In the middle of Kent State’s practice Tuesday, forward Jordan Korinek had the ball in the post, guarded by Zenobia Bess, who was acting as the Michigan center the Flashes will play Thursday in the WNIT.
Korinek, the 6-2 forward who was the MAC’s fifth leading scorer in conference play this season, started to move toward the basket.
Coach Todd Starkey stopped the play and walked over to Bess and Korinek.
“How tall are you?” he asked Bess.
“Six feet,” she said.
The coach held his hand five inches over her head.
“That’s how tall Hallie Thome is,” he told Korinek. “And she’s the longest player you’ll see this season. You go straight at her and you’ll get swatted.”
Another time senior Keziah Lewis was simulating the Michigan press.
“Kez is great,” Starkey told point guard Megan Carter. “But you’ll be playing a McDonald’s All-American. You can’t be tentative.”
That is what Kent State is up against in Thursday’s WNIT opener.
Michigan may well be the best team that didn’t make the NCAA tournament. The Wolverines finished third in the Big Ten at 13-5 (22-9) overall. Thome and junior guard Katelynn Flaherty were first-team all-Big Ten selections as voted by the coaches (Thome was second team in the media poll.)
Freshman Kysre Gondrezick made the all-Big Ten second team and all-freshman team. Coach Kim Barnes Arico was Big Ten coach of the year.
The Wolverines were ranked No. 20 in the country on Feb. 13. They lost to Michigan State in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament after losing three of four to end the regular season. (Worst team they lost to was 17-10 Penn State on a last-minute shot.)
The end-of-season record obviously cost them a NCAA bid.
So will they be disappointed and flat against Kent State or fired up?
“They’ll come in mad,” Starkey said. “They want to prove to the rest of the country that they belong in the NCAA tournament field. And quite frankly, l believe they do, too.”
Michigan coach Barnes Arico, quoted in the Michigan student newspaper minutes after the team realized it didn’t make the NCAA field:
““(I am) surprised, devastated, really disappointed — especially for our senior class, who has worked so hard and done things that haven’t been done in our program for a long time. I just wanted them to have the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament. I thought we put ourselves in a really good position to be selected.
“They’re going to prove the rest of the country wrong.”
Here’s link to that story.
Kent State has played some big-time teams this season, mostly obviously No. 2 Baylor, which beat the Flashes 84-42 in the Gulf Coast Showcase over Thanksgiving.
Right before Christmas the Flashes played Iowa and Minnesota in a road trip to Big Ten country.
It did not go well. Kent State led Iowa 13-4 after seven minutes; then the Hawkeyes finished the first quarter on a 13-0 run, then scored the first nine points of the second quarter. Final score was 83-48. Kent made 25 percent of its shots, Iowa almost 50.
Two nights later Minnesota outscored KSU 24-2 in the first quarter and beat the Flashes 92-62.
“Michigan is better than both of those teams,” Starkey said. “They’re really good. They play with great tempo offensively and execute well. In their starting lineup, they have four significant offensive weapons. They have three players averaging 15 or more. There aren’t many teams in the country that have that.
“They average about 78 points a game and hold their opponents to 61. That’s against a tougher schedule than we play.”
Kent State is a better team than it was when it played Iowa and Minnesota. The Flashes were 6-4 going into the game. They had beaten two good teams — Florida Gulf Coast and Wright State — and taken Robert Morris and Western Kentucky to overtime. All of those teams are in the NCAA tournament except Wright State, which is in the WNIT.
But the Flashes’ RPI was just below 200. It’s now 96.
Forward McKenna Stephens had scored in double figures three times — and below five points seven times. She was averaging four rebounds a game and had made three three-point baskets. Over the Flashes last 19 games, Stephens has averaged 11.2 points a game; she’s made 21 three-pointers and led the MAC in three-point percentage in conference play (44.4). She’s averaged 6.7 rebounds.
Korinek, last year’s leading scorer at 15.4 points a game, was averaging 11 and 5 rebounds. Since then, she’s averaged 18.2 points (eighth in the MAC in conference play) and 7.1 rebounds.
Carter had played more than 10 minutes twice. She was averaging 20.6 minutes a game. In the conference season, she became KSU’s first player off the bench and averaged 20.1 minutes (more than 25 over Kent’s last 10 games) and 6 points. She scored more than 10 points five times and hit the winning basket in the last seconds against Bowling Green. She’s given Kent State a second perimeter threat after Larissa Lurken, the conference’s leading scorer.
In December, Alexa Golden had made more than one three-point basket in a game once; she’s done of four of the last games.
The only constant has been Lurken, who was averaging 21 points a game then and 23.6 now, which is up to third in the country. Even she has stepped up her defense and has become better at passing to her teammates when she’s covered.
Tuesday Kent State did not look like a scared or nervous team. The practice was spirited. The players seemed (to my inexpert eye) to understand the offense and defense the coaches wanted them to run. There was encouragement from each other and the coaches. There was laughter.
“Good practice,” Starkey told them at the end.
“It’s a huge step for us to be here,” Starkey said in the interview. “But if we treat it like we’re just happy to be there, Michigan will blow us out.”
“We have to focus on what we can do well and try to do those things consistently. What’s going to make or break us is whether we can defend certain actions and certain personnel. And are we going to be able to take care of the ball?”
“They want to pressure you into mistakes, and they’re really good at capitalizing on the mistakes you make.”
Michigan center Hallie Thome is a 6-5 sophomore. She was all-Big Ten first team in coaches vote, second team in media vote. She averaged 15.2 points, 62.5 field goal percentage, 65.9 free throw percentage, 7.3 rebounds, 3.0 blocked shots, 89 fouls, fouled out of six games. She was Ohio Ms. Basketball as a senior at Chagrin Falls High School and a Parade All-American.
