Tag Archives: NCAA

Kent City Did It Again

There are few teams that lost as much as the Kent City Eagles did last spring as two all-time Kent City greats, Kenzie Bowers and Jenna Harrison, graduated. The two school and state record holders left the small town of Kent City, Michigan to continue their basketball careers in the collegiate ranks (Bowers at Illinois State and Harrison at Siena Heights).

One could have been forgiven for assuming the Eagles would take a step back in 2022, even as they brought back several key pieces of that historic run. The Eagles had other plans and have battled their way into the state final with an unblemished record for the second straight season after handling Madison Heights Bishop Foley with relative ease. The Eagles got a huge boost from junior guard Lexie Bowers, who was held to just 6 points in the state quarterfinal, but was on fire inside Breslin for the second straight year.

Last year the Eagles faced Grass Lake and Big 10 Indiana commit Lexus Bargesser & Northwood commit Gabi Lutchka. This year the Eagles advance to challenge another giant, Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.

The Gators are loaded with Division 1 talent and led by Texas A&M commit Mya Petticord and Bethune-Cookman commit Karianna Woods.

One could also be forgiven for thinking the Eagles should shift into “just glad to have made it” mode with such a task ahead of them Saturday evening. While Arbor Prep’s aggressive and physical style of play will be on display in the final, it should be expected to see a Kent City team ready to respond and play with a chip on their shoulder as well.

It is not often that the David in the “David and Goliath” metaphor is the defending state runner-up, but it is the place Kent City finds itself and the stigma they’ve been upending all season long on their way to a perfect 26-0 record going into the final matchup of the season with a state championship on the line.

Kenzie Bowers and Illinois State Redbirds are Going Dancing

Just a year removed from leading the Kent City Eagles to their school’s first ever state championship game, Kenzie Bowers is flying high again as a true freshman with the Illinois State Redbirds. ISU just punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament after stunning victories in the Missouri Valley semifinal and final games.

Though Bowers’ role has looked much different this year than when she wore the red & white of Kent City, she has played an important one for the emergent Redbirds with stretches as a starter when others were down due to covid protocols and as a reliable player of the bench.

Whatever her role will be in the Redbirds opening matchup with #2 seed Iowa, it is certainly an incredible moment in her young collegiate career and one that many excellent players never achieve. Such a moment may not come again, but for now the Redbirds have this season and only one task in front of them: beat the Hawkeyes.

Michigan MAC Men’s Hoops Struggling

In recent years, the Michigan MAC was in the thick of things and managed signature upsets if not outright success, but countless transfers have left things more in doubt in the 2021/2022 season.

Central Michigan (2-12 overall, 1-2 conference) and Western Michigan (4-13 overall, 0-6 conference) are at the very bottom of the MAC. The rest of the conference maintains overall records near .500 or better, but Eastern Michigan (7-9 overall, 2-3 conference) is the lone Michigan MAC program to be clawing out of the gutter.

It is not uncommon for MAC programs to struggle through non-conference play and hit their stride after the new year, but while that trend could be relied on in previous years, EMU and CMU are on two game losing streaks and WMU is on an astonishing 7-game losing slide despite nearly knocking off Akron (10-5) by a point.

Western Michigan, for their part, has been heavily impacted by transfers as MAC standouts left for the Big 10/Big East (F, Brandon Johnson) and Sun Belt/PAC-12 (PG, Michael Flowers). Those transfers followed the firing of longtime Bronco coach, Steve Hawkins. Forward, Chase Barrs, also transferred to Florida A&M and while he never played a huge role for the Broncos as an underclassmen, his size and experience two years later is missed.

Central Michigan has also been slammed by transfers and graduated key players in droves to make matters worse in recent years. PJ Mitchell, Ra’Shad McDaniels, Malik Muhammad and several others in the last two off-seasons. The vacuum created an incredible situation where the Chippewas added an astonishing 12 new players before this season (4 freshman and 8 transfers). The upheaval followed the firing of longtime coach Keno Davis and hiring of Kentucky basketball staff member, Tony Barbee.

