Kent State (21-11) at USC Upstate (20-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 15, 7:00 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: G.B Hodge Center (818) -- Spartanburg, South Carolina. Television: None. CIT Record: Kent State 0-1, USC Upstate 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The USC Upstate Spartans have come a long way in their first season as a fully certified NCAA Division I member, as they are set to host the Kent State Golden Flashes in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Kent State is no stranger to the postseason, as it has made tournament appearances in 13 of the past 14 seasons, including the inaugural CIT back in 2009 where it lost to Oakland in the first round. At 21-11 overall, the Golden Flashes were one of three Mid-American Conference teams to win 20 or more games this season, and they logged lengthy winning streaks of six and seven games on the campaign. KSU stumbled a bit down the stretch however, losing five of its last seven tilts, including in the MAC Tournament semifinals to Akron (78-74).
USC Upstate had a sensational season in the Atlantic Sun Conference, going 20-12 overall and tying for second place in the standings with a 13-5 league ledger. With 20 wins on the year, the Spartans have matched their win total from the last three seasons combined, and the 15-game improvement from the 2010-11 season (5-25) is the best in the nation. They had won six of their previous seven games before falling in the A-Sun tourney quarterfinals to Florida Gulf Coast (71-61).
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between Kent State and USC Upstate on the hardwood.
Leading Kent State's offense (70.8 ppg) is senior Justin Greene, who was named to the All-MAC First Team after averaging 14.1 ppg and 6.8 rpg, while shooting 49.8 percent from the field. The 6-8 forward was especially good to close out the season, averaging 16.6 points and 9.0 caroms in his last five outings. Helping shoulder the load for the Golden Flashes' are guards (12.8 ppg, 2.6 apg) and Carlton Guyton (10.1 ppg), who combine for 3.6 three-pointers per game. In addition to a stellar offense, KSU also has a ball-hawking defense, which allows just 65.8 ppg and comes up with 8.6 spg, which includes five players who average at least one steal per tilt. Not surprisingly, those thefts help the team win the turnover battle more often than not, laying claim to a differential of +2.19 in that department.
USC Upstate mirrors Kent State in a lot of ways, as it ranked fifth in the Atlantic Sun in scoring offense (71.8 ppg), fourth in scoring defense (68.7 ppg), second in steals (8.2 spg) and third in turnover margin (+1.34). The squad also had a conference-best rebounding margin of +4.6. The Spartans were paced by the A-Sun Player of the Year in Torrey Craig, who led the league in scoring (16.8 ppg) and was second in rebounding (7.9 rpg). Craig was a contributor across the stat sheet, as he also logged 1.2 spg, 1.1 bpg and drained 80 three-pointers. Ty Greene is the team's most reliable backcourt performer, adding 11.2 ppg and 2.3 apg to the mix, and Ricardo Glenn is another solid presence in the paint, contributing 9.4 ppg and 7.0 rpg on 52 percent field goal efficiency. The Spartans are led by A-Sun Coach of the Year Eddie Payne, who recorded his 400th career win in the regular-season finale against Stetson.
USC Upstate has been a amazing story this season, and it will surely have a great chance to win in front of its home crowd at the G.B. Hodge Center. But Kent State has more postseason experience and will ride another big game from Greene to a close win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kent State 73, USC Upstate 71
03/15 10:35:40 ET