Kent State center (actually more of a forward) Jordan Korinek is a 6-2 junior. She was all-MAC second team. She averaged 15.5 points (18.8 over KSU’s last 19 games), 50.1 percent field goal percentage, 77.3 free throw percentage, 6.3 rebounds. A lot of Kent State’s offense starts with a pass to her in the post. She struggled with four trouble early in the season but did much better in the last half of the conference schedule. When she is on the bench for extended periods, KSU struggles.
COMMENT: Thome is as tall as any center Kent has faced this year. Korinek has struggled with tall post defenders. She also is much more mobile than Thome and is a capable outside and three-point shooter. I’d expect Kent State to move her around and try to pull Thome away from the basket.
Michigan forward Jillian Dunston is a 5-11 junior. She averaged 5.7 points, 55.4 field goal percentage, 56.1 free throw percentage, 7.5 rebounds, 16 steals. Had one three-point field goal attempt all season.
Kent State forward McKenna Stephens is a 6-foot redshirt junior. She averaged 8.8 points (11.1 in last 19 games), 48.9 percent shooting percentage, 36.9 three-point percentage (44.4 in league play), 5.5 rebounds.
COMMENT: Dunston is more of a rebounder and ball hawk than scorer. Stephens came on strong as a scorer as the season went on. She has a deadly midrange jump shot and is a good three-point shooter. She actually led the MAC in three-point percentage in league games, though she only took 2.5 per game. The fact she scored only four points in Kent State’s MAC tournament game against Toledo was a significant factor in that three-point loss.
Michigan guard Katelynn Flaherty is a 5-7 junior. She was first-team All-Big Ten by both coaches and media and averaged 19.9 points, 44.0 field goal percentage, 37.0 three-point percentage, 2.9 three-point baskets per game, 87.2 free throw percentage, 1.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 3.6 turnovers, 1.2 steals.
Kent State guard Larissa Lurken is a 5-9 senior. MAC Player of the Year and all-MAC first team. She averaged 23.6 points per game and set single-season scoring record for Kent State. Lurken averaged 36.3 percent field goal shooting and 35.0 percent on three-point shots (3.0 per game). She led the nation in free throws made and attempted and shot 84.6 percent from foul line. Lurken also led Kent State in steals (1.6 per game) and blocked shots (1.3) and was second in assists (2.8). Played 36.3 minutes a game, second highest in the MAC.
COMMENT: If these two guard each other, it will be quite a show. Both are among their league’s most prolific scorers. Almost half of Flaherty’s shots were three-pointers. Lurken leads the nation in drawing fouls and makes 85 percent of her free throws. That ability is a huge part of Kent State’s offense. Toledo took that away in the fourth quarter of the MAC Tournament, and it may have cost KSU the game. Against KSU’s three Power 5 conference opponents, Lurken struggled, averaging 14.3 points, 26 percent shooting and 4.6 foul shots. If she does similarly against Michigan, Kent State has very little chance.
Michigan guard Kysre Gondreczick is a 5-9 freshman. She made the All-Big Ten second team and all-freshman team. Averaged 15.1 points, 42.6 percent field goal percentage, 43.9 three-point percentage, 2.3 three-point baskets per game, 67.0 free-throw percentage, 3.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.3 turnovers, 1.2 steals. She was Michigan Ms. Basketball her senior year in high school and a Parade All-American.
Kent State guard Alexa Golden is a 5-9 sophomore. Averages 4.4 points, 36.6 percent field goal percentage, 42.0 three-point percentage (1.8 a game over last five games), 64.0 percent free throw shooting, 4.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.4 steals a game.
COMMENT: Gondreczick is one of the best freshman guards in the nation. She scored 25 points against Michigan State late in the season. Golden is Kent State’s defensive specialist. No matter whether she guards Gondreczick or Flaherty, she’ll have her hands full. Golden averages just 4.4 points a game but has shown a good three-point touch late in the season.
Michigan point guard Sierra Thompson is a 5-7 senior. She is on the verge of becoming Michigan’s career leader in minutes played and assists. She’s a distributor and defender more than a scorer, but she has three-point ability and averages more points than either of KSU’s point guards. Averaged 7.6 points, 33.9 percent shooting, 33.3 percent on three pointers (over 200 for her career), 3.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.0 steals. Assist/turnover ratio is almost three-to-one.
Kent State point guard is a two-headed position. Junior Naddiyah Cross, a 5-6 junior, has started every game. She’s a ball handler and assist leader. Averaged 3.9 points, 27.2 percent shooting, 68.2 percent foul shooting, 1.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.7 steals.
Megan Carter, a 5-7 redshirt freshman, gained playing time as the season went on and averaged more minutes than Cross in Kent’s last eight games. In conference play, she averaged 7 points, 35.8 percent shooting, 33.3 percent three-point shooting, 72.2 percent foul shooting, 1.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists. She can be a good scorer (four games in double figures) and is one of the best players on the team at creating her own shot, especially a pull-up jump shot.
COMMENT: Thompson has tons more experience that Carter, who’s likely to play most for Kent State. Carter made the Kent State lineup based on her scoring ability. If she can get 10 points against Michigan, it will be a big step for the Flashes.
THE BENCH: Top subs for Michigan are Nicole Munger (5.9 points per game) and backup point guard Danielle Williams (1.8, 1.5 assists, 0.9 steals). Both average about 15 minutes per game. Munger averages 45.9 percent on three-point shooting.
Carter is Kent State’s first player off the bench. After her, look for 6-4 sophomore Merissa Barber-Smith. She’s given KSU a major spark in rebounding and defense several times this season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her used significantly against Michigan’s big center. Other KSU subs are Chelsi Watson, at 5-10 an undersized forward but an athletic player who can be good in offensive rebounding, and 5-11 freshman guard Ali Poole, who can have a good three-point shot but played less as the season wound down. Watson and Poole averaged just under 10 minutes a game.
