The KSU women’s basketball team has an RPI is 145 out of 349 Division I teams. Its ranking jumped 36 places when the Flashes beat Ohio in Athens Saturday.
The Flashes’ record is 8-9, 2-3 in the MAC.
Kent State plays at Western Michigan Wednesday. Western is 13-3; that’s the best record in the MAC.
But Western’s RPI is 156 — 11 spots below Kent State.
How it that possible?
It’s entirely strength of schedule. RPI is based 25 percent on a team’s won-loss record, 50 percent on its opponents records, and 25 percent on its opponents’ opponents record. Road wins are weighted 1.4; home wins 0.6. To some extent, the system is used in to help determine seedings in the NCAA tournament.
So the best way to improve RPI is to beat a good team on the road, as Kent State did Saturday. Ohio was 12-3 and had an RPI of 62 before the KSU game. It has since dropped to 84.
Western’s strength of schedule is terrible, according to WarrenNolan.com, the RPI service I use. The Broncos rank 337th out of 349 teams. They haven’t beaten a single team with winning record. Only one — 7-9 Detroit Mercy — is close. Others include 2-14 Loyola of Chicago, 3-13 North Dakota State, 0-18 Chicago State, 2-15 Davidson and 2-14 Fort Wayne.
Even in the MAC, where the Broncos are 4-1, their wins have come against the four worst teams in the league — Eastern Michigan (5-12, 0-5), Akron (7-9, 0-5), Miami (7-11, 1-4) and Bowling Green (5-12, 1-4).
The teams Western has lost to are good teams: Ball State (11-6, 3-2 in the MAC, 144 RPI), Michigan (15-4, 32 RPI) and Michigan State (13-5, 41 RPI). The Michigan State loss was by four points in overtime in Kalamazoo in one of the best games a MAC team played in the non-conference.
Kent State’s strength of schedule is 116. Besides Ohio, it’s beaten Florida Gulf Coast (12-6, RPI 112) and Wright State (105, RPI 157). The Flashes have lost to five teams with RPIs in the top 100. Just playing those teams helps Kent’s RPI.
In the MAC, Kent State has played Eastern Michigan and four teams with a combined record of 48-17.
In theory, of course, the tougher schedule will have prepared Kent State for games like Wednesday’s at WMU.
KSU and Western have played a lot of the same teams, with very similar results:
- Bradley (KSU won at Kent, 77-52) (WMU won at home, 83-64).
- Eastern Kentucky (KSU won at Kent, 80-67) (WMU won at a neutral site, 74-50).
- Detroit (KSU lost in Detroit, 73-52) (WMU won in Detroit, 75-65).
- Fort Wayne (KSU won in Kent, 66-55) (WMU won at home, 61-35)
- Ball State (KSU lost in Muncie, 71-47) (WMU lost in Muncie, 61-56).
- Eastern Michigan (KSU won in Ypsilanti, 86-67) (WMU won there, 76-67).
Still, Western has won 12 of its last 13 games. The game is on Western’s home court. Kent State has a tough task ahead of it.
But the Flashes accomplished a task no one else had done this season when they beat Ohio in Athens Saturday. Ohio had been 7-0 at home and, counting the Kent State game, is 33-5 at home over the last three years.
Coach Todd Starkey called the game Kent State’s best defensive effort of the year. KSU held OU five points below its scoring average and forced 22 turnovers, 16 on steals. Ohio had averaged just 13 turnovers a game.
The Flashes got excellent floor games from junior forward Jordan Korinek, who scored 24 points in her third game in a row about 20, and senior guard Larissa Lurken. Lurken was only 3 for 18 from the field but had 12 free throws, six rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals. Lurken continues to lead the MAC in scoring at 22.5 point per game.
McKenna Stephens had eight rebounds; she’s averaged 8.1 over her last seven games along with 9.3 points. Alexa Golden had six steals, third best in the MAC this season, and eight points.
