MAC Championship Preview: Position-By-Position Breakdown

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Regular season series: Akron, 2-0 (86-72 in Akron, 88-81 OT in Ohio)

Position Matchups

Point guard: D.J. Cooper vs. Carmelo Betancourt

The point guard position went from being a strength to weakness for the Zips after Alex Abreu was arrested for drug charges over a week ago. The junior guard’s absence leaves Betancourt and now Nick Harney splitting time bringing the ball up the court. Betancourt is a freshman guard, who only averages 10.4 minutes per game, but has started the past two. Point forward Harney has had to adjust to bringing the ball up the court. His dribbling skills aren’t particularly great, so that’ll be something to keep an eye on with Cooper defensively, who averages 2.1 steals a game. The MAC Player of the Year loves to play against the Zips in Cleveland, averaging 23.0 points per game against them in the MAC Tournament. Advantage: Ohio

Shooting guard: Nick Kellogg vs. Brian Walsh

Both Kellogg and Walsh are sharpshooters for their respective teams, but both have had up-and-down years.  Just like any other sharpshooter, if one of these two are feeling it, look out because they’ll score in bunches. Kellogg had 16 points against Bowling Green, while Walsh had 16 points against Eastern Michigan. In the semifinal games, Walsh was 0-of-4 from the field and 0-of-2 from three, finishing the game with two points. Kellogg was 3-of-4 from three and had nine points against Western Michigan. Advantage: Even

Small forward: Walter Offutt vs. Chauncey Gilliam

Gilliam was recently put into the starting lineup for Harney, who is now the first player off the bench to bring the ball up the court. It was an interesting coaching strategy, as Gilliam only averages 14.3 minutes per game, and he only played 21 minutes against Kent State and had six points. With Harney starting, Akron had a 3-inch advantage over Offutt, but Gilliam is only one inch taller. For Offutt, height is never an issue as he’s guarded bigger players all year including Kent State’s Chris Evans. Offutt, a Third Team All-MAC selection, has been playing huge for Ohio, especially Friday night with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Advantage: Ohio

Power forward: T.J. Hall vs. Demetrius Treadwell

Treadwell could be the most difficult player to guard in the conference, as he’s big enough to dominate the boards and athletic enough to guard some of the top scorers in the MAC. He guarded Cooper last game in the Convocation Center and limited the Ohio guard’s abilities with the basketball. Unfortunately for Treadwell, Cooper was feeling it that night. Hall is a small forward that has had to adjust to playing against bigger players. While in the starting lineup, he has had a difficult time staying out of foul trouble, as he has fouled out twice. Advantage: Akron

Center: Reggie Keely vs. Zeke Marshall

Keely and Marshall know each other very well. The two seniors have been going at each other for four years. Marshall has the height advantage at 7-foot, while Keely is 6-foot-9, but Keely has had some success containing taller players. He held Western Michigan’s Shayne Whittington to just six points Friday night, a day after the Second Team All-MAC honoree went for 23 points against Eastern Michigan. Marshall played incredibly well in Friday night’s semifinal game with 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks. 14 of Marshall’s 18 points came in the second half, as he led the Zips to a 62-59 win over Kent State. Advantage: Akron

Bench: The benches have been key to Akron and Ohio’s success all season. The Zips have a pair of deadly shooters in Reggie McAdams and Jake Kretzer, and with Harney coming off the bench as a point guard, it gives the Zips an opportunity to have a bigger lineup. The Akron bench has averaged 23.0 points per game this season, and the Bobcats have had similar success off the bench with 22.6 points per game. Ohio doesn’t have the same amount of sharpshooters off the bench as Akron, but they have a greater variety. Stevie Taylor has played well recently, especially in the two-guard system Christian has been utilizing more. Jon Smith has provided a great amount of energy on the offensive and defensive ends. And Ricardo Johnson and Travis Wilkins are capable of going off at anytime, Johnson defensively and Wilkins from beyond the arc. Advantage: Even

Coaching: Jim Christian vs. Keith Dambrot

Two of the top coaches in conference history will be going head-to-head for a berth to the NCAA Tournament. Akron coach Dambrot is in his ninth season at Akron and has taken the Zips to the MAC Championship for the past seven years. This will be the third time in four years that the Zips are facing Ohio in the MAC Championship, with the Bobcats winning the previous two. Dambrot has had to deal with a lot in the past week with the loss of Abreu and has made adjustments to his lineup as a result. He was awarded Wednesday the MAC Coach of the Year. Christian has had the responsibility of taking over a team with lofty expectations after a Sweet Sixteen run last year. It’s highly overlooked how difficult it is to install a system with an experienced group that has won MAC Tournaments before. In his first year, Christian led Ohio to a 14-2 record in the MAC and a Co-MAC Regular Season title with Akron. Although the pair of coaches has had great success in the MAC Tournament throughout their careers, Christian would be the first to say that it ultimately comes down to the players on the court. The coaches try to put their team in the best position to execute. Advantage: Even

The two teams will battle it out for one final time this season in the Quicken Loans Arena at 6:30 p.m. The winner advances to the NCAA Tournament, while the runner-up will likely receive a spot in the NIT Tournament.