|It's a ritual that Buff fans have been unable to enjoy in a very long time.|
|Gates is, by far, the most famous player to come out of the KSU basketball program.|
CU, of course, comes in having, so far, successfully avoided the NIT let-down that has felled so many decent teams in the past (and even some this year). Seemingly easy victories over the past week have left many Buff fans, myself included, dreaming of a trip to NYC and a shot at the NIT title. But it's not over yet. This KSU team can do some damage to CU, and will not be a push over. The Buffs had better be taking the Flashes seriously if they want to reunite with hoop-father Chauncey Billups in the nation's basketball capital.
|'Dre and the Buffs have flown high in their first two NIT games, but there's still 3 games on CU's radar. From: the BDC|
That's right, truly national TV.
I once again renew my plea for Buff Nation to fill the CEC. We've done a great job supporting the team so far in the NIT, but a lack-luster crowd tonight could kill all the momentum that has been building. If you're in the area, please, PLEASE, come out. The students are gone for spring break, and we'll need all the butts in seats we can scrounge up to make the CEC as intimidating an arena as possible.
|Cory needs to hear that CEC roar one more time if the Buffs are to make it to NYC. From: the BDC|
Click below for my preview
Opponents season so far - The Flashes are the type of team that some pundits point to when they bemoan the conference tourney structure. The Flashes were the regular season MAC champs, and entered the conference tournament as the favorite to earn the automatic bid to the Dance. Upon reaching the final, they fell in overtime to the 5th-best team in the conference, the Akron Zips. It was the Zips who barely made the Notre Dame Irish breathe hard in the first round. The long and short of the story is that the best team in the conference gets relegated to the NIT while the 5th best gets to play chum to the sharks in the Tournament; not entirely fair, and it gives credence to the "regular-season doesn't matter" argument that I hear all the time.
|Akron was able to deny the flashes a Tournament berth. I'm essentially cool with it.|
As a fan of a big-conference team, I will never have to face this issue. Should CU ever win the regular season in the Pac-12, I have no doubt that the Buffs will be in the Tournament. But, you do have to feel sorry for a team that proved to be a champion over the course of a season, only to get overtimed in the final.
For the record, however, I do approve of conference tournaments deciding automatic bids. I like the idea that a winless team going into their final game of the season can reel off 10 or 11 wins to earn a national title. There's something poetic about the David vs Goliath possibilities. Yes, some undeserving teams get to play, but is that so bad? Who would've heard the names Bryce Drew or Jim Valvano had they not won their conference tournaments? It's for the better.
Regardless, the Golden Flashes had themselves a darned good season. Roaring to a 12-4 conference mark, the team has now won 8 of their last 10 games en route to an overall record of 25-11. They didn't take many chances with their non-conference schedule, however, and their best win may be a semi-neutral court victory over MAAC second-place finishers Iona in the first week of the season. They took games against Florida and UAB, but never really competed in them. In an interesting note, while the team had gone an impressive 7-8 in road games (all of their wins in conference play and the NIT), prior to last week's 1-point win at St Mary's, the Flashes hadn't traveled past the Mississippi River. It's a big country guys, get out and explore all of it!
|The Flashes were able to shock the higher-seeded St Mary's Gaels in their only other trip west.|
But it's not the offense that spells success for this squad, it's their defense and rebounding. They cause turnovers at a clip (11%) that puts them in the top-50 of the nation, and they rebound pretty well on the defensive glass, picking up near 38/game, also good for the top-50 in the country.
Coaching - Head coach Geno Ford is an Ohio native who was, once upon a time, selected as Mr. Basketball in the state, and he scored more points in his high school career than LeBron James did(Thanks Wikipedia!). He played basketball for KSU's MAC rival Ohio University before slogging through coaching stints at two small Ohio schools en-route to the Kent State job. He's been mostly successful at the Flashes helm, going 66-36 in 3 seasons with a sterling 35-13 conference record. He's now posted back-to-back regular season titles with no Tournament appearances to show for it, and was named the conference coach of the year in each of those seasons.
|Coach Ford has produced 3 successful years so far at KSU.|
Key Players - There is no doubt that the Flashes key player, and a tricky challenge for Buffalo defenders, is junior forward Justin Greene. The 6-8 New York native is playing for the opportunity to play in front of his friends and family, and will almost certainly be difficult for the Buffs to contain. He averages 15/8 per game with over a block thrown in for kicks. Strong, athletic, and skilled, the power forward is the real deal; not surprisingly he was tabbed as the MAC player of the year.
|Greene can be a load in the paint, and it wouldn't surprise me if he goes off tonight.|
|More often than not its the Flashes riding the performance of Greene.|
Other key Flashes to watch out for include 6-4 Chicago native Carlton Guyton. The 6-4 guard has been hot lately, going 5-10 from 3 over the last 3 games, and has recorded double digit points in 5 of the last 6 KSU games. Overall on the season, Guyton averages 13/4. Watch out for him on the offensive glass, as he's been averaging 4/game in those last 3 games.
|Guyton has proven to be a quality scoring option when Greene can't do everything.|
Prediciton - I'm a little worried about Greene. He's been slowing down a bit lately, but the Buffs have been known to rejuvenate the play of many post players. I expect him to have a big game to keep the Flashes in it far longer than they should be. I'm also concerned about the probable absence of Nate Tomlinson (he missed practice yesterday, although the junior said in post-game comments last week that he'd be willing to shoot up to play). We saw in the middle of the conference schedule what happens when he's gone from the rotation; and we've seen, especially in the Texas game, how good the offense can look like with him controlling things.
However, I don't think it'll matter.
Alec Burks and Cory Higgins are playing their absolute, last game at the CEC, and I don't think they're going to allow some MAC school to come in and push them around. The Buffs seemed to have saved their best basketball for the right time of year, and if Al and Cory again combine for over 45 points, I don't see anyway that KSU could win. The Buffs should see the bright lights of NYC next week after they secure a win in their 20th and final home game of the season.
CU 85 - Kent St 77