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Akron and the Round of 64…

A new introduction for our NCAA
tournament preview. We're going to use the words of the opposing coach,
Mr. Keith Dambrot. He provided a succinct summary that nobody could
possibly top.

"They’re
going to try to speed us up, make us try to make mistakes and we’re going to
try to throw the ball to our big guys and it’s as simple as that. It’s a
simplistic game. If they’re successful in speeding us up and turning us over
and making us take bad shots, they’re going to win and if we get post touches,
we’re going to win and that’s what I believe."

If it were really that simple. Here's how I simplify it:

VCUs defense is 42nd most efficient in the country, and Akron has the 90th most efficient offense. VCUs offense is the 18th most efficient in the country and Akron's defense is the 32nd most efficient.

Slugfest.

Ken Pomeroy has VCU winning 71-67, giving the Rams a 65% chance of winning by any margin.

Three Facts:

  1. Swingman Demetrius Treadwell has eight double-doubles in Akron's past 12 games. He's averaging 12.4/9.2 during the stretch.
  2. The Zips are 21-0 when holding opponents to 65 or fewer points. VCU is 50-3 in its last 53 games when they score 65 or more points.
  3. Akron has played in the MAC title game for seven straight years, the second longest streak in the country (Gonzaga–16).

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five Things I'm Watching

1.
Front Havoc, Side Havoc, Back Havoc.
The point guard issue is (rightfully) getting its due. However remember that havoc is more than pressuring the point guard. It pressures
everyone. So yes, Abreau is missing and that's important, but what's more important
may be how everyone else handles the basketball. I'm looking to see how the bigger guards–Harney and Kretzer–as well as the big men Treadwell and Marshall handle things. Those are big guys to have running free after breaking the press. Or big guys getting tired.

2.
Shine Bright Like A Diamond.
With The Big Buddha not
here, Justin Tuoyo is going to have to take his very successful A10
touranment performance, and improve upon it. Tuoyo played 28 minutes in
three A10 tournament games and scored three points. In the previous 17
games combined, Tuoyo played 35 total minutes and scored three points.
Akron is big and athletic. The Rams need some production from the
freshman–I'm thinking 10 minutes, two points and four rebounds, with 1
steal and two fouls. That would suffice. The gist: I want to see him make me take notice of his play. That's the biggest standard. With all other performances being equal, a bombastic Tuoyo is a difference-maker.

3.
The Freight Train On A Straight Track.
Treadwell is going to be a stout matchup for Tre. Graham has
hit 50% from the field just twice in VCUs last nine games, so the Train needs
to be efficient in his play, which would denote a victory in the
individual matchup with one of Akron's better players. Treadwell went
for 13.5/11.0/2.5 and hit 50% of his shots in a MAC tournament MVP
performance. I want to see Graham have one of those 6-11 FG (2-4 from
three), 6-8 FT nights for a stat line of 20 points and six rebounds. And
like Tuoyo what's less important than the numbers is the work done getting there, the
process.

4.
Points in the Paint.
This is your official mental victory key to the game. VCU is 13-0 when scoring 35 plus points in the
paint. The Zips have Zeke Marshall playing goaltender, and Marshall is the
two-time MAC defensive player of the year and has 364 career
blocks–most in MAC history. (Larry Sanders had 187 for VCU.)  What does that mean? Well, if Juvonte Reddic can hit an early
jump hook, or Rob Brandenberg zips into the lane for a score, the Akron
defense is slayed. The Zips are 13th nationally in terms of defensing
two point shots (42.2%) and the Rams are 52nd shooting 50.4% on two point
shots. I'm looking for VCU to win that matchup.

5. Big Audio Dynamite.
We've rushed for a change of atmosphere to the huge venue of the NCAA
tournament, in a building that seats 24,000 people, for an NCAA
tournament game. The energy, or spirit as Shaka Smart likes to say, has
to match that level. It's the energy that makes those 50/50 balls 80/20
for VCU, the energy that grabs offensive rebounds, the energy that sets
oxygen-depleting traps. What I mean is that I want to see the Rams terrorize Akron and blow up everything they want to do…early. They need to know, from
the get-go, that it isn't going to be their night. That the 12/5 upset is
coming from another region. That we will Be VCU and there's nothing they
can do about it.

