The men’s basketball team’s trip in the NCAA tournament was a short one, but the ride getting there sure was sweet.
Before losing to UNLV Thursday 71-58 in Omaha, Neb., the team beat Akron to win the Mid-American Conference Tournament. They beat Akron to finish their regular season MAC championship. They beat Central Michigan in February, winning their 20th game for the 10th straight year. They beat St. Mary’s in the ESPN BracketBuster, earning a Top 25 ranking — the first regular season Top 25 ranking in school history. They finished the year 28-7, and undefeated at the M.A.C. Center, going 16-0.
That’s a pretty impressive year.
Along with all the team marks, there were individual accomplishments as well.
Jim Christian took MAC coach of the year honors. He’s no stranger to the award — he’s won it two of the last three years. In his six years as Kent State’s head coach, he’s posted a .704 winning percentage, going 138-58. For comparison sake, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, one of the best college coaches ever, has a .750 winning percentage. Granted, that’s in a tougher Atlantic Coast Conference, but still, Christian’s mark is outstanding.
Junior guard Al Fisher was named MAC player of the year in his first year with Kent State. He came up huge again and again, beating Akron with a last-second shot in the final regular season game and again dropping in a late basket to beat Miami in the MAC Tournament.
Simply put, he was clutch, and he’s coming back next year.
Completing the trifecta of award winners was senior forward Haminn Quaintance, who was honored MAC defensive player of the year. He’s been a blocking machine for the Flashes since transferring from Jacksonville University, averaging 2.1 per game in the regular season. He’s also the only player in NCAA history with more than 1,300 points, 850 rebounds, 250 assists, 250 blocks and 200 steals.
Those are big numbers.
No, the NCAA tournament didn’t go our way. At all. And yeah, we scored just 10 points in the first half — a very, very ugly first half. Pulling everything together in the second half wasn’t nearly enough to climb out of the hole the team dug in the first half.
No question, teams play for the postseason and play for the ultimate championship. But while the tournament performance wasn’t much to be proud of, the team’s accomplishments were.
So let’s not be ashamed by one loss in a season filled with achievement.
In a March 14 Kent News Net story, Christian was quoted as saying “Unfortunately, we just played poorly in the last game we played. And I’m not going to let anybody take anything away from (our season) because I think these guys should be proud of what they’ve accomplished this year.”
We couldn’t agree more.
The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.