December 4, 2007 1:36 pm ET by Kyle Whelliston
Akron (MAC) at Winthrop (Big South)
Winthrop Coliseum -- Rock Hill, SC
7:00 PM EST
These two teams combined for 55 wins last season, which immediately qualifies it as a mid-major showdown of the highest degree. The Eagles and Zips took different March paths, though: Winthrop beat Notre Dame for the Big South's first Round-of-64 win, while 26-7 Akron fell in the MAC title game and found itself shut out of the NIT.
Akron (5-1) lost the services of the LeBron Generation over the summer: Dru Joyce and Romeo Travis, teammates of James at St. Vincent-St. Mary's, graduated. The core of the MAC runner-ups remains, though, and it's provided Keith Dambrot with a solid, balanced scoring attack with four double-figure producers. Jeremiah Wood, a 6-6 senior, is the focal point, with his 15.8 ppg and 8.5 rebounds. The local product is shooting 59 percent from the field, and started the season with a pair of double-doubles against South Carolina-Upstate and Portland State in Alaska. That PSU game still stands as the Zips' only loss, and the team has notched victories against Temple and Wyoming in the past week.
It's good to see that Winthrop, after years of desperately trying to fill its home schedule with quality opponents and ending up with more non-D1 games than it wanted, is getting some serious mid-majors to come visit. Sure, the team is missing quite a bit from its 2007 NCAA breakthrough squad (including its coach), but Randy Peele is doing a fine job with what was left. They're 4-3, but they've only been blown out in one game (at West Virginia), and were Paradise Jam runner-ups after topping Georgia Tech. These Eagles are led by 6-3 senior Michael Jenkins, who I thought was the best all-around athlete on the 2006-07 team, and he's put up a team-best 15.1 ppg so far. Taj McCullough, a key bench player last year, has stepped up to be Winthrop's biggest big with 13.3 ppg and 5.1 rpg, even though he's 6-7.
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