Sorry for the lack of preview, as I would have liked to get one up as this game is pretty large. Sure, Kent State doesn't have the name value that a Washington or Syracuse has, but their is certainly an argument to be made that they are a better team than Washington (I'm good with that one), or even Syracuse, although that one would likely be more hotly contested.
Last year, watching random, assorted college basketball games, I discovered the Kent State Golden Flashes. Well, I didn't discover them, like at all, as it was mid-February when I first saw a large majority of one of their games. But, the first time I saw them, they were fantastic, and I instantly fell in love with them. I particularly fell in love with one player, Al Fisher, who was one of the most exciting players I saw all of last season. I pegged them as a team I would have go quite far in the NCAAs, my sleeper pick that I had a inside scoop on (i.e. I had actually seen them play).
Of course, they ended up as the 8/9 seed and the #1 seed in their section of the bracket? Uh, yeah, that'd be us, the Kansas Jayhawks. So, for obvious reasons, I couldn't have them go too far in the NCAAs. And they lost in the first round anyways, so whatever.
But enough dialogue about last year. Because we are clearly not the same team as last season. Kent State, however, is largely the same team. They only lost two players from last season, although those two players were prevalent characters on last season's team. One was Haminn Quaintance, a 6'8" F that was the key player in the post for them. He specialized in the trade of swatting the shots, averaging 2 blocks a game. So, no more of that. And the other was another starter and the other main low post presence, 6'7" Mike Scott. Scott was more of the scorer down low, as opposed to Quaintance's reputation as the MAC Defensive Player of the Year and outright dominant defender.
So who are they returning? Well, Al Fisher, for one. Including Fisher, they are returning 66% of their scoring, 58% of their rebounding and only 29% of their blocks. So, not in a complete-and-utter rebuild like us, but they lost two of their three best players from last season, leaving All-Everything Al Fisher to lead the Golden Flashes to their eleventh straight 20-win season. Or something like that.
As we conclude the longest intro to an Open Game Thread of all time (although, I get a free pass because it also serves as a preview), here are the other, non-Al Fisher players to watch out for.
- Mike McKee is a junior G who has seen a six-minute bump in PT this year. He is their second best three-point shooter (after Fisher), currently sitting at 39%.
- Chris Singletary is another junior G, one who has seen his minutes rise from 23 to 30 minutes this year. He isn't a great outside shooter, judging by the numbers, but is a great slasher and is averaging 15.2 points a game.
The low post minutes are primarily distributed between Brandon Parks (a junior C), Julian Sullinger (senior 6'5" F) and Anthony Simpson, a true freshman.
Sure, they have already lost twice this year, but that was in a six-point loss to Illinois in overtime and to Texas A&M by only six as well. Fisher scored 18 against Illinois and 24 against the Aggies, so yeah, dude can score.
Still, we are pretty awesome defensively for how young we are. So, I'm not too worried about the game from a won-loss standpoint, just worried that a closer-than-expected finish might cause some of the fanbase to worry. But who cares what they think anyway, right?
I'll take the Jayhawks, obviously, 78-69. Close until about 2 minutes left.