Akron Vs. Northwestern: Pair Of Near-Miss NCAA Teams Hook Up In NIT

The No. 5-seed Akron Zips will be in Evanston, Ill., Tuesday to take on No. 4 Northwestern in the opening round of the NIT.

Northwestern, which is 18-13 overall and went 8-10 in the Big Ten, has famously never made the NCAA Tournament, a storyline that gained steam recently. The Wildcats were teetering precariously on the bubble entering the Big Ten Tournament, where they were dispatched in the first round by Minnesota, which went just 6-12 in the Big Ten this season.

Akron, meanwhile, will have to flush its own NCAA Tournament disappointment. The Zips lost 64-63 to Ohio in the MAC Tournament title game. Even after that defeat Akron owned a top-60 RPI ranking, according to RealTimeRPI.com and StatSheet.com. But a weak MAC schedule – coupled with a pedestrian 22-11 overall record – kept Akron out of the big dance despite winning the regular season conference title with a 13-3 mark.

Northwestern is paced by the school’s all-time leading scorer, John Shurna. Shurna averaged 19.8 points per game this season, connecting on 46.7 percent of his field goal attempts and nearly 43 percent of his three-pointers. Drew Crawford is second on the team with 16.1 points.

Akron relies on a balanced attack which features six players who average between 8.8 and 10.2 points. Proof of the parity: Despite winning the regular season conference title, not a single player was named All-MAC First-Team.

Tuesday's game tips at 9 ET and will air on ESPN2. The winner will take on the winner of Washington and Texas-Arlington. The entire NIT bracket can be found here.

For more college hoops news, check out SB Nation’s college basketball homepage.

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