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From 973 freshman points to a record 241 3-pointers: the numbers that added up to Flashes’ 20-13 season

Huddle 424 (1)

The 2018-19 Flashes in the huddle.

It’s crazy late to be writing a season wrap-up, but once the WNIT ended, I had school and family matters that I had put off at end of the season.

So in my annual format, here are numbers that told the story of Kent State’s season.

20 wins

Kent State’s 20-13 record was its first 20-win season in eight years. It was also only their second winning season in that time; both have come in coach Todd Starkey’s three years in Kent. It included KSU’s first postseason win in 23 years, a 64-59 victory over Green Bay in the WNIT.

During the last week of the regular season, Starkey made the case that this year’s team accomplished as much as the 19-13 MAC East champion team his first season. That season — when he coached the same roster that had gone 6-23 the year before and was picked to finish last in the conference — was little short of magic.

But this year’s team was pretty special. It had lost three starters, including Jordan Korinek, one of the best players in KSU history. It had lost 69 percent of its scoring and 65 percent of its minutes played.

Yet the 2018-19 team won seven more games and scored more points than the previous season.

45 percent

Starkey and his staff recruited one of the best freshman classes in school history. Asiah Dingle (13 points per game), Lindsay Thall (10 ppg), Mariah Modkins (3) and Hannah Young (3) scored 45 percent of Kent’s points this season. That was the third highest percentage in the country. (First was Alabama State at 79 percent. Second was Winthrop at 47 percent.)

Dingle and Thall made the MAC all-freshman team, the first time in 11 years any Flash had made the team and the third time more than one player had done so.

The only freshman class in the same category as this one was Bob Lindsay’s first set of recruits in 1990-91. That group included included Tracey Lynn and Kathy Carroll, both of whom went on to be 1,000-point scorers and Michelle Burden, KSU’s all-time leader in assists. Their team, however, won three fewer games than this year’s.

320 points

That’s how many more points redshirt junior Megan Carter scored than she did in 2017-18. Part of that was because Carter missed the first semester that season with academic problems. But Carter was wildly inconsistent her sophomore year. She scored more than 20 points twice, more than 12 eight times — and fewer than 10 points 12 times.

This season she led KSU in scoring in 19 of the team’s 33 games. She scored more than 20 nine times and fewer than 10 just five times. Part of her increased scoring was that Korinek’s 20 points a game weren’t around, but Carter’s consistency was a major factor in KSU’s season.

91 steals and 250 rebounds

Alexa Golden and Merissa Barber-Smith, Kent State’s only seniors, had their best seasons.

Golden started for four years, but this season was special. Her 91 steals were the fifth most in school history and highest since 2000. She was among MAC leaders in steals, rebounds, 3-point percentage and minutes played. She led the team in taking 19 charges. After anchoring KSU’s defense for four years, she finally was named to the league’s all-defensive team.

Kent State played its best basketball of the season over its last nine games. Not coincidentally, Barber-Smith played the best of her career then. The 6-4 center averaged 11 rebounds a game over those games and had her first double-double with 20 rebounds and 10 points against Bowling Green. She led the Flashes in rebounding at 7.6 per game despite playing only the sixth highest number of  minutes on the team. Jay Fiorello, the assistant sports communication director for women’s basketball, liked to figure her rebounds per minute: It was 18.04, sixth highest in Division I.

62.5 points per game

That’s how many the Flashes allowed opponents this season and the fewest Kent State has given up since 2010-11.

I remember Starkey saying before the season started that he thought the team would be much improved offensively and would likely have to win some games by simply outscoring the opponent.

It turned out quite the opposite. The Flashes ranked third in the MAC in points allowed, first in field goal defense, first in blocked shots and second in steals. They held opponents under 60 points 14 times and won 13 of those games.

Golden said the team just bought into defense more than in previous years. The Flashes also were more athletic; the quick hands of Dingle and Modkins gave opposing point guards much difficulty.  Golden herself had at least four steals in 12 games. Thall, who showed great defensive timing, led the league in blocked shots. Barber-Smith was fifth in blocks and Golden 25th.

Plus-2.73 in turnovers

Kent State had a positive turnover margin for the first time in at least eight years. Usually, KSU has been near the bottom of the league. This season it was third.

Thank the steals by Golden, Dingle et al. KSU didn’t particular decrease its own turnovers; the Flashes just forced a lot more from their opponents.

241 3-point baskets

That’s a new Kent State team record for a season. Last year the Flashes made 146.

Leading the way was Thall, whose 66 3-pointers were the third highest in Kent State history and second highest for a freshman. She made 40 percent of her shots behind the arc for the season, third in the MAC. In conference games, she made 45.8 percent, more than 4 percentage points ahead of the second-place player and 7 points above the third.

Golden was second in Kent State 3-pointers with 47, Poole third with 46 and Carter fourth with 41. All of those numbers, plus Thall’s, would have led the team in 2017-18.

As a team, Kent State made 32.9 percent of its 3-point shots. In the 13 games the Flashes lost, they made 26.9 percent.

308th in 2-point shooting

Now some less happy numbers.

There are 351 Division I teams. Kent State’s shooting percentage on 2-point baskets was 39.5, which ranked 308th. The national average on 2-pointers was 43.9 percent.

Kent State shot above the national average just three times in 33 games.

How did that happen? The Flashes had no real post threat for high percentage baskets. Forwards Thall, Ali Poole and Barber-Smith averaged fewer than two 2-point baskets a game. Only Thall had a 2-point shooting percentage above the national average, and that was by 0.1 percentage point. She did show more post moves as the season went on, but she was best known as KSU’s top 3-point threat. Poole had played guard until this season. Barber-Smith had never been a scorer, even in high school.

The numbers aren’t available online, but the Flashes missed a ton of layups throughout the season. Dingle’s game, which made a huge difference to the team this season, is based on drives to the basket. But she spent all season learning that if she doesn’t pick her spots well, college players and college defenses can stop her. Lots of other players — guards and forward — struggled within three feet of the basket.

311th in assists

Even less good. Kent State averaged 10.6 assists per game, 311th in Division I. The Flashes had assists on 48.1 percent of their baskets, according to HerHoopStats, an analytics service. That was 316th in the country.

Part of what makes Carter and Dingle good is the ability to create their own shots, but doing so got well out of hand. At point guard, Dingle had an assist/turnover ratio of 0.78. Carter, who played shooting guard and some point, had a ratio of 0.7. Average for all players in the country was 0.82, and guards usually have the best ratios. League champion Central Michigan had a team ratio of 1.25. The league individual leader was Eastern Michigan freshman point guard Jenna Annecchiarico at 2.1. (Dingle also thoroughly outplayed her in two head-to-head matchups.)

Kent State’s passing offense seemed to get better as the season went along, and coaches stressed it on practice. I suspect they’ll be stressing it a lot more over the summer.

