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NWAkron

Taking Stock Part II

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This is just a thread to discuss the team, the past, the current season as we lead up to the game at PCCC.  I have some construction going on at my house, so as I wait for them to leave (and not wanting to to turn on the TV and face all the bad news) I turned to my favorite topic The Zips.

 

This whole Groce/Dambrot thing is dividing us all a bit on here.   Looking back at the Dambrot years, they were really exciting.  I loved all those trips to Cleveland, but FOR ME I hated the tourney losses more.  I went to Detroit for the VCU game.  That was just a horrible draw for the Zips and the coaching staff knew it immediately.  Having no point guard was bad enough but then two guys got the flu.  What was a coach to do? Remind us a bit of what's happening now? 

 

While I keep VCU in perspective, there were many more losses at big moments that just left me really sad as a fan.  (Ok, just there I sounded like a Bobcat Attack dweller).

 

Dambrot Exits Stage Right:  For reasons only known to the parties in the room at the time, Dambrot left for Duquense.  He got a big raise and a chance to play in a better conference where good teams are forced to play on his home floor.  It's a multi-bid conference where he can rack of quality wins without leaving the conference to get them.  It looks like he's doing well.  When he left, some players went with him and three guards transferred for various reasons.  Maybe some were already planning on leaving.  We also lost Big Dog and Kwan.  Although, Big Dog was the really big loss and the hardest to replace.  The only tall guy left at that point was Eman and the unproven (redshirt) freshman Sayles.  The good news was that Ivey and Utomi stayed.  So on Dambrot's departure (and to me it doesn't matter whether he poached players or not) there were two solid guys and a back up center who was a foul machine much like a certain other guy we have playing now.

 

Groce Enters Stage Left:  John Groce.  The Kitten hero and the bane of our existence along with his star guard DJ Cooper.   He helped make this vicious rivalry versus Ohio.  God, he was annoying.  Frenchy called him "a clown."  He took Ohio to the second round of the NCAA with a big upset over Georgetown.  The next year, with the same team, he lost early in the MAC.  That year we had probably the best game I can ever remember attending:  MAC championship with over Kent.  However, the next year, Ohio, Groce, and Cooper were back and took us out in the finals and then swept into the Sweet 16 with the help of a good draw and then almost took out NC.  Many wonder...what if Brian Walsh made that basket?  What would have happened  to Groce?  Well, i assume they might have made an NIT run and would be back the following year with the same team.  And who knows what would have happened.  Did Groce catch lightning in the bottle?  I didn't follow his career at Illinois, but it obviously wasn't good enough to keep him around.  They wanted him out and were willing to pay him millions to leave.  But it's tough at least for me to compare Big Ten coaching situations to the MAC.  So he's fired.  And we hire him.  We get a good deal.  We save some $$ for a few years.

 

What is the goal?  What were Williams, Wilson, and Van Horn thinking when they hired Groce?  What did they want for the program?  Did they want the same regular season success of Dambrot?  Or did they want more of the Ohio U model?  Or did they want to start over and bring a guy in who could truly bring us to dominance so that we absolutely outclass the BGs and directional schools every season.  I have no idea, but I guess my hope is the third option.  Maybe some of you think they weighted Groce's prior success too much.  I wasn't there.  I don't know.

 

This Season:  Yes, there were those of us, myself included, who were/are absolutely pro-Groce.  Of course, that is subject to change.  However, at least for me I want to be optimistic.  I liked what I saw with the team he and his staff cobbled together.  I like the style of play, and, hell, we were winning.  However, a trip to Hawaii, an ugly loss at home to Buffalo, a effortless loss to EMU away, and injuries to our two big men left us wondering what the hell has happened to our team.  We certainly aren't used to this.  I'm certainly noticing a few more empty seats.  Maybe those who will always re-up their tickets don't make it to every game now.  But anecdotally the folks I talk to at the game who have been there for years are still positive about the team and the coach. 

