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MAC Tournament Bracket Preview: Akron Zips Battle Eastern Michigan In First Round

The Akron Zips find themselves in a rematch of their 2010 Quarterfinal matchup in the First Round of the 2011 MAC Basketball Tournament.  These first round games take place on-campus, and Akron has earned the right to host the Eagles at James A. Rhodes Arena.

It took double-overtime for the Zips to get past the Eagles last year, and the Eagles already have a 60-56 win over the Zips in 2011.  The winner gets Miami-Ohio in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Not much went right for the Eagles this season, as they stumbled through a 21- loss regular season. Eastern Michigan was able to snap a three-game slide with a 69-50 decision over Toledo in its season finale, but following a 5-11 mark in league play it is tough to see the Eagles soaring to their first league title since 1998.

As for the Zips, they have played in the MAC title game four straight seasons, but won it jut once in 2009. Last year, Akron fell just short against Ohio, 81-75, in overtime. Akron took a few steps backwards this year, posting just a 9-7 ledger in league play, and comes into this event with back-to-back losses to Ohio and Kent State.

The Eagles can attribute their poor season to their lack of success at the offensive end of the floor. Eastern Michigan was able to finish fourth in the league, holding opponents to just 65.4 ppg, but that did not matter since the team produced just 61.8 ppg on the year, which was 10th best in the conference. One-third of the team's production has come from Brandon Bowdry, who has been one of the toughest forwards in the league. Bowdry finished second in the MAC with 20.1 ppg, while pacing the conference with 9.5 rpg. However, outside of Bowdry's effort there is not much for coach Charles Ramsey to rely on, as the next best player has been Derek Thompson, who is chipping in 9.6 points per matchup.

For Akron to play in its fifth consecutive tournament championship game, the Zips much continue to use the formula that has worked for this team, and that is tenacious defense. Akron, which finished fifth in the league in that department, held opponents to just 65.6 ppg on the year. However, at the other end of the floor is where the Zips had trouble this year. Sure, the team is averaging 70.1 ppg, which isn't terrible, but there is not a player on the roster who can take over a game. Nikola Cvetinovic has been the team's most productive player, but is comes into this event averaging just 12.3 ppg and 6.9 rpg. Brett McKnight and Brett McClanahan have also contributed this season, as both players are netting 10.1 ppg apiece.

Eastern Michigan has always been a tough matchup for Akron, but the Zips should have the upper hand in this contest thanks to homecourt advantage.

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.