The Mid America Classic has a tough act to follow.
But it could be up to the task.
There were glowing reviews of last week’s McPherson Invitational, which produced some of the best basketball from top to bottom than any tournament in recent memory. The host Bullpups had to rally on both Friday and Saturday from big deficits to come away with their 24th Invitational championship and fourth in a row.
Now it’s the girls’ turn and the hype machine is already cranking. This tournament, too, could be one of the best ever from top to bottom and could very well be Kansas' best this week.
Had Shawnee Mission South not lost on Monday, there would not have been a team in the field with a losing record.
Both sides of the bracket are loaded.
The top half features the 9-1 Bullpups and 7-2 Olathe South, which brings a 15-0 Mid America Classic all-time record into this year’s event.
The bottom half features one of the best-ever first-round games as 6A powers Manhattan and Shawnee Mission Northwest square off at 3:00 Thursday. Hays has lost only one game, but the popular belief is the first-game winner will advance to the finals.
Here’s how I see it shaking out:
1. Manhattan — Manhattan is still burning from last year’s loss to Olathe South. Its first-round game may be more difficult than the second round. It will be interesting to see how much Kansas State signee Christianna Carr has ramped up her game.
2. McPherson — I have a feeling the Bullpups are going to finally clear the Olathe South hurdle. With a healthy Mandi Cooks, I think MHS would have had enough to knock off Manhattan. It still might.
3. Olathe South — Maybe it’s a mistake not to pick the Falcons to win it all because of their pedigree. But their streak has to end some time.
4. Hays — McPherson coach Chris Strathman will be watching Hays closely since it’s probably the team the Bullpups will have to beat to make state. Hays will benefit from playing three days in the Roundhouse to get accustomed to the surroundings before sub-state.
5. Shawnee Mission Northwest — Northwest is going to run roughshod through the consolation bracket.
6. Shawnee Mission South — The Raiders aren’t a deep team, which could hurt them come Saturday.
7. Wichita Northwest — It’s not a given that Northwest will lose to Hays in the first round. Being a City League team, it will have no fear.
8. Ulysses — Somebody has to finish last. Like Hays, this is a scouting mission for Ulysses.