• MAC WOMEN SURPRISING THE KCAC — When the KCAC basketball coaches and media gathered in Wichita back in October, preseason polls were conducted.
To no one’s surprise, McPherson College’s women were the overwhelming pick to finish in last place by both factions.
Even though the Bulldogs were coming off a second straight 14-15 campaign, much had transpired during the offseason to lead to their paltry placing.
Coach Cy Rolfs resigned late in the summer to take a job in the private sector. Three outstanding seniors had graduated and three expected starters did not return for a variety of reasons. The Bulldogs’ two top recruits, both of whom played in the KBCA All-Star Game, changed their minds and went elsewhere — in the conference, no less.
Fortunately, former longtime and successful Kansas Wesleyan coach Gordon Reimer was available to fill the opening. Even though school had started, Reimer accepted the position and began the unenviable job of trying to mold a group of leftovers with what was remaining of Rolfs’ recruiting class.
While it’s just one week into the KCAC portion of the schedule, the Bulldogs find themselves at the top of the standings along with prohibitive favorite and nationally ranked Southwestern. Two teams are 2-0, two are 0-2 and six are 1-1 as after Southwestern parity is going to rule.
The Bulldogs opened at home Thursday with a 26-point blowout of Bethel, which has more returning starters than any other team and it also knocked off Sterling two days later. Then Mac went on the road Saturday for a 15-point victory at Saint Mary, always a tough place to win at, especially after a 3-hour-plus bus ride.
The season, however, didn’t start as well. The Bulldogs were playing the way the experts predicted, losing five of their first six games. But in retrospect, they were highly competitive in all the losses.
Now they’ve won five of six, the only loss coming to an NAIA Division I national power MidAmerica Nazarene team they probably had no business scheduling. This week, the Bulldogs host expected KCAC first-division teams Sterling and Friends. To me, going 1-1 in those games would be acceptable, since both have much more experience than Mac.
So how have they done it?
Reimer has settled into a nice rotation and is a calming influence with his even-keel demeanor. The players know their roles and his substitution patterns. Mac is one of the best teams in the country defensively, as it has held many opponents to frigid shooting nights. Reimer often employs a 1-3-1, with 6-1 Aubrey Barton on the point and she makes it difficult in the passing lanes because of her long arms.
The Bulldogs are hardly a great offensive team as they rely on balance from Barton, Bailey Brown and Cami Engelbert as well as some instant points off the bench from Sunny Smart and Chandler Short, who combine for nearly 20 points a game. Starters Whitney Jefferson and Bre Gillespie know what they’re on the floor for — to handle the ball and play defense, respectively. Mac is not going to outscore teams, it just hopes to grind past them.
What many thought would be a throw-away for year for Reimer is turning into much, much more. And you know the future has to be bright, as he established himself as a top recruiter during his time at Kansas Wesleyan and he’ll be fortifying his team for next year. The Mac program could be headed for big days in the future.
• CHIEFS BACK IN BUSINESS — The sack was back for the Kansas City Chiefs.
After leading the world in quarterback sacks through the first half of the season, the Chiefs had barely gotten to the quarterback the last four games.
But in Sunday’s triumphant 45-10 demolition of disinterested Washington, the Chiefs face-planted Robert Griffin III into the ground six times and drove him from the game early due to general ineffectiveness.
It had been easy to pick on the Chiefs during their three-game losing streak, but there was little to complain about on this day. They excelled in each and every facet of the game, which basically was decided in the first quarter. Dexter McCluster provided the juice on special teams with his dazzling punt returns and Quintin Demps had a kickoff return for a touchdown. Jamaal Charles seemed to relish the sleet-like conditions as he ran like a frisky colt. And Alex Smith did what Alex Smith always does — manage the game and not make mistakes.
I do worry, however, if anything happens to Smith. Backup Chase Daniel didn’t look good in the preseason and while Sunday wasn’t a good indicator, I don’t think he’s much better than the departed Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn. I really wish the Chiefs had picked North Carolina State’s Mike Glannon in the third round when they had the chance. He’s looking like a dandy for Tampa Bay in his rookie year.
The Chiefs’ win should ease their fan base somewhat about a potential seven-game collapse after the 9-0 start. They play Sunday in Oakland, which is playing everyone respectably, but is still only 4-9.
• WILDCATS DRAW MICHIGAN — If the Kansas State football team can’t go to the Holiday Bowl as was thought for a while, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (formerly the Copper and Insight.com Bowl) in Phoenix and a date with Michigan isn’t a bad consolation prize.
Not to mention the payout actually is bigger. And Phoenix weather is just a step behind San Diego.
The Wildcats will take their 7-5 record to Arizona on Dec. 28 to play a likewise 7-5 Wolverine team. Thank goodness the game is on Saturday, because it has a 9:15 p.m. start our time.
Bill Snyder thus gets nearly three extra weeks of practice for his Wildcats, which is probably what he takes most out of the game. He can prepare for this game, with an eye toward next year.
Michigan had a terribly disappointing season, so it’s probably going to be inspired. It played the socks off of Ohio State in its finale, only to lose in the closing moments when it failed on a 2-point conversion to win the game.
On paper, this game appears to be a push. In bowl games, the winner is normally the team with the most “want to.”