Eastern Michigan has graduated key pieces in recent years, but has also managed to develop and, perhaps most importantly, retain their young talent. Those underclassmen have given the Eagles consistency in their roster with names like Darion Spottsville, Thomas Binelli and Derek Ballard providing leadership to a large freshman/transfer class that has made a huge impact. That consistency has given the Eagles’ turnover what the Broncos and Chippewas have been missing: chemistry. The Eagles also have a first year head coach in Stan Heath, but the circumstances for previous coach, Rob Murphy, dismissal was less tumultuous and the new hire has been the only among his peers to see reasonable success.

The jury is still out on what these three programs will produce in the coming years, but it appears each has a long rebuild ahead of it with Eastern Michigan having a legitimate head start.

MSU Spartans Standout Backs Out of Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl Game

Junior Spartan star running back, Kenneth Walker III has announced that he will be entering the NFL Draft and forgoing his final year of collegiate eligibility. He has also announced that he will be withdrawing from participation in the team’s Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl game against Pitt to focus on combine preparation.

The move is a blow to the Spartan offense, which has largely relied on the stellar runner, but the matchup against Pitt is still a favorable one, as their opponent failed to earn a victory against MAC participant Western Michigan earlier in the year. Whether Pitt star quarterback, Kenny Pickett is undecided on participation in the game. In the end, the likely biggest loser in the Peach Bowl will be the viewers with stars holding out in the teams’ final games of the 2021-2022 season.

Going Bowling: All FBS Michigan Football Programs Earn Bowl Bids

It will be a busy holiday season for each of the Michigan FBS programs. Michigan, Michigan State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan all qualified and will participate in bowl games.

No. 2 ranked Michigan (12-1) will play on Friday, Dec. 31 against No.2 Georgia (12-1) in the Orange Bowl being played at Miami Gardens. Michigan earned their place in the college football playoff for the first time in program history after back to back statement wins against Ohio State in the season finale and Iowa in the Big 10 title game. The playoff semifinal game is set to air on ESPN at 7:30 p.m.

No. 10 Michigan State (10-2) will face off with No. 12 Pittsburgh (who lost earlier in the season to visiting Western Michigan) in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia. That game will be played Thursday, Dec. 30 at 7pm and will be aired on ESPN.

Western Michigan (7-5) will challenge Nevada at Ford Field in Detroit and have the benefit of the closest thing to a home game that a team can expect in a bowl game. Western Michigan had a disappointing stretch of games during the middle of the season before dominating MAC Champion, Northern Illinois, 42-21. Despite falling off high expectations and big wins early in the season, WMU will look to make one last statement against a solid Nevada program. The game kicks off early in the day on Monday, Dec. 27 at 11 am on ESPN.

Central Michigan (8-4), considered to be one of the top teams in the MAC after losing its only two conference games by a combined 12 points, will be participating in the Barstool Arizona Bowl. While Chippewa fans are excited to participate in the inaugural Barstool Bowl, many are also looking forward to the resurgent performance of Scott Stapp of Creed, reprising his infamous halftime escapades from a Thanksgiving feature in 2001z They will face the vaunted Boise State Broncos at 2 p.m. on New Years Eve and will be broadcast by Barstool Sports.

Eastern Michigan (7-5) will face Liberty on Saturday, Dec. 18, in the LendingTree Bowl. That game is set to kick off at 5:45 p.m. on ESPN.

Michigan Outside Hitter Capture Earns Weekly Big 10 Award

Sophomore outside hitter, Jess Mruzik, earned Big 10 player of the week. The recognition wraps up the final week of regular season play for the Wolverines.

