Flashes need to reverse history to win

Sean Joseph

This year’s men’s basketball team will give the Kent State student body its best chance to see a Mid-American Conference Championship and a NCAA Tournament birth.

And I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the maddest March the Kent State campus has ever seen.

ESPN Bracketology currently lists Kent State (18-7, 12-2 MAC) at No. 13 in the Oakland bracket of the NCAA tournament.

But I also wouldn’t be surprised if history repeated itself and they fell on their faces in the final games of the season. The past two seasons have ended with the Flashes dropping four of their last 10 regular-season games. In the 2003-04 season they lost six of 10.

They have five regular-season games left this season and have lost to just one of the teams: Bowling Green. Now, if history repeated itself, and they lost four of their last 10, going 2-3 the rest of the season would not give them a horrible record. It would even give them their eighth consecutive 20-win season. But, considering they only have two conference losses thus far, dropping three games would be devastating.

The Flashes have demonstrated so far this season that they can beat the best teams in their conference: Akron (12-2 MAC), Miami (11-3 MAC) and defending league champions Ohio (8-6 MAC). But they have also fallen on their faces against Bowling Green (5-9 MAC), this season’s MAC East Division cellar dweller, and Toledo (6-8 MAC).

So don’t count on the team to win out its MAC season because of its last meeting with the opponent. Count on it because this team knows what is at stake in these games, they know their history and they are not going to let it get to them.

Every time I have sat down to interview Kent State coach Jim Christian before a game this season, he has told me, point-blank, that no MAC opponent is to be overlooked, no game is more important than another and the team expects to win every time.

Before students came back for spring semester, Christian told me the MAC season would be close. And here they are tied with Akron for the No. 1 spot.

The team does well in pressure situations, having just come off a victory in double overtime against Buffalo. They defeated Akron at home and beat Ohio and Miami on the road for the first time in years.

If any season reverses history, it’s this one.

Next year, fourth-year seniors DeAndre Haynes, Kevin Warzynksi and Jay Youngblood will be gone. The team will also lose fifth-year senior Nate Gerwig, the last remaining member from the 2001-2002 Elite Eight team.

And nobody on the court playing for Kent State will have memories of winning a MAC Championship.

Contact men’s basketball reporter Sean Joseph at [email protected].