#123 Kent State Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Kent State Golden Flashes
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #123
Conference Rank: #3 Mid-American
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It took some time for everything to come together for Kent State during the 2016-2017 campaign. Heading into mid-February the Golden Flashes were 5-7 in MAC play. But then Coach Rob Senderoff’s team started winning close games instead of losing them. Kent State won five of their last six regular season games and barely beat Central Michigan in overtime in the first round of the conference tournament to move on to Cleveland. Once there, the Golden Flashes beat the top three seeded teams in the conference tournament by a combined ten points. The result was a trip out west to take on UCLA in the NCAA Tournament, where they lost 97-80. This team loses some key pieces, but there is enough talent to challenge for a conference title.
2016-17 Record: 22-14, 10-8
2016-17 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Rob Senderoff
Coach Record: 122-81 at Kent State, 122-81 overall
Who’s Out:
Losing an All-MAC talent like Jimmy Hall will be difficult to overcome. Hall led the team with 19.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 blocks per game. Not only will it take a team effort to replace his production, but Hall was often the only forward on the floor and now the Golden Flashes have to find some big guys who can be productive in the paint. Deon Edwin is the other significant loss. He averaged 13.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists and, along with Hall, was the clear leader of the team during the 2016-2017 campaign. Jerrelle Deberry, Leo Edwards and Jon Fleming are not returning after seeing limited playing time last year.
Who’s In:
Once again Coach Senderoff has added experienced newcomers to help rebuild his team. Taishaun Johnson has some Division I experience while playing at South Alabama. The 6-0 guard averaged 12.5 points during his freshman campaign and he will immediately help replace the scoring lost with Edwin. With more options needed in the frontcourt, Kent State added junior college transfers Jonathan Nwankwo and Akiean Frederick. Nwankwo, who signed with VCU before hitting the junior college ranks, can bring plenty of toughness to the paint. He is an efficient scorer in the paint and should find a significant role right away if he can stay healthy. Like Nwankwo, Frederick is 6-9. He averaged 22.5 points and 11.2 rebounds last year at Sinclair Community College in Dayton and can stretch the defense with his shooting ability. The lone incoming freshman can make an impact right away too. BJ Duling, a 6-7 forward, is a superb athlete who will have plenty of impressive finishes above the rim before his career at Kent State is over. He is a great addition for the Golden Flashes and a star in the making. For now, Duling will at least be able to provide a few quality minutes off the bench.
Who to Watch:
The focus will shift to the backcourt with Hall gone. And Jaylin Walker is ready to spearhead that effort. The 6-1 junior averaged 15.8 points and 4.4 rebounds and connected on 88 three-pointers, which was more than double of anybody else on the team. Walker will attack the basket effectively as well and expect him to take a bulk of the big shots for the Flashes this year. Fellow junior Jalen Avery started 25 games last season, averaging 5.1 points and 2.2 assists. He is turning into a solid floor leader and it will be his job to help create shots for the new scorers. Kevin Zabo, Mitch Peterson and Desmond Ridenour are all capable of emerging as double digit scorers. Zabo, a 6-2 senior, was fourth on the team with 5.6 points per game and the senior started looking much more comfortable on the floor by the end of his debut season at Kent State. Peterson started 25 games last season in large part due to his 6-5 frame. He is a better shooter than his 29.9 three-point shooting percentage would indicate and the hope is that a year of experience will help Peterson develop some consistency. Ridenour is the player most like Edwin since he can do quite a bit of everything.
Final Projection:
Kent State has a lot of options this year. They should have the frontcourt depth to play big or they can slide Peterson to the four spot for stretches and play small like they did last year. Along with the newcomers, Kent State has Alonzo Walker, Danny Pippen and Adonis De La Rosa to man the frontcourt. Walker and Pippen are both sophomores who averaged around ten minutes per game as freshmen. When Kent State wants to go even bigger, they can call on De La Rosa, a seven-foot junior. He averaged 3.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and nearly one block in just 13.2 minutes per game. But losing Hall and Edwin is huge. Kent State has versatility and options more so than last year, but some of those players must emerge as consistent and dangerous scorers. If that happens, this is a team that will finish better than 10-8 in MAC play this season and be extremely dangerous by March.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI / CIT / V16
Projected Starting Five:
Jalen Avery, Junior, Guard, 5.1 points per game
Jaylin Walker, Junior, Guard, 15.8 points per game
Mitch Peterson, Sophomore, Guard, 5.1 points per game
Alonzo Walker, Sophomore, Forward, 2.2 points per game
Akiean Frederick, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 77.0 (87th in nation, 6th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 73.0 (199, 4)
Field-Goal Percentage: 42.8 (254, 10)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.5 (168, 7)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.1 (194, 7)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 32.0 (301, 10)
Free-Throw Percentage: 71.9 (115, 3)
Rebound Margin: 5.9 (24, 1)
Assists Per Game: 12.5 (242, 8)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.9 (160, 7)