The statistical matchup
- RPI: Michigan 47, Kent State 96 (of 349 teams).
- Record vs. RPI teams: 1-50 (Michigan 0-6, Kent State 1-4.) 51-100 (Michigan 5-2, Kent State 4-5). 101-200 (Michigan 5-0, Kent State 2-3), 201+ (Michigan 9-1, Kent State 12-0).
- Strength of schedule: Michigan 85, Kent State 100 (of 349). (RPI and strength of schedule from WarrenNolan.com.)
- Last 10 games: Michigan 6-4, Kent State 8-2.
- Scoring: Michigan 77.9, Kent State 71.4.
- Scoring defense: Michigan 61.9, Kent State 70.9
- Field goal percentage: Michigan 46.9, Kent State 39.9.
- Field goal defense: Michigan 40.5, Kent State 41.6.
- Three-point baskets per game: Michigan 7.9, Kent State 5.2.
- Three-point shooting percentage: Michigan 39.3, Kent State 33.5.
- Three-point baskets against per game: Michigan 5.6, Kent State 6.7.
- Three-point basket defensive percentage: Michigan 31.6, Kent State 32.2
- Free throws made per game: Michigan 12.1, Kent State 18.8.
- Opponents free throws made per game: Michigan 9.2, Kent State 11.9.
- Free throw percentage: Michigan 71.9, Kent State 75.0.
- Rebound margin: Michigan +5.5, Kent State +2.0.
- Assists per game: Michigan 16.6, Kent State 13.4.
- Turnover margin: Michigan +2.6 (14.5-17.2), Kent State -0.3 (16.1-15.8).
- Assist/Turnover ratio: Michigan 1.1, Kent State 0.8.
- Steals per game: Michigan 7.9, Kent State 7.4.
- Opponents’ steals per game: Michigan 6.4, Kent State 8.1
- Blocked shots per game: Michigan 3.4, Kent State 3.4.
- Opponents’ blocked shots per game: Michigan 4.1, Kent State 3.6.
Keys to the game for Kent State
Michigan is an overwhelming favorite. Kent State didn’t come close to beating a Power 5 team this season; in fact, no one in the MAC beat a Power 5 team in the top 150 RPI. The Flashes will have to play a near-perfect game. Even then, if Michigan plays well, a win will be hard.
To have a chance, Kent State will have to:
- Get a good game from Lurken, who struggled against Big Ten teams in December. She’ll have to get to the foul line, something she didn’t do against Iowa and Minnesota. Teams try to stop her with physical play; if the officials call a loose game, Kent State will be in trouble.
- Have Korinek use her mobility to score away from the post. She’s struggle going directly to the basket against 6-5 Thome.
- See Stephens get hot with her jump shots and three-pointers. She’s really the X-factor in this game. If she could score 15 or 20, it could be interesting.
- Keep down turnovers and Michigan transition baskets. Michigan almost certainly will pressure the Flashes. They’ll have to handle it.
- Be able to defend some very talented scorers. Starkey has preached defense since the day he stepped on campus. KSU will have to execute very, very well Thursday.
Kent State has played its best against good opponents this year when it’s kept the score in the high 60s. That will be a key — and a tough task — against Michigan.
- If Michigan is one of the best teams in the WNIT, its pairing with Kent doesn’t necessarily make the Flashes one of the worst. “They schedule on proximity,” Starkey said. “When I saw that Michigan didn’t make the NCAA tournament, I thought we’d play them, Duquesne or Penn State. Duquesne probably had too similar a record to ours. Ohio went to Penn State.”
- As an assistant at Indiana the last two years, Starkey saw Michigan twice. Indiana won last season at Indiana; Michigan won two years ago in Ann Arbor.
- Kent State is 0-3 in the WNIT and 0-3 against Michigan. The last time the two teams played was in the WNIT in 2010; Michigan won 69-36.
- Winner of the KSU-Michigan game will play the winner of Thursday’s game matching Central Michigan against Wright State, probably on Sunday. If Kent and Central were to win, the Flashes would stay in Michigan and travel the 120 or so miles to Mount Pleasant. Central was MAC regular season champion and beat Kent State 91-78 in the league opener Dec. 31. KSU beat Wright State 79-69 on the road earlier in December.
About the game
- The Kent State-Michigan game is at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Crisler Center (formerly Crisler Arena) at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. It’s an easy three-hour drive from Kent, west on the Ohio Turnpike, then north in Interstate 23. Here’s Google Map. Written directions are at the bottom of this webpage.
- There’s a free fan bus to the team (including a free ticket), leaving at noon on Thursday, from the M.A.C. Center. Deadline for reservations was 2 p.m. Wednesday, but I know there were openings for the MAC Tournament bus up until the last minute. It might be worth a note to the athletic department if you’d be interested in taking the bus. Contact is Cory Slama at email@example.com.
- Here’s how to buy tickets yourself. They’re $7.
- The game will be streamed online on the Big Ten Network Plus. It will cost $9.95 for what they call a monthly “school pass,” which allows you to watch only Michigan games. Be sure to cancel after the game; it renews automatically every month if you don’t.
- Radio will be on WHLO 640 and Golden Flashes iHeart Radio, starting about 6:45.
- Live statistics will be available through the Michigan website.
Preview from the Kent State website, including links to statistics, roster and schedule/results.
The Kent State women’s basketball team will take on the University of Michigan in a first-round WNIT game Thursday.
The game will be on Michigan’s home court in Ann Arbor, a little more than a three-hour drive from Kent. Time will be announced on Tuesday.
Michigan is 22-9 on the season and finished third in the Big Ten. The Wolverines got the Big Ten’s automatic bid to the WNIT as the highest finishing team in the conference that didn’t make the NCAA tournament.
A late-season slide probably cost Michigan an NCAA bid. The team lost four of its last five games (all to teams with that eventually won at least 19 games) and was bumped from the Big Ten tournament in the quarterfinals by Michigan State.
