PG: Michael Porrini (Sr)/Devareaux Manley (Fr)/Jarekious Bradley (Fr)
Gone: G-Rodriguez Sherman, PF-Darius Leonard (transfer-Campbell), F/C-DeAndre Nealy (transfer-Northern Kentucky)
The Kent State Golden Flashes suffered a heart-breaking end to the MAC Tournament Championship game when they lost by one point to Akron in overtime, thus missing out on the NCAA Tournament. With six of their top seven players back from the last year, Kent State will once again be the team to beat in the MAC.
There is a change at the top for the Golden Flashes. Assistant coach Rob Senderoff takes over for Geno Ford, who, somewhat surprisingly, left to take the head coaching job at Bradley. Senderoff inherits a team that uniquely returns the conference's Player of the Year (POY), Defensive Player of the Year, and Sixth Man of the Year.
Justin Greene was the MAC POY after leading the team in points, rebounds, and blocked shots for a second straight season. His field goal percentage did dip a bit last season so if he can become more reliable with his jump shot while continuing his powerful presence in the post, his numbers should jump even higher.
Justin Manns will once again join Greene in the starting frontcourt. Manns (6-11) is an athletic big man who makes an impact due to his rebounding and shot blocking. Rutgers transfer Patrick Jackson is more of a small forward but could play some four in what would give Kent State a smaller lineup. Mark Henninger played sparingly last year but should see an expanded role this season as the only true post reserve. He does have the ability to stretch defenses with his jump shot. JUCO transfer Chris Evans could be an impact player right away as he is capable of playing multiple positions.
There is a ton of experience and talent in the backcourt with returning starters Michael Porrini and Randal Holt. After transferring in from a junior college, Porrini was the league's Defensive Player of the Year in his first year at Kent State. He is not much of an outside shooter but distributes the rock well and is also a terrific rebounder for his size. Holt is a bit of a gunner who attempted 200 triples last season, but only made 66. He either needs to become a more consistent outside shooter or ease up on his quick trigger.
MAC Sixth Man of the Year Carlton Guyton figures to replace Rodriguez Sherman in the starting lineup. Another impact JUCO transfer last year, Guyton saw starter's minutes and had the highest three-point percentage on the team. His transition into the starting lineup should be rather seamless.
The athletic, versatile, defensive-minded Eric Gaines will replace Guyton as the first guard off the bench. Seldom-used Scooter Johnson is the only other returning guard and will compete with freshmen Kris Brewer and Devareaux Manley for minutes in the backcourt. Jarekious Bradley has been suspended indefinitely after being charged with felony burglary and criminal damaging, making his status for the upcoming season uncertain.
The Golden Flashes also brought in Tulsa transfer Bryson Pope who will have to sit out this season per NCAA rules. He is a versatile wing who started 21 games for the Golden Hurricane last season and should be an impact player in 2012-2013.
As they have learned the past two seasons, simply winning the conference regular-season title will not be enough. With only one MAC team likely to get a spot in the tourney, the Golden Flashes will have to get the job done in the conference tournament to avoid the disappointment of the past two years.
Player to Watch: Justin Greene, PF
By the end of the season, Greene will be in the top five in school history in scoring, rebounds, and blocked shots. He averaged 15.4 points per game last season despite shooting just 47.8% from field, down from 54.5 percent as a sophomore. There is no reason to think that he can't score 18-20 points a night if he ups his field goal percentage, which would only increase the odds of him repeating as MAC Player of the Year.