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Akron vs. Villanova preview: Q&A with Hustle Belt

We found out what a Zip is!

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

This Sunday, Villanova will welcome the Akron Zips to campus for the first time in school history. You're probably thinking, "Oh my gosh, I have no idea what Akron is like and will be so confused this weekend when I go to the game." Don't worry! Brandon Hickey, editor of SB Nation's Mid-American Conference blog Hustle Belt, answered a few questions about the team, what they see in Villanova, and most importantly what the hell their mascot is.


Akron finished 4th in the MAC East (Mid-American Conference) last year. What are the expectations for the team in 2015-2016?

Expectations are high as they usually are for a team that has won 20+ games in the past ten straight seasons. Last year's finish in the MAC was a bit of an aberration as it was a combination of the MAC being really good (8 teams with 20+ wins) and losing two starters to injury and dismissal throughout the season. Akron still managed to get to the MAC Tournament semis, where they lost to eventual champ Buffalo.

The Zips were picked first in the MAC East Division in the preseason and, right there with Kent State, are arguably the most talented team in the division. Central Michigan, who won the regular season title last year, returns basically everyone and is favored to win the West. The Zips and Chippewas will probably meet up in the MAC Tournament Final if everything goes as projected. 

This year's team can be one of the most athletic teams of the Dambrot era when healthy. Players in positions 1-4 can hit the three, and both centers are talented and take up space. Sophomore point guard Noah Robotham (10 points, 3 assists) is still recovering from an ACL injury from last season. The full arsenal likely won't be on display on Sunday, but make no mistake Akron has a really good team that will contend in the MAC this season.

Okay, so the Akron Zips... what's a Zip???

As an alumni of Akron (twice), I get this a lot. A Zip is not actually a kangaroo, which is what our mascot is. "Zip" was shortened from the word "Zippers," which were rubber shoes that the BF Goodrich factory in Akron produced in the early 1900s. That nickname was chosen in a campus-wide contest over the likes of Golden Blue Devils, Tip Toppers, Rubbernecks, Hillbillies (I wish this would have won), Kangaroos and Cheveliers.

Zippy the Kangaroo mascot came about in the fifties and is the only female mascot in Division I. She was named the Capital One Mascot of the Year in 2007 and Akron actually has a banner dedicated to that "victory" hanging in the James A. Rhodes Arena.

What key players on the Zips should Villanova keep their eye on?

With Robotham likely out, backup point guard Antino Jackson may just play the entire game.  He's small, quick, elusive and super annoying on defense. He causes a lot of issues with his quickness, and catches bigger point guards off guard with his stature. He's great at finding post men while driving the lane, but without a reliable backup he may get winded chasing guys around on defense.

Center Pat Forsythe is probably the best player on the Zips; he was named preseason first-team MAC East after averaging 10 points and 5 rebounds last year. He's grown in his three years at Akron after barely playing at West Virginia and is now a true center with great touch around the basket. He can tend to disappear sometimes, but he'll provide a good matchup for Daniel Ochefu.

When you think of Villanova, what player(s) come to mind first?

I think mostly about Ryan Arcidiacono, and not just because of that last name that I'm sorry you have to type all the time. Of the few Villanova games that I was able to watch last year, he always impressed me with his basketball IQ. He seems to be one of the leaders of the team and the energy he brings is infectious.

Another player I'm excited to watch is Jalen Brunson. Being from the Midwest, a lot was made about his college decision as he had a lot of Big Ten offers. I was a little surprised when he ended up in Philly, but it looks to be a great choice for him so far. Him and Arcidiacono form one of the best back courts in the country, which will test Akron's really young guards.

Score prediction?

I don't see this as a blowout, but I don't think it'll be that close either. I see Akron giving Villanova a fight in the first half like Nebraska did, but not being able to keep that up in the second half. Let's go Villanova 80, Akron 66.