Gary Waters and his Kent State men's basketball troops have been granted one of the sporting world's most rare and prized gifts.
A second chance.
Despite letting an opportunity to clinch the school's first regular-season Mid-American Conference title of any kind slip through their fingers last Saturday, the Golden Flashes can still capture the overall MAC crown by closing the 2000-01 regular season with wins tonight at home against Buffalo and Saturday at Akron.
Kent State (19-8, 12-4 MAC) is currently tied with Central Michigan (18-7, 12-4 MAC) in the overall race, but owns the tiebreaker thanks to a head-to-head victory over the Chippewas. Ohio (17-9, 12-5 MAC), which defeated the Flashes on Saturday and CMU on Monday to vault itself into the thick of the MAC race, still trails by one game in the loss column.
Therefore, Kent State can earn the regular-season championship and the MAC Tournament's top seed by winning out.
"To lose such a key game at home (to Ohio) this late in the season and still have a chance to win the league, you just don't get that opportunity very often," said Waters. "At this point, all you can ask for is to have your destiny in your own hands. Now, it's up to us. All we have to do is beat two teams we've already beaten once this year.
"But it's certainly not going to be easy."
Obviously, claiming their first regular-season championship in 50 years as a member of the MAC in archrival Akron's arena on Saturday afternoon will be an extremely difficult chore for the Flashes.
But Waters refuses to look past Buffalo (4-21, 2-14 MAC), a squad he considers extremely dangerous despite its lowly record.
"Their record is not indicative of their ability," said Waters. "They have the athletes to play with anyone in this league. In my estimation, they're going to be the most improved team in the league next year. We just don't want to be the team that helps speed that process along."
Waters is hoping his squad is able to make a speedy recovery from Saturday's gut-wrenching loss to the Bobcats.
"Letting that team come into our home and take something away really hurt our players, and it should have," said Waters. "I could see on Monday that they still hadn't gotten over that loss, so we didn't practice. We had a team meeting and we talked about a lot of things, and now I think we're ready to move on.
"Our guys understand they need to come out (tonight) and re-establish themselves at home and in the Mid-American Conference."