Thankfully there is still one MAC team left in postseason play, at that team in the Kent State Golden Flashes. After beating Middle Tennessee in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament last week, the Flashes will take on the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders in the second round of the CIT.
The game will be played tonight in Corpus Christi, which is about as south as you can get in the continental United States. The school is located on an island (not a joke) and has their own beach. While the basketball program has only been playing in Division 1 since 2002, the Islanders have put together four 20-win seasons (including this year), with the last coming in 2007.
The Islanders sit at 20-13 on the season, with a 13-5 record in the Southland Conference. The teams they have beaten aren't all that impressive; they did beat Stephen F. Austin by eight and knocked off Florida Gulf Coast on the road in the first round of the CIT. The Southland was a pretty weak conference this season, ranking just 29th of 33 in win percentage and only fielding five postseason teams (four were CIT teams).
Senior point guard John Jordan leads the Islanders in scoring, averaging sixteen points per game which was tied for fifth in the conference. Jordan was also second in the conference in assists per game (5.2) and fifth in minutes per game (36). Senior Derek Jackson will likely draw the defensive assignment of stopping Jordan, but it'll be a tough task.
Sophomore power forward Rashawn Thomas is another player to watch. He is second on the team in scoring behind Jordan, netting nearly fourteen points per game. Thomas is second in the league in rebounds per game, grabbing exactly eight boards per contest.
Depth and height are two non-statistical weaknesses of the Islanders. They go just eight deep, and four starters average over 25 minutes per game. The two tallest players who get regular minutes - Thomas and Bryce Douvier - stand just 6-foot-7. Kent State should be able to take advantage of that, with 6-foot-9 Khaliq Spicer and 6-foot-8 Chris Ortiz patrolling the paint. Jimmy Hall also stands 6-foot-7, but is as hard of a match-up as they come.
One thing the Islanders do well is shoot: they are 110th in the nation in field goal percentage, hitting at a 44.5 percent rate. They also get to the free throw line a lot - their 856 attempts rank eighth in the country. But, they only hit 69 percent of those free throws, which is 202nd overall.
They also play stingy defense. The Islanders give up just 64 points per game which is in the top third of the country. They allow opponents to hit 42 percent of their shots, which again is in the top third. One of Kent State's strong points is shooting from beyond the arc: they hit 36 percent of their threes. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is just as strong defending the three though, only letting opponents shoot 32 percent from deep.
Kent State's gameplan should really be to lean on Hall and get a lot of production from their guards like they did against Middle Tennessee. If the Flashes can wear the Islanders down and get their bigs into foul trouble, they should have no problem moving on to the next round. However, if the shots aren't falling and Kent State gets behind early, it may be tough to come back on the road.
You can watch the game here via free online streaming.