With all the hoopla surrounding the First Four games, this matchup in the National Invitational Tournament ranks right up there with the best of them, only the winner still has no shot at a national championship.
The difference between these two teams is such: SMC went to the Sweet 16 a year ago, and many of those people (but not Omar Samhan) are still on this team. Kent State went to the Elite Eight many years ago, but those players have either retired and/or became NFL tight ends.
But this is going to be a tough one for KSU. Yes, they can keep up with most teams in the nation, and St. Mary's qualifies as "most teams," but they're also mad like hell that they didn't get an NCAA at-large big. As the 2-seed in the NIT, the Gaels have 25 wins and for whatever reason played a nonconference game last Friday after they were booted out of the West Coast Conference tourney. They'll have to contend with Mickey McConnell, one of the best shooters in the game who launches it from three and makes it at a 46% rate. As a team they have three who are 80% or better from the free throw line, so it's going to be the ultimate test for Kent State's veteran guards.
This is Michael Porrini's chance to redeem himself, and for Justin Greene to have a powerful game inside. It could also be Rodriquez Sherman's final collegiate affair. But if they lose, hopefully Porrini understands where to collapse in despair, lest he get Gaelstomped.
St. Mary's could walk away with this one by at least 10 points, but never count out a Geno Ford team.