West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Akron Zips
|Date & Time||Friday November 8, 2019, 7:00 PM (EST)|
West Virginia -11; Total 145
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The Akron Zips (1-0) will look to stay undefeated on the early season but will face a test when they travel to Morgantown to face West Virginia in its season opener at WVU Coliseum Friday night. Akron opened its season with an 81-64 win over NCAA Division II Malone University on Tuesday night but will likely need a better overall performance in order to hang with the Big 12’s Mountaineers.
Eight different players saw double-digits in minutes played for the Zips in their season opener and five scored in double figures led by senior forward Xeyrius Williams, who scored 17 points and pulled in nine rebounds despite 2-of-11 shooting from 3-point range. Senior guards Channel Banks and Tyler Cheese each added 15 points in the win.
Akron returns one of the most efficient defenses in the country from the 2018-19 season, but with the likes of Cheese and Banks, the Zips are now a team that can score from the outside which should give teams problems. Not that they didn’t give teams problems last year. It was just the fourth game of the season last year in which Akron nearly knocked off No. 16 Clemson before finally falling, 72-69.
West Virginia returns seven from last year’s team that went 15-21 overall and 4-14 in the Big 12 but reached the semifinals of the Roman College Basketball Invitational postseason tournament. Only one of those returners averaged in double figures, however. Sophomore forward Derek Culver is that player and he averaged 11.5 points per game and he also contributed 10 rebounds per game.
Beyond that it is a group of newcomers and part-time returners for legendary head coach Bob Huggins. The Mountaineers won a 78-70 exhibition matchup against Duquesne that saw 6-foot-9 freshman Oscar Tshiebwe lead the way with 17 points and 14 rebounds. The native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tshiebwe was a McDonald’s All-American as a high schooler. JC transfer Sean McNeil came off the bench to add 12 points, and returner Emmitt Matthews Jr. scored 11 in the win.
Sure, it’s early season and it’s easy to simply take the Big 12 school over the Mid-American Conference school, but doesn’t this just seem like one of those games that Akron head coach John Groce will pull out all the stops to get a win just like he was almost able to against Clemson last year? Remember, Clemson was nationally-ranked at the time, West Virginia is a team coming off of a losing record and losing a significant chunk of its returning scoring.
Groce is such a creative defensive mind and with his more experienced personnel and an actual game under their belts, the Zips might be able to just pull one out. It is the season opener for West Virginia and it’s probably going to be a win for the Mountaineers, but it’s tough to bet against Groce and the Zips getting double digits in points. Go with Akron and the points in Morgantown.