Opinion: Mid-major or not, KSU is an elite program

Jonas Fortune

Has it really been that long? It seems like just last week I was standing at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, the sweat of a hard-fought MAC Tournament still fresh on the court. The Flashes came up a little short in that one, as they fell to rival Akron in the semifinals. Last season became the first year Kent State has missed out on postseason play since 1998.

With five newcomers and just two seniors, it could have been expected they would fall a bit short last season, but that is not the case this year.

Although the Flashes just have two seniors again, last year’s newcomers flourished on the court and are ready to take their game to the next level. So this year’s squad has a lot higher expectations.

Over the last month, senior forward Mike Scott has sounded like a man possessed. All he talks about is winning an NCAA championship. Is he that crazy or a just a visionary?

Anyone thinking logically can realize this is a bit of a stretch, but Scott isn’t as crazy as the statements may sound. Why sell oneself short? If one is aiming for a national title, how much easier is attaining a simple goal like winning the MAC Championship? Scott simply expects the best out of his team.

The Flashes are an elite college basketball program. I know, some people out there are thinking I just joined Scott with my lunacy, but just look at the numbers.

This season the Flashes are attempting to earn 20 or more wins for the 10th consecutive season. Only eight other Division I programs can currently lay claim to such a streak.

Do you know which programs those are? Arizona, Creighton, Duke, Florida, Gonzaga, Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse. If that isn’t elite company, I don’t know what is. Kent State is ranked 14th nationally during that span with a 719 winning percentage.

The Flashes have also completely dominated the Mid-American Conference. In the last nine seasons they have carried a 739 winning percentage inside conference play. So why wouldn’t I call the Flashes elite, mid-major or not?

This year’s team features a focused Scott, who is hell-bent on a championship; sophomores Rodriquez Sherman and Chris Singletary, who just scratched the surface last season when each earned MAC All-Freshman team honors and three new junior-college transfers who are supposed to be legit. Time will tell with those three.

Senior forward Haminn Quaintance and junior forward Julian Sullinger also should be noted. Quaintance is now in his second season at Kent State and is a serious stat stuffer. Last season alone he had the second best blocking performance in school history with 48. He rebounds well and is an underrated passer.

Sullinger may be my favorite player on the team. Although a tad undersized, his blue-collar game down low is one that is effective and under-appreciated. The guy simply shows up every game and grinds when he is often outmatched physically.

So as the 2007 season is set to begin – and many say this is the most talented team Kent has had since 2002’s Elite Eight squad – I’m with Mike Scott. Right now the sky is the limit for this team. Why settle for just a MAC Championship when they know they can achieve more?

Contact Sports Editor Jonas Fortune at [email protected].