After back-to-back victories over Villanova and Navy, two teams the general public have heard of, Mizzou will play two more “who??” games before their annual Busch Braggin’ Rights game against Illinois.
Tonight, the Kennesaw State Owls pay a visit to Mizzou Arena, as the Tigers look to improve to 10-0, their best start since 1991-92. With a victory tonight, head coach Frank Haith would become the first Missouri basketball coach to win his first 10 games at Mizzou since Craig Ruby won the first 17 games of the 1920-21 season.
But enough about the Tigers, lets get to what you really came here to see, Kennesaw State. KSU is located, naturally, in Kennesaw, GA, about 20 miles north of Atlanta. It was established in 1963, and currently has an enrollment of over 24,100, making it the third-largest college in Georgia, behind the University of Georgia and Georgia State.
The city of Kennesaw’s origins date back to the 1830s, when the Western and Atlantic Railroad began to be built. Homes for the workers on the railroad were constructed near modern day Kennesaw, and the area became known as “Big Shanty”. During the Civil War, a soldier training camp called Camp McDonald opened near Big Shanty. The location was prime, with fresh water and the railroad was ideal for transportation.
The camp was the site of many conflicts between the two sides of the Civil War, including the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, and lay in ruins after the war was over. By the 1870s, the area was beginning to recover, and by 1887, it had recovered enough to be established as the city of Kennesaw. The railroad in the city was the main source of employment, and contributed to the sustained growth of the city.
Today, Kennesaw is home to 29,783 people, according to the 2010 census. The city stays loyal to its railroad and Civil War roots, restoring a historic railroad depot in downtown, which now serves as a welcome center and museum, in 2001. Also, the site where the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain took place is now part of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.
Kennesaw State University was originally established as Kennesaw Junior College in 1963, and only had 1,000 students. Since then, it has expanded to become a full state college. It offers 80 bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees, and is well known for its nursing program, which is the largest in Georgia. It also has a significant College of Education, which is the second-largest “preparer of teachers” in the state, according to KSU’s website.
As Kennesaw State continues to expand as a university, so too does its athletic program. The Owls competed in Division II’s Peach Belt Conference up until the 2009-10 season, when all sports were fully transitioned into the Division I Atlantic Sun Conference. KSU offers 15 sports, and may soon be adding a 16th. There have been discussions about adding a football team, and the student body is generally in support of starting a program. There are plans in place to begin the program as soon as 2014.
KSU’s basketball team has seen success in the past, though not necessarily at the Division I level. In 2004, the Owls won the Division II national championship, beating Southern Indiana 84-59. Since transitioning to Division I, however, they have not returned to the national stage. They are 0-4 all time against AP Top 25 teams, losing those matchups by an average of 31.5 points.
This year’s edition of Owls basketball currently sits at 2-5, and is riding a three game losing streak. They are led by junior guard Markeith Cummings, who averages 18.2 PPG and 5.8 RPG. Though they list him as a guard, Cummings stands at 6’ 7”, and registered a double-double in KSU’s last game, a 75-52 loss to Lipscomb.
The city of Kennesaw is rich with Civil War history, but the Owls won’t be expected to make tonight’s game a battle. The Owls are still relatively new to Division I, and are still growing as a program. Mizzou should have no problem finishing off KSU and moving to 10-0 on the season.