Two big happenings in the KCAC this week – All-KCAC picks are out and KCAC Tournament quarterfinals begin Friday.
First, the announcement of the All-KCAC men’s and women’s basketball teams came with a major change — going from the long-ridiculed format of 10 first-team players and 10 honorable mention selections to five first-team players, five on a second team, five on a third team and 10 honorable mentions. Props to the KCAC for making the change and doing it in a way where everybody benefits. Here’s the links to the complete men’s and women’s selections.
And on that note, Saint Mary senior guard and Holcomb native Jordan Wilcox was named the men’s player of the year and Saint Mary coach Jon Bishop was coach of the year. Tabor forward Janelle Rust is the women’s player of the year and newcomer of the year – she transferred from University of Mary – while Friends’ RaeAnne Booth was named coach of the year.
The men’s tournament has a really solid field this year – regular-season champ Saint Mary hosts McPherson in the first round, but the real wild card seems to be Friends. The Falcons were struggling through a third straight mediocre season until they got a second-semester boost from WSU transfer Joe Mitchell. Mitchell is averaging 15.1 points and 2.1 assists in nine games since Jan. 16, and the Falcons are 7-2 in those games. With two All-KCAC big men in 6-foot-5 forwards Anthony White and Colton Rausch and two All-KCAC guards in Thomas Bland and Zach Nelson … watch out. Friends, the fourth seed, hosts Bethany on Friday. The other quarterfinal games are No. 6 Southwestern at No. 3 Sterling and No. 7 Ottawa at No. 2 Tabor.
In the women’s tournament, Friends is one of the hottest teams in NAIA Division II, winners of 14 straight and ranked No. 25 in the last poll. The Falcons host Bethany on Friday – their last loss came to Briar Cliff on Dec. 29. Their last KCAC loss was to Kansas Wesleyan on Dec. 8. Here’s the crazy thing about Friends – they only have one player, senior center Abril Marshall, who averages in double-figure scoring at 12 points per game. The Falcons are winning with defense – they lead the KCAC and are fourth in the nation in scoring defense at 53.5 points. Both Marshall and senior guard Inekka Stevenson were All-KCAC picks. The other quarterfinal games are No. 5 Sterling at No. 4 Kansas Wesleyan, No. 6 McPherson at No. 3 Southwestern and No. 7 Ottawa at No. 2 Tabor.
Men’s and women’s finals are Monday night at Hartman Arena in Park City.