From football to basketball

Michael Moses

With both Boise State and TCU remaining in the top five through the college football season thus far, it’s safe to say that it has been the year of the underdog. Ladies and gentlemen, this is just a preview of what is to come. The temperatures are dropping, and it’s time to move indoors for the college basketball season, where you can expect much of the same drama the gridiron is producing.

As the NCAA basketball season is set to tip off, teams from the Mountain West Conference (No. 25 San Diego State, No. 24 BYU), Atlantic 10 (No. 22 Temple) and Horizon (No. 17 Butler) are already ranked in the preseason top-25 polls. This isn’t even counting perennial powers No. 19 Memphis (Conference USA) and No. 12 Gonzaga (West Coast), both of which play in mid-major conferences.

Given all of the drama in this year’s college football season and its BCS ranking system, there is a very similar debate in college basketball. That will come in mid-February when the NCAA selection committee sits down and dishes out their rankings for the NCAA tournament, otherwise known as March Madness. There will always be teams “on the bubble,” and there’s a good chance they will be coming from the mid-major levels. Enter your Kent State Golden Flashes.

With the recent success of mid-major basketball programs, teams are slowly gaining respect in the eyes of the polls and selection committees. Kent State, though, is still waiting for that respect to come. Last season, the Flashes had an impressive 24 wins and an RPI of 47 but were not invited to the NCAA tournament. This happens time and time again. Kent State has been a team “on the bubble” for the past decade. With four returners on the roster that teamed up to account for just 36 percent of last year’s minutes, the Flashes hope to exceed so-so expectations this season and jump off that bubble.

The Flashes return just two starters — junior center Justin Greene (13.6 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game) and guard Rodriquez Sherman (10.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.0 assists per game), the lone senior on the team. Head coach Geno Ford and his staff brought in three junior college recruits along with four freshmen. The staff is pretty excited about the arrival of junior Carlton Guyton (6-4, 180) from Mineral Area (Mo.) College, where he averaged a team-high 15 points along with 5.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game. They might be inexperienced, but the team should excel in the Mid-American Conference this season. As far as the national scene goes, most people won’t be afraid of Kent State. But, of course, look what happened last year.

Butler, the tiny school from Indiana, made it all the way to the national championship. No one thought the No. 5-seeded Bulldogs would make it to the final. Butler not only made it there, but they also proved they belonged on the same court as the mighty Duke Blue Devils. They lost 61-59, coming within a missed buzzer beater of an epic title.

Last year’s MAC champion Ohio Bobcats shocked No. 3-seeded Georgetown in the tournament, and the North Eastern Athletic Conference champion, Robert Morris, lost a close game 73-70 to Villanova. They would have become the fifth ever No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 seed.

Will this be the year that Kent State bursts onto the national scene as a mid-major? On Dec. 9, Kent State travels to Gainesville, Fla. to take on the Florida Gators. Remember, this is a program that lost to both Richmond and South Alabama last season. If Kent State wants to gain the attention of the selection committee, they have to win the big games, and the matchup with Florida is by far the biggest.

But don’t rule that out, either. As the Butler Bulldogs proved, anything is possible.

Contact Michael Moses at [email protected].