On Friday, No. 4 seed Indiana men’s basketball will begin its march toward a sixth banner when it begins NCAA Tournament play against No. 13-seed Kent State University.
The Hoosiers will face the Golden Flashes, who won the Mid-American Conference Tournament championship to reach the tournament, at 9:55 p.m. in Albany, New York.
Before Indiana takes on Kent State, the Indiana Daily Student interviewed Jacob Shondel, a reporter for The Kent Stater, to preview the matchup and help Indiana fans get an inside look at its upcoming opponent.
The questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
IDS: What are Kent State’s strengths and weaknesses?
Shondel: It really starts with their guards, with redshirt seniors Sincere Carry and Malique Jacobs. They led the team the past two seasons, and this season they’ve turned it up a notch. Another one is their defense — top 50 in scoring defense in the nation, top 20 in turnovers forced, and they score a lot of points off turnovers.
Their weaknesses: their offense is a little inconsistent at times. They’re not incredibly efficient, so they can run into lulls on that end of the floor.
IDS: Carry’s name has been coming up a lot, and he’s a veteran guard, which Indiana has had trouble with this year. What makes him so good?
Shondel: Sincere, he’s a volume shooter. There’s some games where he’s not going to shoot that well, but he’s definitely not afraid of any sort of moment when there’s a time for a shot. Last season, he had one of the better seasons in Kent State history, probably even MAC history. He was MAC Player of the Year, first-team All-Defense, so he’s really someone who can do it all.
The only weakness he has is there’s times when he’s not as efficient. He’s going to shoot the ball 15 times. It doesn’t really matter how the night is going.
IDS: What will Kent State do in post play to match up with senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis?
Shondel: Down low, Kent State has two players: senior forward Chris Payton and sophomore center Cli’Ron Hornbeak. They’re very interchangeable. I know it’s going to be a handful to take care of Jackson-Davis — not many people in the country have been able to do it — but they’ve got two guys who are very efficient down low in guarding and switching.
IDS: Kent State has close losses to Houston and Gonzaga. How has Kent State kept it tight against good competition?
Shondel: They’re a very confident team. A lot of their confidence and motivation stems from last season, losing in the MAC Championship by 20 points to Akron. They’re a veteran team led by two redshirt seniors, they have a couple other seniors, just a lot of confidence.
IDS: What does Kent State need to do to upset Indiana?
Shondel: If they play the defense they’ve played all year, force turnovers and score off turnovers, they have a chance to win. They’ve struggled on the road, but they could benefit as often crowds in the NCAA Tournament get behind the underdogs. That could help them a lot.
If they just capture the first half, the first 10 minutes, and play their style of basketball, they can keep the game close and come out on top late.
IDS: Kent State is a trendy upset pick in a lot of brackets. What’s your prediction?
Shondel: I’ll have to be a little bit biased. The way they played against Gonzaga, Houston and the College of Charleston, and the way they're playing right now, if there was ever a time for Kent State to upset a team, this is the time to do it. I think it’ll be a close game and one of the best games of the first round. It’ll be 77-71, Kent State.