Basketball ready for Middle Tennessee

Written by: D.J. Johnson

In the midst of your Monday through Friday grind, you may have noticed a rather large banner of a rather big man covering the side of Schrank Hall.

The man is Zeke Marshall, the starting center for the men’s basketball team, who has seen his face plastered next to the words “Think Bigger” throughout campus and elsewhere.

Along with junior guard Alex Abreu, you may have seen Marshall’s face paired with the two words on the back of an RTA bus, towering high on an electronic billboard or accompanied by a hashtag on Twitter.

The reason for all of this is simple: To have success in the NCAA Tournament.

“We are trying to figure out how to beat the big boys on a consistent basis,” said head coach Keith Dambrot.

Though often labeled as a mid-major program, the Zips certainly have not underachieved in their nine years under Dambrot.

The newly resigned coach has enjoyed seven consecutive seasons of at least 20 wins, one of only 17 teams nationally to do so. Six straight MAC Championship games have resulted in two NCAA Tournament berths.

Both were losses in the round of 64.

Just last season, Ohio, who beat the Zips in the last second of the MAC  Championship game, went on to the Sweet Sixteen.

Pushing the program to that level and consistently into national spotlight seems to be Dambrot’s next step. The head coach is not shy about taking it a step further.

“Now we’re trying to get in an at-large position,” said Dambrot in his preseason press conference.

Only five games into this season, the Zips will certainly have their chance.

Dambrot’s squad currently sits at 3-2, as both losses came in overtime and without the services of Nick Harney and Demetrius Treadwell.

The team has proven to be a force in its last two games, winning by a combined 44 points over UNC Asheville and Penn State.

“We like our team,” said Dambrot. “We’ve built a program on that winning mentality.”

After a two-week layoff, the Zips will get back to the court on Sunday as they take on Middle Tennessee inside James A. Rhodes Arena.

Number 14 Creighton will give Akron the opportunity of a marquee win the following Sunday.