Points returning: 87.1 percent

KSU’s top four scorers (Carter, Dingle, Thall and Poole) return next season.

I didn’t have the patience to figure it for all MAC teams, but the only other MAC team close to that has to be Ohio, which also returns four starters plus an injured player who started two years ago.

The Flashes have a great deal to build on for 2019-2020. They had four freshmen among their top eight players this season and three incoming recruits whom Starkey called “can’t miss” prospects when they signed letters of intent.

I will do another post on the outlook for next season, probably in May. (I’m leaving for a two-week vacation on Friday.) But a quick summary:

  • All of that scoring is back.
  • This year’s freshmen should be better.
  • The incoming freshman averaged a total of about 55 point a game in their senior years. 6-foot forward Nila Blackford was first-team all-state in Kentucky and a finalist for the state’s Miss Basketball. 5-9 guard Clare Kelly of Olmsted Falls has a reputation as one of the finest shooters in the state — especially from 3-point distance. Starkey calls 5-11 guard Katie Shumate one of the best defensive and rebounding guards in Ohio. She and Kelly were second-team all-state. Shumate was district player of the year.
  • The team will have all summer to work on shooting and on passing. Remember, much of this team has played together only for a season.
  • Besides improving shooting and assists, the biggest task will be to replace rebounding, where Barber-Smith and Golden led the team.

I’m most definitely looking forward to next season.

Comings and goings and other updates

JUNIOR GUARD JESSICA WALLIS AND SOPHOMORE CENTER AMANDA SAPE have left the team. Wallis is transferring; Sape is dropping off the squad to focus on academics.

Neither played significant minutes in their time at Kent State. Sape had a strong high school record but hurt her shoulder before she she got to Kent. Wallis was a junior college transfer last season and has had a tough collegiate career. Her junior college team was an extremely competitive powerhouse, and she saw little time on the court. At Kent State, she was behind a strong mix of guards.

That leaves the Flashes with two more scholarships available for next season, but Starkey said in a Record-Courier interview that he might hold them until the 2020 recruiting class. He could bring in graduate transfers who would be eligible to play immediately or traditional transfers, who would have to sit out a season. Getting a top-flight high school recruit this late would be unusual; most sign in November.

 

MIAMI COACH MEGAN DUFFY left the school to become head coach at Marquette. She was 44-20 in two seasons with the Redhawks after taking over a program that had finished last in the MAC East in 2016-17. Her replacement is DeUnna Hendrix, who had been head coach at High Point University in North Carolina for seven years. She had a 89-43 record there.

The Miami coaching change was the only one in the MAC. Buffalo coach Felisha Legette-Jack was reported to be a finalist for the head coaching jobs at Penn State and Georgia Tech. She signed a five-year extension with the Bulls today.

 

KSU’s ALEXA GOLDEN AND ALI POOLE were both named to the MAC’S all-academic team.

Golden has a 3.96 GPA in graduate school in sport and recreation management. She earned her bachelor’s degree in just two years at Kent State and will get her master’s degree in May. There are strong rumblings she’ll be back with the women’s team as a graduate assistant next season, when she would start on another graduate degree.

Poole has a 3.73 GPA in biology. It’s her second straight year on the all-academic team and Golden’s third straight. Freshmen and first-year junior college transfers aren’t eligible, nor are players who saw action in fewer than half of their team’s  games. That left KSU with only four eligible players this season.

 

ALLEN MOFF OF THE RECORD-COURIER had a nice season wrap-up story on the women’s team, including lots of quotes from Starkey. Here’s the link.

 

 

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WNIT thoughts: 1,200 miles, 1 big win, 1(?) contract extension, 8 points in 38 seconds

carl at the Q (1)

How I spent my 70th birthday: Final regular season game on March 9, then two MAC Tournament games, preview stories on the MAC Tournament, report on post-season MAC honors. Between the tournament games (March 12), I became a septuagenarian. Then wait to see whether Kent State made the WNIT, writing four posts about the selection.

Then fly to Appleton, Wisconsin, with the Kent Stater reporter, rent a car to Green Bay, write a preview and cover the game. When they won, cancel the flight back, switch rental cars to drive eight hours to Indianapolis for the Flashes’ second WNIT game against Butler. The day after the game, crash for a day in Indianapolis, then drive to Cleveland Hopkins, return the rental and reclaim my own car.

Total: 18 stories in 18 days. About 1,200 miles of travel. I’ve been writing professionally since I was 14. This may be a record.

Now I didn’t have to practice basketball every day, nor play five games, nor get up at 3 a.m. to get to Green Bay. So I’m not saying I worked remotely as hard as Kent State’s players and coaches. But they’re not 70, either.

Photo is me at Quicken Loans Arena, taken by Stater sports editor Henry Palattella.

Carl Schierhorn, retired Kent State journalism professor, wbbFlashes writer and editor.

Thoughts from the tournament appearance that brought Kent State its first postseason victory since 1996 and only the second in school history. (First was a 72-68 win in the first round of the NCAA tournament.)

Road warriors

Kent State has played all five of its WNIT games on the road. The three other MAC teams that made the tournament this year all bid for and got home games, something that costs a minimum of $6,500 for the first round. Toledo and Ohio won, and bought a second-round game. The Rockets lost; Ohio won and will host another game Thursday.

Toledo won the WNIT in 2011, paying for and playing every game at home. Bowling Green just missed the NCAA in 2014 and hosted every game until it lost in the quarterfinals.

Best I can tell, Kent State’s bidding for a home game was never under consideration this season.

The Flashes came close to hosting a WNIT game back in 1999, when the Flashes didn’t make the NCAA despite a 22-7 record and an RPI in the mid-30s. But then coach Bob Lindsay turned down a bid from the WNIT because of the snub from the NCAA.

The Kent State men have hosted NIT games in 2000 (win over Rutgers), 2003 (loss to Charleston), 2004 (loss to West Virginia) and 2010 (win over Tulsa).

Attendance at the Green Bay game was announced at 1,269. At Butler, it was 747. Kent State averaged just over 1,000 this season and had 1,323 at its first-round MAC tournament game against Bowling Green this season.

A new contract for Starkey?

KSU coach Todd Starkey ought to be under serious consideration for a contract extension. He’s finishing the third year of the five-year agreement he signed when he became coach in 2016. When he was hired, the university said his salary was “average” for MAC women’s coaches, or in the $200,000 range.

In his three years, he’s gone 52-45 and 29-25 in the MAC. His first team, picked last in the MAC East, won the division, went 19-13 overall and went to the WNIT. He was MAC coach of the year. Last year’s team was 13-19. This year’s was 20-13, went to the WNIT a second time and won its first round game. His first true recruiting class produced two all-MAC freshman team members this season, and next year’s includes an all-state first-team player from Kentucky and two all-state second-team players from Ohio.

