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Buffalo Bulls vs Akron Zips: Previewing the first-place matchup with Matt Hammond of Hustle Belt

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

In football season, we make a point out of doing things like this, but the increased number of games in basketball season hurts us a bit. But. In advance of tomorrow's first-place matchup with the Akron Zips, Hustle Belt writer and Zips fan Matt Hammond and I shared a back and forth on the game.

It's your standard blog swap Q-and-A. What you see below is my questions about Akron and Matt's answers. As I put this together, my answers to Matt's questions aren't up on Hustle Belt, but hopefully I'll be able to link to them when they come.

1) I haven't been as good as following the rest of the MAC as in past years, so how would you describe Akron's MAC season so far? 6-3, tied for first, 2-2 in close games with the only big loss to the Rockets. *Other than Treadwell*, what have been the keystone moments in the Zips' year?

I would say that Akron's MAC season has been predictable so far. They have always played well at home under Dambrot, and they continue to do that in MAC play. However, some road games have been a struggle in conference play. They didn't get their first road win of the year until they went to Western Michigan. As far as keystone moments this year, I think there are three. The first being the win over South Carolina because they beat a decent Power Five team without Treadwell, the first game against Western Michigan to open MAC play because people had their doubts about this team before then, and the final would be the win at Western Michigan to "break the ice" as far as road games go. Plus, they did it without Jake Kretzer and Pat Forsythe.

2) Let's talk about Noah Robot Ham. Aside from me drastically improving his name just now, he's having an ok start to his career, with numbers similar to our excellent freshman guard, Lamonte Bearden. Robot Ham scores a little more, but on more shots, but in the secondary stats Lamonte gets a good chunk more assists with a better A:TO ratio. What's Robot Ham's style and how does it fit into the offensive game plan we'll see Saturday?

I love Noah Robotham. You mentioned that he doesn't light up the stat sheet with tons of assists or fantastic shooting. I think he's good enough offensively to play in this league. Akron hasn't had a point guard who can shoot and score since Abreu,** so I think he's fine in that department. One thing that I too noticed was the lack of assists. Thought about this for a while, and then I came to the conclusion that he is a great facilitator. He can run the offense and help guys get open. On Saturday, he will have to find open shooters like he never has before to spread out the offense and open up scoring opportunities for everyone to counter Buffalo's great offense. He may not rack up a lot of basketball assists, but he'll get a lot of hockey assists.

**This Abreu

3) In MAC play, the Zips have dropped a full two points per game off their season average from line, in part due to fewer opportunities, in part due to sub-60% shooting. Is it as simple as the team is shooting even more from outside lately?

You nailed it on the head. At Ohio on Wednesday, they chucked threes like there was no tomorrow. Fortunately they were making them, but it's not something that is preferred. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of guys on this team that can shoot from outside, but Forsythe is pretty good down low, and can draw fouls. I think against Ohio specifically, after Ndour blocked a few of their shots, the big men in Isaiah Johnson and Forsythe got passive.

4) Defensively, what should we expect? UB's outside shooting hasn't been there in a while, though they executed over and over again against Ball State, but they've also found success breaking zone defenses with high-energy movement throughout a possession. With ten different guys seeing 10+ minutes, how does the team stay in a rhythm defensively?

Dambrot's goal is to not only win games (duh), but he wants to hold teams under 60. They usually play great defense, but have struggled against teams who shoot well. Dambrot has played zone at some times this year, but they have been few and far between. Of those eleven guys that play, I would say that nine of them are good defensive players. That's what makes the eleven man rotation relatively effective defensively.

5. The usual prediction, por favor

I think that Akron and Buffalo are the top two teams in the entire conference. The difference here is that Akron is playing at home and three of their four MAC home games have been decided by 10+. Also, it doesn't seem like Buffalo is nearly as good as they are at home as they are on the road. I'll go with Akron-76 Buffalo-67.

All in all, some good info on Akron right now. This game is huge for Buffalo, since after this it's five of eight at home to close out the year. When my answers go up on Hustle Belt, I'll drop you a link.

Go Bulls.