Western’s 6-1 forward Breanna Mobley is third in the conference with 10.8 rebounds, 12th in scoring at 14.8 and third in field goal percentage at 57.7. Marley Hill, a 6-2 redshirt junior center, averages 16.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. She’s scored in double figures every game this season.
Kent State has had trouble this season against opponents with big front lines.
WMU sophomore point guard Deja Wimby averages 10.9 points and 5.5 rebounds and has had three double-doubles (two from points and assists, and one from points and rebounds).
The Broncos are tied for first in the conference in scoring defense (59.2 points a game) and last in three-point baskets per game at 4.1. The latter will be quite a change for Kent State, whose last two opponent (Ohio and Northern Illinois) are the top two three-point shooting teams in the MAC.
WarrenNolan.com also predicts scores based on RPI and other factors.
Western Michigan 75, Kent State 59 with WMU having a 90 percent chance of winning. For the season, the site claims 77 percent accuracy.
To follow the game
Online video starts at 7 p.m. on the ESPN3. (To watch, you’ll need to have a subscription to ESPN through cable.)
Audio starts at 6:45 on Golden Flash iHeart radio and WHLO 640.
Live statistics are available through the Western Michigan website.
In-game updates on Twitter at @KentStatwbb.
Current Kent State statistics, including links to schedule/results and roster.
Western Michigan website, including links to statistics, schedule/results and roster.
MAC statistics, including standings.
Lurken and the record book
Larissa Lurken has moved into 13th place on Kent State’s all-time scoring list with 1,294 points. She has at least 14 more games this season, counting the first game of the MAC tournament. If she keeps her 22.5-point average, she’d finish her career with 1,631 points. That would be eighth highest in school history.
That 22.5 points per game would be the highest average ever for a single season. Current record is Bonnie Beachy’s 21.5 in 1980-81. Second is Amy Sherry’s 21.4 in 1994-95. If Lurken averaged 22.5 for 31 games, she would have 697 points, second all-time to Beach’s 732 in 1980-81. Kent State played 34 games that season.
Single-season MAC record is 25.4 by Toledo’s Kim Knuth in 1998-99.
About seven games ago, we didn’t notice when Lurken broke the school record for most three-point shots in a career (now 571 and counting). The old record was 510, set by Kathy Carroll from 1991-94. Lurken already held the career school record for three-point baskets made (now 184) and three-pointers attempted in a season (200 in 2014-15).
She’s averaging 2.2 three-point baskets per game. At that rate, she’d end the season with about 73, which would break Melissa DeGrate’s KSU record of 71, set in 2004-05.
Lurken is also very likely to break Kent State’s single-season record for free throws made and attempted. She’s making 7.8 foul shots a game, which would project to 242. The record is 190, set by Dawn Zerman in 1999-2000. Lurken is attempting an average of 9.7 free throws, which projects to 301. Tracy Lynn currently holds that record at 246 in 1993-94.
Both of those projections also would be MAC records. Current records are 290 attempted and 217 made. Best I can tell, NCAA record for made free throws is 267.
There’s no chance Lurken will set Kent State career marks in free throws, now both held by Lynn (579 made of 782 attempts).
Lurken didn’t shoot a huge number of foul shots before this year — 59 her freshman year, 70 her sophomore year and 126 last year. At her current pace, she’ll shoot more than all three previous seasons combined.
Korinek and the record book
Lurken has gotten most of the headlines this year, but Jordan Korinek is very likely to score her 1,000th point before the end of the season.
Korinek has 903 career points. She’s averaging 14.2 point per game. At that rate, she’d end the season with 1,102 points, which would make her the 21st player in KSU history to score 1,000.
She’s a junior. If she averaged 15 points a game next year, she’d end up with between 1,500 and 1,600 points. That would be about the same as Lurken or about eighth all-time.
If she averaged 20, it would put her about fourth in KSU history.
That’s far from impossible. Korinek is averaging 20 points in Kent State’s five conference games and is third in the league in conference-only scoring. She’ll be by far KSU’s leading returning scorer next season.