Shaka Smart and Akron head coach Keith Dambrot know each other well. Smart served as an assistant to Dambrot at Akron and the two have been good friends ever since, with Dambrot even making an appearance in Coach Smart’s wedding.
The two were paired up in ESPN’s BracketBusters series in 2010, and following their 2011 meeting to complete that home-and-home, hoped they’d never have to face off again.
Well, the basketball gods have spoken, and it’s more Rams versus Zips they crave.
Coach Smart will once again face his former mentor, as the 5th-seeded Rams will take on the 12th-seeded Zips of Akron at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan (suburban Detroit) this Thursday in the round of 64 of this year’s NCAA tournament.
VCU fell to Saint Louis in today’s A-10 tournament final, but received their highest tournament seed since the early 80s, and will take on the 2013 MAC tournament champion Zips.
The two programs have become real familiar with each other, having played four games since 2008, with VCU winning all of them (the Rams are a perfect 6-0 against Akron in the history of the series).
Akron went an impressive 26-6 this season capped off with a 19-point beatdown of Ohio University to punch their ticket to this season’s NCAA tournament.
What’s even more impressive is that they did so without the services of senior point guard Alex Abreu (10.3 ppg, 6 apg) who has been suspended from the team due to a drug arrest.
The two will compete in the South Region of this year’s NCAA tournament, the winner taking on either 4th-seeded Michigan or 13th-seeded South Dakota State.
The Region is highlighted by top-seeded Kansas (who VCU would face in the Sweet 16), and features the likes of North Carolina, Villanova, UCLA, Florida, Georgetown, Oklahoma and a Minnesota program run by former VCU AD Norwood Teague.