Men’s coach Rob Senderoff received an extension and a raise after his team won the MAC Tournament and went to the NCAA two years ago. He also got salary increases for his assistants, something Starkey achieved last summer.

38 seconds, 8 points

I knew there was a big Kent State flurry as it came back from an 13-point deficit against Green Bay in the second half, but I missed this until I read it in the Green Bay Press Gazette.

With 4:39 to go in the game, Kent State trailed 54-47.

Lindsey Thall hit a 3-point basket from the top of the key, one of three 3-pointers she made in the fourth quarter. It made the score 54-50.

While the ball was in the air, Megan Carter was knocked to the floor as she fought for position for a possible rebound. She made both foul shots. 54-52.

After Green Bay missed a shot, Thall grabbed the rebound and fed Asiah Dingle, who pushed the ball up the court and attacked the basket. The defense collapsed, and she passed to Carter, who dropped her only 3-point basket of the game.

55-54 Kent State. 4:01 to go.

Eight points in 38 seconds.

Thirty second later, Dingle stole the ball and again drove to the basket. This time she kicked out to Thall, who hit another 3.

“A lot, a lot,” Green Bay coach Kevin Borseth told the Press Gazette said of the run that changed the game. “But credit to them, they came back. They just kept going at us, going at us, going at us.”

Carter and Borseth

Scott Venci, the Press Gazette reporter, had done his homework. Right after the game was over — before he had even interviewed the Green Bay coach — he asked KSU assistant sports communication director Jay Fiorello to talk with Carter.

It turns out that when Forseth was head coach at the University of Michigan between 2007 and 2012, he had recruited Carter, who starred at Farmington Hills High School in Michigan.

Carter told Venci that she had followed Green Bay after Forseth left the Wolverines to return to Green Bay.

“Just looking online and seeing Green Bay win the tournament or the Horizon League year after year after year,” Carter said. “They have established a winning culture here. This win was tough. You don’t come by road wins, especially in this place, often.”

Forseth had coached at Green Bay from 1998 to 2007, winning or tying for league titles every year and playing in seven NCAA tournaments and two WNITs.

Forseth went 87-73 at Michigan. In his first year, the Wolverines had their first winning season and WNIT tournament appearance in six years; his last team made the NCAA tournament, Michigan’s first time in 12 years. But in five years in the Big Ten, Forseth was 38-48. He resigned in 2012 to go back to Green Bay, saying he wanted to be closer to home.

Back at Green Bay, he’s been 163-33 since and won the Horizon League every year until this season, when the Phoenix finished second by a game to Wright State.

On KSU’s Dingle, whose drives to the basket game Green Bay problems, Forseth said:

“We did a good job in the first half of containing her. (In the second half), she got in, and they hit a couple 3s behind her. The onus was on us on our end of the court.

“We just imploded like two or three possessions in a row, where we turned the ball over. That really hurt. At that point, we couldn’t afford to make any mistakes, and we made a couple that hurt us.”

4 minutes, 0 shots

The last four minutes of the first half at Butler essentially ended Kent State’s season.

After Kent State had led through most of the first 14 minutes, the Bulldogs had taken a 17-14 lead. Then they turned on four minutes of defense like I have never seen. Kent never came close to getting a shot off and made seven turnovers. Over the second and beginning of the third quarters, Butler outscored KSU 27-2 and shot 71 percent.

In the reverse of the Green Bay game, Butler guard Whitney Jennings by herself scored seven points in 32 seconds.

“When Butler puts it on you, they really scramble you defensively,” Starkey said.

Butler trailed 6-5 after one quarter. Coach Kurt Godlevske told the Indianapolis Star that the Bulldogs were “giving great effort” but not getting results. After they switched to a trapping half-court defense, Kent State turnovers became Butler points.

“Once that happened, our kids’ energy went way up. They saw the ball go in a couple of times,” Godlevske said. “The next thing you know, you’re making three or four in row.”

Seven in a row, to be exact.

Over the next week or two, I’ll be offering some impressions of the people I met this season, wrapping up the season and looking ahead to next year. 

 

Butler defense and 22-2 run in 2nd quarter ends KSU’s season in WNIT

WNIT Butler

With seven minutes of absolutely overpowering defense at the end of the second half, Butler ended Kent State’s season Saturday with a 70-52 win in the second round of the WNIT.

Kent led 14-8 when Butler’s Tori Schickel scored on an inside move. On the next possession, Merissa Barber-Smith‘s shot close to the basket was blocked. Alexa Golden got the offensive rebound; her putback was blocked.

The Flashes didn’t get a shot off for the last six minutes of the half.

Butler pressed, it trapped, it stepped into passing lanes. The Bulldogs forced Kent State into seven turnovers and made nine of its own 11 shots. Many were layups off turnovers, but Butler made 4-of-4 three-point baskets.

Asiah Dingle broke Butler’s 16-0 run with two foul shots, but Kristen Spolyar hit a 3-pointer 13 seconds later. Butler forced another turnover, and Whitney Jennings banked in the 3-point shot at the buzzer.

It was 30-16. Kent never got closer.

“We knew it was coming,” coach Todd Starkey said. “We tried to prepare for it. But when you have less than 48 hours to prepare for a team with a defensive scheme like then, it’s difficult. It’s difficult to simulate what they’re going to see.

“Obviously we didn’t handle the pressure very well. We got the ball into areas of the floor that we had talked about not getting it into, and they just kind of swarmed us.”

Golden, who played her last game in a Kent State uniform, put it colorfully.

“We just kind of lost our minds a little bit,” she said. “That kind of explains it.”

Golden had 11 points and eight rebounds. Dingle led the Flashes with 13 points, three assists and three steals.

The Flashes held Butler to 3-of-14 shooting for the first 13 minutes of the game.

Then the Bulldogs made 22-of-32 — 69 percent — for the rest of the game. They made 8-of 12 three-point shots in that span — 67 percent.

Butler’s season average on field goals is 42.3 percent. Its average on 3-pointers is 29.8. Guard Katie Spolyar had been making 26 percent of her shots from beyond the arc. Saturday she made 4-of-5.

Kent made 33 percent of their 48 field-goal attempts and 27 percent of their 3-point shots.

“We got good looks,” Starkey said. “We’re 8-for-30 from the 3-point line, and I thought 25 were really good looks. Shot that usually fall for players just didn’t go down.”

The coach said his team was tired.

“It’s a really tough, tough travel week for us,” he said. “We flew to Milwaukee (leaving at 4 a.m. Tuesday), then up to Green Bay by bus.

Right after the game, the team took the bus to a hotel in Milwaukee, then climbed back the bus on for the trip to Indianapolis. That’s all in five days.

Butler, Starkey said, “just had more energy than we did, especially at that point that they kind of flipped the switch.”

