Just as the high school basketball teams are reaching the halfway point of the season, so is the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.
The exhaustive-and-numbing 22-game KCAC schedule (I’m still in favor of two divisions with a 16-game schedule) reached the halfway point on Wednesday as all conference teams have now reached 11 games.
Unlike the last couple of years when there was domination by Tabor on the men’s side, while the women’s side was Tabor and Friends and then everybody else, there doesn’t appear to be that super team this year for either.
On the men’s side, former Central Christian College coach Matt O’Brien has the Moundbuilders sitting at 10-1 in the conference and with a two-game lead. Southwestern is 17-2 overall and ranked in the Top 10.
The Builders are led by Cameron Hunt, who is in a two-man race with Friends’ Jordan Murdock for Player of the Year.
By no way are the Builders home free for the KCAC title. The season is so long and such a grind it wouldn’t be a surprise if Southwestern has a lull at some point. It relies on an explosive offense, but Wednesday proved it could win a defensive battle when it outlasted Bethany at Hahn Gym.
Then you have about seven teams jockeying for position. Defending champion Tabor isn’t quite what it’s been the last couple of years, but the graduation of Lance Carter was crippling. Carter was clearly a player who probably belonged at the NCAA Division II level and the Bluejays also don’t have the interior defense that has been a trademark the last couple of years.
The Bluejays are 8-3 and in second place, a game up on 7-4 Kansas Wesleyan, Saint Mary and Friends. KW has managed to overcome the departure of leading scorer Jordan McNelly, who left the team recently. Saint Mary has managed to stay afloat even after the graduation of All-American Grant Greenberg, while as Johnny Murdock goes, so goes Friends. He and Southwestern’s Hunt are dominating players.
A team to watch during the second half is Oklahoma Wesleyan. The Eagles are 6-5, but I have a hunch they’re going to make a run. They picked up a top-notch player at semester and are the most athletically gifted team in the conference. Ottawa and York are also 6-5 as they complete what at this point would be the playoff field.
Bethel (3-8), Sterling (3-8), Bethany (2-9) and McPherson College (1-10) have a lot of work to do.
On the women’s side, Friends (9-2) has a one-game lead over 8-3 Oklahoma Wesleyan, Tabor and Sterling, with Kansas Wesleyan at 7-4. Sterling’s Kylah Comley is the runaway leader for Player of the Year at this point.
McPherson College and Bethany are both 6-5, with Saint Mary wrapping up the current playoff field at 5-6.
Ottawa and Southwestern are 3-8, but both are dangerous as both have lost some close games. Bethel and York can start looking to next year.
Friends has managed to stay on top despite having to replace All-American Shann Sellers, one of the KCAC’s best-ever players. The Falcons’ defense is what keeps them on top, while Oklahoma Wesleyan is more offensive-minded.
I think both postseason tournaments are going to be much more competitive than they have been and don’t be surprised if the teams that win the regular-season title don’t win the conference tournament.