Road Trippin' With Reghi: Friendly Neighbors (Blog Post 1/20/12)
by SportsTime Ohio's/ESPN Cleveland's Michael Reghi
I watched a Tom Izzo interview the other night, in which the fiery Michigan State head basketball coach answered a question before his team played in-state arch rival Michigan. Izzo was asked about the ascent of the Michigan program under John Beilein. Izzo responded, with head down, eyes riveted on the floor while NOT looking into the camera, "I have great respect for John Beilein. I have great respect for the Michigan players. I DO NOT LIKE THEM." Classic Izzo! So candid. So forthright. So very real.
As Kent State and Akron renew their 'neighborhood' rivalry on the basketball court Saturday night, 6pm. on Sportstime Ohio, I can easily envision either Akron's Keith Dambrot, or Kent State's Rob Senderoff saying the same about the other. It's just that way in this grand hoops battle for supremacy, not just in Northeast Ohio, yet for MAC, and national imprint purposes as well. Let's be real here, the Flashes and Zips have been the the top 2 programs in the MAC for a decade, and even beyond in Kent State's case. And they do not like one another. Often, the physical battles on the court have been somewhat contentious, yet very, very appealing. Twice a season, sometimes 3 times, when MAC Championship games are factored in. Classic basketball theater! Never disappoints, in sold out buildings, with emotions running so very high. Been my privilege to have the tv call of the vast majority of them, as the outcomes are decided with the ultimate competitive spirit attached.
Both squads are coming off Wednesday night losses, Kent State getting rolled in the 2nd half at Ohio, while Akron faded down the stretch in a setback at Buffalo. I can't remember during this 13 year run of success the Kent State program has enjoyed, a half where they were completely dominated as Ohio put on them Wednesday. Justin Greene and Michael Porrini, the senior leaders, will impart the importance of being ready for the atmosphere in Rhodes Arena, to their younger teammates. The Flashes better have it buckled up!
Akron's won 2 of the last 3 MAC Championships, have a veteran presence, with solid leaders in Nic Cvetinovic, Brett McClanahan, and Zeke Marshall. That trio completely understands the nature of the rivalry, now can the younger Zips talents, Quincy Diggs, Alex Abreu, Nick Harney and company play at the level necessary, albeit at home, to negate the Kent State trademark toughness? I have long been an admirer of how Dambrot energizes his roster yearly, with a player or two that becomes a difference maker. So much at stake, and they won't see one another again for 6 weeks, with that potential always looming to battle it out a 3rd time, deep into the MAC Tournament.
Be looking for all of you Saturday night. Guarantee you won't be disappointed! See you from Rhodes Arena on Sportstime Ohio.