Updated with more about the first game and the teams’ top players.
Kent State is in first place in the MAC East going into its final three games of the regular season.
The Flashes are about to play two second-division teams they’ve beaten before, starting with a 2 p.m. Saturday game against Akron at the M.A.C. Center.
They — to use the sports cliche — control their own destiny on whether they get a first-round bye in the MAC tournament.
Not a bad time to be a Golden Flash fan after five years in the wilderness of the bottom spots of the Mid-American Conference.
Kent State is 10-5 in the MAC, 16-11 overall. The only way the Flashes cannot have a winning season is to lose all of their remaining games, lose in the first-round of the MAC tournament, make another postseason tournament and lose in the first round of that one. But if they lose those four games, no way they’ll be in a postseason tournament. And barring a complete collapse, there’s no way they should lose all of those four games.
Buffalo, Ohio and Toledo are a game behind the Flashes at 9-6. Kent State has beaten Ohio twice and Toledo (they played the Rockets only once). So if KSU ties with either of those teams in the standings, they get the higher seed — likely fourth — in the tournament.
But Buffalo the Flashes play Buffalo in Kent for the last game of the season. Buffalo beat KSU 77-62 in Buffalo Feb. 4. If the Bulls beat KSU in that final game and tie the Flashes for fourth, they own the tie breaker and will get the first-round bye.
If Kent State wins out, including beating Buffalo, it’s guaranteed fourth place and the bye — with a long shot at third. (Ball State would have to lose two of its last three.)
Before its game with KSU, Buffalo hosts 3-12 Bowling Green and travels to 2-13 Akron. Kent plays Akron and travels to 4-11 Miami. Buffalo and Kent State easily beat those teams in their first meetings.
I’ve discovered that I’ve been leaving out one step in the MAC’s tie breaker rules, though it shouldn’t affect Kent State this season. If teams tie, the higher seeding goes to the team:
- With the best record in head-to-head competition.
- That has the better record in its division. (This is the step I’ve skipped; it shouldn’t affect this season because KSU, Buffalo and Ohio all have beaten the lower teams in the East.)
- The team that has the best record against the highest-ranking team in the league (currently Central Michigan at 13-2). If the teams have the same record against the highest, then seeding is decided by the record against the next highest (currently 12-3 Ball State), then the next highest (11-4 Northern Illinois), etc. Central, Ball State and NIU all hold the tie breaker against Kent State, so tying them doesn’t do the Flashes any good.
- A coin flip.
Unless Kent State loses to either (or both) Akron or Miami— it almost certainly will come down to Buffalo-KSU game on Saturday, March 4.
What happens if three or four teams tie? First tie breaker becomes their records against each other. The top two teams are chosen. Then it goes to head-to-head records and down that list. Records in the competition among Toledo, Buffalo, Ohio and Kent State right now are:
Kent State (3-1) — two wins over Ohio, a win over Toledo and a loss to Buffalo. Win over the currently highest seeded team is Ohio (No. 5).
Ohio (3-3) — two wins over Toledo, a split with Buffalo, two losses to Kent State.
Buffalo (2-3) — two losses to Toledo, a split with Ohio, a win over Kent State.
Toledo (2-3) — two wins over Buffalo, two losses to Ohio, a loss to Kent State.
You can find the official MAC page on tiebreakers on the tournament website.
Here’s latest seeding chart from the MAC:
Since Kent and Akron played Feb. 11, the Flashes have beaten Ohio and Bowling Green. Akron has lost to Toledo, Buffalo and Miami. Leading scorers and their averages are pretty much the same: Akron senior guards Hannah Plybon (16.9) and Alex Ricketts (9.9); Kent State guard Larissa Lurken (23.1), forward Jordan Korinek (15.8) and McKenna Stephens (8.9). Redshirt freshman guard Megan Carter has scored 14 points in both games since Akron.
Kent State will be the overwhelming favorite Saturday, and how long has it been since we could say that about any basketball (or football) game?
Both Korinek (Akron St. Vincent St. Mary) and Stephens (Lake High School in Uniontown) were recruited hard by both Kent State and Akron. Stephens, whose mother lettered at Akron in 1984, went to Michigan State on a softball scholarship but transferred to Kent after she injured her throwing arm. A quote I’ve saved from Stephens from after the game in Akron:
“They also recruited me, and that adds a little bit (to the rivalry), too. I don’t want to lose to a team that I turned down.”
Preview from the Kent State website.
Preview from the Akron website.
If you can’t go to the game
- Online video starts at 2 p.m. on ESPN3. You have to subscribe to ESPN through cable or satellite to be able to get the feed.
- Audio starts at about 1:50 on Golden Flash iHeart radio and 640 AM WHLO.
- Live statistics can be followed though the KSU website.
- In-game updates on Twitter are at @KentStatwbb.
Kent State statistics, with links to roster and schedule/results.
Akron statistics, with links to roster and schedule/results.
MAC statistics and standings, with links both to overall and conference-only stats.
When I updated this Friday night, I discovered that I left the headline off the first version Sorry about that. I was running out of the house to dinner with friends.