The KCAC schedule-maker deserves a gold star.
We are in the last week of regular-season play and tonight’s men’s game in Wichita matching Sterling against Friends will determine at least a half-champion.
The Warriors and Falcons are both 13-3 and the winner can do no worse than a tie for the title. Friends is the probable favorite, given the fact it is at home and possesses the redoubtable Joe Mitchell, the nation’s No. 1 scorer.
While I pick the Falcons tonight, never count out the Warriors. They are incredibly resilient and have been overlooked much of the season, though I was the only media member at the start of the year to pick them to win it.
Friends has no bargain Saturday night as it closes at Tabor. Anyone who has been to Hillsboro knows the Bluejays are tremendously difficult to beat at home. Sterling, meanwhile, goes to Southwestern, also a tough place to play. This thing is far from over.
I have to admit when we were at the halfway point, I thought Bethany would emerge as the champion after having seen all 10 teams play. The Swedes have the best collection of athletes, maybe the best I’ve seen in my 35 years. They have the superstar talent in the outrageously gifted Idris IbnIdris and a mircowave off the bench in Kirby Hawkins, who would be the No. 1 star for about any other team.
Somehow, though, it’s all unraveled for the Swedes down the stretch. They were 10-2 at one point, but have lost three of their last four. The dagger was a 10-point loss, at home no less, to lowly Kansas Wesleyan, but remember that is a rivalry game. Yet, that was far and away the biggest upset in the KCAC this season.
But don’t count out the Swedes making nationals since we still have the postseason tournament and the automatic berth that goes to the winner. This is still a team that has burned out the scoreboard this year, but at times has been generous on the defensive end. The regular-season finish has to only make the Swedes hungrier for the tournament, as they want to prove they not only have the best talent in the conference, but the best team.
Given all my years of covering the KCAC, I have to say the talent level has never been better. When a team like Tabor isn’t even in the top four, that tells you the depth of the conference.
What I have seen in the last few years is a shift in recruiting philosophy. The formula now is to recruit more junior college players and allow freshmen a couple of years to develop. Bethany is the prime example of this, as coach Clair Oleen has shoved most of his chips into the middle of the table with junior college players and it has worked. Tabor has done much the same thing, as it used to recruit mostly from this area, but now goes nation wise, coast to coast and even internationally.
The JC’s bring instant experience and the days of a player like Samson Shivers may be over. You see very few freshmen starting now in the KCAC. That’s why I believe Shivers’ McPherson College school scoring record may never be broken, because freshmen — except for Saint Mary’s redshirt freshman Grant Greenberg — are mainly role players.
Greenberg, Mitchell, IbnIdris, Shivers, Mac’s Devirous Johnson, Ottawa’s Julian Rose, Sterling’s Eddie Adesodun, Southwestern’s Cameron Clark — the list goes on and on. What a year it’s been for the KCAC and we still have the wild playoffs to go. Can’t wait to see how this plays out.
• KCAC STANDINGS •
Saint Mary, 11-5
McPherson College, 6-10
Kansas Wesleyan, 3-13
Kansas Wesleyan, 8-8
McPherson College, 5-11
Saint Mary 2-14
• TONIGHT’S GAMES •
Bethany at McPherson College
Southwestern at Ottawa
Kansas Wesleyan at Bethel
Tabor at Saint Mary
Sterling at Friends
• SATURDAY’S GAMES •
McPherson College at Southwestern
Bethany at Bethel
Saint Mary at Ottawa
Friends at Tabor
Sterling at Southwestern