Michigan has an RPI of 46, about the sixth highest in the WNIT. That’s right behind two teams from the Mid-American Conference — regular-season champion Central Michigan (43) and tournament champion Toledo (44).
Kent State’s RPI is 96. The Flashes beat Toledo during the regular season and lost to Central Michigan.
Kent is 19-12 and won 11 of its last 14 games, all in the MAC.
Michigan was 14-1 on its home court. Kent State was 7-6 on the road.
Common opponents of the two teams were:
OHIO: Michigan beat the Bobcats 69-46 in Ann Arbor Dec. 13. Kent State beat Ohio twice, 68-65 in Athens and 71-67 in overtime in Kent.
IOWA: Michigan beat the Hawkeyes 72-70 at Michigan. Kent State lost at Iowa 83-48 Dec. 20.
MINNESOTA: Michigan beat the Golden Gophers 84-69 in Ann Arbor. KS lost at Minnesota 92-62 Dec. 22.
Michigan has three players who averaged in double figures this season:
- Katelynn Flaherty, a 5-7 junior guard who averaged 19.9 points a game and made 90 of 243 three-point shorts (37 percent).
- Hallie Thome, a 6-5 sophomore center who averaged 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds a game. She made 62.5 percent of her field goals and blocked 63 shots over the season.
- Kysre Gondrezick, a 5-9 freshman guard who averaged 15.1 points a game and made 43.9 percent of her 164 three-point shots.
Point guard Siera Thompson, a 5-7 senior, averaged just under 5 assists a game. Jillian Dunston, a 5-11 junior wing guard, led the team in rebounding at 7.5 per game.
Michigan’s 22 wins equal the most in school history.
Kent State has played Michigan three times before, all in Ann Arbor. It lost all three games. Most recent was a 69-34 loss in the WNIT in 2010.
The winner of the KSU-Michigan game will play either Central Michigan or Wright State, two teams the Flashes played this season. Wright State finished the season 24-8, second in the Horizon League. Kent State won at Wright State 79-69 on Dec. 7. The Flashes lost to Central 91-78 in its conference opener Dec. 31.
Central and Wright State play Thursday at Wright State.
Other matchups involving MAC teams are Ohio at Penn State, Ball State at Indiana and Northern Illinois at South Dakota State. So three of the five MAC teams in the WNIT will be playing Big Ten teams.
Michigan website, including links to roster, statistics, schedule/results and more.
Here are the WNIT first-round matchups:
Little Rock at Southern MissThursday, March 16
Saint Mary’s at Colorado State
Washington State at BYU
Seattle at Wyoming
North Dakota at South Dakota
Missouri State at Iowa
Northern Illinois at South Dakota State
UNLV at Colorado
UT Arlington at Tulane
Grambling State at Ole Miss
Mercer at Alabama
Morehead State at Middle Tennessee
Bethune-Cookman at Wake Forest
Jacksonville at Georgia Tech
Stetson at UCF
Kent State at Michigan
Central Michigan at Wright State
Ball State at Indiana
IUPUI at Saint Louis
Abilene Christian at Oklahoma StateFriday, March 17
UC Davis at Utah
Harvard at New Hampshire
Sacred Heart at St. John’s
Ohio at Penn State
Fordham at Georgetown
Navy at George Washington
Rider at Virginia Tech
Villanova at Princeton
Duquesne at Drexel
Radford at James Madison
Virginia at Saint Joseph’s
Louisiana Tech at SMU
The Kent State women’s basketball team will continue its 2016-17 season in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, which starts Wednesday.
The Flashes are one of 64 teams in the field.
Their opponent will be announced sometime before midnight. It’s likely to be within driving distance of Kent, as the tournament tries to schedule early round games to minimize travel expenses and class time missed by student-athletes.
All WNIT games are played on campus sites.
Kent State’s season was a stunning turnaround for a team that hadn’t won more than seven games in any year since 2010-11.
The Flashes are 19-12. They won the MAC East championship and finished third overall in the conference. They lost in the MAC tournament quarterfinals to eventual champion Toledo, 68-65. That was the closest any team came to the Rockets in the tournament.
Toledo on Monday was named a 10th seed in the NCAA tournament. The Rockets, 25-8, will play Big East co-champion Creighton 23-7 Friday in Stockton, California. Creighton, the No. 7 seed, made the tournament as an at-large team. Toledo was the only MAC school to make the NCAA tournament
This will be the third WNIT game for the Flashes. Their last was at Duquesne in Pittsburgh in 2011, when they lost 64-56. The year before they lost at Michigan, 69-34, and 2004, they lost at Saint Joseph’s 61-51 in Philadelphia.
The MAC and the Atlantic 10 each have five teams in the field, the most of any conference. The Big Ten has four and American, Big East, Conference USA, Mountain West, Pac-12 and Summit three each.
Other MAC teams in the field are regular-season champion Central Michigan, Ball State, Northern Illinois and Ohio.
32 teams got automatic bids to the tournament as the highest ranking school in a conference that didn’t make the NCAA tournament. That often is a mid-major champion that lost in its conference tournament. But it also includes, for example, the fifth-place team in a conference like the Big Ten, which places multiple teams in the NCAA.
The other 32 teams are chosen based primarily on an average of various rating systems like the RPI, Sagarin, Moore and Massey. That can be adjusted by the selection committee based on factors like recent record and common opponents.
Teams from the same conference are never matched in the first round and usually not in the second. Teams that played during the regular season are rarely paired in early rounds.
As I write this, the WNIT and its teams are scrambling to put together a bracket. Schools can bid for a home game (Kent State chose not to), and the WNIT decides sites based on willingness to host a game (which can cost $12,000 or so), fan base, location and record.
