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MAC Finals Preview: Can the Flash replicate their 2017 MAC Finals performance?

The Flash will look to extend their 14-game winning streak and clinch a berth in the NCAA Tournament

NCAA Basketball: Kent State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

An all-Ohio MAC Final awaits in Cleveland on Saturday, as the No. 2 seed Kent State will face off against No. 4 seed Akron.

Kent State will look to replicate their MAC Finals performance from 2017, when the Flash advanced to the Big Dance with a 70-65 victory over Akron.

Doing so will be easier said than done, as the Flash will be without their leading scorer from Friday’s semifinal against Ohio for the first half. Malique Jacobs along with freshmen Cli’Ron Hornbeak and Julius Rollins have been suspended for the first half of the MAC final after posting a video on social media containing vulgar language and taunting. Junior DJ Johnson was also suspended indefinitely.

Hornbeak has appeared in 20 games and averages 1.4 PPG and 2.0 RPG, while Johnson averages 4.2 points per game and 2.6 rebounds per contest.

Jacobs, who received All-MAC Honorable Mention honors and was named to the MAC All-Defensive Team, poured in 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting in the 67-61 victory over the Bobcats.

MAC Player of the Year Sincere Carry will look to assist Jacobs and replicate his performances against Akron in the regular season. The Solon, Ohio, native averaged 25.5 points on 67% shooting against the Zips in their two meetings.

Carry currently leads the Flash in both scoring and assists, tallying 18.5 points per game and dishing out 4.9 assists per contest

After their two victories in Cleveland, the Flash are still the hottest team in the country as Rob Senderoff’s squad has won 14 consecutive games.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 4 seed Akron awaits the Flash.

The Akron Zips reached their first MAC Final since 2017 via an upset of favorite and top-seeded Toledo. All-MAC Honorable Mention Xavier Castaneda powered the Zips past the Rockets, tallying a game-high 26 points. Enrique Freeman recorded a double-double, scoring 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting and hauling in 10 rebounds.

All-MAC Second Team selections Ali Ali (14.1 PPG) and Enrique Freeman (13 PPG, 11 RBG) lead the Zips on the hardwood. Freeman was also named the MAC Defensive Player of the Year, while currently tied for eighth in the country in double-doubles with 17.

As Kent State won both regular season meetings 67-55 and 66-64, Akron will look to spoil the season sweep and punch their ticket into the Field of 68 for the first time since 2013.

How to watch

Matchup: No. 2 Kent State vs No. 4 Akron

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Cleveland, OH

TV: ESPN2

DraftKings Line: Kent State -1, O/U 124.5

Prediction

Winning 14 games in a row has the Flash on the verge of reaching the NCAA Tournament. Over the past two months, Kent State has proven they can win and win consistently. Saturday night’s contest in Cleveland will see the Flash clinch an NCAA Tournament berth. Sincere Carry will step up in the first half and replicate his regular season performances against the Zips. Akron will look to upset the Flash, but ultimately fall short. Kent State will sweep the season series and earn a 68-65 victory.