A year after missing the twenty win total for the first time since 2008, Kent State heads into the 2014-2015 season looking to turn things around. The Flashes released their non-conference schedule a few weeks ago and it seems they've turned to scheduling lesser teams to pump up the win total.
The two Northeast Ohio schools renew their semi-rivalry yet again. It seems these two schools play each other every year and they're usually close games. The Flashes won last year's battle at the MAC Center 83-79 behind Derek Jackson's fifteen points. Youngstown State is losing their top three scorers in Kendrick Perry, Ryan Weber and Kamren Belin. Those three combined for 57 of YSU's 79 points against Kent State last year, so they'll likely be facing another down year.
November 18th - Malone (15-13), Division II
November 21st - Illinois-Chicago (6-25), RPI: 315, Ken Pom: 268
The Flames only beat four Division I teams last year. Not good. Also, they lose leading scorer Kelsey Barlow and third leading scorer Jordan Harks to graduation. This is the first game of three straight home games in the Men Against Breast Cancer Classic.
November 22nd - Southern Illinois (14-19), RPI: 206, Ken Pom: 158
These are not your Salukis of the mid-2000s. They weren't terrible, but weren't good enough to make the postseason either. Gone is do-everything guard Desmar Jackson but the solid sophomore guard duo of Anthony Beane and Jalen Pendleton return.
November 23rd - Yale (19-14), RPI: 148, Ken Pom: 144
Here's the first pretty good team on the schedule. The Bulldogs made it all the way to the CIT finals before bowing out to Murray State. Without a single impact senior on the roster Yale finished in second place in the above average Ivy League and will be a power player in the conference yet again. Of all the games in Kent's mini-tournament, this one is the most likely loss.
November 29th - Loyola (Chicago) (10-22), RPI: 289, Ken Pom: 252
Because Kent State couldn't get enough of hosting bad teams from Chicago, they landed another one in the Ramblers out of the Missouri Valley. They do return their top two scorers in Milton Doyle and Christian Thomas but lost four regulars to transfer. This should be another easy win for the Flashes.
December 6th - at Kennesaw State (6-25), RPI: 324, Ken Pom: 336
These guys are bad. The Owls have been playing Division I basketball since 2005 but have as many winning seasons as you and I have. They've won twenty games in the last four seasons combined. It seems hard to imagine why Kent State would schedule a game like this, but it's likely because the Owls feature two players from Cleveland. It's a safe bet that Kennesaw State returns this game next season so that Delbert Love and Myles Hamilton will be able to play in front of their families.
December 14th - at Arkansas Little-Rock (15-17), RPI: 186, Ken Pom: 225
The odd road trip continues with a visit to a decent Sun Belt team in Arkansas-Little Rock. The Trojans lose leading scorer Will Neighbors but Josh Hagins and James White return. This'll be a tough game for Kent State in an unfamiliar environment.
December 19th - North Carolina A&T (9-23), RPI: 336, Ken Pom: 339
Woof. The Aggies are and have been one of the worst teams in Division I and last year was no different. They're losing both top scorers this season in Richaud Pack and Lamont Middleton who both averaged seventeen points per game. This is your typical MEAC beatdown.
December 21st - North Dakota State (26-7), RPI: 36, Ken Pom: 62
This game will be played at the University of Texas-El Paso as a part of the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational. The Bison story is well known now after finishing 26-7 last year and upsetting Oklahoma in the Secound Round of the NCAA Tournament. This season will be a little different though as NDSU is losing their top three scorers and head coach. Marshall Bjorklund, TrayVonn Wright and Taylor Braun were the cornerstones of the program and will be hard to replace. Former coach Saul Phillips will be even tougher to replace as he now roams the sidelines in Athens. While this isn't the same team as last year, they will still be tough to beat.
December 22nd - UTEP (23-11), RPI: 96, Ken Pom: 96 / Alcorn State (12-19), RPI: 314, Ken Pom: 323
This is probably going to be Alcorn State as Kent State will more likely than not lose to North Dakota State. The Braves are really bad but don't lose too many guys to graduation. The better matchup (RPI wise) would be UTEP who was in the CBI last year. The Miners return three guys who averaged over ten points per game last year and will be a tough out.
December 30th - at Kansas (25-10), RPI: 3, Ken Pom: 12
Yes, those Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas earned a two seed in last year's NCAA Tournament but couldn't make it into the Sweet Sixteen. Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid aren't there anymore but that doesn't mean this team isn't talented. Toledo made it interesting last year at Phog Allen Fieldhouse but it'll take the Flashes' best effort to keep it close.
January 2nd - Texas-Pan American (9-23), RPI: 311, Ken Pom: 296
Former Akron head coach Dan Hipsher comes back to Northeast Ohio when his Broncs enter Kent in the first game of the new year. Two Shaquilles, Boga and Hines, headline the Broncs roster but that's all the talent they have. Kent should open 2015 with a smooth home victory.
Average RPI: 215.23 / Average Ken Pom: 207.69
Non-Conference Schedule Ranking (1 of 12):
1. Kent State (207.69)