• Averaged 4.38 kills and 2.63 digs per set with a .368 hitting percentage last week as Michigan closed out the regular season with a pair of wins and earned a berth in this year’s NCAA Tournament

• Posted a double-double (20 kills, 15 digs) in the Wolverines’ victory over No. 23 Illinois on Nov. 24

• Added 15 kills, six digs and three blocks in the regular-season finale vs. Northwestern on Nov. 26

• Earns her first career Player of the Week honor

• Last Michigan Player of the Week: May Pertofsky (March 15, 2021)

Hunter Dickinson Nets Freshman of the Week Honors for 2nd Straight Week

Hunter Dickinson has been named Big 10 Freshman of the Week for the second time in as many weeks.

The 7’1” center from Alexandria, VA AVERAGED 19 points on 68% shooting, 7 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots in wins over Toledo (4-3) and Penn State (3-2) to help the Maize & Blue remain undefeated and improve to 6-0. The win in their 2020-2021 conference schedule has propelled the Wolverines into the top 25 for the first time this season at the 25 spot.

Michigan has largely been untested thus far with a schedule comprised of mostly Mid-American Conference and other mid-Major programs. However, reasons to cheer have been in short supply so far this year with several sports being postponed and a flailing football team.

They will face a struggling Nebraska team (3-3) and an interesting battle with Maryland (4-1) to close out the 2020 calendar.

Nevertheless, the Wolverines have exceeded expectations with several significant graduations or transfers from last year’s squad. Whether this early season success will last or is simply a mirage should be more clear in the coming weeks.

Michigan State Walloped by Iowa

Just one week ago, the Michigan State Spartans celebrated a dominant upset over in-state rival Michigan Wolverines. The effort netted the Spartans a Freshman Player of the Week Award and ignited hopes that things were heading in the right direction behind the arm of junior quarterback, Rocky Lombardi.

Week 3 buried those hopes under a mountain of points laid on the Spartans by the Iowa Hawkeyes who made quick work of the visiting squad and pummeled their way to a 49-7 drubbing.

While Lombardi looked excellent in week 2, he struggled in all facets on Saturday afternoon in Iowa. He completed just 46% of his passes and hurled 3 interceptions. Sophomore wide receiver, Jalen Nailor, provided a small bright spot with 4 catches and 119 yards receiving. The outing solidifies the evidence that MSU’s young receiving corp is worth watching.

Iowa dominated on the ground and enforced their will with 4 rushing touchdowns.

Things are likely going to be tough next week as the Spartans challenge an undefeated Indiana team that handled Michigan this afternoon.

Michigan Falters Against Hoosiers

Joe Milton topped 300 passing yards for a second straight week on just 18 completions and junior wide receiver Ronnie Bell pulled down 6 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown, but the Michigan Wolverines lost their second in as many weeks. Indiana dominated from the opening and held off a late surge by the Wolverines at the end of the third quarter; grabbing two interceptions and closing the afternoon 38-21. The loss marked the first time the Wolverines have lost to Indiana since 1987.

While the #23 ranked Wolverines seemed poised for a strong year after a season opening victory against Minnesota, but have taken a beating in back to back weeks. While #13 Indiana sits at 3-0, the loss must be a tough pill to swallow for the Maize and Blue as they struggled against a Hoosier squad that has showed flashes in years past, but remained a perennial second tier Big 10 football program.

The victory may show that the Hoosiers are for real in 2020, but it may also display that Michigan is on track to have their most disappointing season in a string of seasons full of them.

The Wolverines will try to get things back on track with a signature win against #10 Wisconsin next week, a game likely circled on the schedule by many at the beginning of the season, but the prospects of that are looking less likely after recent struggles.

MSU WR Named Freshman of the Week

Ricky White (Marietta, GA) has been named Big 10 Freshman of the Week after setting a Michigan State freshman record with 196 receiving yards in the Spartans upset victory over Michigan.

The freshman averaged an astounding 24.5 yards per catch, which included a 30-yard touchdown reception, 50-yard reception that set up a Spartan field goal and a crucial 31-yard haul that gave MSU A first and goal and led to the game winning touchdown.

The last MSU freshman to win the honor was starting quarterback, Rocky Lombardi, in 2018.

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