March Madness is finally here! Now’s the time to brush up on hiding your browser when the boss is near because you can almost watch basketball 24/7 for the next couple of weeks. On Friday evening, third seeded UCLA will take on 14th seeded Kent State in Sacramento, and while this seems like an easy win, Kent State will not take this game lying down.
The Golden Flashes are living that classic March Madness Cinderella story—they beat the top three seeded teams in the Mid-American Conference last weekend to earn their first invitation to the Big Dance since 2008. In a phone interview with the Los Angeles Times, Kent State Coach Rob Senderoff said, “March is about incredible stories; March is about special plays and special times, and we’re going into the game hoping that we have more of our story to tell.”
It’s no surprise that Kent State will have their work cut out for them offensively; they only have three players averaging in double figures to UCLA’s six, and the fourth person down the stats sheet only averages 5.4 points per game. Senior forward Jimmy Hall will be the one to stop with his double-double average—18.9 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. At 6’8, he’ll likely be matched up with our T.J. Leaf, who has two inches on him, but slightly lower statistics. I believe T.J.’s skill set will likely surpass Hall’s, and easier competition in the Mid-American Conference gives Hall his higher stats.
Guards Jaylin Walker and Deon Edwin average a combined 47.5 points per game, and along with Hall, that accounts for 62.3% of the team’s 76.9 points per game. Kent State is also a decent free throw shooting team, averaging at just over 71%. They will more than likely look to get most of their points in the paint, as their entire starting lineup makes less than a third of their shots attempted behind the arc. Walker was clutch in both the semifinal and final game in the conference tournament, scoring a career high 30 points against Akron to take it all in the championship game. A startling statistic is their rebounding—they average an astounding 14.97 offensive rebounds per game, second nationally behind North Carolina’s 15.79.
If you’d like to brush up on our opponent, here are highlights of Kent State’s win over Akron from last weekend, courtesy of GoldenFlashes TV: