Handicapping the KCAC women's tourney

By Steve Sell
February 25, 2014

Tuesday's tidbits…

• KCAC WOMEN'S TOURNEY STARTS WEDNESDAY — Monday's column dealt with the unpredictability of the KCAC Men's Postseason Basketball Tournament.

It's just the opposite on the women's side.

The women's tourney gets under way on Wednesday and there figures to be no surprises. The best game, as you would expect, pits No. 4 Ottawa hosting No. 5 Kansas Wesleyan, a game I rate a tossup, and, in fact, it wouldn't surprise me if KW wins.

The other games figure to be little more than yawners — No. 8 McPherson College at No. 1 Southwestern, No. 7 Bethel at No. 2 Friends and No. 6 Sterling at No. 3 Tabor.

The game I really want to see is Tabor at Friends in Saturday's semifinals. Friends has the tremendous defense and Tabor the electric offense, led by wispy point guard Nikki Lewis, who may be the KCAC's Most Valuable Player in my opinion. This one could go either way, but I like Friends in a down-to-the-wire classic, though I still believe Tabor deserves to be at nationals as well.

I'm predicting an upset Monday at Hartman Arena as I pick Friends to knock off Southwestern for the tourney title. The Moundbuilders went 18-0 in conference play, but had some close calls along the way. I really like the way Friends is playing right now, while Southwestern, in all honesty, doesn't have anything to play for as its spot in nationals is already secured.

• ALL-KCAC TEAM — I picked my men's All-KCAC team Monday, now it's time for the women. I saw all the teams play, some of them twice, so I think I have a pretty good read.

1. Nikki Lewis, Tabor — No player means more to her team. She controls the game with her amazing speed and ballhandling, almost never turning it over.

2. Sarah Munds, Friends — She's the player that every opposing team has to focus on.

3. Amber Ramsey, Ottawa — See above. Ramsey will go down as one of the best ever to play at OU.

4. Kayle Mollere, Friends — Explosive athlete. Can get 20 any night out.

5. Vanessa Kresin, Kansas Wesleyan — Part of the Coyotes' "triplets." Another player capable of going off and scoring in bunches.

6. Janelle Rust, Tabor — She might not be all the way back from a devastating knee injury suffered last year, but there's no arguing her talent.

7. Jessica Hobbs, Southwestern — The Moundbuilders are a team in every sense of the word. They go 18-0, yet their first player I picked comes in at No. 7.

8. Aubrey Barton, McPherson College — She spent the season shaking off the rust of not having played since high school and coach Gordon Reimer is glad she did. Maybe the most skilled center in the KCAC, could have a huge career ahead of her.

9. Alecia Smith, Kansas Wesleyan — Hard to have a team with Kresin and not Smith. They seemingly are joined at the hip. Too bad there's not room for the third triplet, Christian Cassity, but I can't have an All-KCAC team with three players from a fifth-place team.

10. Hailey Davis, Sterling — At times she could light it up. Sad to see the Warriors struggling in legendary coach Lonnie Kruse's victory lap.

• JAYHAWKS CHAMPS AGAIN — This was supposed to be the year it all ended.

Kansas, which had won or shared nine straight Big 12 basketball championships, was considered too young and woefully inexperienced to make it 10 in a row. And with Naadir Tharpe at point guard, it was expected to be a wild ride with numerous peaks and valleys.

All the preseason talk centered on veteran-laden Oklahoma State, which was thought to be in the mix for a trip to the Final Four. The Cowboys had everybody back and the expected conference Player of the Year in Marcus Smart. But Smart imploded and so did his team. But look out when the Big 12 tourney rolls around. A fresh start is what this teams needs.

Baylor also was expected to make a push for the title as it, too, was chockfull of veterans. But about the only thing electric about the Bears was their highlighter uniforms that burned your eyeballs out.

But as the season played out, the Jayhawks grew up overnight. While Andrew Wiggins hasn’t lived up to his hype and Joel Embiid has exceeded his, the Jayhawks on Monday clinched a share of their 10th straight conference championship with three games left to play.

That’s stunning when you consider that during that time former conference member Missouri had some great teams, not to mention Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Iowa State. 

Much credit has to go to KU coach Bill Self. He has guided the Jayhawks through some troubled times this season, yet I believe this could be the best coaching job of his career. I still think they're going to be an early out in the NCAA Tournament, because they don't shoot the 3 well and have stretches where they can't score.