Although that ugly, ugly first half of the NCAA Tournament is the last we’ll see of the 2007-2008 Kent State men’s basketball team, let’s not forget how good of a team they were getting to the tournament. Here is a short list of just some of the accomplishments:
Kent State earned its first ever in-season ranking by knocking off No. 23 St. Mary’s 65-57 in an ESPN Bracketbuster game Feb. 23. The road win propelled them to 23rd in the Associated Press Poll and 24th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ Poll.
By capturing the MAC Title, the Flashes earned a fifth trip in 10 years to the NCAA Tournament. They previously never made it to the tournament before the current 10-year run.
They were undefeated at the M.A.C. Center (16-0) for the first time in school history. Yet that was only a part of the new school record 25 regular season wins.
Not many Division I basketball programs can say they have 10 straight seasons of 20-plus wins. In fact, only five other Division I programs can say that. Kansas, Duke, Gonzaga, Florida and Creighton join Kent State in the elite group. To keep things in perspective, Kent State only has thirteen 20-plus win seasons in school history.
Awards were aplenty with this group.
Jim Christian claimed his second MAC coach of the Year honor in three years.
AL Fisher is only the second Kent State basketball player in school history (DeAndre Haynes- 2006) to earn MAC Player of the year. He has a shot to get another next year too.
Haminn Quaintance picked up a MAC Defensive Player of the Year. “Q” is the only player in NCAA Division I history with more than 1,300 points, 850 rebounds, 250 blocks , 250 assists and 200 steals in his career. One of the very few college players to even come close to those numbers was Duke’s Shane Battier who won National Player of the Year honors in 2001.
I could do entire post on the impact of Fisher and “Q” and all the other accolades this team earned and maybe I will, just not today. The ride to Omaha was a lot of fun for everyone involved. It’s just disappointing that the Flashes have the dubious distinction of the team that had more turnovers (17) than points (10) in that first half against UNLV.
CBS analyst, and Cleveland native, Clark Kellogg pegged the Flashes as his most disappointing tournament team and I would have to agree. This team was simply too good to bow out the way it did.
With that being said, of the eight games at the Qwest Center Omaha over the weekend, Kent State did tie the USC-Kansas State game for the closest deficit. USC and Kent State both lost by just 13 points Thursday. Kent State’s ugly first half disguises the fact that it outscored UNLV 48-40 in the second half, only committed three turnovers and shot nearly 46 percent from the field.
Kent State wasn’t alone in ugly first halves over the weekend either. Winthrop could only muster 11 points, one better than Kent State, in its 71-40 loss to Washington State in Denver. Cornell scored just 17 in the first half in its 53-77 loss to Stanford. Perhaps the most lopsided score of the entire tournament goes to Mississippi Valley State who was absolutely crushed by UCLA, Just 16 points in the first half and only 13 points in the second. The 70-29 Bruin victory was downright brutal.
And here are my other random Notes from a weekend in Omaha:
If Kansas is not a Final Four team than I don’t know what is. The Jayhawks are loaded at nearly every single position. Forward Darrell Arthur and guards Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush are scary good. Never in my life have I seen a player shoot as smoothly as Rush does. He has a long lean, body that translates well to the next level. His extremely long arms also make him arguably a better defender than a scorer. I am really excited to see how he does in the future. In Kansas’ blow out win over Portland State in the first round Rush had 15 points on 6-11 shooting just in the first half. He finished with 18 points, but only played half of the second half.
Kansas State was also fun to watch, but for completely different reasons. They offer very little once you get past Player of the Year Michael Beasley and fellow Freshman Bill Walker (yes the same Bill Walker who was OJ Mayo's best friend and running mate at North College Hill High School in Cincy), but man, are those two exciting. Before K-State played Wisconsin, Beasley worked his way around the arc launching balls high into the air and still swishing them. He shot with the back of his legs against the fold out chairs on the bench. Swoosh. He really is a talent and is no doubt the first pick in the draft, I just worry about his demeanor. He seemed to be shook fairly easily and, from what I saw, wasn’t nearly as passionate as teammate Walker was on the court. Beasley dominated the first half against the Badgers (17 points) and showed why he will be the first over all pick. Yet the second half he only had six points and seemed to collapse a little under the Badger pressure.
Perhaps one of the funniest moments over the weekend was when I ran into CBS Play-By-play analyst Kevin Harlan in the bathroom between the Kansas State-Wisconsin game and the Kansas- UNLV game. Harlan seemed to be all fun and games as he decided to start quoting movies such as the 1985 Chevy Chase flick “Fletch” than asking everyone how much they would give him to get the movie references on air.
Former Charlotte Hornet and New York Knick Larry Johnson, a UNLV alum, was in the house repping his Runnin’ Rebels. For my own humor I will refer to him by the moniker “Grandma-ma” after his early 90’s converse commercial where he dressed as an old woman. Anyways Grandma-ma received a standing ovation form the Rebel crowd during the second half. He even snapped a few photos with fans and was present at both games. Also present for the weekend was current MLB.TV and former ESPN Baseball Tonight analyst Harold Reynolds. Miami Heat coach Pat Riley was there, presumably scouting players.
While I am on the topic of the Runnin’ Rebels fan base I loved their “Reee-bellls” chant. I almost thought they were chanting airball at first until I realized what they were saying. Cool Chant.
Kansas’s “Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk.” Chant was awesome as well, if not down right eerie. It was almost something you would hear more at a church, but considering Kansas basketball is a religion to a lot of folks, that makes sense.