 

Perspective: As noted above, those tourney losses were hard on me as a fan.  I also began to realize last year that these 20+ win seasons were a mirage and not worth much to me as a fan and didn't mean anything at all if we collapsed in the final game.   While that record looked good and the company we kept was good, if you knew who we played well it didn't mean that much.  We had that home winning streak.  Second longest in the nation.  But someone on here said that wasn't too hard because we only had to get up for a few games a year at home.  (Wow, to only have that problem this year.)   So for me, when I heard Dambrot was leaving I was basically indifferent, and I am enjoying a new team, new coaches, and a new start even with the losses. I really want to get a game in Cleveland, but like the rest of you that seems so unlikely.  I don't blame Groce for that.  Next year I might.  But not this year considering the big picture.

 

The Players:  On this topic,  as to who will stay and who will go I would defer to all of you.  If Groce and his group are going with the third option mentioned above of building a dominant program then they may cut a few loose that may surprise us.

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I knew going into this season it would be rough and said I'm giving Groce a pass. It still doesn't mean it isn't painful to see the program that has been the class of the MAC for the past 15 turn into the cupcake we always complained about. Hopefully we're only down short-term and Groce will take us to the level Dambrot seemed to always be on the cusp of, but always fell a tad short of.

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Great analysis.  I think we would have picked up a few more wins but for the injuries to e man and Sayles.  We are basically down to our 3rd string center who early on did not see the floor and a 6 foot four walk on to play center.  I would like to see more hustle from the guys on the floor.  The execution on offense rarely produces anything and we often settle for a 3 point shot.  They also do not seem to play well together as noted by the lack of assists.  

 

I was also frustrated by the MAC tourney losses the last 2 years.  I liked Kwan but he never had a great game in the tourney final.  I also thought that the 3 guards who transferred were not athletic enough to ever win a NCAA tournament game.  

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Very thorough and fair analysis by NWAkron. I usually have not agreed with many of his posts, but I can see both arguments. As to our future, those of you predicting a quick turnaround because of Groce, it's going to take time and patience. We have only 2 scholarships available next year and we lose our most experienced player. While some of the freshmen (Parrish and Sayles) have shown a few flashes, we actually have only 2 quality players returning (Ivey and Utomi).yes, we have 4 redshirts, but all inexperienced and unproven.  After a losing season, recruiting will be difficult (yes winning records do help). Looking at the full picture, the most optimistic outlook would be for 2020, so keep rooting, buying tickets, and remain patient and perhaps we will see those 20 plus seasons again.

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Groce's strength is supposed to be recruiting. He didn't have much of a chance coming into this year, so we'll have to see.  Not only does he have to recruit, but he'll have to retain what they have.

 

In simple terms, losing sucks and our team is losing.  In Groce we trust (it's not like we have another choice).

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To me the hardest part of this transition is knowing that we're unlikely to have the same stability we had for 13 years.  I believe Groce will rebuild and that he'll get us a Tourney win, and then I think he'll jump at his first shot at redemption with a P5 job.  And that will be a cycle that we'll go through every 3-4 years, with the coach either leaving for a bigger job or being let go for poor performance.  That uncertainty is scary to me as a fan. 

 

As far as the KD era goes, I enjoyed knowing that in most conference games, we were going to leave happy.  I also enjoyed clearing my schedule every 2nd Saturday in March for a game at The Q.  We never got over the hump, but it was a helluva 13 year ride.  

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52 minutes ago, UAZip0510 said:

I also enjoyed clearing my schedule every 2nd Saturday in March for a game at The Q.  

 

One game?

 

I went a step further.  Cleveland was like a 2 or 3 day vacation every year for us (depending on the year, and the tourney format).  So much fun.  I'll miss that.

 

I recall the first time that 7 year string of Finals ended, when we lost to WMU in the 2014 Semifinal.  I had an incredibly empty feeling leaving Cleveland that Friday night, knowing that someone else would be in the Final.  I think I almost got ill on the way home.  I felt like that MAC Final belonged to us or something !!

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2 hours ago, UAZip0510 said:

To me the hardest part of this transition is knowing that we're unlikely to have the same stability we had for 13 years.  I believe Groce will rebuild and that he'll get us a Tourney win, and then I think he'll jump at his first shot at redemption with a P5 job.  And that will be a cycle that we'll go through every 3-4 years, with the coach either leaving for a bigger job or being let go for poor performance.  That uncertainty is scary to me as a fan. 

