With a 24-5 record (14-1 MAC) on the season the Akron Zips are one of the mid-major programs that many believe capable of not only getting to the NCAA tournament but also winning once in the field of 68.
Those prospects likely change depending on the status of junior point guard Alex Abreu, who was suspended indefinitely on Thursday following an arrest on charges of marijuana trafficking.
The Akron athletic department released the following statement regarding Abreu’s suspension:
Junior point guard Alex Abreu has been suspended from The University of Akron men’s basketball team indefinitely pending the outcome of a police investigation.
The University is aware of the situation and is currently gathering more information. Inquiries regarding the investigation should be directed to the Akron Police Department.
How long will Abreu be out? Will he return at all this season? Those are questions that won’t be answered until the legal system runs its course in all likelihood, but what isn’t in doubt is how important Abreu is to the Akron attack.
Abreu averages 10.3 points and 6.0 assists per game for Akron, which won 19 straight games before losing 81-67 at Buffalo last Saturday. In addition to his leadership at the point Abreu is also Akron’s best three-point shooter, hitting 39.4% of his shots from beyond the arc.
The question for the Zips now is who runs the show for Keith Dambrot’s team in Abreu’s absence. Freshman Carmelo Betancourt has been Abreu’s backup so he likely becomes the starter, and sophomore Deji Ibitayo will see an increase in minutes as well.
With front court players such as Zeke Marshall and Demetrius Treadwell, Akron’s got more than enough depth to give opponents fits in the NCAA tournament should they qualify but they don’t enjoy that luxury at the point.
Abreu isn’t on NBA Draft boards like Marshall, but there’s no overstating his importance to Akron. Without him the other teams in the Mid-American Conference, most notably Ohio, may sense an opening heading into next week’s conference tournament.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Utah at No. 16 Oregon, 4:00 p.m.
From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview:
Utah suffered one of the worst losses I’ve seen in a while on Thursday night, when Brandon Taylor, for some unknown reason, decided to foul an Oregon State player firing up a half court prayer at the buzzer. The Utes, who are arguably the second-best team in the Pac-12, will look to bounce-back on Sunday against the best team in the Pac-12, No. 16 Oregon at 4:00 p.m.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:
1. No. 12 SMU will attempt to stay atop the American standings as they travel to South Florida. While the Mustangs won the first matchup between these two teams at home by 14, they’ve dropped their last two games on the road.
2. A few more American contests are going down as East Carolina travels to UConn and Houston heads to Tulsa. The game between the Cougars and Golden Hurricane is especially interesting because both teams are sitting two games back of SMU and trying to make a move on the postseason.
3. No. 5 Iowa continues the soft part of the schedule as they face Illinois on the road. The Hawkeyes posted recent easy victories over Northwestern and Penn State and will be heavily favored again on Sunday.
4. Could be an intriguing game as No. 17 Miami travels to Georgia Tech. Although the Yellow Jackets aren’t a major contender in the ACC, they’ve been tough this season, especially at home. The Hurricanes fell victim to Georgia Tech last season while they were ranked by Marcus Georges-Hunt has to get back on track after a recent slump for that to happen.
5. There is an Atlantic 10 game that will be featured on NBCSN on Sunday: Saint Louis at St. Bonaventure (2:00 p.m.).
CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Sunday afternoon.
Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.
In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.
And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.
Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.
And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.
This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.