Opinion: Five reasons why Kent State will beat UCLA

Matt Poe

Ah, March Madness.

Its arrival is a signal of many things, primarily that spring is upon us and I really need to do a better job monitoring my gambling habits. I usually write about the tournament every year as a reminder that March Madness remains one of the last great, unpredictable variables in all of sports.

What do I mean by that? In the NFL and NBA especially, there’s realistically only a handful of teams who can win their respective championships. That handful tends to grow a little larger with the MLB and NHL, but you usually can still pinpoint who will be standing at the end of the season.

But March Madness? It’s anyone’s tournament, baby. That’s what makes it so damn special, and — would you look at that — little ol’ Kent State is back in the tournament this year! Yes, our Flashes have returned to the tournament, for the first time since 2008, after a thrilling run that saw them capture the MAC championship.

The committee wasn’t too generous, anointing them a 14 seed, but hey, the motto is “Get into the tournament, anything can happen.”

With that being said, here are five reasons why Kent State can pull off the upset against traditional powerhouse UCLA:

1) It’s the 15-year anniversary of Kent State’s magical run to the Elite Eight back in 2002. That team was led by Kent State legend Antonio Gates, who wound up being one of the best tight ends in the NFL in the last 20 years. To ensure that a little good fortune from that past team rubbed off on the current team, I visited an old woman to cast a positive enchantment on this team. She eventually did so after accidentally hexing me, which resulted in me puking frogs and losing control of my bowels. But hey, I’ll do anything for my school.

2) The hopes of Kent State playing its games locally were dashed after the selection committee placed them in the South Region of the bracket. The game is being played out in Sacramento Friday night around 10 p.m. local time.

Now, you might think this benefits UCLA because they’re based out of California. Wrong (Trump voice). It actually benefits Kent State because they’ll have some extra sleep and time to prepare. What proof do I have of this? None, but I feel it in my gut (along with indigestion).

3) Senior forward Jimmy Hall has been the team’s best player for the last two seasons, and the dude is averaging roughly 19 points and 10 rebounds a game. As he goes, so goes the team. I’m predicting him to rise up to the moment and have a big game because, frankly, he has no choice.

Also, I met him one time at Water Street Tavern, and he seemed like a decent guy. What does that have to do with anything? Nothing. But dammit Hall, we need a big game out of you, so call for the rock!

4) If you’re a college basketball or sports fan of any kind, you likely know the name Lonzo Ball. He’s an extremely talented freshman at UCLA who can do it all and will likely be a very high pick in the coming NBA draft. The team needs to slow him down to have any chance of winning.

Alas, that’s not why I bring him up. I do so because his dad, LaVar Ball, has been an outspoken voice for Lonzo Ball to the media on how he’s better than Steph Curry and that the Lakers should undoubtedly draft him. He’s your stereotypical overbearing sports dad who’s unabashedly stealing the spotlight from his son. I predict his nagging will be so egregious that Lonzo Ball will walk off the court and just call it a day; he doesn’t want to hear that crap, and neither do we.

5) It’s been a great season for the Flashes, and winning this game would be some major icing on an already tasty cake (I want cake now). Let’s be frank: There’s not much pressure on them to win this game, and an overwhelming majority of people are picking UCLA. But (this is the part where I contradict the last thing I said — veteran columnist move on my part) that actually plays into Kent State’s favor. These guys aren’t expected to win and don’t have the insurmountable pressure that a team like UCLA has. In short, there’s no reason for them to play timid or nervous; Instead, I want to see a balls-to-the-wall mentality and for them to come out and play with nothing to lose.

Because, quite frankly, they have nothing to lose. Well, except the game. Don’t lose the game, guys. That would be upsetting.    

Matt Poe is a columnist, contact him at [email protected]