 

As far as the KD era goes, I enjoyed knowing that in most conference games, we were going to leave happy.  I also enjoyed clearing my schedule every 2nd Saturday in March for a game at The Q.  We never got over the hump, but it was a helluva 13 year ride.  

 

I understand and respect this concern, but I really don't think Groce will be so eager to leave Akron. At least I hope not. And I do believe he will succeed and will eventually have some tempting offers. While his ego might want to swing big again, he learned a lot about the nasty nature of P5 recruiting in those 5 years. As long as Akron is able and willing to grow right along with him (new or renovated stadium, etc.) I believe he is wise to stay put and build up his reputation/brand. If anything, I would advise jumping Akron to a larger conference when warranted. There is also the possibility if Groce did leave, his assistant Ford who knows the system, conference and NE Ohio could move up. Ford, unfortunately doesn't have a reputation as a great recruiter. Let's hope for success and see where it leads.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Illini Zip

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2 hours ago, skip-zip said:

 

One game?

 

I went a step further.  Cleveland was like a 2 or 3 day vacation every year for us (depending on the year, and the tourney format).  So much fun.  I'll miss that.

 

I recall the first time that 7 year string of Finals ended, when we lost to WMU in the 2014 Semifinal.  I had an incredibly empty feeling leaving Cleveland that Friday night, knowing that someone else would be in the Final.  I think I almost got ill on the way home.  I felt like that MAC Final belonged to us or something !!

 

Oh no, I went to it all! I brought up Saturday just to highlight the successes.

 

1 hour ago, Illini Zip said:

 

I understand and respect this concern, but I really don't think Groce will be so eager to leave Akron. At least I hope not. And I do believe he will succeed and will eventually have some tempting offers. While his ego might want to swing big again, he learned a lot about the nasty nature of P5 recruiting in those 5 years. As long as Akron is able and willing to grow right along with him (new or renovated stadium, etc.) I believe he is wise to stay put and build up his reputation/brand. If anything, I would advise jumping Akron to a larger conference when warranted. There is also the possibility if Groce did leave, his assistant Ford who knows the system, conference and NE Ohio could move up. Ford, unfortunately doesn't have a reputation as a great recruiter. Let's hope for success and see where it leads.

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you're right.  I just think, if we're being honest, that most successful coaches, including Groce, won't want to stay here.  It'd have to be someone with ties here, as KD had.  I've been around long enough not to get any hopes up for a new arena.

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1 hour ago, Illini Zip said:

I would advise jumping Akron to a larger conference when warranted.

 

Uh oh.  You've done it now.  You may have just reignited one of the most popular subjects in the history of ZipsNation.  

 

Of course, that conversation ties heavily into Football as well.  But, I'd say think that after more than a decade of winning to a level that was only matched by 3 other programs in the country, I don't recall one legitimate sign that any "higher" conference was coveting Akron.  If it didn't happen then, it's not going to happen anytime soon.

 

Illini....That's only a partial recap of what's transpired in our conversations.  But, I think it's safe to say that it would take a whole lot more than just Akron's desire to "move up".  

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15 minutes ago, skip-zip said:

 

Uh oh.  You've done it now.  You may have just reignited one of the most popular subjects in the history of ZipsNation.  

 

Of course, that conversation ties heavily into Football as well.  But, I'd say think that after more than a decade of winning to a level that was only matched by 3 other programs in the country, I don't recall one legitimate sign that any "higher" conference was coveting Akron.  If it didn't happen then, it's not going to happen anytime soon.

 

Illini....That's only a partial recap of what's transpired in our conversations.  But, I think it's safe to say that it would take a whole lot more than just Akron's desire to "move up".  

 

I'm thinking the Big Ten needs a second team from Ohio! Who is with me?!  :D  No need to rehash on my account.

 

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On 2/16/2018 at 6:36 PM, skip-zip said:

 

One game?

 

I went a step further.  Cleveland was like a 2 or 3 day vacation every year for us (depending on the year, and the tourney format).  So much fun.  I'll miss that.