The tournament is seeded, but regional competition is emphasized in early rounds. The tournament website describes the process as determining high, middle, and lower tier teams. High and low teams are matched in the first round; middle teams play team other.
The closest schools geographically to Kent State I see in the list (not counting MAC teams and season opponents) are Duquesne of the Atlantic 10 in Pittsburgh (18-15), Michigan of the Big Ten (22-9) in Ann Arbor, Penn State of the Big Ten (19-10) in College Station, Indiana (20-10) of the Big Ten in Bloomington, and Indiana-Purdue at Indianapolis of the Summit League(24-8).
There are several teams from Philadelphia and Washington area that also might furnish opponents, along with Morehead State (21-9) in Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State (21-10).
When I blocked out possible rankings of WNIT teams Sunday, l estimated that Kent State would be in the lower part of the middle tier. In that list of possible opponents above, I’d call Penn State the most likely middle-tier opponent. Other middle-tier possibilities might be Drexel (21-10) in Philadelphia, Virginia Tech (17-13) in Blacksburg, Middle Tennessee State and Morehead State.
Here’s the WNIT field, as listed on the tournament website:
Abilene Christian (22-8) – Southland
Bethune-Cookman (21-10) – MEAC
BYU (20-11) – West Coast
Central Michigan (23-8) – MAC
Colorado State (24-8) – Mountain West
George Washington (20-9) – Atlantic 10
Grambling State (18-14) – SWAC
IUPUI (24-8) – Summit
James Madison (24-8) – Colonial
Little Rock (24-8) – Sun Belt
Mercer (25-6) – Southern
Michigan (22-9) – Big Ten
Middle Tennessee (21-10) – C-USA
Missouri State (16-14) – Missouri Valley
Morehead State (21-9) – Ohio Valley
Navy (23-9) – Patriot
New Hampshire (26-5) – America East
North Dakota (20-10) – Big Sky
Oklahoma State (17-14) – Big 12
Princeton (16-13) – Ivy
Radford (24-8) – Big South
Rider (24-8) – MAAC
Sacred Heart (17-14) – Northeast
Seattle (15-17) – WAC
Stetson (26-6) – Atlantic Sun
UC Davis (23-7) – Big West
UCF (20-11) – American
Villanova (16-14) – Big East
Virginia (19-12) – ACC
Washington State (12-19) – Pac-12
Wright State (24-8) – Horizon
AT LARGE TEAMS
Alabama (19-13) – SEC
Ball State (21-10) – MAC
Colorado (15-15) – Pac-12
Drexel (21-10) – Colonial
Duquesne (18-15) – Atlantic 10
Fordham (21-11) – Atlantic 10
Georgetown (17-12) – Big East
Georgia Tech (17-14) – ACC
Harvard (20-8) – Ivy
Indiana (20-10) – Big Ten
Iowa (17-13) – Big Ten
Jacksonville (23-8) – Atlantic Sun
Kent State (19-12) – MAC
Louisiana Tech (18-13) – C-USA
Northern Illinois (21-11) – MAC
Ohio (22-9) – MAC
Ole Miss (17-13) – SEC
Penn State (19-10) – Big Ten
St. John’s (20-11) – Big East
Saint Joseph’s (17-14) – Atlantic 10
Saint Louis (24-8) – Atlantic 10
Saint Mary’s (20-12) – West Coast
South Dakota (22-8) – Summit
South Dakota State (22-8) – Summit
SMU (17-14) – American
Southern Miss (23-10) – C-USA
Tulane (16-14) – American
UNLV (22-10) – Mountain West
UT Arlington (22-8) – Sun Belt
Utah (16-14) – Pac-12
Virginia Tech (17-13) – ACC
Wake Forest (15-15) – ACC
Wyoming (21-9) – Mountain West
Both the men’s and women’s coaches are out at Miami.
Men’s coach John Cooper’s contract wasn’t renewed. The women’s coach, Cleve Wright, was “relieved of his duties,” according to the team’s website.
The announcement quoted Athletics Director David Sayler as saying, “For years Miami basketball was the preeminent leader of the Mid-American Conference, and we plan to take all necessary steps to make that happen once more.”
Wright was 35-87 in four seasons with the women. His team was 11-21 and ninth in the MAC this year.
Miami’s men’s team had an overall record of 59-100 in Cooper’s five seasons, including a 29-59 mark in MAC play. The Redhawks were 11-21 this season.
I don’t think the job of any other women’s coach in the MAC is in danger.
Worst women’s teams besides Miami were Eastern Michigan (new coach this season), Akron (Jodi Kest has been successful too long for one bad year to hurt her) and Bowling Green.
I think Jennifer Roos at BG is OK for now, but she hasn’t had a good year with her own players. Her first couple of years she inherited good teams from Curt Miller. Another bad year and her job gets precarious.
Earlier headline said Bowling Green. My brain must have shorted out.
I’ve learned this afternoon that the women will definitely not host a WNIT game should the Flashes make the tournament.
So that means travel, likely within driving distance. The WNIT tries to schedule early round games in the same geographical area to keep down travel costs and missed class time.
I’ve talked about possible sites in the previous post. My best guess is still Penn State, followed by Virginia Tech and Drexel. Next closest in distance after Penn State would be Indiana or Indiana-Purdue at Indianapolis. (I’m of course guessing that those teams make the field, too.)
One place I mentioned the Flashes won’t be playing is Northwestern. The Wildcats are almost certainly will make the tournament, but they’ve already torn up their court for a complete renovation of the facility. They won’t even play there next season.
Announcement on whether they Flashes make the tournament will come about 9 p.m. Matchups should be known by midnight. Times and dates tonight or tomorrow.
First-round games are Wednesday through Friday.
There’s no guarantee that KSU will get a WNIT berth, but it’s a 64-team field on top of the 64-team NCAA tournament. By most rankings I’ve seen, Kent State is in the top 120 in the country.
