In Kent State’s 11-day break for Christmas, we have time to look back at the non-conference opponents and ahead to the MAC season.
The Flashes non-conference schedule was a strange one. The Flashes finished 7-5, their best record since 2010-11. They beat six teams with weak records. They lost two two teams in the Associated Press Top 25 and three more in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25. And they finished with a win over 7-4 Robert Morris, the preseason favorite in the Northeastern Conference and participant in the NCAA tournament the last two years.
Here’s a rundown on where their opponents stand (records and rankings are as of Friday afternoon):
NORTHERN KENTUCKY (1-9). Kent State beat NKU 59-54 on the road in its opener. Since them, the only team the Norse have beaten is Division II Oakland City University, which itself is 4-6. Northern Kentucky is probably a better team than its record; it hasn’t lost a game by more than 12 points.
- RPI: 341 (of 349 teams).
- Schedule strength: 252. (Figures come from WarrenNolan.com. RPI is a rating system based on a team’s record, its opponents’ record, and opponents’ opponents’ record.)
YOUNGSTOWN STATE (3-7). Kent State won, 55-44, in Youngstown. YSU has beaten only Division II Ohio Valley (0-8), Loyola of Chicago (1-9) and Northern Arizona (2-8). The Penguins came within six points of 7-4 American, which has an RPI of 98.
- RPI: 308.
- Schedule strength: 292.
FLORIDA GULF COAST (10-3). The Flashes lost to FGCU, 80-62, in the Akron Classic Tournament. Florida Gulf Coast is the nation’s third-ranked mid-major. The XXXX have lost only to two other ranked mid-majors (Belmont and Chattanooga) and No. 8 Ohio State. They’ve beaten Illinois (9-4), DePaul (8-4) and Kentucky (8-5).
- RPI: 25.
- Schedule strength: 52.
SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA (1-10). Kent State won, 81-60, at the Akron Classic. The Lions have beaten only Bethune-Cookman (6-3). They’ve lost to some good teams — LSU (7-3), Cincinnati (6-5), TCU (9-2) and Auburn (8-3).
- RPI: 309.
- Schedule strength: 221.
STANFORD (6-6). The Cardinal beat KSU 79-54 in the Play4Kay Showcase in Las Vegas. Stanford, a Final Four team a year ago, has played one of the toughest schedules in the country. It’s lost to No. 1 Connecticut, No. 6 Baylor, No. 7 Tennessee, No. 12 Ohio State (twice), and Western Illinois, which is ranked 18th in the mid-major poll.
- RPI: 44:
- Schedule strength: 5.
GONZAGA (7-4). The Bulldogs beat Kent State 77-57 in Las Vegas. They’re ranked 19th in the mid-major poll with wins over Western Illinois (8-3) and Washington State (7-5) and losses to Belmont (9-3), Colorado State (7-3) and DePaul (8-4).
- RPI: 79.
- Schedule strength: 80
MEMPHIS (5-8). The Tigers had lost five in a row when Kent State beat them 70-55 at the Play4Kay Showcase in Las Vegas. They’ve now won four in a row, including a two-point victory over 9-2 UAB.
- RPI: 238.
- Schedule strength: 180.
DETROIT (0-11). I thought Detroit was far better than a winless team when Kent State beat the Titans 82-74. They’re still winless and still, I think, pretty good. Their non-conference schedule practically makes them a MAC team: they’ve lost to Miami by 27, Bowling Green by four, Kent State by eight, Western Michigan by 12, Eastern Michigan by two and Toledo by 17. They’ve also lost to Michigan State, Michigan, Clemson and Illinois. Tough schedule.
- RIP: 267.
- Schedule strength: 47.
EASTERN KENTUCKY (3-7). Kent State escaped at EKU with a 65-57 overtime victory. The Colonels have beaten Division II Ohio Christian, Western Carolina (2-9) and North Carolina Greensboro (3-7). They’re another team that’s played a MAC-heavy schedule, losing to Kent State, Bowling Green, Akron and Ohio, along with Cincinnati (7-5) and George Mason (10-3).
- RPI: 274.
- Schedule strength: 234.
WRIGHT STATE (9-3). The Raiders, who beat KSU 72-60 in Kent, are ranked 13th among mid-majors. Besides Kent State, the only team with a winning record they’ve beaten is Belmont, which is 9-3 and fourth in the latest mid-major poll. They’ve lost to some good teams: No. 16 Missouri, Georgia (12-1) and Providence (7-5).
- RPI: 69
- Schedule strength: 163.
MICHIGAN (11-2). Kent State held the Wolverines to their second-lowest point total of the year in KSU’s 54-41 loss in Ann Arbor. (Michigan’s lowest was 49 points against No. 3 Louisville.) Michigan is ranked No. 24 in the latest AP Poll with wins over Kent State, George Mason (10-3), Oakland (6-4) and Marquette (6-5).
- RPI: 47.
- Schedule strength: 118.
ROBERT MORRIS (7-4). The Flashes beat the Colonials 46-31 in their best and most recent victory. Robert Morris has yet to beat a team with a winning record; its best win was over 4-6 San Francisco.
- RIP: 231.
- Schedule strength: 321.
Kent State’s RPI is 178 and schedule strength 266.
Next week we’ll look at how the rest of the MAC did in non-conference play. (Short answer: Very well, with five teams in the top 100 in RPI.
KSU opens MAC play at Eastern Michigan (4-7) Dec. 30.