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The Reluctant Dynasty: The Persistent Decade of Akron

Death, Taxes, Akron.

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, Akron will play in the MAC Final for the 8th time in 10 years. Akron is a dynasty, but their (relative) failures in MAC Tournament Finals (3-4) have tarnished their impressive feat. It doesn't help that two of the three Championships came while Akron played the spoiler, not the favorite.

The 2016 MAC Tournament Final will define legacies in the MAC. A UB win will give the MAC their first back-to-back champion since Kent State in 2002. Buffalo and Ohio would both be 2-1 in Championships in the past 10 years, while Akron would fall to 3-5 with losses to both Buffalo and Ohio. In that scenario, Akron would most likely be seen as the third best team in the MAC over the past 10 years despite the 8 Finals appearances.

With an Akron win however, the Zips would become one of the best teams in MAC history, joining an exclusive club of teams to win 4 championships in 7 years: Ball State (1986-1993, & 1989-1995) and Kent State (1999-2006 & 2001-2008). Either way it will be quite the...

Experience

Despite a three year absence at the MAC final, facing a team making their second consecutive trip to the MAC Championship, both Akron and Buffalo have the same number of players with MAC Finals experience.

Akron's Jake Kretzer scored 5 points in 18 minutes, Reggie McAdams played 10 minutes and Pat Forsythe played 2 mintues in Akron's 2013 victory over Ohio.

Buffalo returns Lamonte Bearden who had 12 points in 33 minutes, Jarryn Skeete, 12 points in 31 minutes and Rodell Wigginton who put in 8 points in 20 minutes last year against CMU.

Akron will carry the pressure of the legacy of Akron, while UB has played all season with house money after losing most of the 2015 championship team. This could pose a problem for Akron because...

Pressure

Over the past 10 years, Akron has been crazy good in the MAC Tournament, but that success is tested under the bright lights of the MAC Final:

Akron Win % By Round past 10 years
Round Win Loss Win %
First Rounds 4 0 100%
Quarterfinals 7 0 100%
Semifinals 7 2 77.78%
Finals 3 4 42.86%

Further, Akron struggles more the better they finish. Akron has been the higher seed in four of their seven previous championship trips, they are 1-3 in those finals. As the lower seed, Akron is 2-1.

Akron enters the 2016 final as the 1-seed, as they were in 2012 and 2013. They are 1-1 in those games.

The Zips will play #3 Buffalo. Akron has played in two 1-seed vs 3-seed finals before neither going their way: Akron lost as the 1-seed vs 3-seed Ohio in 2012 as well as in 2008 as the 3-seed vs. #1 Kent State.

Akron has played with house money twice and walked away with the jackpot both times. In 2011, #6 Akron beat #1 Kent State, and in 2009 #5 Akron beat #3 Buffalo which...

Reggie is the Reason?

Today, Coach Keith Dambrot is viewed as one of the best in the conference. Even big SB Nation writers took some time to praise LeBron James Dambrot.

Between 2004-05 and the 2009 MAC Final, Akron's Dambrot and Buffalo's Reggie Witherspoon combined for 199 wins and 3 MAC Tournament Final losses. At the final buzzer, two coaches diverted on the hard wood. Dambrot left a champion, added two more championships and is a living MAC legend. Witherspoon left a loser, never returned to the Finals and left Buffalo with his legacy missing that final piece (although he is finally going to the big show).

One can only imagine how different things could have been if the outcome of the 2009 Final was reversed. Maybe Reggie would still be at UB, maybe UB would have a few more championships, maybe Reggie would be getting the SB Nation profile. Akron won, and the rest is history, however, not ancient history. There is still Jarryn Skeete, one last Reggie Witherspoon recruit who could see Saturday's game as a chance to take...

Revenge

This will be Akron's 8th Finals appearance in 10 years, but only Akron's 4th Finals opponent. Akron is 2-1 against teams they've lost to in previous finals, avenging a loss to Kent, and winning the third meeting against Ohio after 2 losses. Buffalo is fortunate they did not win in 2009, because history tells us Akron would win in 2016.

History is on Akron's side when it comes to tit for tat, the Zips are 2-0 when facing the team that eliminated them from the Tournament the previous year. The 2013 Zips avenged a 1-point Finals loss to Ohio in 2012 by crushing the Bobcats by 19 in 2013. After losing in overtime to WMU in 2014, Akron beat the Broncos by 13 in the 2nd round of the MAC tourney in 2015.

Akron will be motivated to get revenge on UB because UB ended Akron's 2015 season with a 9 point win in the Semifinals. The game was actually tied at 49 with 5:37 remaining, but Rodell Wigginton (6), Jarryn Skeete (2) and Lamonte Bearden (2) scored 10 points during UB's game ending 19-10 run to seal the game for the Bulls.

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For 9 years, Akron has either won the MAC Championship, or lost to the team that won the MAC Championship, a trend that will continue today. The trophy is presented in Cleveland, but the road to the Championship always goes through Akron.