#531 University of Akron Zipsvs.#532 Youngstown State University Penguins
Written by Chris Kubala
NCAAB: Saturday, November 12, 2016, Beeghly Center, Youngstown, Ohio, 7:45 pm ET
Line: Akron -9; Over/Under: 161
It’s another matchup between teams in the Buckeye State in a season opening game on the court. The Akron Zips are on the road as they battle the Youngstown State Penguins in a non-conference matchup Saturday night. Akron has ripped off 20 wins in the last 21 meetings, including six straight victories. The teams haven’t met since the 2011-12 season, when the Zips rolled to an 88-62 win at home on December 19, 2011.
Akron put together a stellar 26-9 record overall last season to tie the school record for victories. The Zips were 13-5 in the Mid-American Conference and won the MAC East title in the regular season. Akron fell in the MAC title game to Buffalo, 64-61, and then fell in the first round of the NIT to Ohio State, 72-63 in overtime, putting a damper on their season. Akron was an above average offensive unit as they finished tied for 84th in the nation with an average of 76.6 points per game. The Zips were tied for 60th on the boards this season with 37.4 rebounds per contest. Akron is pulling off their wins despite shooting 43.2 percent (217th in the nation) from the floor.
The Zips knocked down 11.7 three point field goals per contest (2nd) while shooting 38.3 percent (32nd) from beyond the arc. Isaiah Johnson is a solid low post presence: he contributes a team leading 13.6 points and 7.6 boards a contest. Antino Jackson is a solid secondary scoring option coming back. He averaged 11.6 points and 3.4 assists per game. The Zips were terrific on the defensive end of the floor as they finished 77th in the nation, allowing 68 points per game. Opposing teams shot 41 percent from the floor against the Zips last season. Akron gave up 5.8 three point field goals a night while holding their opponents to 29.4 percent (3rd in the nation) from beyond the arc. Noah Robotham and Kwan Cheatham Jr. are other key returning pieces for the Zips this season.
Youngstown State posted a third straight losing season in 2015-16 as the Penguins finished 11-21. The Penguins were only 6-12 in the Horizon League and saw their season end with a 92-79 loss to Detroit in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament. Youngstown State was above average offensively as they ranked 100th in the nation in scoring offense with an average of 76.2 points per game. The Penguins struggled shooting the ball as they hit only 43 percent (223rd in the nation) from the floor. Youngstown State knocked down eight three point field goals per game as they drained 36.5 percent from beyond the arc. Cameron Morse is the leading returning scorer for the Penguins as he puts up 20.3 points plus 3.1 assists per game. Bobby Hain (12.4 points, 6.3 rebounds) is a solid force in the low block but he missed 19 games last year with a foot injury.
The Penguins struggled badly on defense. They allowed 83.8 points per game, which was 346th in the nation. Youngstown State saw their opponents shoot 47 percent (330th) from the floor. The Penguins allowed their opponents shoot 33.9 percent from three point range. Opposing teams knocked down eight three pointers per game last season against the Penguins. Matt Donlan put up 13.1 points and 4.5 boards per game while Francisco Santiago (9.1 points, 4.3 assists) runs the point. Sidney Umude, Jorden Kaufman and Jordan Andrews each averaged at least 6.3 points per game for Youngstown State last year. All of them return to the fold this season.
There’s reason for optimism that Youngstown State will be better than they were a year ago. The team brings back their top seven scorers from a year ago. The question remains if the Penguins learned to play defense yet. Youngstown State has had serious problems stopping opposing teams from running up and down the floor. Akron is a good offensive team with weapons of their own. Until Youngstown State proves they can play defense, give the points and take the Zips.
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Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. He keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college, the NHL, the NBA and college basketball and MLB.