“We didn’t have a switch to flip. There wasn’t any reserve tank to go to.”

Butler played both of its WNIT games at home.

The players and Starkey looked back at the season with pride.

“Everybody counted us out from the beginning because we had such a young team,” Golden said, “and I think we’ve proved to everybody that we could compete with the best of them.  I think people should watch out for Kent State next year.”

Starkey said his team — which had five freshmen and two junior college transfers on its 14-player roster — “continued to get better throughout the season.”

“We talked early about us wanting to be playing our best basketball in February and March,” Starkey said. “I think that absolutely happened. I thought we probably were one of the best teams in the MAC down the stretch.

“So there’s a lot to really build off of and a lot to be proud of.

Redshirt junior guard Megan Carter summed it up the way:

“I’m very proud of this team and what we are able to do. We just wanted to play.  I’m very proud to see the freshmen coming in and adapting to the culture of this program. We did a very good job.”

Goodbye to Alexa and Merissa

Golden and Barber-Smith played their last game.

“They’ve given so much to Kent State,” Starkey said.”I love both of them like daughters.

“Alexa has to be one of the toughest, most dedicated players I’ve coached in 21 years. She’s given everything; she’s given limbs and joints to this program.”

Golden played through injuries every season, and,  Starkey said earlier, “may have the NCAA record in ice packs used over four years.”

Barber-Smith played her best basketball of her career over the last month of the season, averaging more than 13 rebounds a game in that time. It was a long road for the 6-4 senior. She came from a tough background and, between her junior and senior years, she had a baby.

“I’ll be more proud of Marissa when she walks across the stage and gets her degree then of anything she’s done the court,” Starkey said.

Golden said she accomplished much of what she had hoped in her four years.

“They were struggling in the years before,” she said, blinking back tears. “I wanted to be in the class that came in and turned it around. When coach Starkey came in, we really trusted him, and he believed in us.”

Carter was in the same recruiting class with Barber-Smith and Golden, but was injured in the third game of her freshman year and was redshirted.

“I’m going to miss them tremendously,” she said. “I’m going to try to spend as much time with them as I can before they go off and venture off to their new lives.”

Golden may not venture far. It’s not official yet, but she’s very likely to be a graduate assistant on next year’s coaching staff.

Box score 

Notes

  • Kent State finishes the season 20-13, the first time the Flashes have won 20 since 2010-11. The team’s win over Green Bay in the WNIT was the second postseason victory in school history. The first came 23 years ago, when the Flashes beat Texas A&M in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
  • After making 14 turnovers in the first half, KSU had only four in the second. Butler scores 20 off of them in the game. Kent scored 11 off of 18 Butler turnovers.
  • Whitney Jennings led the Bulldogs with 23 points. Spolyar had 22 and and Schickel 12, plus 11 rebounds.
  • Five Butler players finished the game with four fouls. Kent’s Dingle fouled out.
  • Butler advances to play Cincinnati or Minnesota, who play Sunday.

Other MAC teams in the postseason

  • No. 10 seed Buffalo beat No. 7 Rutgers 82-71 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Bulls will play No. 2 Connecticut, the most dominant team in women’s basketball over the last decade, on Sunday.
  • No. 8 Central Michigan (25-8) fell to No. 9 Michigan State (21-11) 88-87, giving up the winning driving layup with seven seconds left. A Central jumper that would have won game missed at the buzzer.

Saturday games in the WNIT

  • Northwestern (17-14) at Toledo (21-11).
  • Middle Tennessee State (23-10) at Ohio (28-5).

Earlier

  • Western Kentucky 67 (18-14), Miami (23-8) 63 in the first round of WNIT.
  • Tennessee Tech (22-10) 73, Akron 59 (16-15) in first round of Women’s Basketball Invitational.

Updated WNIT bracket

Kent State plays at Butler at 7 Saturday in second-round game in WNIT

Shootaround (1)

The Flashes at shootaround at Butler on Friday.

I spent all day traveling from Green Bay to Indianapolis, so I’m in no shape to write a detailed preview.

Here’s what you need to know:

The game is at 7 p.m. at Hinkle Field House in Indianapolis. re directions from the Butler website. Driving time to Butler is about five-and-a-half hours. Tickets are $7. You can get curtsied tickets for $15.

The game will be streamed online on Butler’s Facebook Live Page. I have no idea whether there will even be announcers. Sometimes these things are simulcast with radio. Sometimes  they just show the court from a fixed camera.

Kent State’s radio broadcast will start about 6:45 on WHLO and online at Golden Flash iHeart Radio. Jacob Pavilack is the announcer.

Butler (22-9) routed Northeastern 89-72 Thursday. The Bulldogs finished third in the Big East with an 11-7 record. Their RPI is 69 and Omni ranking 67. (RPI focuses on record and strength of schedule. Omni also takes into account wins against good competition, margin of victory and recent record.)

With the Green Bay win, Kent’s RPI increased seven spots to 76. Its Omni ranking is 114. The Flashes’ record is 20-12.

Butler led the Big East in scoring defense (57.9), field goal defense (36.8 percent), steals (328), and turnovers forced (18.6). Michelle Weaver was the Big East defensive players of the year; Tori Schickel (12.3 points and 8.9 rebounds) was second-team all-conference and coach Kurt Godlevske was Big East coach of the year.

“It’s a challenge,” Starkey said. “But at this time of year, everything’s a challenge. You’re just trying to enjoy the ride.”

Winner of the Butler-KSU game will play the winner of Sunmdauy’s game between Cincinnati, which beat Youngstown State 76-62 Thursday, and Minnesota, which beat Northern Iowa 91-75 Friday. Time and date hasn’t been determined. It will be between March 27 and March 29.

Here’s preview from Kent State’s website. 

Here’s preview from Butler’s website.

Here’s preview from Record-Courier, which includes thoughts from KSU coach Todd Starkey.

Here’s an interesting story on the Green Bay WNIT game from the Green Bay Press Gazette. It quotes Kent’s Megan Carter at length. She was recruited by Green Bay coach Kevin Borseth when he was head coach at Michigan. Of the game, Borseth said, Kent State “kept coming at us.” He’s also quoted at length in the story.

Updated WNIT bracket

Flashes beat Green Bay 64-59 and move on to play Butler in WNIT second round

WNIT scoreThere are so many different stories from Kent State’s game against Wisconsin-Green Bay Thursday night, but the biggest is this:

It was Kent State 64, Green Bay 59 for Kent State’s first WNIT victory ever and first postseason win since 1996. None of Kent State’s players were even born then.

The Flashes advance to the second round of the tournament to play at Butler at 7 p;m. Saturday.