Today we find out whether Kent State’s women’s basketball season gets to continue its season.
NCAA tournament seedings are announced at about 8 p.m. The Flashes have no chance of making it there this season. The MAC hasn’t had two teams since 1996. Toledo has the automatic bid from winning the conference tournament.
If any other team gets in, it would be regular-season Central Michigan. That’s so unlikely that the WNIT is already listing the Chippewas as an automatic qualifier.
The WNIT is the tournament Kent State has a good shot at. Its field will be announced about 9 p.m. Opponents, times and places are announced later Monday and Tuesday.
The WNIT is a 64-team tournament on top of the 64-team NCAA.
All Kent State has to be is in the top 120 or so teams in the country to make it. (I say 120 because a few lower-ranked teams will get into one of the two tournaments because they won their leagues’ regular-season or tournament championship.)
Here’s how the WNIT website says teams are chosen:
- The top-ranking team in each of the nation’s Division I conferences that doesn’t make the NCAA tournament gets a bid. That most often is a mid-major regular-season champion that was upset in the league tournament. But it also could be the sixth place team in the Big Ten or the third-place team in Conference USA.
- Then the selection committee looks at least six different ranking systems — the various RPI sites, Sagarin, Massey, Moore (the last are two sites I had never heard of). It throws out the high and low rankings.
- That’s basically the deciding factor. The WNIT site says that if it’s close, selectors can consider things like recent record, common opponents, and late-seasons injuries.
I looked at six different rating systems. Kent State ranked from 96th (in the tournament for sure) to 128 (unlikely).
The Flashes did best (almost identically) on RPI sites, where they were 96, 96 and 97. They were 107 on Massey, 122 on Sagarin and 128 on Moore. I didn’t try to figure out why the sites had different results. RPI emphasizes strength of schedule more than the rest. Other sites look at margin of victory, wins over “quality’ opponents, etc.
Following the WNIT’s instructions of throwing out the high and low, I get an average of 106.
That should get the Flashes in.
I spent much too long looking at possible WNIT teams yesterday and figured teams ranked 120 or better were in. (I was using RPI.)
So if the Flashes are in, who, where and when do they play?
When is easy. First round games are March 15-17 — this Wednesday through Friday. (Wouldn’t it be strange and unfair if Kent State’s men and women both played Friday? That’s when the men play in Sacramento in the NCAA tournament.)
Who? The WNIT doesn’t exactly seed. The organization divides teams into a top, middle and bottom tiers. Top-tier teams play bottom-tier; middle-tier play each other.
As I figured it, 105 would put Kent State toward the bottom end of the middle tier. That is the most inexact of all the calculations I made.
The WNIT won’t pair teams from the same conference in the first round and tries to avoid it in the second round.
It also tries to avoid rematches of regular-season games in the first round.
It tries for the first few rounds to group teams geographically to keep down travel costs and keep students in classes.
From all that, my best guess on KSU opponents would be (by distance among middle-tier schools) Penn State in State College, Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Drexel in Philadelphia, Rider University in New Jersey, and Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro.
Other possibilities that’s I’d consider in the top tier might be Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana-Purdue at Indianapolis, Villanova in Philadelphia, Northwestern just outside Chicago and Georgetown in Washington.
Lower ranked teams might be Morehead State in Kentucky, Navy in Annapolis, Maryland, and St. Joseph’s Universityoutside Philadelphia.
Where would the game be? All WNIT games through the finals are on campus sites. Which campuses? It depends on a number of factors, starting with whether a team is willing to host a game.
Why not? It costs money. When Toledo hosted a number of WNIT games in 2011, the Toledo Blade did a public records requests on costs. It concluded that expenses for a first-round game was about $11,o00 and that Toledo lost about $2,000 on the game. There were about 1,300 fans at the game — small for Toledo, which usually draws more than 3,000.
(Based on inflation, I’d figure today’s costs about 10 or 15 percent higher.)
Highest attendance at any Kent State game this season was about 1,000. Average was about 550.
After it gets bids, the WNIT decides home sites based on fan base, location, and competitive bids from other schools in the tournament in the geographic area.
Kent State has never hosted a WNIT game. The Flashes turned down a bid one year when Bob Lindsay was miffed his team didn’t make the NCAA tournament. They likely could have had a home game that season. (Lindsay had a right to be unhappy; KSU had an RPI in the 30s, the best of any team that didn’t make the NCAA. But I know the players wanted to keep playing.) The Kent State men hosted a game four or five years ago.
We’ll start to learn it all this year’s tournament about 10 p.m. tonight.
Toledo is the MAC tournament champion, beating Northern Illinois 82-71 Saturday with a strong fourth quarter.
In some ways, the Rockets are the team a Kent State fan wanted to win. Toledo knocked Kent State out of the tournament 68-65 in Wednesday’s quarterfinals in a game that was much closer than the championship and closer than Toledo’s semifinal win over Ball State.
So Kent can say it was beaten by the league’s best team.
I was rooting for Northern. In many ways, the Huskies are like Kent State. They were last in the MAC West last season and picked fifth in the division this year. Their turnaround in the conference was second only to the Flashes.
Like Kent, NIU had a great senior in Ally Lehman, who was in the top three on the MAC in scoring, rebounding and assists as a 5-10 guard. Her KSU counterpart, of course, was Larissa Lurken, who led the league in scoring.
Like Lurken, Lehman is an extraordinary student and person. She’s a member of ROTC (something I’ve never heard of in a Division I athlete) and has been commissioned in the Army after she graduates in May. She shaved her head in support of teammate Paulina Castro, who was diagnosed with lymphoma later in 2016. That’s a gutsy thing for a college woman to do.
There was much debate between Kent State and NIU fans on who deserved to be MAC player of the year. (Lurken won.)