 

We Don't Work For Free

Zeke Marshall (13.0ppg, 7.1rpg) is a 7-0, 235-pound
center who is an NBA player. Marshall has great length and as noted
above is a shot-blocking machine who protects the rim well. Akron will
look to establish, and re-establish, him in the post. VCUs mission: be
physical and make everything difficult on the big man, which includes
tiring him out with the pace.

Demetrius Treadwell (11.4ppg, 8.4rpg) is a granite
6-7, 225 pounds who plays with a high motor. He's always attacking and
looking for his shot. Treadwell is relentless on the offensive glass,
frequently rebounding his own misses. Of note: he is a 50% free throw
shooter. One other note: Treadwell's nickname is Tree. And that's a great nickname, but shouldn't you be taller than 6-7?

Nick Harney (9.6ppg, 3.9rpg) is a very versatile
player who can play every position from 1 through 4–he's 6-8 and a wiry
210 pounds. As you can imagine, Harney has a great midrange and floater
game. The Rams will have to body him up and not give him space.

Carmelo Betancourt
(1.9ppg, 1.5apg) is the aforementioned freshman point guard who has
played very dependably for Akron. He's good at changing speeds, but
his slight size and inexperience call into the mind the other words we
like to hear: blood in the water.

Brian Walsh
(7.5ppg, 3.6rpg) hit 40 threes this year at a 38% clip. Walsh has Troy
Daniels range, however his greatest asset is that he is a gritty player
and does all the little things that allow the stars to be stars.

Jake Kretzer (5.8ppg, 3.1rpg) is the Zips most prolific
three-point shooter, hitting 46 on year at a 35% clip. He's big for a
wing shooter (6-7) so the Rams will have to keep him from getting open
looks.

Reggie McAdams (4.7ppg, 1.3rpg) is a 6-7 freshman. This kid is their best shooter, hitting 37-100 on the season. More than 80% of his FGA are threes. Game plan is simple: great close outs on the arc.

Chauncey Gilliam
(5.5ppg, 1.7rpg) is a strong 6-5, 230-pounder who is aggressive and
looking to score every time he touches the ball. The lefty can do a
little bit of everything on the offensive end.

Finally, Pat Forsyth (3.5ppg, 2.8rpg)  is a big lefty post–6-11 and 240 pounds–who will see spot time and Deji Ibitayo (3.0ppg, 1.8rpg) is a strong combo guard who is fast but loose with the ball. You know the drill on him.

 

The Message

Every
game is about pace but this one especially matters. VCU is 24-3 when it
has at least 65 possessions in a game, and just 3-5 when it does not. We're looking for a 70-possession game in which havoc occurs in violent spurts, preferably early.

Pace gets Zeke
Marshall running, which gets Zeke Marshall tired and Zeke Marshall
handling the ball. That takes Akron's most important weapon out of his
comfort zone, playing a game in which he is not familiar.

Imagine VCU
being forced to post up Troy Daniels on the block. That's what I mean.

There is also the point guard situation. Akron has played its last
three games without its senior point guard Alex Abreu, who was
suspended for, uh, an illegal side business. That's left primary point
guard duties to 5-11 freshman Carmelo Betacourt.

Betancourt has acquitted himself well in Abreu's absence, averaging
3.7ppg, 3.0apg, both numbers are more than double the previous output.
He has five steals and committed six turnovers.

But it isn't all Betancourt. Nick Harney, a 6-7 junior, has assumed some of the load. The Zips have actually averaged fewer
turnovers (13.6
to 13.3) per game without Abreau.

Akron is another team who we need to make vulnerable. And that's what it's about: detonating the Akron attack on defense and swarming them with efficient, executioner's offense.

That comes from being unselfish on offense–sharing the basketball. It's putting four or five guys in double figures, and nobody cares the names that are called. And the defense?

Havoc.