Here are some of the key threads from the game:

  • Kent State scored 13 more points than teams averaged against Green Bay, the fourth-best defensive team in the country by some ratings.
  • KSU’s was the dominant defense Thursday. The Flashes forced 15 turnovers and scored 12 points off of them. Green Bay was able to take 48 shots, 12 fewer than the Flashes.
  • Flashes trailed by 13 points in the third quarter. They scored the last nine points of the quarter and outscored Green Bay 25-16 in the fourth quarter.
  • Senior Merissa Barber-Smith, playing in front of her family for the first time in her college career, had 15 rebounds and made two critical free throws in the fourth quarter. Senior Alexa Golden had 11 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists.
  • Redshirt junior Megan Carter had 21 points, including 12-of-14 free throws, to lead KSU. Freshman Asiah Dingle had 15 points, two assists and two steals. Freshman Lindsey Thall had three three-point baskets in the fourth quarter.
  • Carter, Golden, Barber-Smith and coach Todd Starkey agreed it was the team’s biggest win in Starkey’s three seasons at Kent State. For the three players, it was the biggest in their four years as Flashes.

Here’s a great video clip of the KSU locker room celebrations.

The offense

The Flashes only made 30 percent of their shots against the tough Green Bay defense. But they did get to the foul line in the second half, and that’s where they won the game.

“We were much more aggressive in the second half,” Starkey said. “We’ve been saying all season that the aggressor has the advantage.”

So the Flashes drove to the basket. Dingle was hard to stop; Green Bay hadn’t seen many guards in the Horizon with her quickness.

“She’s unique,” Starkey said. “She made a couple of those attacking drives to the basket and got the basket. She got a high level of confidence from that. And when she does that, she gets better on the defensive end. And the team feeds off of that.”

Carter got to the foul line six times in the third quarter and eight in the fourth. She made 10 of those shots.

“I knew I wasn’t shooting well,” she said, “so I wanted to get to the free-throw line and make sure my mechanics were good when I got there.”

What about the mechanics?

“I’m not thinking. I just go through my routine. Three dribbles, look at the basket and shoot it. It’s muscle memory.”

The defense

Starkey praised Golden, the leader of the KSU defense all season, for the work she did when the player she was guarding didn’t have the ball.

“If you turn your head, they’re going to cut or move,” Golden said. “We really had to play great on-ball defense and play in our gaps and know where our man and the ball was at all times.”

Green Bay made 43 percent of its shots and 54 percent of its 3-pointers, but Kent made the Phoenix work to get the shots off. Green Bay made 4-of-6 from behind the 3-point arc in the second quarter when it took the lead. But it was able to got off only six 3-pointers in the second half.

The Flashes had 10 steals for the game, led by Golden’s four and two from Dingle and Barber-Smith.

Green Bay tried to pound the ball to 6-3 senior Madison Wolf against Barber-Smith in the fourth quarter. Kent’s center picked up a couple of fouls and tried a different tactic.

“I thought that when she gets the ball and turns around, she’s just going to try to bulldoze her way to the basket,” Barber-Smith said. “So I will put my hands up and just see how it goes. Maybe she’ll make it, maybe she won’t. And I’m getting the rebound if she doesn’t.”

The players

BARBER-SMITH got a ton of rebounds — 15. Over the last month, she’s averaged more than 13.

“I wasn’t shooting much today,” she said. “But I’m going to provide rebounds no matter what. And we needed those rebounds.”

Starkey said Barber-Smith made a huge difference.

“Merissa did a great job of offensive rebounding and kicking it out,” he said “I can think of four or five possessions in the second half when she got an offensive rebound and saved a possession.”

Kent had five second-chance points. Green Bay had zero.

Barber-Smith is from Madison, Wisconsin, which is about two hours away from Green Bay. Because the trip from Madison to Kent is so far, her family had never seen her play.

Playing in front of them “really, like, burned fire in my heart,” she said.

And what did they say?

“Oh, you’re so great. We’re so happy you came out here. We love you, dude.”

GOLDEN, as it seems every game, went to the floor hard on a rebound in the first half and lay on the floor for 30 seconds. She popped up and jogged off the court, went to the locker room briefly and came back for the fourth quarter.

“That was a little harder than usual,” she said. “I’ll probably be sore, but it’s fine. We got the win. That’s all I care about.”

The victory

“Defensively, they are just so physical and very difficult to score against,” Starkey said. “The second quarter (when Green Bay outscored KSU 20-9) was obviously proof of that. We needed to be the same way. We needed to make sure that we matched their toughness.”

After trailing 43-30 with 2:14 to go in the third quarter, KSU went on a 9-0 run to end the quarter, then took the lead with about four minutes to go in the game.

“At the last media timeout (about 30 seconds before KSU went ahead). we were really loose in the huddle and like, ‘We’re not going anywhere. ‘” Starkey said. “We’re going to play this out to the end.’

“And our players were smiling and really connected. They wanted to win. They were excited about it. They had confidence that they were going to win.

“I wonder if their huddle was a little more tense.”

Golden put it like this:

“We knew the fourth quarter had to be the best quarter that we’d played all year.”

The big plays

Here are seven:

  • With 1:29 to go in the third quarter, Thall found freshman Hannah Young in the corner, and Young hit a 3-point shot.  “We were really struggling to score at that point,” Starkey said. “And that really kind of broke it open for us.”
  • With 14 seconds to go in the quarter, Dingle poked the ball away from the player she was guarding and went three-quarters of the court for a layup and was fouled. That made is 43-39 Green Bay going into the fourth quarter.
  • With 4:28 to go in the fourth quarter, Golden fed Thall for a 3-point basket. Carter was fouled as players jockeyed for position for the rebound. She hit both free throws for a five-point play for the Flashes. It made the scored 54-52 Green Bay.
  • 30 seconds later, Dingle found Carter open on the left side for the three-point basket that put Kent State ahead 55-54. The Flashes never trailed after that.
  • 40 seconds after that, Dingle stole the ball in front of the Green Bay basket. Starkey called time while she was sitting on the floor.
  • 12 seconds later, Dingle drove to the basket and kicked the ball out to Thall, who hit her third three-pointer of the quarter. “We told Lindsey to loop behind the drive, and she hit the big 3” Starkey said. “She listened. So that’s two freshmen listening and executing down the stretch.”
  • And with 1:04 to go, Barber-Smith was fouled after grabbing a rebound with KSU ahead 58-56.

Barber-Smith is not Kent State’s best shooter. She was making 44 percent going into the game and had missed two free throws in the first half.

She hit both shots. (“Biggest free throws of her career,” Starkey said.)

“I heard someone say, ‘She doesn’t want these,'” Barber-Smith said. “And I’m like, ‘All right, then’

“So I’m out to the free throw line, and I was imagining myself in practice again while we do those pressure free throws, when we have to run if we don’t make them. I remember for those, I always smile. It  like releases the dark energy.