Toledo beat Northern in a similar fashion to the way it beat Kent State. The Rockets broke open a tight game two minutes to go in the fourth quarter and played terrific defense until the end of the game. Kent State led Toledo by seven at about the same point, lost the lead and battled until the Flashes missed a three-point shot with one second to go.
Any team that holds NIU to 71 points is likely to win. The Huskies’ style is to win by outscoring people; they were fourth in the nation in scoring offense but last in the MAC in scoring defense.
Toledo’s Michaela Boyd, a 5-7 guard, let the Rockets with 27 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and blocked shot. Reserve Olivia Cunningham had 20. Toledo center Kaayla McIntyre had 8 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocked shots. Lehman had 22 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists for Northern.
Toledo goes into the NCAA tournament with a 24-8 record and its first MAC tournament championship since 2001. NIU is 21-11.
Like Kent State, Northern is likely to get a bid to the WNIT. Northern finished fourth in the conference, Kent State third. Last season five MAC teams made the WNIT; the league was better this season. Six MAC teams — including Northern and Kent — had RPIs in the top 100. Best was regular-season champion Central Michigan at 44; Toledo was 45.
As regular season champion, Central is guaranteed a spot in the WNIT. Other MAC teams likely to get bids are Ohio (22-9. RIO 73) Buffalo (22-10, RPI 96) and Ball State (22-10, RPI 122). Northern’s RPI is 75. (All my RPI numbers come from WarrenNolan.com. RPI is figured from a team’s record, its opponents’ records, and its opponents’ opponents’ record. Road wins and home losses are weighted 1.6. Home wins and road losses 1.4.)
Kent State is 19-12 with an RPI of 97. That’s 221 places higher than last season, the biggest improvement in Division I.
Does the MAC have any chance of a second NCAA bid? Not likely. The league hasn’t had two teams in the tournament since second-place Kent State and champion Toledo in 1996. That was the year the Flashes, led by Amy Sherry, won their only NCAA game in history, a 72-68 win over Texas A&M.
At 45, Central’s RPI is good. But RPI doesn’t mean as much as at once did. Perhaps more important today is “quality wins.” Central is 1-3 against teams in the top 50 RPI, and 6-3 against teams ranked 50-100. (All of those wins were against MAC teams.) Most Power 5 teams that finished in the first division of their conferences will have more wins over good teams.
We find out Monday, when the seedings for the NCAA tournament is announced. (It used to be on Sunday, but it’s been moved to get separately publicity from the men, who announce their field Sunday.)
WNIT bids will be announced shortly after the NCAA field is set. Up until the semifinals, games are played at campus sites. It’s not impossible Kent State would host a game. One factor in deciding is whether a school is willing to cover the expenses. I assume other things like fan base and record have something to do with it, too.
But I’m pretty sure that the Kent State women’s season isn’t quite over yet.
Here’s Toledo-NIU story from MAC website, which includes links to box score, quotes from both team, brackets and almost everything else you can imagine.
We had our first unclose game for in the MAC women’s tournament Friday.
Northern Illinois pounded Western Michigan 83-55 in the first semifinal game at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Huskies will play Toledo, the team that knocked Kent State out of the tournament, for the championship at 11 a.m. Saturday. Toledo beat Buffalo 72-65 in the other semifinal. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.
Northern Illinois, the No. 4 seed, came from a record 22 points down to beat Ohio in its quarterfinal game 72-71. That was a low-scoring game for the Huskies, who are fifth in the country in scoring at 85.7 points a game.
They were back to form Friday, with five players scoring in double figures. NIU pretty much led all the way. Ally Lehman had 17 points, 7 rebounds, 6six assists and added 4 steals.
Saturday will be the first time the Northern Illinois woman have ever played in a championship game since they rejoined the league in 1997-98.
No. 6 seed Toledo led Buffalo by double digits much of the game, then held off a late rally. The Bulls got within four points with three minutes to go and six with a minute and a half, but Toledo made its foul shots at the end.
Toledo had beaten No. 3 seed Kent State 67-63 Wednesday.
Northern Illinois (21-10) and Toledo (24-8) split their regular season games, each winning by four points on the other team’s home floor.
It should be a very good final.
Larissa Lurken drives against Toledo’s Mariella Santucci in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.
Kent State’s women’s basketball team lived by the foul shot all season.
Wednesday the Flashes’ Cinderella season ended for the lack of it.
KSU — first in the nation in free throws made and second in free throws attempted — never got to the foul line in the fourth quarter in its MAC tournament quarterfinal game against Toledo and lost, 67-63.
The game may not be the team’s last — coach Todd Starkey has hopes for a WNIT bid. But it does end a MAC season that saw them go from a tie for last place a year ago to an East Division championship and No. 3 seed in the conference tournament this season.
All three top seeded teams lost Wednesday in games decided in the last minute. The fourth seed won by a point in the last minute. It was that kind of amazing, exciting day at the tournament. Friday’s semifinal matchups will be No. 8 Western Michigan against No. 4 Northern Illinois and No. 6 Toledo against No. 7 Buffalo.
As exciting as the day was for the MAC, it was a crashing disappointment for Kent State.
“After the game, I reminded our players that it’s supposed to hurt,” Starkey said. “This is what is supposed to feel like when you expect to win. And we haven’t had that in this program for a while — the expectation of winning.
“When you expect to win and it doesn’t happen, it feels different. That’s why it’s been difficult. They fought very hard to get to this point.”
Kent State, battling back from a 10-point deficit in the first half, took a six-point lead into the fourth quarter and led 59-52 with eight minutes to go.
But the Flashes scored only four points for the rest of the game.
Toledo’s defense moved to a whole different level.
Kent State struggled to get shots off and to make shots when it did (3 of 13 in the quarter). But most important, the Flashes never could draw the fouls they’ve used to win so many games this season.
