The Mid-American Conference released the 2018 league schedule today, and it has Kent State opening at Eastern Michigan Saturday, Dec. 30.
Each year MAC teams play everyone in their own division twice. They play two games against two teams in the other division.
KSU will play Eastern and Northern Illinois of the MAC West home and away.
Eastern finished 1-17 and last in the conference a year ago but should be greatly improved.
The Eagles bring in a freshman class ranked highest in the MAC and 51st in the country by ProspectsNation. It includes three three-star and one four-star recruit. Their top recruit last season — an all-state guard from Cleveland New Tech East -— missed the whole year with an injury but will play this season.
EMU also has graduate transfers from Michigan and Fordham, neither of whom were big contributors there but who were highly ranked out of high school. Both will be eligible right away. Second-year coach Fred Castro, a former assistant at Washington, didn’t have much to start with after former coach Tory Verdi left for Massachusetts and two key players transferred. He’s since built the roster.
Northern Illinois was the fifth highest scoring team in the country last year and beat KSU in a memorable 98-97 game in Kent last January. The Huskies, 21-12 a year ago, lost Ali Lehman — perhaps the best player in school history — to graduation, along with third-leading scorer Cassidy Glenn. But they have three other double-figure scorers back and a solid incoming freshman class.
Kent State has its first home MAC game Saturday, Jan. 6, against Western Michigan. Its first MAC East game is at Bowling Green Wednesday, Jan. 17.
Though they were picked to finish last in the conference last season, the Flashes put together an amazing 19-13 season under new coach Todd Starkey and won the MAC East. They won more games last season than in the previous four years combined.
But they graduated MAC player of the year Larissa Lurken, who broke KSU’s season-scoring record and broke the NCAA record for free throws made last year.
Because of Lurken’s graduation, I’d guess the Flashes would be picked between second and fourth in the MAC East. Buffalo likely will be the preseason favorite.
KSU’s full schedule is due out any day. It includes only two pre-MAC home games (Detroit and Wright State), a Thanksgiving tournament in Las Vegas and a pair of November games against non-conference teams at the University of Akron, which will play the same two teams. The next year a similar event will be held at Kent.
Here’s the full MAC schedule.