Never has “coach-speak” been on display more prominently than on Tuesday at the annual KCAC Basketball Media Day in Wichita.
Twenty coaches spoke about their teams’ upcoming seasons, reading basically from the same script— except for the 20th and final coach to speak, Friends’ always-colorful Dale Faber, whose infusion of humor broke up the crowd after 19 coaches basically had kept everything on an even monotone.
If I had a dollar for every time a coach uttered the phrase “he’s very athletic” or “she’s very athletic” during the arduous proceedings, I could probably retire to a palatial estate in the secluded woods.
What I gleaned from the day was that we have 20 “very athletic” teams that will be battling for the conference's two titles.
Once I got past my fill of athleticism, here’s how I filled out my ballot for the KCAC order of finish:
• MEN •
1. Tabor — The Bluejays return most of their key components and may have the best big man in Andrew Thomas, as well as KCAC Tournament breakout star Lance Carter, who went off for 42 points in the title game. But their best player may be the versatile D.J. Biggs.
2. Saint Mary — There’s no question that after listening to coach Jon Bishop, the Spires are the most athletic team in the conference — to borrow a phrase. A couple of my media brethren believe this will be the scariest team if it can pass Team Chemistry 101.
3. Sterling — If you ask those who cover the KCAC on a regular basis, the Warriors’ Dean Jaderston is regarded as the best “game coach.” It doesn’t hurt that he has a huge group of returnees, one reason he’s added only two newcomers.
4. Ottawa — The Braves may be the most physical team in the KCAC, led by 6-9 behemoth Alex Lundry. The homegrown Hasty brothers aren’t bad, either. It's also tough to win at the Concrete Jungle as that place gives me a headache every time I cover a game there.
5. McPherson College — The Bulldogs missed the national tournament for the first time in five years last year and coach Tim Swartzendruber and trusty assistant TJ Eskildsen hit the recruiting trail hard in an attempt to return to Point Lookout, site of the Big Show. After watching the Bulldogs practice, they’re tall and long. Somebody, though, has to make shots to open up the inside.
6. Southwestern — The Moundbuilders of former Central Christian College coach Matt O’Brien have one of the top two candidates for KCAC Player of the Year in Cameron Clark (Saint Mary’s Grant Greenburg is the other) as well as William Tisdale, who is Clark’s Robin to his Batman.
7. Friends — The Falcons were gutted by graduation. They’ll be a team of mystery until conference play rolls around. At least Faber's sideline antics are worth the price of admission.
8. Bethany — See above. Two expected starters and maybe the top returning big man did not come back for one reason or another. Coach Clair Oleen has backed up the transfer truck and reloaded. But there aren’t any Idris ibn Idrises in this bunch.
9. Bethel — The Threshers were winless last year, but that’s going to change. According new coach Tony Hoops, McPherson High grad Cody Cape has been a weight room beast and plays much bigger than his 6-1 height.
10. Kansas Wesleyan — The Coyotes will score a lot of points, but give up more. They'll play a lot of entertaining games, albeit it losing ones.
• WOMEN •
1. Southwestern — The Moundbuilders return a lot of pieces from their team that ran the conference table last year at 18-0. But the clincher was when coach Dave Denly, at the end of his presentation, pulled out a St. Louis Cardinals cap and said "Go Cardinals." Gotta love that.
2. Friends — The Falcons may have too many players. Friends coach RaeAnn Boothe said she'll suit up 15, but has 19 who are eithers seniors or juniors, many of them transfers. Good luck with keeping everybody happy.
3. Tabor — The Bluejays graduated the last two KCAC Players of the Year in Nikki Lewis (2014) and Janelle Rust (2013). They'll fall off some, but Shawn Reed knows how to reload.
4. Sterling — It's a menagerie from here. When in doubt, go with Sterling, even if longtime coach Lonnie Kruse has retired after about a gazillion wins. Protege KC Bassett has some big shoes to fill.
5. Ottawa — I really didn't know how to go from here. Ottawa has a good big and a great shooter. Good enough for me.
6. Kansas Wesleyan — The Coyotes' "Big 3" from last year is now down to one, Vanessa Kresin. How long will it take before she misses the graduated Alecia Smith and Christian Cassity, a duo that scored nearly 40 percent of their points last year?
7. Bethel — The window is closing for the Threshers. Mark Fox has the most experienced team in the conference, but his peers picked them only ninth. Hmmm.
8. Saint Mary — A guy with Bruce Erickson's recruiting connections certainly has loaded up after coaching last year's team with another coach's players. Now that he has his own, the Spires should move up a couple of spots. Can't wait to see his 6-8 recruit Christi Holt. This team gets my vote as most likely to surprise.
9. McPherson College — Gordon Reimer has far and away the smallest team in terms of numbers — 15 — as only five players remain from last year. The patient Reimer is following the pattern he had at Kansas Wesleyan — survive the first year, get better the second year and then be a team to be reckoned with his third year. He's done it before, he'll do it again.
10. Bethany College — Coach Brett Morehouse basically cleaned house. Only six of 23 players from last year's team are back. A lot of new faces in new places.