“That’s been our game, and it really hurt us,” said senior Larissa Lurken, who leads the nation in getting to the foul line. “I think we were expecting contact and expecting calls from the refs that we weren’t getting. We just weren’t going up strong enough. And when we were going up against two or three people, we weren’t finding the open players.”
Lurken, Starkey said, “was trying to make the right plays — plays that she’s been making all year.”
“Toledo did a really good job of crowding her on drives, sending a second and third player,” he said. “One of the things our teams has struggled with at times is when Larissa is trying to make a play, they can be standing and watching and not moving off of her and getting to open space. So we got stagnant.”
Part of the problem, the coach said, might have been in his play calling.
“I probably could have called a few actions that started the ball away from her, then gotten it to her late off screens,” Starkey said.
A key play in the fourth quarter provided a critical and almost fluke three-point basket for Toledo.
The Rockets led 63-61 with two minutes to go and had the ball with the shot clock running down.
Toledo didn’t seem to know it. The ball got passed around, then almost tapped to senior Janice Montana. She looked as if she didn’t expect the pass, hesitated and threw the ball up as she buzzer went off. It was a real shot — not a prayer — and went right in, and it was a killer.
“It was one of those plays that just takes the wind out of your sails,” Starkey said. “I thought we did a good job defending on that play. It even was a contested three. It kind of stunned us. The next few possessions, we didn’t execute offensively very well. It’s just a natural reaction when something like that happens. You think you’ve done a great job and then out of nowhere comes a haymaker.”
Kent State had a chance to tie the game in the last 30 seconds, but Toledo’s Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriet blocked a Lurken three-point shot (I don’t remember that happening before all year). KSU got the ball right back on a turnover. But after a timeout, the Flashes couldn’t get the ball inside to Jordan Korinek and couldn’t get the ball outside to Lurken. Finally Megan Carter took a three-point shot that missed with two seconds to go. Toledo was fouled on the rebound and made a meaningless free throw to end the game.
Lurken gets the record — exactly
Lurken’s last basket of the game (if not the season and her career) with 1:19 to go gave her 733 points for the season, one more than Bonnie Beachy’s 35-year-old record. Lurken finished with 25 points, though she struggled with Toledo’s defense in the second half, making 3 of 14 shots. For the game, she made 8 of 25 field goals, 1 of 7 three-pointers, had five rebounds, three assists and a block. She played all but a few seconds at the end of the first half.
Starkey called her season “one of the best in the country.”
“I’m really proud of what she’s been able to do. She’s been a joy to coach.”
- Toledo’s record goes to 23-8. “They’re a really good team,” Starkey said. “Remember their RPI is 59.” That’s second highest in the conference. The Rockets now have won six games in a row. Three of their last four victories came against the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in the tournament.
- Kent’s record is 19-12, its best (and first winning season) since 2010-11. In Starkey’s first year as coach, the Flashes won more games than the last three years combined.
- WNIT bids come out after the NCAA field is set Sunday. Five MAC schools made the 64-team field last season, and the league is stronger this year. Eastern Michigan and Ball State won first-round games in 2016; Ohio won games in the first two rounds.
- Carter had a career-high 15 points in 32 minutes. She was 4 of 8 shooting, 3 of 5 on three-point shots and 4 of 4 foul shooting. She had two rebounds and two assists. Carter is a redshirt freshman who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Kent State’s third game last season.
- Korinek had 13 points but was pushed out of her comfort zone in the post by Toledo’s two big physical centers. She only had two rebounds.
- Toledo outrebounded the Flashes 35-28, outscored them in the paint 36-20 and 11-6 on second-chance baskets.
- Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriott, who was out with a concussion when Kent State beat Toledo 70-60 in January, had 14 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal. She blocked two shots, including Lurken’s three-point attempt with 19 seconds to go. Monakana led the Rockets with 15 points. 5-7 guard Mikaela Boyd had 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals, including two that she turned into breakaway baskets in Toledo’s winning rally.
- Both KSU and Toledo had 19 turnovers. Kent State scored 24 points off of them, Toledo 17.
Game story from Kent State website, including video highlights.
Game story from Toledo website.
The view from Toledo
Coach Tricia Cullop at the postgame press conference:
“We knew this was going to be a battle, and it was through the end. I could not be more proud of the focus, the determination, and the fact that our kids executed what they needed to do on both ends of the floor in the fourth quarter. I could not be more proud of the defense that we showed to hold them to seven points in the fourth quarter.”
“It was such a physical game. Even the officials as they would run by me said, ‘Well, it’s a difficult game to call.’ I get that because nobody wants to go home.”
“I want to compliment Kent State and Coach Starkey. He’s done a tremendous job with that program. He very much deserved his Coach of the Year honor, and Lurken deserves her Player of the Year. She makes you work.”
“In the third quarter, we were very impatient offensively. We were trying to score within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock. In those seconds, I thought Kent State was playing great defense and forcing us to take some bad shots.
“So at the timeout at the beginning of the fourth quarter, I told our team that we need to run our offense through; we need to make them work. When you’re making some of the best shooters on the other team run through screen after screen, they’re a little more tired.”
On defending Lurken
“One of the biggest keys was trying to stay in front of her. We didn’t always do a good job, but we were trying to keep her out of the paint because she’s so good at drawing fouls. I thought our whole team as a collective unit was rotating and trying to take away her drives to the basket.”
“I also thought late in the game she got tired, and some of her shots were short — thank goodness — and we were able to come up with a rebound. I think that we got some kids in and out of the game to keep some fresh legs out there.”
Other tournament scores
No. 8 Western Michigan 67, No. 1 Central Michigan 63.
No. 4 Northern Illinois 72, No. 5 Ohio 71.
No. 7 Buffalo 69, No. 2 Ball State 65.
Game stories on the MAC website. They’re all separate posts and will rotate through on the cover page. Each story has video of the teams’ postgame press conferences and links to the tournament bracket.