAC play after Friday night, and this would be their 12th straight season with at least 21 wins should they reach that mark, which they seem assured of. Only Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas and Ohio State can also claim that.

When it comes to the MAC, Akron stands alone. They have won 278 games over the last 12 seasons (not including this season), which paces the conference, including 141 conference wins to also lead the way. In eight of those seasons, they reached the conference title game, winning in 2009, 2011 and 2013.

That stretch has all come under the direction of Keith Dambrot, a hometown guy and an alum who is quickly climbing the ranks in a number of categories in the MAC. He has taken full advantage of what the program has going for it, from some good history to good facilities to good talent in the area (eight current Zips hail from Ohio). It’s also the hometown of Lebron James, to whom Dambrot has a long relationship with as James participated in clinics Dambrot conducted at the local Jewish Community Center before Dambrot coached him at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. James is often at Rhodes Arena for games and off-season workouts. Plenty of programs have things like this working for them, but don’t take full advantage; Dambrot has.

From all of that, you might never guess that while at the school in another life, Dambrot was actually a star at the hot corner on the baseball diamond. He was a three-year starter, a team captain and was even team MVP. At the time he graduated, he held the record for getting hit by pitch.

This year’s team is well-balanced, with four players averaging in double figures in scoring and three players averaging between 6 and 7.3 rebounds per game. Five players average at least two assists per game as well, and as was the case last year, this team takes good care of the ball as six of their top seven players have more assists than turnovers. And if you wonder whether or not the roll the Zips are on may end soon, a look at their roster shows just three seniors, only one of whom plays a significant role.

In other words, Akron is doing what they’ve done, and for the time being, it looks like they will continue to win a lot of basketball games. They will win both at home and on the road, but especially at home. It’s what they do.


Side Dishes

Late Friday night, Arizona announced that Allonzo Trier will play on Saturday at UCLA. The sophomore guard had been suspended all season after testing positive for a PED, and he finally got a drug test that came back negative, meaning the drug has left his body. A lot is on the line in Saturday’s game, so it’s a boost the team will welcome, but it will also be interesting to note any apparent rust or change in how the team plays since we are past the halfway point of the regular season.

Indiana forward O.G. Anunoby will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury sustained in the Hoosiers’ win at Penn State on Wednesday night. The sophomore will undergo surgery on his right knee, and he missed time earlier this season with a sprained ankle.

Also regarding injuries, Oregon guard Dillon Brooks is in a walking boot, which by itself does not mean he is in or out of Saturday’s game against Stanford, but may not be the most positive sign. Brooks had been playing better as the Ducks started to look more and more like the Pac-12 favorites they were thought to be before the season, so the lower left leg injury that he left Thursday’s win over Cal with could certainly sap some momentum.

North Carolina will have Tony Bradley back to give them a lift at Boston College. The freshman forward missed the last two games with a concussion that he suffered in the Tar Heels’ win at Wake Forest, and was back in practice on Wednesday. In a reserve role, Bradley averages 8.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, so he has been no small part of their success to this point.

Xavier guard Myles Davis has left school, a move that comes less than two weeks following his reinstatement from a suspension. His suspension was understandably seen as a big hit to the Musketeers, as he had a nice season a year ago and can stretch defenses with his shooting. Xavier is currently just a .500 team in Big East play, and the senior guard didn’t do much in the three games after his return. The school suspended him after he was charged with damaging his former girlfriend’s property, with one charge dropped and Davis pleading guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct as part of a plea agreement.


Tonight’s Menu

Another very busy Saturday is ahead of us, with most of the better matchups coming in the afternoon.

  • ACC play includes North Carolina at Boston College and Syracuse at Notre Dame (noon) to get things rolling, then Florida State hosts Louisville and Virginia hosts Georgia Tech (2 p.m.) before the last matchup of the night featuring two teams that surprisingly have the same ACC record, Miami at Duke (8:15 p.m.)
  • The best game in the American Athletic Conference is SMU hosting Houston (6 p.m.)
  • In the Big 12, Texas’ tough stretch continues with a visit to Kansas (2 p.m.), while West Virginia tries to bounce back at Kansas State (6 p.m.)
  • In the Big East, Providence visits Villanova (noon), where the Friars won last year, then Creighton continues life without Mo Watson as they host Marquette (2:30 p.m.)
  • Big Ten play is highlighted by Michigan State at Indiana (4 p.m.), then Wisconsin at Minnesota (4:30 p.m.) tips just a bit later.
  • A good Mountain West battle has Fresno State visiting Nevada at 6 p.m.
  • The best game of the day is probably the Pac-12 battle in Westwood as Arizona visits UCLA (4 p.m.)
  • The big game in the SEC is Kentucky hosting South Carolina (6 p.m.) in a battle of conference undefeateds.
  • A few mid-majors have important matchups to watch. The Big South has two 6-1 teams matching up as Winthrop visits Liberty (7 p.m.), as does the Northeast Conference with LIU Brooklyn at Fairleigh Dickinson (4 p.m.), and the Patriot League has first place on the line with Bucknell hosting Boston University (2 p.m.)

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