Senior Day was Saturday, but KSU will play its final home game of the 2017-18 season tonight against Buffalo, leaders of the MAC East and highest ranked of all MAC schools in the latest RPI rankings.
Buffalo is one of three MAC teams with 23-4 records going into the last two regular season games. The Bulls aren’t even in first place overall in the MAC. That record belongs to Central Michigan, which plays the Ball State, the third 23-4 team in the conference, tonight.
There has been a lot of talk online about whether the league will get two bids to the NCAA tournament for the first time in more than 20 years. But it’s hard to figure out how that couldn’t happen. Buffalo is No. 14 (in some rankings, 13th) and is 14-2 in the conference. Central Michigan (15-1 in MAC) is No. 27. Ball State (12-4 in the league) is 36th. Rankings come from WarrenNolan.com, the rating service I most use. There are about four of them.
The MAC ranks seventh of 32 conferences, which I’m pretty sure is highest in school history. In the 30 years I’ve been following KSU women’s basketball, I cannot remember a year when three team had 20 wins, let along 23. (I can’t find a MAC Record Book online, so I can’t give official results.)
Three other teams — Toledo (62nd), Ohio (81st) and Miami (84th) — also are in the top 100 in RPI. That’s got to be the league’s best, too. Last season five teams were in the top 100, including Kent State (99th). Highest ranking team then was Central Michigan at 54th. Toledo, which won the tournament in 2016-17, was 55th.
RPI is based on a team’s record and strength of schedule. 25 percent is based on a school’s record, 25 percent on its opponents’ record, and 50 percent on its opponents’ opponents’ record. Road wins count about double of home wins.
It once counted significantly when the NCAA selection committee decided on the tournament field and seedings. In recent years, it’s seemed to mean less. RPI gives teams more credit for playing good opponents than beating them. No MAC team has beaten a top 25 team from outside the conference. (Both Central and Buffalo have lost within the league). Best win is Toledo’s win over No. 31 Dayton. Central’s best is over No. 109 Iowa State, Buffalo’s over No. 64 Nebraska, Ball State’s over No. 41 Western Kentucky.
Lack of such “quality wins” is the only thing likely to keep Buffalo or Central out of the tournament. It’s hard to see three MAC teams making it.
Kent State’s RPI is 161, higher than we could have imagined two years ago. In coach Danny O’Banion four years and Bob Lindsay’s final season, KSU was below 300.
The Flashes obviously face a very tough task against Buffalo. They lost to the Bulls 80-42 on Feb. 7, their worst lost of the season (13 points more than their loss to No. 15 Stanford).
Buffalo is deep and loaded. Four starters average in double figures. The Bulls are second in the conference in scoring defense, first in field-goal defense, first in three-point defense, first in blocked shots, second in steals, third in rebounding margin and turnovers margin.
Kent State’s best is third in free-throw percentage (first in free-throws made, which isn’t an official stat). The Flashes are fourth in scoring defense but last in scoring offense.
KSU is 10th in the 12 team MAC. There is a distant possibility of moving up to eighth, which would get the Flashes a home game in the first-round of the MAC tournament next week. But they’d have to beat Buffalo for any chance of that happening.
To follow the game
Action starts at 7 p.m. at the M.A.C. Center.
Video is through the ESPN3. (For the second straight weak, the game is not on ESPN3.)
Audio starts at about 1:45 p.m. on Golden Flash iHeart Radio and WHLO.
Live statistics will be available through the Kent State website.
Preview from the Kent State website, including links to statistics, roster, schedule/results, record book and more.
MAC statistics, including standings.