“So I walk the your free throw line, and I start smiling. I’m like, ‘All right, this isn’t so bad.‘ I made the first one. Then I’m like, ‘All right, so these are do it again.’ I shot the second and it went in. And I’m like, ‘Well, okay.'”

Box score

Notes

  • The victory moves Kent State’s record to 20-12, the Flashes’ first 20-win season since 2010-11. They’re now 1-4 in the WNIT.
  • Green Bay lost its fifth WNIT game. It has never won, though it has victories in the NCAA Tournament. The Phoenix finish the season at 22-10.
  • Kent State committed a season-low eight turnovers. “When possessions are so valuable, you can’t squander the opportunity,” Starkey said.
  • Green Bay made four of its last five shots of the first half, including three 3-pointers, to take a 29-21 lead.
  • Thall picked up two first-quarter fouls and played only four minutes in the first half. She didn’t commit a foul in the second and played all 20 minutes.
  • KSU outrebounded the Phoenix 39-35 and outscored them on fast breaks 6-0. Green Bay outscored the Flashes 26-14 in the paint.
  • Attendance was 1,269 in Green Bay’s Kress Center, which is used only for women’s basketball.

About Butler

Butler (22-9) routed Northeastern 89-72 Thursday. The Bulldogs finished third in the Big East with an 11-7 record. Their RPI is 69 and Omni ranking 67. (RPI focuses on record and strength of schedule. Omni also takes into account wins against good competition, margin of victory and recent record.)

With the Green Bay win, Kent’s RPI increased seven spots to 76 Its Omni ranking was 118 before Thursday’s game.

Driving time to Butler is about five-and-a-half hours. Here are directions to Hinkle Field House, where Saturday’s game will be played. I don’t find ticket prices online.

Butler led the Big East in scoring defense (57.9), field goal defense (36.8 percent), steals (328), and turnovers forced (18.6). Michelle Weaver was the Big East defensive players of the year; Tori Schickel (12.3 points and 8.9 rebounds) was second-team all-conference and coach Kurt Godlevske was Big East coach of the year.

“It’s a challenge,” Starkey said. “But at this time of year, everything’s a challenge. You’re just trying to enjoy the ride.”

Butler had never hosted a WNIT game before Thursday’s meeting with Northeastern.

Kent State’s team bused to Milwaukee after Thursday’s game and was traveling on to Butler Friday. Starkey said assistant coach Morgan Toles had already started on the scout report for the game — just to be prepared. He also praised Allison Seberger, the team’s director of basketball operations, for handling the logistics of setting up travel to Green Bay on two days notice, then starting again for a second trip at 9 p.m. Thursday.

Winner of the Butler-KSU game will play the winner of the game between Cincinnati, which beat Youngstown State 76-62, and the winner of Friday’s game between Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Updated WNIT bracket

Other MAC scores in the WNIT

 

  • Toledo 71, Seton Hall 65.
  • Western Kentucky 67, Miami 63
  • Ohio 81, High Point 74.

WNIT 2019: Flashes face Green Bay, one of nation’s top mid-major teams

Team

Flashes Ali Poole (23), Megan Carter (31), Mariah Modkins 5) and Lindsey Thall. (Photo by David Dermer from KSU website.)

Kent State’s task against Wisconsin-Green Bay in the WNIT Thursday is not an easy one.

The Flashes are going up against a perennial mid-major power, a team that has made postseason 20 years in a row. They’re playing one of the best defensive teams in the country. Green Bay allows only 51 points a game.

They are playing at Green Bay, where the Phoenix were 13-2 this season. It’s the first postseason game Green Bay has ever played on its home floor. The Phoenix have mostly played in the NCAA Tournament, and they’ve never hosted a home WNIT game.

KSU had one of the toughest travel assignment in the WNIT. The Flashes left Kent at about 4 a.m. Wednesday for a flight to Wisconsin. When they played in the WNIT two years ago, they had a three-and-a-half-hour bus ride to Ann Arbor.

The game is at 7 p.m. Eastern Time (6 p.m. in Green Bay) and will be telecast on ESPN3.

“It’s a tough draw, and our margin for error in this game will be very small,”  coach Todd Starkey told Allen Moff of the Record-Courier this week.”They are so rigid defensively, a really tough fundamental team. Their starting lineup is all fourth- or fifth-year players.

“But our team is excited to play. It’s bonus basketball for us, and we’re proud to represent the MAC in a field that’s stacked with good teams.”

Green Bay coach Kevin Borseth, who has won 410 games in two stints at Green Bay and five years at Michigan, had nice things to say about KSU, too.

They are really good,” he said in the Green Bay OPress Gazette.. “The MAC is a really good conference. They have a lot of teams in postseason play. AIt seems like any one of them could have finished on top, with Kent State being one of those teams.

“Kent State beat Youngstown State by 30. They lost to Wright State by six. They beat Oakland and they beat Northern Kentucky. They are really good.”

All four of those teams, like Green Bay, are members of the Horizon League.

Wright State was the first team other than Green Bay to win the Horizon regular season outright in more than 20 years. The Raiders beat Green Bay in two out of three games, winning by 18 at home, losing by 19 in Green Bay and winning by three in the league tournament.

Green Bay won two out of three against YSU and swept the season series against Oakland and Northern Kentucky.

One nice note on the game: It’s a chance for friends and family of senior Merissa Barber-Smith to see her play in person close to home. Barber-Smith, Kent’s leading rebounder, went to high school in Madison. That’s about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Green Bay.

About the game

Kent State (19-12, tied for fifth in the MAC) at Wisconsin-Green Bay (22-9, second in the Horizon League) at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Kress Center in Green Bay. Time is 7 p.m. Eastern. Winner will advance to play Butler or Northeastern.

About Green Bay

RPI: 69 of 351 teams as compiled by there NCAA. Omni Rankings: 54(RPI emphasizes record and strength of schedule. Omni also takes into account record against good teams and margin of victory. It emphasizes recent games.) Schedule strength: 4. Fifteenth-ranked mid-major team by CollegeInsider.com.

LAST GAME: Lost to Wright State 55-52 March 12 in finals of Horizon League Tournament.

KEY TEAM STATS 

(From HerHoopStats.com, an analytics service)

  • Scores 63.1 points a game, 196th of 351 Division I teams. Opponents score 53.4 (fifth).
  • Field-goal percentage: 41.5 (114th).
  • 3-point percentage: 34.0 (69th). Percentage of points from three-points: 30.5 (116th). 2-point percentage: 45.3 (133rd).
  • Free throw percentage 65.9 (279th).
  • Offensive-rebounding rate: 31.6 percent (198th). Defensive rebounding rate: b (48th). (Rebounding rate is the percent of possible offensive rebounds a team actually gets.)
  • Assist rate (percentage of baskets with assists): 61.2 (59th). Turnover rate: 16.9 percent (69th). Steals per game: 9.1 (69th). Blocks per game: 3.1 (187th). Foul rate: 25.1 percent (207th).
  • Field-goal defense: 39.3 (fourth in Division I).
  • Opponents’ 3-point percentage: 27.2 (14th). Opponents 2-point percentage: 40.0 (36th).
  • Opponents assist rate: 55.5 (168th). Opponents’ turnover rate 21.6 (61st). Opponents steal rate: 9.3 (62nd).

