Diving in Kent State and James Madison

Welcome to the third edition of the College Basketball Mid-Major Roundup, where I select two top-tier NCAA Division I college basketball teams and take an unnecessarily deep dive into the state of their programs.

As a fan of college and gamblers, you need to stay up to date with the latest major mids. These are the people who win conference tournaments and make Cinderella work.

I’m here to break down two of these teams, one from the MAC and one from the Sun Belt.

It’s hard not to love Kent State. The golden flashes are all I want from a basketball team.

Kent State plays an aggressive and energetic man-to-man defense that has taken down every opponent. The Flash crept up to 35th in defensive efficiency behind the top 30 eFG% allowed (45.1%) and the top 10 defensive turnover rate (24.9%).

The flashes stop everything.

Do you want to run pick and roll? The Flashes are fifth nationally in PPP selection allowed (.521).

Want out in transition? Flash is #23 in PPP transmission allowed (.821).

Want a spot? The Flashes are 36th nationally in PPP allowed (.775).

Want to publish? Flashes are 46 in PPP allowed (.663).

It also contains any movement you want off the ball or off screen, which is key to all of these incredible defensive stats.

Kent State has an innate ability to force you into bad iso positions. It will not allow opponents to run good attacking combinations with decent half distances, which leads to inefficiency in every area of ​​the floor (except for corner 3).

Image credit: Central Bank of Bahrain Analytics

But while coach Rob Sendrov put together an excellent defensive line – something he’s been great at doing over the years – Jamie and Jose pulled it off.

Kent State has returned four starters from a team that finished second in the MAC tournament last season, including defenseman Malique Jacobs.

Jacobs is working on his third straight MAC defensive all-around team, but should be considering a MAC DPOY. He’s the current MAC leader in EvanMiya’s DBPR scale, and he’s not particularly close.

Jacobs can lock in the opposing team’s top scorers each night, giving the other four players — all good defenders in their own right — enough flexibility to be aggressive and limit everything else.

Meanwhile, Kent State’s top scorer is almost impossible to stop. Defending MAC Player of the Year Sincere Carry is back in full force, dropping 16.3 points and 5.9 assists per game while hitting 1 million steps back 3 seconds and making incredibly impressive shots like this:

The problem is, Kent State doesn’t have much offense outside of Curry. Nor has Flash figured out how to make all the pieces work. This is because they fall into isolation groups at the fourth highest rate nationally despite being ranked 19th in isolation efficiency.

But when you have the best player on earth, and you have the power to knock out the opponent’s best player, you win matches.

And look at the results for Kent State. The Flashes are 11-3, and their only three losses are:

  • A two-point loss against the mid-major powerhouse Charleston.
  • A five-point loss to Houston, holding them to just 49 points while leading late on.
  • A seven-point loss against Gonzaga, which held her under 75 for only the second time this season.

This is a great resume. Kent State is the team that should win the MAC title, a team that can upset the Blue Bloods in their first tournament weekend.

The most surprising team in college basketball this season?

Look no further James Madison Dukes.

It’s funny because the football team did something similar. The Dukes jumped from FCS to the FBS level last season and surprised the world with their offensive firepower. Todd Centio and the Dukes are 13th in scoring (37 PPG).

Well, the Dukes of college basketball moved from the CAA to the Sun Belt and beat every defense in their path.

James Madison is first nationally in scoring, with 89.7 points per game. The Dukes have a whopping 10 wins by at least 15 points this season, including some brutal scores (106-58 over Hampton, 115-79 over LIU).

Mark Bengton is a stellar offensive coach who returned with four players from last season, including his two best goals in Vado Morse and Takal Molson. These two players average 24.7 points, and fellow freshman Terrence Edwards adds 11.3 points.

The Dukes are very active on the defensive end, ranking 19th in defensive turnover and using these turnovers to create transition opportunities. James Madison is fifth in transfer points per game (24.1) and is 30th highest in PPP (1.191).

In the half court you get a lot of pick and roll combos, mainly with Morse and Molson, but also with several ball players. James Madison is eighth in bench minutes.

You’ll also see a lot of Dukes’ best players’ chops, and they can smash the offensive boards.

Either way, add the transition offense to his penetrating dribble drive and offensive rebounding prowess, and James Madison has landed defenses with the best of them.

James Madison is sixth nationally in percentage of shots taken at the rim, averaging nearly 36 FGA per game either at the rim or in the paint.

The Dukes are going down on you, and they have no problems making those shots.

Image credit: Central Bank of Bahrain Analytics

Surprisingly, the Dukes rank much higher on Kienbaum’s defensive proficiency scores. Defensive turnovers help, but James Madison is also an excellent player in shooting competition and screen defense.

Dukes ranks in the 94th percentile in permitted positional PPP (.750) and in the 86th percentile in permitted PPP (.629).

This is a wild development from a team that finished last in the CAA last season with defensive efficiency. But then again, Byington is quoted in blue Ribbon During the pre-season he said:

“I think our defense will improve a lot. We’ve added the athleticism. We’ll have some big guards and guys who can move around and still be able to get in the defense and make them uncomfortable.”

Either way, the pieces come together for that team on offense and defense.

Image credit: Central Bank of Bahrain Analytics

The Dukes are the team to beat in the Fun Belt.

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