The 2018-19 schedule the Kent State women released last week looks a little easier and more balanced than last season’s.
The Flashes play fewer top teams and fewer weak teams.
We’re talking just about the non-conference schedule. The MAC, which was the eighth-best conference by RPI last season (out of 32), looks as good or better.
The non-conference schedule
With opponents’ records and RPI from last season
- Sunday, Nov. 4: Slippery Rock (12-16 in 2017-18) (exhibition).
- Friday, Nov. 9: at North Carolina (15-16, RPI 114).
- Sunday, Nov. 11: at North Carolina State (26-9. RPI 16).
- Saturday, Nov. 17: (Kent State Classic), Northern Kentucky (9-22, RPI 256)
- Sunday, Nov. 18: (Kent State Classic): Oakland (15-16, RPI 195).
- Tuesday, Nov. 20: Youngstown State (16-16. RPI 154).
- Wednesday, Nov. 28: Duquesne (25-8, RPI 72).
- Sunday, Dec. 2: at Wright State (23-11, RPI 92).
- Friday, Dec. 7: at Robert Morris (25-8, RPI 123).
- Monday, Dec. 17: at St. Bonaventure (8-22, RPI 260).
- Friday, Dec. 21: at New Jersey Institute of Technology (4-26, RPI 339).
- Monday, Dec. 31: Clarion (7-21 in Division II).
- There are five home and six away games, plus a home exhibition.
- The Flashes open with weekend games at North Carolina and North Carolina State of the Atlantic Coast Conference. They are the team’s only games against Power 5 opponents. KSU also had two last year — Stanford and Michigan.
- Kent State plays three non-conference teams whose RPI was in the top 100 at the end of last season — North Carolina State (16), Duquesne (72) and Wright State (92). Last season the Flashes played five teams in the top 100 — Stanford (13), Michigan (34), Gonzaga (37), Florida Gulf Coast (44) and Wright State (92). RPI rankings are based on a team’s record and strength of schedule.
- The Flashes play two teams whose RPI last season was higher than 250 — Northern Kentucky (256) and NJIT (339). Last season the Flashes played four teams with an RPI over 250 — Northern Kentucky (256), Southeastern Louisiana (297), Detroit (327), Eastern Kentucky (315). (There are 349 Division I schools. Kent State’s RPI last season was 149.)
- North Carolina State reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Robert Morris, Wright State, Duquesne and Youngstown State made the WNIT.
- KSU non-conference opponents had a 166-169 record in 2017-18. Last year’s non-conference opponents were 185-177.
- Kent plays its first Division II opponent — Clarion University — in Todd Starkey’s three years’s as coach. The Dec. 31 game is the last before MAC play starts against Eastern Michigan on Saturday, Jan. 5 in Kent.
- Overall, KSU plays one fewer non-conference game than last season and no holiday tournament. (My impression is that the three-game tournaments the Flashes played the last two years counted as two games against the maximum number allowed by the NCAA.)
- The Flashes do have a tournament of sorts — in Kent. The Flashes play Northern Kentucky and Oakland of the Horizon League on Nov. 17 and 18 in “Kent Classic.” The same opponents will play Akron on opposite days, still at the MACC. Starkey and former Akron coach Jodi Kent worked out an arrangement where Akron and Kent would alternate hosting the event. Last season’s “Akron Classic” was at the James A. Rhodes Arena. The idea is to cut down on travel expenses for visiting teams. The last time Kent hosted a similar event was in the early 1980s, when the Flashes had a “holiday classic” at Thanksgiving for about five years.
- The non-conferences schedule has four Horizon League teams (Northern Kentucky, Oakland, Youngstown State and Wright State), two ACC schools (North Carolina and N.C. State) and two from the Atlantic 10 (Duquesne and St. Bonaventure). Robert Morris plays in the Northeastern Conference and NJIT in the Atlantic Sun.
- In MAC play, the Flashes will play Western Division opponents Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan twice. They’re home against the West’s Central Michigan and Northern Illinois and away against Ball State and Toledo.
- Other than the North Carolina trip, it’s a very compact schedule geographically. Next farthest south is Wright State in Dayton, about a three-hour drive. Farthest trips west are Western Michigan and Ball State, both about four hours. Farthest east is Newark, New Jersey, against New Jersey Institute of Technology. Next farthest east is St. Bonaventure in Olean, N.Y., about a three-hour drive.
- The schedule includes the first exhibition game of the Starkey era — a Sunday, Nov. 4, meeting with Division II Slippery Rock. Last year the Flashes had two closed scrimmages. His first season had one closed scrimmage.
- After the opening exhibition, the Flashes play the two games in North Carolina, then four in a row at home, then four in a row on the road, then Clarion at home, then the MAC season.
I’ll run through the non-conference schedule game by game in the next post, with a little analysis on each opponent.