KEY PLAYERS

  • 5-foot-8 junior guard Frankie Wurtz: 10.4 points per game, 4.4 rebounds.
  • 5-9 senior guard Laken James: 9.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.1 steals. Second-team all-Horizon.
  • 5-8 senior guard Jen Wellnitz,: 8.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.7 steals. Horizon League defensive player of the year and first-team all-league.
  • 6-3 freshman forward Madison Wolf,: 8.1 points, 7 rebounds.

Kent State

RPI: 83. Omni Ranking: 118. Schedule strength: 88.

LAST GAME: Lost to eventual-tournament champion Buffalo 85-52 in MAC quarterfinals March 13.

KEY TEAM STATS 

  • Scores 65.2 points a game, 149th of 351 Division I teams. Opponents score 62.9 (123rd).
  • Field-goal percentage: 37.0 (288th). 3-point percentage: 32.1 (133rd). 2-point percentage: 39.9 (305th).
  • Free throw percentage 73.0 (79th).
  • Offensive-rebounding rate: 31.2 percent (215th). Defensive rebounding rate: 69.8 (100th).
  • Assist rate: 48.2 (317th). Turnover rate: 18.3 percent (131). Steals per game: 8.0 (147th). Blocks per game: 4.0 (73rd). Foul rate: 24.4 (162nd).
  • Field-goal defense: 38.3 (82nd). Opponents’ 3-point percentage: 31.9 (198th). Opponents 2-point percentage: 41.8 (81st).
  • Opponents’ assist rate: 56.4 (192nd). Opponents’ turnover rate 21.5 (62nd). Opponents/ steal rate: 9.8 (98th).

KEY PLAYER STATS

  • 5-7 redshirt junior guard Megan Carter: 16.0 points per game. Free-throw percentage: 73.4. All-MAC third team.
  • 5-9 senior guard Alexa Golden: 7.4 points. Steals: 2.8. Assists: 2.7. Rebounds: 5.5. All-MAC defensive team.
  • 5-4 freshman point guard Asiah Dingle: 13.1 points. Free-throw percentage: 77.9 . Steals: 2.0. Assists: 2.5. MAC all-freshman team. Runner-up for freshman of the year.
  • 6-2 freshman forward Lindsay Thall: 10.4 points. 3-point percentage: 40.1.  Blocked shots: 1.8. Rebounds: 4.8. MAC all-freshman team.
  • 6-4 senior center Merissa Barber-Smith: 7.5 rebounds. Blocked shots: 1.2.
  • 6-0 junior guard Ali Poole: 9.1 points. Rebounds: 4.2.

To follow the game

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

Video is through ESPN3. You can watch through ESPN on your television or computer or through the ESPN app.

Live statistics are available through the Green Bay website.

Links

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

Detailed media game notes from Kent State.

Preview from Green Bay website, including links.

Detailed media game notes from Green Bay.

WNIT bracket

Flashes to play at Green Bay on Thursday in WNIT first round

Dingle driving

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.

Link to WNIT bracket.

Release announcing pairings.

 

 

Flashes make WNIT and await announcement of opponent

Kent State is headed in the WNIT for the second time in three years.

The Flashes were one of 32 teams announced Monday. Pairings will come later tonight. First-round games will be played on campus sites Wednesday through Friday. Game times will be announced Tuesday.

Kent State will definitely be on the road. Teams bid a minimum of $6,500 to host a home game, and KSU decided not to do that.

The WNIT tries to minimum travel expense and missed class time in the first round. So the initial games are almost always played within driving distance. Best guess is the Flashes could be as close as Ohio State and Cincinnati or as far away as Butler (Indiana) or Georgetown (Washington, D.C.).

MAC teams Ohio, Miami and Toledo also are in the WNIT field. Ohio was one of the last teams out in NCAA selection.

Central Michigan and Buffalo made the NCAA field.

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.

“I think 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 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.

Here’s the WNIT post announcing the field:

 

 

 

Update: CMU, Buffalo make NCAA tournament; Kent still on track for WNIT

Buffalo action 3

KSU junior Ali Poole in action vs. Buffalo in the MAC Tournament. (Photo by Austin Marisasy.)

Update: No three-bid league for the MAC

Central Michigan and Buffalo are indeed the only MAC teams to make the NCAA field. No. 8 Central will play No. 9 Michigan State in a very interesting match-up. No. 10 Buffalo will play No. 7 Rutgers. Bracket was released hours early because of an ESPN mistake.

Ohio was third on the NCAA’s list of “first four teams out.”

It still looks as if Kent State will make the WNIT, though the Flashes definitely won’t play in Dayton and may be less likely to play at Cincinnati.

But the Mid-American Conference’s stock seems to be falling for the NCAA Tournament.

In a new wrinkle this year, the NCAA selection committee released a “debatable eight” list last night, outlining eight teams in contention for the last four spots in the tournament. The list includes Ohio, which a few days ago seemed to have a pretty good chance at making the tournament. Ohio went 27-5 on the season and finished second in the MAC.

Here’s the full list as announced on ESPN yesterday. (ESPN broadcasts the women’s NCAA tournament):

  • Arkansas (20-11, RPI 67, Omni ranking 71.)
  • Auburn (21-9, RPI 50, Omni 47.
  • Indiana (20-12, RPI 48, Omni 42.)
  • Ohio (27-4, RPI 34, Omni 74) .
  • Princeton (22-9, RPI 44, Omni 61).
  • Tennessee (19-12, RPI, Omni 49).
  • TCU (20-10, RPI 58, Omni 43).
  • UCF (26-6, RPI 15, Omni 64).

The list was out of date almost as soon as it was released. Princeton beat Penn in the finals of the the Ivy League tournament shortly after the NCAA named the eight. It’s unclear whether the Tigers would be replaced on the debatable list; I’ve seen nothing that indicated they would be.

Since the debatable eight list came out, I’ve seen no NCAA bracket that included Ohio.

RPI emphasizes a team’s record and strength of schedule. It is based 25 percent on a team’s record, 25 percent on its opponents’ record, and 50 percent on its opponents’ opponents’ record. Road victories are weighted and home losses are weighted more than twice as much as how wins and road defeats. The flaw in the RPI is that you get lots of credit for playing good teams; the RPI doesn’t take into account whether you beat them. So the RPI has fallen into disfavor in recent years; the NCAA men’s committee has dropped it entirely.

