Location: Akron, OH
Last Year’s Record: 23-13
Why they’ll make it: Returning four of its starters, Akron is primed for a return trip to the tournament. Led by the McKnight brothers, Brett and Chris, the Zips have the veteran leadership successful mid-major teams always seem to have. They also welcome the arrival of freshman Zeke Marshall, Rivals.com’s highest ranking player to ever commit to a MAC school. None of their numbers will jump out at you on paper, but don’t let that fool you. This team thrives on its defense. Head coach Keith Dambrot has a system in place and it works very well. The Zips held conference foes to a little over 57 points per game last season and it’ll be more of the same since they’re extremely comfortable with Dambrot’s system. Akron is ready to lock up another berth in the Big Dance just as it locks up it’s opponents.
Why they won’t make it: Buffalo still has enough talent to challenge. The Bulls actually finished a game ahead of the Zips in the standings last year so don’t expect confidence to be an issue. This team knows it has more than a fighting chance. Rodney Pierce and Calvin Betts, last season’s leading scorers, return and they’re among the best players in the conference. This may not be the team it was last season, but it certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility for it make the NCAA tournament.