Manhattan will win first MAC title

By Steve Sell
January 30, 2014

The 19th annual Mid America Classic, which gets under today at the Roundhouse, reminds me a lot of the Big 12 men’s basketball race.

The Big 12 has the unquestioned team at the top (Kansas), the team that could find it hard to win a game (TCU) and then everybody else in between.

The MAC has the prohibitive favorite (Manhattan), the team that could find it hard to win a game (Hays) and then everybody else in between.

Remember those years when there were folks who thought the MAC was destined for doom because McPherson was winning year after year, nine times in a row in fact? Well, the Bullpups have won only once since that streak, that coming during their Class 4A state championship season of 2012 when they defeated Hays in the final.

Olathe South has won three of the last four years, but it won’t be here to defend its title. That means we’re assured of having a new champion and I believe it will be a first-time champion. 

The envelope please.

1. Manhattan — The upset would be if the Indians don’t win. They are ranked No. 4 in Class 6A and have been beating teams by 11.5 points a game. They have a strong 1-2 punch in Caroline Ballard and Darby Price, not to mention the confidence they took from their performance here last year when they nearly took down Olathe South.

2. McPherson — When on, the Bullpups could be good enough to maybe pull the upset. The key is going to be for Janae Barnes to stay on the court, because they are so much better when she’s not in foul trouble. If MHS can have a good week shooting the 3-pointer, it could pull off its most improbable tournament title, because the 10 it’s won have come from the favorite’s position.

3. Shawnee Mission South — A tourney newcomer. I had a hard time figuring out how the third-place game with Olathe East would play out, so I looked at comparative scores. Those would tend me to believe the Raiders would be the pick.

4. Olathe East — See the above.

5. Andale — This won’t be one the best teams Mark Kerschen has brought into the Roundhouse, but since he has Brittany Meyer, maybe the most explosive player in the tourney, the Indians earn the nod to win the consolation bracket.

6. Wichita Northwest — Not quite sure what to make of the Grizzlies. They don’t score a lot, but don’t give up a lot. 

7. Gardner-Edgerton — I would hate to see our old friend Scott Schaefer go home without a tourney victory. Look out down the road, though, he starts four players who are either sophomores or freshmen.

8. Hays — A nightmarish season for Kirk Maska, one of the really good guys in the coaching profession, continues.