A tale of two teams

Joe Harrington

On one hand there is the Kent State men’s basketball team. The team plays great defense and runs the court well. Their only struggle is finding new ways to be modest after games.

On the other hand, you have the Kent State women’s basketball team. They turn the ball over, 30 times in the last game, and they can’t play fast for 40 minutes because they only have eight players on the roster. After the games, they struggle finding new ways to say “eight people is not an excuse,” or “mental toughness,” which junior Anna Kowalska said after the 64-59 loss to Miami on Saturday.

It should not shock anyone who walks around this campus that basketball is a big deal in this area. The memories of the 2002 Elite 8 run is fresh in every student’s mind, and the men’s team is one of nine teams in the country to have nine straight 20-win seasons. Not only will they make it 10 years, but if this team doesn’t make it the NCAA tournament it will be a huge, emphasis on huge, disappointment.

The most interesting thing about the basketball situation is that the women’s team is playing with no expectations. How could this be? Well, when two players get “redshirted” after using credit cards that didn’t belong to them, and two more players, such as Samantha Scull and Kate Verhoff, unexpectedly quit the team in the middle of the season, then nobody expects that team to do anything special.

But they can. Winning eight or nine games in the Mid-American Conference with a handful of bodies is more impressive than barely winning the conference with five post players, four shooters, two ball-handlers and one defensive specialist. The funny thing about it is that it isn’t even the lack of players that is killing this team – it’s the 30 turnovers, the 66 percent free-throw shooting and 24 percent 3-point shooting. Now it could be because the players they do have just aren’t at the college talent level. But if that were true they would be playing for an intramural team at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

This could be the most important season of men’s coach Jim Christian’s career. If he wins the MAC, and he coaches in two games in the madness that is March, he might not be here at Kent next season. He might receive offers from teams in the Big Ten Conference or the Big East Conference next season. (It worked for Stan Heath, didn’t it?) Christian will deserve it too, because he’s consistent when it comes to recruiting and winning. However, because the team has placed itself on such a high pedestal, there could be a big splat if it gets knocked off when its not ready to fall.

Bob Lindsay, women’s coach for the past 19 seasons, not only had his team torn apart this season, but also tore his patella, forcing him to coach on a literal pedestal. He sits on a bar-stool like chair, and it looks awfully painful when he tries to pace the sidelines with one leg. It is undetermined if it’s the physical injury or the team injury that forces him to wear a blue Kent State jump suit during games, rather than his usual coat and tie. Lindsay must know that this season may end up being one of his best coaching seasons of his career because he isn’t letting up, despite a boatload of honest and good excuses to be bad.

“I didn’t think we were very sharp at all at any possession,” Lindsay said after coming back from a 10 point deficit to take the lead by as many as five in the second half. “We couldn’t make any plays because we were too busy turning the ball over.”

The rest of the season is going to tell us a lot about basketball here in Kent, Ohio. If the men’s team continues to pick up wins, it will be great, but if the women’s team turns the corner and wins eight MAC games, than there should be ticker-tape-parade down Summit Street with Bob Lindsay riding shotgun in a convertible waving to the crowd.

Joe Harrington is the assistant sports editor, and he will be writing columns all semester for both the Daily Kent Stater and

KentKewsNet.com. Contact him at [email protected] .