KSU’s Asiah Dingle is the team’s second-leading scorer at 13 points a game and a member of the MAC’s all-freshman team. (File photo by David Dermer.)
Kent State will open WNIT play Thursday at Wisconsin-Green Bay, a mid-major power for more than two decades.
Game time is 7 p.m. Eastern time, 6 in Green Bay and will be on ESPN3. Team left for Wisconsin before dawn Wednesday.
Green Bay went 22-9 this season and finished second in the Horizon League with a 15-3 record. It lost in the conference tournament final 55-52 to Wright State, a team that beat KSU 61-55 in December. Green Bay’s RPI is 69.
Green Bay has won at least 20 games every season since 1999-2000. Until this year, they had won 20 straight Horizon League championships.
The Phoenix have made a postseason tournament every year since 1998 — 17 times in the NCAA and four times in the WNIT. They reached the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2010-11.
“They’re a tough draw,” coach Todd Starkey said. “They play a different style of defense that’s tough to prepare for in a short time. But we’ll get it together.”
The Phoenix went 5-6 in a non-conference schedule ranked fourth hardest in the country by WarrenNolan.com.
They beat 23-10 Missouri, 25-7 Maine, 17-13 Dayton, 15-18 Wisconsin and Division II Wisconsin Parkside.
They lost to 16-14 Northwestern, 26-7 DePaul, 26-6 South Dakota State, 26-5 South Dakota and 26-7 Marquette.
They were ranked 15th in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major top 25.
Green Bay and Kent State played in 1994, 2003 and 2004, with the Phoenix winning all three. The first two games were by more than 20 points; the third was 63-57 in Kent.
As Starkey said, Green Bay plays big-time defense. The Phoenix allowed 52.4 points a game, fourth best in the country, and a shooting percentage of 34.4, eighth in the country. They allowed the fewest field goals in Division I.
Kent State had one of the better defenses in the MAC, but its numbers weren’t close to that — opponents scored 62.1 points a game and shot 37.9 percent.
Green Bay averages 63.1 points on offense, about 3 points fewer than Kent State. The Phoenix are a deliberate team, ranking 337th (of 351 teams) in the country in the number of possessions per game.
Only one Green Bay player averaged more than 10 points a game, but three more average more than eight and three more average more than six. Ten average more than 10 minutes per game.
Kent State played four Horizon League teams in the preseason and lost only to Wright State. Green Bay won two of three games with Youngstown State, a team KSU beat by 28 points in one of its best games of the season. The Phoenix swept Northern Kentucky and Oakland, teams Kent State defeated, and lost two of three to Wright State.
The winner of the KSU-Green Bay game will play the winner of the game between Butler and Northeastern. The second-round game will be played March 23-26.
The Flashes are going to the WNIT for the second time in three years.
Two years ago, Kent State lost to eventual-champion Michigan in the first round of the WNIT 67-60.
“To get there two out of our first three years means a lot,” Starkey said. “We always have high expectations, but it was a long shot to do that right out of the gate.
“For us to make this field speaks volumes about this program. We did it in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year with five freshmen. It means we’re recruiting well, we’re developing players and doing things that can really lead to future success.”
Kent’s upperclassmen, Starkey said, “know how hard it is to get in the WNIT.”
“The freshmen will be excited about it,” he said. “But I think they also will learn to appreciate it even more the longer they’re here.”
On Wednesday, the Flashes lost to eventual champion Buffalo 85-52 in the quarterfinals of the MAC tournament. It was KSU’s worst margin of defeat this season and came five days after Kent had upset the Bulls 62-53 in the last game of the regular season. But Starkey said the team is putting that behind them.
“We knew beating Buffalo twice in one week was going to be a tall order,” he said. “They’re a better team than us. So we move on.”
The team took a few days off and has had good practices the last two days, he said.
The Flashes will practice in Kent on Tuesday and probably leave for Green Bay Wednesday. Travel plans were still being worked out Monday night.
Getting to Green Bay
Best way to get there seems to be to fly to Milwaukee and rent a car for the two-hour drive to Green Bay. Southwest has two non-stop flights a day for about $450 roundtrip. Other flights are one stop with a layover for about the same price. Drive time from Kent is about eight-and-a-half hours.
The rest of the MAC
In the NCAA tournament, Central Michigan got an eighth seed and will play No. 9 Michigan State in the first round at Notre Dame. If they win, they’ll play to No. 1 seeded Irish, assuming Notre Dame beats
Buffalo is a 10 seed and will play No. 7 Rutgers at Connecticut. Winner of the Buffalo game will play the winner of the Connecticut-Towson game. Connecticut got a second seed in the tournament, the first time since 2006 the Huskies haven’t been a No. 1. Louisville got the top seed in that region.
In the WNIT:
- High Point will play at Ohio.
- Seton Hall will play at Toledo.
- Western Kentucky will play at Miami.
Four other Ohio teams are in the tournament:
- Moorhead State plays at Ohio State Wednesday.
- Youngstown State plays at Cincinnati Thursday.
- Dayton plays at Northwestern.
WNIT seeding isn’t as clear-cut as the NCAA, but it looks like top seeds are Arkansas, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Arizona.