Six games to go in MAC season, and it looks like dogfight for KSU

Seeding 218The idea for this post was prompted by GoldenFlash01, who also goes by Burden on Flash Fanatics, the main KSU fan bulletin board. If you haven’t checked that out, it’s well worth it. Burden is one of the other big women’s basketball fans on the board.

 

Kent State has a most interesting six games left in the regular MAC season.

The Flashes play — on the road — Western Michigan, Akron and Bowling Green. They’re all teams KSU beat at home. All have worse conference records and RPIs at least 60 points lower. But the games on the road, and winning in the MAC away from home is rarely easy.

The Flashes should be favored on all three. They also could could lose them all,

At home, they play Ohio, Miami and Buffalo. Kent State lost to all of them on the road. Ohio and Buffalo were fairly close; Miami was by the largest margin in KSU’s conference schedule. Miami is in first in the MAC, Ohio second and Buffalo fourth. All have RPIs in the top 50 (of 351) in the country. Kent’s RPI is 81.

The Flashes should be underdogs in all three games. But at home, they could win any or all.

Kent State is 7-5, tied for fifth in the MAC and own the tie-breaker for the fifth seed in the MAC Tournament. The first four seeds get byes to the quarterfinals at Quicken Loans Arena. The next four host the first round of the tournament on campus sites.

The Flashes are a game behind fourth-place Buffalo. The teams have almost identical schedules, though KSU plays its key games at home. Buffalo plays at Ohio and Kent State and home against Miami.

The teams KSU is tied with — NIU and Toledo — play in the weaker  Western Division. Both have to play at 9-3 Central Michigan and play each other at Toledo. The Rockets play 10-2 Miami at home Saturday. So both are likely to lose at least two games.

In some ways, the season reminds me of two years ago, when Kent State was also 7-5 at this point and won all six of its final games and the MAC East title. No one expected that. I don’t think anyone expects it this season. Ohio, Miami and Buffalo are all substantially better teams than they were that season. Is KSU better? The Flashes have much less experience, no star like Larissa Lurken but probably more overall talent..

How do we make sense of that? We really can’t. It’s more than a cliche this season: This season will be decided on the court.

Wednesday Kent State travels to Western Michigan, which Kent State held on in the fourth quarter to win 55-51 in Kent 10 days ago.

Here’s the preview:

The game

Kent State (7-5 MAC, 14-9 overall) at Western Michigan (2-10, 8-15) at 7 p.m. Wednesday at University Arena.

WHAT’S AT STAKE: It’s a game Kent State needs to win to stay in the running for a good seed in the tournament. Western is mired in 10th place and is playing for pride. It will be Western’s third game in five days. They lost 77-64 at Northern Illinois Monday in a game rescheduled because of snowstorm a few weeks ago.

PLAY4KAY (again): The game is Western’s “Play4Kay” game to support research into women’s cancer. Kent State just had its game Saturday.

WHAT COACH TODD STARKEY IS SAYING: Pretty much what he’s been saying for the last month:”Any win this time of year is really big.  Everybody needs to understand is how good this league is.”

(How good? The MAC has the seventh highest RPI of the 31 leagues in Division I. Seven teams have RPIs in the top 100. Both are the best ever for the conference. Rankings are from WarrenNolan.com.)

About Western Michigan

IN THE MAC: Tenth at 2-10. Has beaten only the two teams below it in the standings, Bowling Green and Ball State. Took fourth-place Buffalo to overtime.

(I use full league standings because seedings are determined solely on the conference record. Where a team finishes in its division means nothing.)

RPI: 266 of 351 teams, lowest in the MAC. Schedule strength: 227. Home record: 2-8. Has lost five in a row.

LAST GAME: Lost 70-56 at Ohio on Saturday.

KEY TEAM STATS (conference statistics only)

  • Scores 60.8 points a game, last in MAC. Opponents score 71.2 (eighth).
  • Field goal percentage: 40.5 (ninth). Field goal defense: 42.8 (ninth).
  • Three-point percentage: 32.0 (ninth). Three-point baskets per game: 7.7 (fifth). Three-point defense: 29.3 (second).
  • Rebounding margin: Minus-8.8 (last). Turnover margin: Minus-2.6 (10th).

KEY PLAYERS

  • 5-foot-7 senior point guard Deja Wimby (12.9 points per game) Rebounds: 6.7. Assists: 4.1. Steals: 1.6.
  • 6-foot sophomore forward Leighah-Amori Wool (12.1 points). Rebounds: 4.8.
  • 5-7 junior guard Kamrin Read (11.0 points). Three-point percentage: 37.5.

Kent State

IN THE MAC: Tied for fifth with Northern Illinois and Toledo at 7-5, one game behind Buffalo and three-and-a-half games behind first-place Miami.

RPI: 81. Schedule strength: 89. Road record: 5-7. Has won four of last five games.

LAST GAME: Beat Bowling Green 77-73 in Kent on Saturday.

KEY TEAM STATS (conference games only)

  • 68.1 points a game (eighth in MAC). Opponents average 66.0  (third).
  • Field goal percentage: 38.2 (last). Field goal defense: 40.4 (third).
  • Three-point percentage: 35.0 (third). Three-point baskets per game: 7.5 (sixth). Three-point defense: 34.0 (ninth).
  • Rebounding margin: Plus-0.7 (fifth). Turnover margin: Plus-1.8  (fourth)
  • Blocked shots: 3.9 (first). Steals: 9.1 (third).

KEY PLAYER STATS

  • 5-7 redshirt junior guard Megan Carter: 16.8 points, ninth in MAC. Field-goal percentage: 41.9 (10th). Three-point percentage: 40.5 (sixth). Free-throw percentage: 74.6  (seventh).
  • 5-4 freshman point guard Asiah Dingle: 13.5 points (17th). Free-throw percentage: 81.0 (fifth). Steals: 2.3 (sixth).
  • 6-0 junior guard Ali Poole: 10.2 points. Three-point percentage: 38.9 (eighth).
  • 6-2 freshman forward Lindsay Thall: 9.8 points. Three-point percentage: 45.9 (fourth). Blocked shots: 1.8 (tied for first). Rebounds: 5.3.
  • 5-9 senior guard Alexa Golden: 9.8 points. Three-point percentage: 37.0 (16th). Steals: 3.4 (first). Assists: 3.1 (14th). Blocks: 0.8 (11th). Rebounds: 6.4 (14th).

THE BOTTOM LINE: A game Kent State needs to and ought to win. But it was too close when Flashes beat Western in Kent. Flashes will need more than one good half.

To follow the game

The game starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday at University Arena at Western Michigan University. It’s about a four-and-a-half hour drive. Here are directions from the WMU website. Tickets are $4 to $8. Average Western attendance is 671, ninth in the MAC.

Audio starts at about 6:45 p.m. on Golden Flash iHeart Radio. David Wilson does play-by-play.

Video is through ESPN+, which costs $4.99 a month. The service covers about 50 percent of KSU basketball games (the rest are broadcast elsewhere), other games and features. You can watch it through your cable or satellite company or the ESPN app. Here’s a link to the ESPN broadcast, which will guide you through a purchase.

Live statistics are available through the WMU website.

Links

Kent State women’s website, including links to statistics, roster and more.

Western Michigan website, including links.

MAC conference-only statistics, including link to full-season stats.

MAC standings

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s