 

I recall the first time that 7 year string of Finals ended, when we lost to WMU in the 2014 Semifinal.  I had an incredibly empty feeling leaving Cleveland that Friday night, knowing that someone else would be in the Final.  I think I almost got ill on the way home.  I felt like that MAC Final belonged to us or something !!

I still have my schedule clear for that week in March.  So many good times.  It really was a ritual for us.   But those losses in the final game the last few years just wiped me out.  For me...maybe not the rest of us...but for me...I was ready for a change.  Oh and leaving the MAC?  I hope not.  Best part of being in the MAC is having the tourney at the Q.   

Edited by NWAkron

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On 2/18/2018 at 10:37 AM, NWAkron said:

I still have my schedule clear for that week in March.  So many good times.  It really was a ritual for us.   But those losses in the final game the last few years just wiped me out.  For me...maybe not the rest of us...but for me...I was ready for a change.  Oh and leaving the MAC?  I hope not.  Best part of being in the MAC is having the tourney at the Q.   

 

I'd be ok playing a tournament on Mars if it meant getting out of the MAC. In all seriousness, if we left the MAC and weren't able to easily travel to that conference's tournament, I'd be ok saving the money and traveling to the NCAA tournament games. That would be an equally awesome trade-off for me. Far-fetched, but it could happen. 

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Thoughts leading into what is likely our final week of play:

 

Miami:  That loss yesterday hurt like a MAC tourney loss to me.  I don't like seeing Miami, with their first year coach, rising further than we are at the moment.  I keep in mind they were in pretty bad shape the last few years.  Their coach didn't show up for their final game last year, and I think a couple years ago they made it to Cleveland but didn't bother to send their band or cheerleaders.   Without our injuries and challenges, we would be closer to where they are now.  Relieved (if that's the right word) to hear that Cotton was having a health issue and wasn't "on his way out."  It was difficult for me to believe that Groce is so hard-nosed that he would sit Cotton on bench to prove a point during the final games of the season.

 

Officials:  Last night I watched the end of the PCCC/BG game and watched the refs give the game to PCCC by calling a foul on Dylan Frye when he barely made contact with Avery who was blowing to the hoop for a lay up he then missed.  Then the night before a Western Michigan player flopped while shooting a 3 and the subsequent foul on Ball State certainly pushed the momentum to the Broncos. 

 

MAC Standings:  Am still hoping for that first round home game or a trip to Cleveland.  I note that out of the four teams at the bottom:  NIU, CMU, Ohio, and Zips, we are only one with a first year coach.  I'm sure the coaching staff know that with a depleted team like we have the idea of winning four games in six days is impossible.  Was thinking yesterday, the players just got tired at the of the Miami game.  With no back up for the main guys, its hard for them to keep up the frenetic pace.  Maybe that's why they were playing not to lose in second half as someone said.

 

MAC Tourney:  MAC is still a one bid tourney.  I will miss being in the mix of MAC tournament week, but I don't miss the stress, anxiety, and usual disappointment.  Happy to watch some other teams and fan bases go through that. But just for this year!  Would be fun to see EMU win the whole thing.  Something completely different.

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19 minutes ago, NWAkron said:

I will miss being in the mix of MAC tournament week, but I don't miss the stress, anxiety, and usual disappointment.  Happy to watch some other teams and fan bases go through that.

 

I know.  It was absolutely horrible being a fan of the school that had the most successful record in the MAC Tournament for more than a decade.  

 

Please, let someone else have that.  

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I will say they are playing hard on defense.  I haven't seen as many defensive breakdowns in the last couple of weeks.  If they play that hard when they have more talent, I'll be pleased.

 

On offense, it's a mess in large part because they have so few kids that can effectively score the ball.

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Without Olojakpoke and Sayles, and a 10-player roster, eight Zips have been in a starting role over the last few weeks. Duvivier, Ivey, and Utomi have started all 27 games, and they have been joined by Eric Parrish (18), Virshon Cotton (6), Torrey Patton (6), Mark Kostelac (7), and Lucas Smith (4). That would be my assessment of the current situation—"taking stock."  

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