Akron (1-1) at Middle Tennessee (2-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 16, 3 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Murphy Center (11,520) -- Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Television: None. Home Record: Akron 1-0, MT 2-0. Away Record: Akron 0-1, MT 0-0. Neutral Record: Akron 0-0, MT 0-0. Conference Record: Akron 0-0, MT 0-0. Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads, 15-10.
GAME NOTES: The Akron Zips will try to hand the Blue Raiders their inaugural loss of the season as they challenge Middle Tennessee at the Murphy Center on Saturday.
Akron began its season with a 72-63 victory over Coastal Carolina last Friday, despite committing 17 turnovers and converting just 15-of-26 attempts at the charity stripe. The missed opportunities at the free-throw line and high number of miscues were too much to overcome in their early Wednesday night matchup with Saint Mary's, which led to an 85-63 setback to the Gaels. Coach Keith Dambrot, who coached LeBron James during his high school career, will have to replace the top two players from last season's 26-win squad. Dambrot's lack of depth at guard is going to hinder the Zips' chances of repeating as Mid-American Conference champions.
After leading the Blue Raiders to a 28-6 overall finish in 2012-13, coach Kermit Davis has guided his squad to a 2-0 start with a pair of hard-fought home decisions over Southern (78-75) and North Florida (77-70). Middle Tennessee trailed in both games before eventually coming out on top. The perfect start has extended the Blue Raiders' home winning streak to 30 straight games, giving them the longest active regular season home winning streak in the nation. Middle Tennessee has not played up to its usual standard on the offensive end so far, hitting on only 45 percent of its field goal tries and just 11-of-30 from 3-point range. The team has been able to limit its turnovers and hold 6.5 board per game edge in the rebounding battle to continue its dominance at the Murphy Center.
This will be the 26th meeting between Middle Tennessee and Akron. MT holds a 15-10 advantage in the all-time series, including a 10-1 mark at home. The Zips defeated the Blue Raiders, 82-77, in overtime in Ohio last season.
Carmelo Betancourt has struggled in his first season as Akron's full-time starter at point guard. The 5-foot-11 sophomore has turned the ball over four times in both of the Zips' games this season with only three total assists and four points. The frontcourt trio of Demetrius Treadwell, Isaiah Johnson and Quincy Diggs is accounting for 57 percent of the team's 67.5 points per game. Treadwell is clocking a team-high 33 minutes per contest to net 15 ppg while the 6-10 Johnson has been much more efficient with 13 ppg on 54.5 percent shooting from the field in 19 minutes per outing. Akron has hit on only 24.3 percent of its shots from beyond the arc, which has dropped it to just under 40 percent field goal efficiency.
MT also had a lot of holes to fill from its NCAA Tournament unit, as Shawn Jones, who averaged just 8.5 ppg in 2012-13, was the team's leading scorer among returners. Jones is one of four Blue Raiders scoring in double-figures with 22 total points and 12 rebounds through his first two outings. Kerry Hammonds has managed to lead the team with 14 ppg despite shooting only 22.2 percent from the field including an atrocious 2-of-11 clip from beyond the arc. The 6-5 swingman has been lights out from the charity stripe with 18 makes on 20 attempts. Marcus Tarrance and Neiko Hunters are contributing 13.5 and 12.5 points per game, respectively.
These teams have much different styles of play as Akron will look to slow it down to give its forwards a chance to dominate in the half-court while the Blue Raiders try to utilize the fast break to get some easy transition points. Whichever team controls the tempo will walk away with the win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 79, Akron 73
11/16 10:41:08 ET