As the Zags prepare for their opening game—the standard questions apply: Is it a trap game against an underrated foe, or just another 13-seed vs. 4-seed that forces us to change the channel?
Akron just won the Mid-America tourney, after being the bridesmaid the last two years. Unfortunately, they drew a tough game against the Zags—who are red-hot after winning the WCC Tourney easily.
Akron has a solid roster of guys who share the ball—the "team" approach vs. a couple of stars running the floor supported by role players.
The Zags counter with a solid team approach, with an additional bonus of three stars—Heytvelt, Bouldin, Pargo, with a dash of Daye and Downs for seasoning.
Daye and Heytvelt have a few inches on their counterparts, and if they take advantage on the defensive glass, it could make for a long night for Akron.
If the Zags get out and run, it's done. However, if Akron can hang around and play tough defense, and if the Zags overlooked them a little, it could be closer than any of us expect.
If the Zags dispatch the Zips, then it's either Illinois or Western Kentucky. In case you're unaware, Kentucky is basketball territory, and Illinois just lost the Big Ten final to Purdue.
The Illini match up better against the Zags than Akron, and have played some tough games both home and away.
So, the Zags will have to be ready to shut down McCamey, Davis, or Tisdale to throw the Illini off their game. The Illini played some tough Big Ten teams, so they won't flinch against the Zags.
However, a scary "trap" matchup for the Zags would be Western Kentucky. They're smaller, but fast, and have played some tough games, and crushed some teams—but they haven't seen a team with a defense like the Zags to this point.
Bottom line—my gut is that the Zags will easily handle Akron, and if Western Kentucky manages to beat Illinois, then the Zags can take them too.
However, if the Illini take care of business—then the Zags A-game will be in demand early on in the tourney. But this time in the first two rounds—no one will sneak up on them like Davidson did.