Owning the longest winning streak in the nation, it’s about time the University of Akron Zips earned some national recognition.
Just before the Zips won their 18th straight game (tied for longest in men’s basketball this season) in Friday night’s unfortunate home BracketBuster matchup with North Dakota State, ESPN’s Jordan Brenner listed the team as the 10th most likely Cinderella candidate for March Madness. Brenner’s ranking utilized ESPN’s noted Giant Killer formula which hopes to emphasize key characteristics of mid-major schools that make them likely to upset some major-conference opponent in March.
Akron is now 22-4 overall and a perfect 12-0 in MAC play. Led by senior center Zeke Marshall (12.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, 65.5% shooting), the team is hoping to make its third NCAA Tournament appearance in five years. They previously lost their first tournament games 77-64 to 4-seed Gonzaga in 2009 and 69-56 to 2-seed Notre Dame in 2011.
Keith Dambrot’s team also could find its way into the tournament as an at-large team. The only way it would be possible is if Akron wins its remaining four regular-season games, advances to the MAC finals (they’ve already clinched a bye until the semifinals), lose in a championship heart-breaker (again, a la 2007, 2010 and 2012), then receive some extraordinary outside help. As of Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology update, the Zips are listed as 13 seed yet only one team outside of the at-large demarcation line.
Next up on UA’s schedule: A rematch in Athens against defending MAC champion Ohio (20-7, 11-1). Akron won 86-72 in the first season matchup at the JAR on Feb. 2. The Bobcats were the clear-cut conference favorite, and only have that one conference loss, yet just got beat badly 81-62 at Belmont in a BracketBuster matchup on Saturday.
Jacob Rosen is a long-time contributor to WaitingForNextYear. He's also a writer online at SportsAnalyticsBlog and Nylon Calculus . An Akron native, Jacob is a current MBA student at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. You can follow him on Twitter @WFNYJacob or e-mail him at udjrosen(at)gmail(dot)com.