Kent State has posted its non-conference schedule for 2016-17, and it looks like quite a challenge.
It’s far tougher than last year’s schedule, when KSU went 3-8, including a win over Division II Malone.
Not counting the murderous opposition in the Gulf Coast Showcase (more on that later), upcoming opponents had a 153-135 record last season. Average RPI of those schools was about 165.
KSU’s opponents last season had a total record of 121-158. Average RPI was 223.
The schedule starts with four games against mid-major teams (the first three at home). Then comes the Gulf Coast Showcase, then three more mid-majors, then two Big Ten teams on the road.
Overall, there are five home games, four on the road, and three at the tournament, including a possible game against the host team, Florida Gulf Coast
In my interview with new coach Todd Starkey last month, he said that some people in the athletic department had said it might be the toughest schedule in Kent State history.
I’m not sure I can find the statistics that prove that, but consider the Gulf Coast tournament at Thanksgiving, when Kent State will play:
- Baylor, 36-2 last season with the second-best RPI in the nation.
- Then DePaul (27-9 with an RIP of 29) or Western Kentucky (27-7, RPI 38).
- Then Ohio State (26-8, RPI 6), Florida Gulf Coast (33-6, RPI 71), Syracuse (30-8, RPI 12) or George Washington (26-7, RPI 23). Syracuse was NCAA runner-up last season; Florida Gulf Coast was WNIT runner-up.
The highest RPI team Kent State played last season was Ohio, which was 51. The Bobcats also had the best record of a KSU opponent — 26-7.
That certainly will be the toughest three days of basketball in Kent State history. (Here are the releases on the tournament from Kent State and the tournament itself. KSU’s men play in the parallel tournament a week earlier.)
Kent’s record last season was 6-23. Its RPI was 318 out of 349 Division I teams, according to RealTimeRPI.
Here is the the non-conference schedule outside of the tournament, with last season’s records and RPI):
- Bradley (9-22, 299 RPI 299), Friday, Nov. 11. The Flashes lost at Bradley last season, 68-60.)
- Eastern Kentucky (18-12, RPI 178), Monday, Nov. 14.
- Robert Morris (20-13, RPI 174) Saturday, Nov. 19.
- at Detroit (15-15, RPI 158), Monday, Nov. 21.
Then the Gulf Coast Showcase Nov. 25-27.
- Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne (7-23, RPI 315) Wednesday, Nov. 30. KSU lost to IPFW 86-68 on the road last season.
- at Wright State (24-11, RPI 99) Wednesday, Dec. 7. KSU lost to Wright State 73-68 at home.
- Youngstown State (21-13, RPI 130) Saturday, Dec. 10. KSU lost at YSU 91-61.
- at Iowa (19-14, RPI 58) Tuesday, Dec. 20.
- at Minnesota (20-12, RPI 81) Thursday, Dec. 22. KSU lost 85-73 at Kent.
The MAC season opens the first week in January. The conference schedule hasn’t been announced yet.
Last year’s records are last year’s, of course, and some teams will be better, some worse. Wright State and Minnesota, for example, both graduated the leading scorer in school history. Kent State has everyone who played last year back, plus two newcomers and a player who missed most of the season with an injury.
Kent State’s best chances for wins appear to be its opener against Bradley at home and against IPFW at home. Kent lost to both on the road last season. Both teams, like Kent State, have new coaches.
Eastern Kentucky and Robert Morris look competitive, in part because they’re home games. Robert Morris, which is in Pittsburgh, had a decent record last season but the No. 320 schedule in the country. (Kent’s was 192.)
The latest roster on the KSU website has dropped Savannah Neace, a freshman last year who missed the entire season with illness. She was a 6-3 center from outside Cincinnati in Kentucky and wasn’t considered one of last season’s top recruits.
The leaves one scholarship open. It could go to Paige Salisbury, a walk-on guard who started 12 games last season. It’s possible but unlikely Starkey could bring in a player this late. Or the coach could leave it open for the fall 2017 class. Current rising seniors already leave him four openings.
Here’s the current roster.
This weekend is the second in July with a ton of AAU tournaments, where a lot of evaluation is done and after which a lot of verbal offers are made.
Kent State has multiple offers out to rising high school seniors, and at least one prospect has visited campus. I’ve seen no verbal commitments, but it’s hard to final information on mid-majors this early. I found only three commits total to all MAC schools.
The point guard whom KSU had on campus earlier this summer, I’ve learned, has eight other offers, the most recent from Xavier. That means she’s far from a sure thing but also that she’s a very good prospect. Recruits are only allowed five official visits, so KSU is at least in her semifinals.
A strength coach for basketball
KSU has named Rhen Vail as strength coach specifically for men’s and women’s basketball, a job the university says is unique in the MAC.
The position is part of an initiative that emphasizes men’s basketball as a key place to develop Kent Sate sports. Women’s basketball gets the benefit. The sport was once the showcase of university women’s sports, but attendance has dropped below that of at volleyball and gymnastics over the last 10 years as the team’s record fell off.
Vail has been part of the strength and conditioning staff for five years, though he has never worked with eh basketball teams. (He oversaw strength and conditioning programs for baseball, soccer and track, and assisted with football.) The KSU press release announcing his job said he had expressed an interest in basketball for several years and showed a “passion for the opportunity” in the interview process.
Here’s the release on the position.