The arrest and suspension of point guard Alex Abreu on March 7 was bad news for Akron's chances in the MAC tournament.
A home loss to Kent State the next day in the regular-season finale seemed to reinforce that the Zips were going to have a hard time making the NCAA tournament. Akron rallied to beat Kent State in the MAC tournament to advance to the final, but an early 16-8 deficit to Ohio in the MAC championship game on Saturday wasn't a great omen.
But give Akron this: The Zips are a resilient team. Despite plenty of adversity Akron played a great second half to win the MAC title with an impressive 65-46 win against a very good Ohio team.
The Zips outscored the Bobcats, which like Akron went 14-2 in the MAC regular season, 39-17 in the second half. It was as impressive of a half as any team has played during the conference tournament season.
Being without Abreu, who averages 10.3 points and six assists a game, wasn't ideal but Akron found a way. The Zips still had Demetrius Treadwell, its second-leading scorer at 11.3 points per game coming into the MAC championship contest. Treadwell was the catalyst against Ohio. He hit 6-of-12 shots for 13 points and added nine rebounds.
The defense against Ohio's D.J. Cooper was fantastic. The Bobcats' fantastic point guard had a horrible night at the worst possible time. He missed all nine shots from the field as Akron held him to three points.
Akron has a lot of strengths. It has Treadwell, a 6-7 forward who is a good scorer and rebounder. The Zips' top strength might be that it is one of the few teams outside the major conferences with a skilled 7-footer. Zeke Marshall averaged 13-1 points per game coming into Saturday's action and averages more than 3.6 blocks per game, fourth in Division I. Many teams in the field will have a hard time matching up with him.
Akron, which is 26-6, has been to the NCAA tournament three times, including trips in 2009 and 2011. What the Zips lack is a NCAA tournament victory. Given how well it played against Ohio in the MAC championship, especially after halftime, a victory next week can't be counted out.