The Omni rankings were pointed out to be this week by the KSU athletics communication and women’s basketball people. They’re broader, also including things like wins against stronger teams, margin of victory (counting for less as the margin gets bigger) and heavier of results of recent games. 

The WNIT says it uses both the RPI and broader measures.

What seems to be hurting Ohio is its strength of schedule. One service ranked their schedule 270th hardest out of 351 teams.

Kent and the WNIT

The unofficial word from the KSU athletic department is that Dayton is definitely out as a first-round opponent. The city is hosting the “First Four” of the NCAA men’s tournament, which means Dayton won’t be hosting any first-round women’s game. As expected, sources say Kent State won’t be hosting a game.

They also say Cincinnati (21-10, RPI 77, Omni 62) is less likely than I thought because the city is so centrally located that it’s an attractive site for many teams.

So that leaves Ohio State (14-14, RPI 101, Omni 77) among my previous predictions as a likely site. Other possibilities include (by distance, with closest first) West Virginia (20-10, RPI 79, Omni 26), IUPUI 19-11, RPI 135, Omni 88), Butler (21-9, RPI 74), RPI 56, Omni 67), American 22-10, RPI 71 Omni 113), Georgetown (16-15, RPI 71, Omni 59),  Virginia Tech (20-11, RPI 73, Omni 39), Purdue (19-15, RPI 89, Omni 75), Indiana (20-12, RPI 48, Omni 42).

Kent State’s record is 18-12, RPI is 83 and Omni ranking is 118. Yes, the Flashes won 19 games. But none of the ranking services count non-Division I games in their thinking. KSU played Division II Clarion on New Year’s Eve.

The Omni website includes a projected bracket of the WNIT. They put Kent State at Cincinnati.

The WNIT does seed after a fashion — putting teams in top, middle and bottom tiers. Top and bottom play, as do two middle teams. Looking at Omni’s bracket, KSU would be in the bottom tier.

So add that into the equation and we get these possible opponents (taking into account distance and my guess on tier): Cincinnati (I’m not giving up), West Virginia, Butler, Virginia Tech, Georgetown,.

Assuming Ohio doesn’t make the NCAA, the MAC would have four teams in the WNIT: Ohio, Miami, Kent State and Toledo.

Central Michigan and Buffalo should make the NCAA.

I’m writing at 4 p.m. Monday. We’ll know for sure in about seven hours.

 

 

 

 

All about the WNIT, the ‘consolation’ tournament Kent State is likely to make

Buffalo action 2

KSU leading scorer Megan Carter in action against Buffalo in the MAC Tournament. (Photo by Austin Mariasy.)

 

Kent State’s women are very likely to play in the 64-team Women’s National Invitational Tournament, which starts this week. Here’s what you need to know about it:

What is the WNIT? 

It’s the second major postseason tournament for Division I women’s basketball teams. You might call it somewhat of a consolation prize for good teams that didn’t make the NCAA field.

Who gets in?

Automatic bids go to the highest-ranking team that didn’t qualify for the NCAA Tournament in each of the 32 women’s conferences. In the Mid-American Conference, that’s likely to be Miami. The Redhawks have a long shot of making the tournament; if they do, the highest ranking team is Kent State.

After the automatic bids are at-large spots for 32 other teams. WNIT rules say they are selected using at least six women’s basketball-ranking systems and gives examples using several RPI systems, which emphasize more a team’s record and strength of schedule. and others using broader criteria, including record against  strong opponents and margins of victory.

Then they add factors like how well a team was playing at the end of the season, common opponents and key injuries.

So how does Kent State do in the criteria?

KSU’s RPI is in the low to mid 80s (of 351 teams) across various services. In broader measures, the Flashes drop to 120 to 130.

Two years ago Kent’s RPI was in the high 90s, and the Flashes made the tournament. Coach Todd Starkey said he thought KSU’s resume made a strong case this season. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said Saturday he expected three teams to make the NCAA and four to get in other postseason tournaments. Those would likely be Miami, Kent State, Toledo and Northern Illinois.  I’m more dubious about NIU.

When will we know?

The WNIT field is announced a few hours after the NCAA selection at 6 p.m. Monday. So we’ll know if the Flashes made the tournament about 9 p.m. Pairings are announced a few hours later.

Where and when would Kent State play?

First-round games are Wednesday to Friday this week. All games are played at campus sites.

The WNIT tries to minimum travel costs in the early rounds, so the Flashes likely would play within fairly easy driving distance. Two years ago they played at Michigan. in the Bob Lindsay era, they played at Michigan, Duquesne and St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia.

Teams can bid for home game. It costs a minimum of $6,500 to host a first-round game. Costs go up as teams advance. If two teams bid, the WNIT says it decides based on fan base, location, previous games with WNIT opponents and other factors. The WNIT website says multiple times that a team has to make the field first; it can’t buy its way in by promising to bid big on hosting a game.

Kent State showed no interest in hosting a game two years ago, and I don’t hear anything to believe that would be different now.

MAC teams have hosted games before. Toledo actually won the WNIT in 2011 and played every game at home. Bowling Green just missed the NCAA in 2014 and hosted every game until it lost in the quarterfinals.

Kent State is 0-4 in WNIT games. The only postseason game the Flashes have ever won was a first-round victory over Texas A&M in 1996 they’re 0-3 in other NCAA games.

So about a specific place?

We know where it won’t be. The WNIT won’t schedule a first-round game against a team in the same conference or a team a school played during the regular season. 

Besides MAC schools, that eliminates Duquesne and Youngstown State, teams likely to make the WNIT field whom KSU played in the non-conference. Wright State and Robert Morris, two other teams the Flashes played, have made the NCAA Tournament as their conference champions. So has North Carolina State. North Carolina is likely but not guaranteed.

Obviously we won’t know for sure until Monday. A lot depends on what bubble teams make the NCAA tournament. Relatively nearby teams in that category are Indiana and West Virginia, according to ESPN. (The network also has Ohio as one of the last four teams in and Miami as one of the group of “next four teams out.”)

My best guess would be that the Flashes would travel to Cincinnati (21-10, RPI 77), Ohio State (14-14, RPI 101) or Dayton (17-13, RPI 118). Kent hasn’t played OSU since 1981 and Dayton since 1979. It played Cincinnati in 2013.

Other possibilities are (in order of distance) West Virginia (20-10, RPI 79), Butler (21-9, RPI 74), RPI 56), Virginia Tech (20-11, RPI 73) and Georgetown (16-15, RPI 71).

All those sites would be good places for Miami and Toledo, too.

Is the WNIT seeded?

Sort of. According to the WNIT website, the selection committee looks at its field and parts teams in top, middle and top tiers. In the first round, top tier teams play bottom tier ones, and middle-tier teams play each other. I’d guess Kent State is in the lower half to the middle tier. That , though Ohio State would be fun.