Monday, March 16

Akron Zips: 2009 MAC Champions!

Congratulations to the Akron Zips, who defeated Buffalo on Saturday night 65-53 to claim the Mid-American Conference title and advance to the NCAA Tournament. Like Cleveland State, the Zips are making just their second appearance in the Field of 64/65 and their first since 1986.

Coming in as the 5th-seed (the top 4 received opening-round byes), Akron survived a scare in their opening-round game against 12th-seeded Toledo, needing a late comeback and overtime to advance to the quarterfinals. Whew!

The Zips then toppled 4th-seeded Miami University on Thursday night, avenging their heartbreaking loss in the MAC Final two years ago when the Redhawks won via a lucky banked-in 3-pointer at the buzzer. Despite early struggles, Akron turned on the juice and claimed a 73-63 victory to advance to the semis.

There the Zips faced top-seeded Bowling Green, whom they dispatched 63-55 courtesy of a strong defensive effort that got them out front early with a lead they would not relinquish. The win over BGSU put Akron in their third straight final, a game that had not treated them well the previous two years. In addition to the ridiculous loss to Miami, Akron was destroyed last year by the Kent State Golden Flashes in a game attended by this blogger. Oddly, KSU's fans outnumbered Akron's about 2-1 despite a similar drive up I-77 to the Q for both schools' fans.

The final saw the Zips and their fans, the AK-Rowdies, exorcise those demons with a solid 65-53 victory over #3-seeded Buffalo and claim the MAC Championship. Onto the NCAA's!

Although Ohio State was unable to complete the hat trick, falling in the Big Ten title game to Purdue after upset wins over Wisconsin and Michigan State, Ohio will be very well-represented in the NCAA Tournament this year. In addition to Cleveland State, Akron, and OSU, Atlantic 10 squads Dayton and Xavier will also be participating, giving Ohio five schools participating this year. Should be exciting!

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