NIT: Kent State Traveling Roadshow Outlasts Fairfield, 72-68

The one rule of seeds is, after the fact, it's pretty hard to look at them and justify their placement. When Pittsburgh lost to Butler in the third round of the NCAAs, you might've found yourself wondering what Butler was doing as an 8-seed in the first place.

Now you see Kent State as a 7-seed in the NIT, and way less thought goes into this tournament. They won their second straight road game in this tournament, topping the defensive juggernaut Fairfield Stags by four points. The 72 they scored was the third most allowed by Fairfield all season — 74 against Iona, 96 (!?) against Rider. Their offensive success was the primary reason they gutted this one out, even though a similar score at St. Mary's was marked by second-half defense.

Throughout the game, I was expecting some remarkable defense to distrupt the Kent State tempo, and it never happened. The Flashes came out shooting jump shots, and that's how Randal Holt finished with 22 and Carlton Guyton with 16. And then they started driving inside, dishing it to the Justin Greene and Justin Manns, who combined for 18.

But the real aberration in the whole game was free throws. KSU went 4-for-5 from the line, but that was all in the final minute. Up to that point, the first 39 minutes was all scoring from the field, all the time. For two physical and defensively-capable teams, there were very few fouls called (28 in all) and it's not like the refs let 'em play. They just played smart everywhere.

So now they must travel back westward, but not as far as before: Boulder, Colorado, home of the Buffaloes, who are a 1-seed in this NIT, meaning they just missed being an at-large. The tests just keep getting harder for Kent State. I'm more skeptical of them winning at CU than I was of the opening-round, but as basketball has shown so far, it adores proving me wrong time and time again.

But it also saddens me that we weren't able to watch this team play in the NCAAT. They'd have been a 14 seed, sure, but it they would have played with the same effort that Akron brought, but with more skill and execution. Oh well. This is as much a consolation for the Flashes as it is for the people that follow them.

The Travel! From Kent, Ohio, it's 2168 miles to Moraga, California, home of Saint Mary's College. It's another 424 miles to Bridgeport, Connecticut (Fairfield), and 1254 miles to Boulder, Colorado. Multiply by two, and that's roughly 7,695 miles the Flashes are guaranteed to travel in this tournament. All this to get to New York City and play at Madison Square Garden. Geno Ford is totally getting platinum status when this is over.

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