Zips basketball analysis

By Matthew Balsinger, Managing Editor

Last week the Department of Athletics officially released the 2013-2014 season schedule for men’s basketball. The Zips will be featured several times on national television through the various ESPN venues and will be potentially facing several nonconference opponents twice this season.

Zips basketball is coming off a historical season where they went 26-7 on the season, winning the Mid-American Conference championship which gave them an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. Coming off of the 2012-2013 season high, there are several question marks with the Zips’ roster that need to be addressed before a repeat of last season possibly occurs.

This is the first of several stories that will run over the next several weeks analyzing the new season’s schedule, analysis of the conference at large as well as making predictions for the upcoming season. This week The Buchtelite will focus on the new additions to the Zips’ roster and the first three regular season games.

The most notable change to the Zips’ roster this year will be the loss of seven-foot-tall center Zeke Marshall, who has departed the team after exhausting his four years of eligibility with the team and has graduated. Zeke’s presence in the paint will be missed, as he proved to be one of the team’s most consistent and prolific scorers and defenders.

The Zips will be looking to sophomore center Pat Forsythe and freshman center Isaiah Johnson to step up and fill the void left by Marshall. Forsythe played off the bench for most of the season last year behind Marshall, often overshadowed by the senior’s performance.

The offseason adjustments to the Zips’ defense will be crucial to the 2013-2014 season if the Zips are looking to continue the success seen
last year.

The most glaring hole on the Zips’ roster is also the most critical position: the point guard. Last season the Zips lost their starting point guard Alex Abreu toward the end of the season for the trafficking and possession of marijuana.

Freshman Carmelo Betancourt and junior Nick Harney attempted to fill the void left by Abreu’s rapid departure and did so admirably, though the two did not appear to be a permanent fix at the position.

Through the offseason the Zips have received junior college transfer student Nyles Evans, who will likely fill the starting point guard roll. With an experienced and skilled player at the point, the Zips will likely see a similar offense to last season, if not a slightly more productive one.

Coastal Carolina

The regular season will open on campus at the James A. Rhodes Arena with a home stand against the Coastal Carolina University Chanticleers. The Zips opened the previous season with a game against the Chanticleers almost a year ago, losing in overtime in disappointing fashion. This loss last year proved to be devastating to the team’s RPI rating, which helps to determine seeding in tournaments as well as rankings throughout the season. Coastal Carolina finished the season with a 14-15 record.

This game will be a must-win for the Zips; setting the tone and direction for the season. A win here is crucial before going on two consecutive road games against quality opponents. Being the season opener, it will be the first time for fans to see the post-Marshall Zips and a strong start will likely spur student attendance the rest of the season.

Prediction:  Win.

Saint Mary’s

The Saint Mary’s Gaels were one of the best mid-major teams last season, making an appearance in the NCAA tournament much like the Zips, but losing the first game against the Memphis Tigers. Toward the end of the season, the Gaels were in competition for a top 25 ranking in the Associated Press polls. The Gaels finished the season with an impressive 28-7 record.

This is the first of two nonconference teams that the Zips might potentially face twice in the regular season. This first road game is scheduled and the second is a potential matchup in the Diamond Head Classic tournament in Hawaii. Both teams have received an invitation to the tournament which will take place in the Christmas season.

The Zips and the Gaels are very similar in all aspects of the game and this will likely be a fantastic game to watch. If the Zips can pull off a victory it will likely be a quality win that might help the team to achieve an at-large NCAA tournament bid at the end of the season.

Prediction:  Loss.

Middle Tennessee

The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders were another of last season’s strong mid-major teams. The game against the Blue Raiders was also one of Akron’s most significant victories; the Zips defeated Middle Tennessee in exciting overtime fashion.

A win against Middle Tennessee will go a long way toward achieving another berth in the NCAA tournament.

Prediction: Win.

Matthew can be reached at [email protected].