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Game 20- Miami


clarkwgriswold
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The   Zips return to the friendly confines of the JAR this Tuesday to face Miami.  The Redhawks are 7-12/1-5 with their only MAC win coming against Buffalo.

 

5’8” fifth year guard Mekhi Lairy leads the Redhawks at 17.2 ppg.  6’5” junior guard Morgan Safford contributes 15.4 ppg while leading then in rebounding at 6.1 rpg.  The are 7th in both offense and defense in the MAC.

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7 minutes ago, zippy5 said:

Is anyone good in the MAC outside of the top 4? This is the worst I remember it being in recent memory I think. On a nightly basis at least. Friday and Saturday at the Q will be good basketball 


It’s shaping up that way. Even Akron and Toledo have shown at times throughout the year that they may not be quite up to the level as expected. EMU being the worst team is not what I was expecting. I wasn’t quite as bullish on the Emoni Bates situation as a lot of people, but this has been shocking to watch. They’re dreadful. WMU has shown the most promise out of that group, maybe CMU when healthy. Buts it’s slim pickings. Half the league has coaches who’ve been there just 1-2 years. It’s as top heavy as we’ve seen in a long time. 

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26 minutes ago, LoyalZIP said:


It’s shaping up that way. Even Akron and Toledo have shown at times throughout the year that they may not be quite up to the level as expected. EMU being the worst team is not what I was expecting. I wasn’t quite as bullish on the Emoni Bates situation as a lot of people, but this has been shocking to watch. They’re dreadful. WMU has shown the most promise out of that group, maybe CMU when healthy. Buts it’s slim pickings. Half the league has coaches who’ve been there just 1-2 years. It’s as top heavy as we’ve seen in a long time. 

Watching the Buffalo/Toledo game and could tell the announcers were getting bored at the end.   No intensity.  Lay ups at will.  I was half joking when I wrote yesterday that Pinky got lucky having his best team in a crappy MAC year.  But I may have been on to something.   I saw that EMU gets another Friday night game on 2/3.  That had to be the Bates factor.  Zips are beating low level competition. 

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56 minutes ago, zippy5 said:

Is anyone good in the MAC outside of the top 4? This is the worst I remember it being in recent memory I think. On a nightly basis at least. Friday and Saturday at the Q will be good basketball 

If you remove Kent, the MAC has been about on par with the Horizon this year when you look at NET or Kenpom ratings. There is no mistaken this is the worst the MAC has been in a number of years.

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It doesn't help that conferences like the MAC and Horizon have become the farm leagues for the major conferences.

 

I thought Miami was in a good position to return to being a decent program with the hiring of the former coach and recruitment of guys like Sabande and Grant but those guys bailed and it just never happened.  Charlie Coles is rolling over in his grave.

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9 minutes ago, clarkwgriswold said:

The Redhawks have a decent big man that can contribute if he stays out of foul trouble, Anderson Mirambeaux, a 6'8" transfer from Cleveland State.  At 305 pounds, he appears to be on the Miami Bam Bowman diet.

I didn't know he was now a RedHawk. We were recruiting him out of high school... though I'm not sure how hard.  He can shoot 3's.

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50 minutes ago, clarkwgriswold said:

It doesn't help that conferences like the MAC and Horizon have become the farm leagues for the major conferences.

 

I thought Miami was in a good position to return to being a decent program with the hiring of the former coach and recruitment of guys like Sabande and Grant but those guys bailed and it just never happened.  Charlie Coles is rolling over in his grave.

With Ohio and Buffalo struggling, one can see how PCCC could run the table this year.  The first week of March, you can't count on the Bobcats to knock off Pinky in Athens.

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6 hours ago, NWAkron said:

With Ohio and Buffalo struggling, one can see how PCCC could run the table this year.  The first week of March, you can't count on the Bobcats to knock off Pinky in Athens.

No team has ever went 18-0 in MAC play. In fact, you have to go back to the 1950s to find the the last team to go undefeated in MAC play. It was Cincinnati and it was when the conference season was only 8 games.

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32 minutes ago, NWAkron said:

Miami made two bad coaching hires that cost them 10 years.  Credit to Williams and Van Horn et al for allowing Groce to fall into their lap and having the good sense to snatch him up.


Larry didn’t do much good. But going with the proven Groce instead of the likes of Jim Christian, Rick McFadden, Dru Joyce, or Anthony Stewart (RIP) was both a no-brainer and a life saver post KD. 

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13 minutes ago, LoyalZIP said:


Larry didn’t do much good. But going with the proven Groce instead of the likes of Jim Christian, Rick McFadden, Dru Joyce, or Anthony Stewart (RIP) was both a no-brainer and a life saver post KD. 

Especially since Illinois pretty much paid half of Groce salary the first 2 years. And by that I mean Groce agreed to a greatly reduced salary his first two seasons at Akron because Illinois had offsetting language in his contract so the more Akron paid him, the less Illinois had to pay him for his buyout. 

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12 hours ago, zippy5 said:

Is anyone good in the MAC outside of the top 4? This is the worst I remember it being in recent memory I think. On a nightly basis at least. Friday and Saturday at the Q will be good basketball 

There is quite a disparity between the top 4 and the bottom 8.

 

Top 4:  55-21 overall, 19-5 conference

Bottom 8: 59-93 overall, 17-31 conference

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nice article in ABJ today.  From article focused on Castaneda:

 

"Tribble said Castaneda reminds him of former Zip Loren Cristian Jackson, an ice-water-in his-veins type of point guard who had little problem taking his teammates and putting them on his shoulders. That, given Jackson’s accomplishments while at UA, represents high praise.

