Flashes are bigger and better

Kali Price

In 2002, I was just a sophomore in high school. All I knew about Kent State was that four people were killed in some sort of protest when my parents were in high school.

But as the 2002 Kent State men’s basketball team made its way to the Elite Eight, it was popping up everywhere – on the front page of my hometown newspaper, The Plain Dealer, on the local news and on ESPN.

Everyone knew what Kent State was then. The Flashes were the team that beat Pittsburgh and made it to the Elite Eight. The Mid-American Conference became less of a mid-major conference and more nationally recognized.

But four years later, that’s all changed. Kent State has failed to make another NCAA Tournament appearance since, and any MAC team that has made it to the Tournament hasn’t gone far at all.

The Flashes are just the team that won the MAC Tournament Championship. On ESPN, they’re slated to fall in the first round. They’re not even the underdogs this year. They’re tabbed as just another Cinderella team – just like the 2002 squad.

But the Flashes aren’t just a Cinderella team. Powerhouses like Duke, Connecticut, North Carolina and Gonzaga make the tournament every year and any team that comes up randomly is doomed to fail. But Laing Kennedy, Kent State director of athletics, said the Flashes are to become a “perennial postseason team.”

Soon, they really will be in the Big Dance every year. Under the leadership of the team’s four seniors and Kent State coach Jim Christian, the Flashes have become a team that has the potential to win the MAC Tournament year after year.

Pitt may be nationally ranked as No. 16, but the Flashes have a better record than most of the higher seeded teams, including Pitt.

The only reason why Pitt is as good as it thinks it is, is because they’re a Big East team. The Flashes have proven they can play right alongside the major conferences, as they gave Syracuse a real run for its money at the end of December.

In the loss to Syracuse, the Flashes made simple mistakes they have barely made since. Poor shot selection and shoddy defense has hardly been a problem for the Flashes since that game.

The Flashes may not make it as far as the 2002 squad, but does it really matter? Kent State has made its mark on the NCAA Tournament, will continue to just get better and better every year, and make it to the Big Dance every year.

Seniors Jay Youngblood, DeAndre Haynes, Kevin Warzynski and Nate Gerwig have set a precedent for Kent State. The four have set the bar for future teams, and if the Flashes keep living up to that standard, get ready to keep seeing the Flashes in the Big Dance for years to come.

Contact sports editor Kali Price at [email protected].