It's never too early to start thinking about college basketball. We've been tracking all of the announced (and seriously hinted) non-conference games for all MAC teams here, but Kent State was finally the one to break through with a full slate of games. Here is how the Golden Flashes' schedule shakes out for next season:
November 14th - Youngstown State
Last Season Record: 11-21
Ken Pom Ranking: 279
Key Players: F Bobby Hain (14.6 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game), G Cameron Morse (6 points)
This game will be a part of the Coaches For Cancer event (probably should have come up with a less-confusing name) played at Kent. The Flashes host YSU and Akron plays Cleveland State at the MAC Center the same night. An astounding five players transferred out of Youngstown after a dismal season, including leading scorer Marcus Keene who is on his way to Central Michigan. Only two players who averaged six points per game or more return from last year's team.
November 18th - at Southern Illinois
Last Season Record: 12-21
Ken Pom Ranking: 226
Key Players: G Anthony Deane (16.1 points per game), F Sean O'Brien (7.4 points, 5 rebounds)
The Flashes' first road game comes against another team that had five guys transfer out. SIU is probably a little bit better than Youngstown State but not much. These first two games will be good building blocks for a new-look Kent State team.
November 21st - Marist
Last Season Record: 7-25
Ken Pom Ranking: 304
Key Players: G Khallid Hart (14.7 points, 3 rebounds), C Eric Truog (5 points, 6 rebounds)
The Red Foxes were one of the worst teams in Division 1 last season, and this year isn't going to be very promising either. Twenty-point scorer Chavaughn Lewis graduated, and Hart and Truog are the highest scorers returning. This one could get ugly.
November 24th - Saint Francis (PA)
Last Season Record: 16-16
Ken Pom Ranking: 222
Key Players: G Malik Harmon (9.7 points, 2.7 assists), G Greg Brown (8 points), F Ronnie Drinnon (8 points, 8 rebounds)
Bowling Green played the Red Flash in the CIT last year, beating them in Pennsylvania 67-64. This will be a tough one for the Flashes, as while the Red Flash don't have a standout player, they have multiple solid performers. Saint Francis doesn't have a lot of size, so Kent State will look to exploit that weakness.
November 28th - at Pittsburgh
Last Season Record: 19-15
Ken Pom Ranking: 78
Key Players: G Sterling Smith (Coppin State transfer), F Jamel Artis (13.6 points, 6 rebounds), F Michael Young (13.4 points, 7.3 rebounds)
Last year was a weird year for Pitt, as it was their first time not winning 20 games in a season since 2000-2001. They lost in the first round of the NIT and that can't happen two years in a row. This is definitely a winnable game for the Flashes, but the Petersen Events Center is a tough place to play in.
December 5th - at Cleveland State
Last Season Record: 19-15
Ken Pom Ranking: 79
Key Players: G Andre Yates (6 points), G Kaza Keane (4.4 points)
Seemingly no team was hit harder over the offseason than the Vikings. They lost their two leading scorers to transfer when Anton Grady (Wichita State) and Trey Lewis (Louisville) chose to leave the program. Charlie Lee also graduated, leaving a dearth of talent in Cleveland. It may be a rebuilding year for Gary Waters.
December 7th - at NJIT
Last Season Record: 21-12
Ken Pom Ranking: 166
Key Players: G Damon Lynn (17.5 points), G Winfield Willis (12.2 points), F Tim Coleman (11.5 points, 5 rebounds)
The Highlanders were the darlings of college basketball last year after pulling off a shocking win at Michigan. They earned a postseason berth for the first time in program history and actually won three games in the CIT. Next year might be even better, as only two seniors graduated and every one of the core players return. What would have been a cakewalk a few years ago, this will be a really tough game for Kent State.
December 10th - Louisiana-Monroe
Last Season Record: 24-14
Ken Pom Ranking: 170
Key Players: F Majok Deng (10.7 points, 7.3 rebounds), G Nick Coppola (9.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists)
The Warhawks had one of the best years in program history last season, earning a CBI bid. They lose their leading scorer but return a bulk of their role players. After two straight road contests this may be a trap game where Kent State could end up losing a winnable game.
December 12th - Canisius
Last Season Record: 18-15
Ken Pom Ranking: 146
Key Players: F Phil Valenti (9.4 points, 4.5 rebounds), F Jermaine Crumpton (7.2 points)
Canisius has been a solid mid-major program the past few years under the watch of coach Jim Baron. Last year was a bit of a down year, and leading scorer Zach Lewis transferred to UMass. Both this game and the previous one against UL-Monroe are a part of the Las Vegas Classic.
December 22nd - 23rd
Las Vegas Classic
The matchups haven't been determined yet, but Kent State will play either SMU, Colorado or Penn State in the first game and the winner/loser of the other game. I would expect Kent State to play SMU in the first game, as the Mustangs are clearly the best team in the tournament.
December 30th - at North Carolina A&T
Last Season Record: 9-23
Ken Pom Ranking: 340
Key Players: F Bruce Beckford (15.2 points, 7 rebounds), G Ahmad Abdullah (7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists)
The Aggies were almost the worst team in Division 1 last year, and Beckford is really all they have. This should be an easy one.
January 2nd - Oberlin
Last Season Record: 10-16 (Division 3)
Ken Pom Ranking: N/A
Key Players: G Jack Poyle (11.5 points), G Nathan Cohen (11.2 points)
10-16 in Division 3? Yawn.