“You see other guys couldn't get it going,” Tribble said of the Broncos game. “Other guys weren't making shots and then he just was making everything. I think it's very important to have a guy like that on our team from previous years. He's very similar to Cristian Jackson and that standard.”

 

ZIPS

'I'll do whatever it takes to win': Xavier Castaneda leads way for Akron men's basketball

George M. Thomas

Akron Beacon Journal

For those who watched the University of Akron men’s basketball team play Western Michigan with an objective eye, there can be no doubt that the Zips struggled against the then 6-12 Broncos.

But that’s not a huge surprise for the Zips, who have had to claw their way to a .500 record in road games. They are at home Tuesday against Miami.

Saturday’s 63-55 win over the Broncos, though, may have revealed the team has yet another player who can lift the team on his shoulders when necessary. Point guard Xavier Castaneda was the only UA player to score double figures, finishing with 32 points — just one shy of a career best — on 11-of-25 shooting.

Xavier Castaneda leads Mid-American Conference in scoring

That fact falls in line with what the Chicago, Illinois, native has accomplished this season. Last year he was the Zips' second-leading scorer, just behind Ali Ali, with 13.2 points per game to Ali’s 13.6.

This season?

He leads the Mid-American Conference with 19.9 points per game, having increased his scoring output by more than 50% over last year.

Teammate Enrique Freeman said it’s a matter of Castaneda living in the moment, knowing it’s his senior year. He, however, doesn’t discount the talent.

More:University of Akron point guard Xavier Castaneda finding his way in Zips uniform

“X is that guy. He can really score at all three levels. I could only imagine what the scouting report would say, but I think we do a good job of feeding him …everyone's willing to just be good passers and give the next guy the open shot,” Freeman said.

Zips guard Greg Tribble sees the difference in his teammate and the way he asserts himself on the court.

“I feel like he's more comfortable,” Tribble said of Castaneda. “He was confident last year, but you could tell he got that swag, and I just feel like he just more comfortable with the system and what coach wants out of him and he's just doing it at a high level right now.”

 

Coach John Groce said a lot went into the win over the Broncos, including the fact his team held the Broncos to 38% shooting and took care of the ball, only turning it over three times. But he said he also sees the improvement in Castaneda.

“I think No. 1 experience, No. 2 familiarity with the system, No. 3 different roster,” Groce said when asked about the boost in Castaneda’s scoring. “So different roster, different role a little bit, some more opportunities for him to score. And he's taken full advantage of those.”

Teammates: Xavier Castaneda is just that guy

Castaneda doesn’t hesitate when asked how he’s different from last year.

“I’m just the same guy as last year,” he said.

Perhaps it is comfort level for him. As the new guy last year, he led but more by example. There are subtle differences this year. Much of it is still by example on the court, but when he missed the first two games of the conference schedule, Groce gave him credit for being on the bench encouraging his teammates.

For someone who acknowledges his like for author Malcolm Gladwell and the appreciation his favorite basketball player, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, had for Gladwell it’s not surprising Castaneda doesn’t see a difference or pay attention to the numbers.

“Just doing what's needed to win,” he said when asked about the difference. “I'm not chasing any awards, any points, anything like that. I'm just trying to go out there and win every single game. Every single game.”

He does acknowledge the roles others have played in his increased production.

“I just think more opportunities,” he said, “a combination of that and my teammates. I give them a lot of credit.”

Akron Zips point guard appreciates 'Mamba mentality'

Castaneda's teammates give him a lot of credit, too.

Tribble said Castaneda reminds him of former Zip Loren Cristian Jackson, an ice-water-in his-veins type of point guard who had little problem taking his teammates and putting them on his shoulders. That, given Jackson’s accomplishments while at UA, represents high praise.

“You see other guys couldn't get it going,” Tribble said of the Broncos game. “Other guys weren't making shots and then he just was making everything. I think it's very important to have a guy like that on our team from previous years. He's very similar to Cristian Jackson and that standard.”

 

Groce can see the comparison to Jackson, but he also understands what makes Castaneda tick — having a bit of Bryant’s Mamba mentality — “working to be better today than you were yesterday.” Groce calls him one of the highest-level competitors he’s ever coached.

“I mean, he's the type of dude, if he's on the bus playing euchre or Spades or chess or checkers, he's trying to win every time. And if he's not, he's pissed.”

That is the attitude that could serve the Zips and Castaneda well as they trudge through the MAC schedule, which, as usual, won’t be an easy trek. Who wins the conference and eventually the season-ending tournament is rarely predictable.

In the early going, Toledo (4-2) is right there. The most surprising team might be Ball State (4-2), which beat the Zips while Castaneda was out with a wrist injury. And, of course, there is UA archrival Kent State. The Golden Flashes, riding a 10-game winning streak, are undefeated in conference play and look like the team to beat.

In short, much like last season, the Zips are going to need to peak at the right moment, and it doesn’t hurt to have a player who doesn’t shrink from the moment. For Castaneda, the calculus is simple.

“I'll do whatever it takes to win,” he said.

Edited by NWAkron
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Nice read on the Zips and X. X looks a lot different from last year. He started to come into form a couple of weeks before the tournament, and he's really built on that. While his usage + volume have increased and his efficiency may have taken a dip, the increase in reliability and leadership outweighs that. His performance on Saturday was much like LCJ's at Buffalo in 2020 when Cheese was out and the Zips couldn't do much. X just kept firing away, taking smart shots and running the offense, and pulled out the win when it seemed like the Zips didn't really deserve it. I wish I could buy an X jersey, he is the identity of this team.

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It's important to stay in front of Lairy tonight and not let him penetrate.  He's very good at penetrating and scoring or penetrating and dishing for an open shot.  He can make threes but he's generally not as big of a perimeter threat as he is a penetrator.  I am curious to see who the Zips send at him.

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