Indiana was seeded 4th in the Midwest region of the 2023 NCAA tournament. The Hoosiers take on 13-seeded Kent State on Friday night at MVP Arena in Albany, New York.
Friday’s game is scheduled for 9:55 p.m. ET tip on TBS:
Indiana is back in the NCAA tournament after a second-place finish in the Big Ten and a 21-win regular season. However, the Hoosiers have an uphill task to open the round of 16.
Automatically promoted from the Mid-American Conference, Kent State is an experienced, battle-hardened team with a defensive-first mentality. Kent State played a challenging non-conference list against Gonzaga, Houston and Charleston, losing those three games by 14 points overall.
Rob Senderoff, a former IU assistant in Bloomington during the Kelvin Sampson era, trains the Golden Flashes. Senderoff’s tenure at IU ended in violations of NCAA rules that eventually led to Sampson’s firing. The Golden Flashes are the highest-ranked No. 13 in the KenPom rankings and are currently one spot ahead of Charleston, No. 12.
MEET THE GOLDEN LIGHTNING
Kent State appeared destined for an NCAA tournament appearance in 2022, but four players were banned from the first half of the MAC championship over a Snapchat video. One of those players was Malique Jacobs, the team’s second best player. The Golden Flashes were on a 14-game winning streak when they came into play but lost 75-55 to Akron.
This year’s Kent State team is even better than last year’s version than Jacobs and Sincere wearing Anchoring one of the best backcourts nationally at mid-major.
Carry was a first-team All-MAC pick and Jacobs was a second-team pick. Both players made the league’s all-defensive team and Jacobs was named MAC Defensive Player of the Year.
The 6-foot-1 carry began his career at Duquesne, where he played three seasons before moving to Kent State before last season. He leads the Golden Flashes with 17.6 points per game and has started every one of Kent State’s 34 games. Carry also leads Kent State in assists (4.6 per game) and second in steals (1.7 per game).
While not a great 3-pointer, Carry likes the right corner from long range where he makes over 40 percent. Nationally, according to Synergy Sports, carry ranks in the 89th percentile in ball-screen situations where he can either look for his shot down the middle or find a cutter.
Jacobs is an elite defensive player and will play on Jalen Hood-Schifino. He averages 2.7 steals per game and the pressure he puts on the ball is relentless. He’s shorter than Hood-Schifino at just 6ft-3, but will have IU’s newcomer taking every scoring opportunity.
Jacobs averages 13 points offensively and getting on the line is the strongest part of his game. He was sixth in the MAC in free throw rate (FTA/FGA) with 51.5 percent, but converted with only a 66 percent clip from the line.
second grader Jalen Sullinger, the son of former Ohio State Guard JJ Sullinger and nephew of former Buckeye star Jared Sullinger, is the Kent State’s top 3-pointer. Sullinger’s uncle Julian is an assistant head coach at Kent State and also played for the Golden Flashes.
Sullinger is 50-to-120 on 3s (41.7 percent) this season. He’s only 5-foot-10 and not a great defender, but he gives that boost off the bench for a team that doesn’t have a lot of perimeter shooting. Sullinger recorded 34 minutes in the MAC Championship and scored 12 points.
Kent State starts as a sophomore at 6-foot-5 By Cameron Davis in the three with 6-foot-8 senior Miryne Thomas at the four and 6-foot-9 sophomores Cli’Ron Hornbeak at the five. Senior Chris Paytonthe 6-foot-7 tall plays vital minutes off the bench.
Thomas, who joined from Ball State, is the only Kent State player, along with carry and Jacobs, to average in double figures (10.7 points per game). Thomas can stretch the ground (35.3 percent on 3s), is a popular target for carry, and is a solid defender who can defend multiple positions.
Davis averages 6.6 points on 38.6 percent shooting and splits time between the three and four. He’s made 24 3s this season but has only managed a 24.5 percent clip.
Hornbeak is 6-foot-9, 225 pounds and an excellent shot blocker who can be prone to fouls. His block percentage is 6.4 percent, which ranks in the top 85 nationally and ranks second on the team behind Payton (7.5 percent). According to Synergy, Kent State ranks in the 92nd percentile on post-defense with just .707 points per allowed ball possession. With a swarming defense that will muddle covers, it will be important for Trayce Jackson-Davis to get the readings right and not force passes in jams.
Payton was 7-for-7 from the field in the MAC Championship, finishing with 17 points in 23 minutes. He shoots 75 percent from the field and will keep his eyes on the rim.
All statistics refer to Tuesday’s games.
Kent State wins on defense. While the Golden Lightnings lit up Toledo in the MAC Championship game with 93 points, the performance came against an opponent with a defense ranked 291 in the country.
Kent State has forced 544 turnovers this season while committing just 389. That’s a difference of 4.5 per game. According to KenPom, the Golden Flashes rank 30th in block percentage and 20th in steal percentage.
The Golden Flashes aren’t a high-percentage 3-point shooting team (33.6 percent), but they have 268 triples this season. Indiana has only had 187 3-pointers this season.
The clear areas Indiana can capitalize on are the Jackson-Davis matchup, Kent State’s poor defensive rebound, and possibly the free-throw line. Kent State won’t be able to match Jackson-Davis head-on, and he should be able to turn heads with his size and athleticism. In Kent State’s loss to Gonzaga, Drew Timme had 29 points and 17 rebounds, including seven offensive boards.
Kent State is 325th in the country in opponent free-throw rate, and with Senderoff’s preference for going no more than eight deep, foul troubles could become an issue for the Golden Flashes if the Hoosiers can take the ball.
The KenPom prognosis is Indiana at four with a 63 percent chance of a Hoosier win. The Sagarin ratings like Indiana out of five and the Vegas line is currently IU out of 4.5.
Looking at the other No. 4 vs. No. 13 matchups, Virginia (-5.5), Tennessee (-10.5) and UConn (-9.5) are the bigger favorites as of Wednesday morning.
According to Bart Torvik, Ohio in 2012 is the NCAA tournament team that most closely resembled Kent State in recent history to advance to the Sweet Sixteen:
While the Hoosiers are a trendy pick to tease, this is a game they should win if they play well.
Indiana has the two most talented players in the matchup, should be well-prepared for a tough Big Ten schedule and got a taste of the NCAA tournament last season with two games against Wyoming and Saint Mary’s.
(Photo Credit: Kent State Athletics)
Submitted to: 2013 NCAA Tournament, Kent State Golden Flashes