No. 3 UB vs. No. 6 Kent State
Mid-American Conference Quarterfinal
9 p.m. Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland
Radio: 1520 AM.
Records: UB 17-14. Kent State 18-13
The Set-Up: UB goes for an unprecedented third straight MAC championship, but the first step is a tough one. UB is ranked higher in the Pomeroy analytic ranking – No. 126 in the nation compared with 154 for Kent State. And while Kent has a better record, it played a far easier non-conference schedule (317th compared with 83rd for UB). What matters most, however, is how the teams are playing right now. Kent is hot, with six wins in its last seven games, including a 77-69 decision at UB just two weeks ago.
The Matchup: Unlike UB, Kent has a great low-post scorer in senior Jimmy Hall, who gives them 18 points and 10 rebounds a night (like Justin Moss gave UB two years ago). Kent has a fast off guard in Jaylin Walker, who is the equal to C.J. Massinburg. Kent has a quality wing in Deon Edwin (14.7). However, those are the only three reliable scorers for the Golden Flashes. If UB holds one of them down and has a good offensive night, it has a good chance.
Transition battle: Kent’s defense is really good in the halfcourt, and it has been made better in the last two weeks by the fact the Kent offense doesn’t make turnovers. Can UB get some transition baskets, or will it be stuck in a half-court slugfest?
Kent Quickness: Kent has a 7-foot center, Adonis DeLaRosa, to go along with Hall. But his minutes are down. He’s only played about 15 percent of the minutes the past two weeks.
The main Kent lineup: 6-0 Jalen Avery, 6-1 Walker, 6-3 Edwin, 6-5 Mitch Peterson, 6-8 Hall. This five rebounds the heck out of the ball. Kent is No. 1 in the nation in offensive rebounds a game (15.5 a game).
The secondary Kent lineup (about 30 percent of the time): Aver, Walker, 6-2 Kevin Zabo, Edwin, Hall. That’s really small, with the 6-3 Edwin at the 4 spot.
Said UB’s Nate Oats: “They’re starting Edwin at the 4 instead of the 3. They’re playing DeLaRosa a lot less. Jimmy Hall’s playing 5 and not that much 4. So they’re a little more athletic, they get back better. To me they’re harder to guard when they’re small, and they’re faster.”
Will UB be able to hurt Kent with a size lineup? (Blake Hamilton, CJ, Willie Conner, David Kadiri and Nick Perkins is the primary bigger option.)
Or will UB have to go small vs. small (Blake, CJ, Dontay Caruthers, Conner, Perkins)?
Chances are Perkins, Kadiri and Raheem Johnson all are going to see minutes defending Hall, just to spread out the fouls against the Kent big man.
Just shoot me? UB is shooting 32.5 percent from three-point range on the season, eighth in the 12-team MAC.
Not-so-bold prediction: Thirty-two percent will not produce a three-peat. In fact, it probably won't get UB to Friday's semifinals. How much better than 32 can UB produce Thursday night?