In coaches’ predicted order of finish
Coach: Micah Ratzlaff, eighth season, 107-100
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2013-14: 20-13, 10-8 KCAC
Outlook: The Bluejays put three players on the All-KCAC preseason team, and all three earned some type of postseason honors.
Senior guard Dewayne Biggs was the KCAC Newcomer of the Year and a second-team All-KCAC pick, leading Tabor with 15.5 points and 3.4 assists on the way to an NAIA Division II Tournament berth. Fellow senior Lance Carter (12.5 points, 3.3 assists) was also a second-team pick.
The breakout star for Tabor could be 6-7 sophomore forward Andrew Thomas, an honorable mention All-KCAC pick after averaging 14.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and leading the team with 39 blocks.
2. Saint Mary
Coach: Jon Bishop, seventh season, 117-66
2013-14: 17-12, 11-7
Outlook: Sophomore guard Grant Greenberg took the KCAC by storm last season, averaging 25.8 points on the way to All-KCAC and honorable mention NAIA Division II All-American honors. Greenberg shot 37.2 percent from beyond the three-point arc and shot 84.3 percent from the free-throw line.
Coach: Andy Carrier, 25th season, 312-392
2013-14: 14-15, 9-9
Outlook: The Braves could have one of the more potent backcourt-frontcourt combos in the league in 6-3 sophomore guard Alex Hasty and 6-9 senior center Alex Lundry. Lundry averaged 10.6 points and 5.7 rebounds and is eighth on Ottawa’s career blocked shots list. Hasty, who is from Ottawa, was named to the KCAC’s All-Freshman team last year.
Coach: Dean Jaderston, ninth season, 143-100
2013-14: 24-8, 14-4
Outlook: The Warriors return a pair of high-scoring guards in 6-5 senior Braden Thompson (17.1 points, 4.2 rebounds) and 6-2 junior guard Brandon Givens (10.1 points), a Buhler product.
The play of Sterling’s big men will be key to contending in the KCAC – 6-4 forward Matt Swank is the team’s top return on the boards at 4.4 rebounds. Two other post players – 6-7 senior forward Troy Smith and 6-6 sophomore forward Josiah Ray, a Derby native – will also be counted on after playing supporting roles last season.
Coach: Matt O’Brien, sixth season, 82-67
2013-14: 18-13, 7-11
Outlook: Junior Cameron Clark has been one of the best players in the nation his first two seasons. The 6-3 forward from Huntsville, Texas, is a two-time All-KCAC and two-time honorable mention All-American who averaged 20.3 points and 9 rebounds.
Clark is a more-than-serviceable outside shooter at 34.5 percent from three-point range, but he struggled at the free-throw line, shooting 66.5 percent.
The Moundbuilders opened up the season with three straight road games in three states, in one week – at Hillsdale Free Will Baptist (Okla.), at Ecclesia (Ark.) and at Dallas Christian.
Coach: Dale Faber, 12th season, 192-146
2013-14: 27-7, 15-3
Outlook: Replacing NAIA Division II player of the year Joe Mitchell, the nation’s leading scorer, will be a monumental task, as will defending the KCAC title.
Mitchell wasn’t all the Falcons lost from last year’s Elite Eight team, either. Colton Raush (second team All-KCAC), Zach Nelson (third team All-KCAC) and Anthony White (honorable mention All-KCAC) are also gone. The lone returning starter is 6-1 junior point guard Brett Williams (5.6 points, 2.4 assists).
Coach: Tim Swartzendruber, seventh season, 118-75
2013-14: 15-16, 8-10
Outlook: The Bulldogs bring back some experience in the backcourt with TJ Grant as the team’s top returning scorer at 9 points per game, and 2011 KCAC freshman of the year Kenny Berry Jr. Swartzendruber’s biggest challenge will be basically coaching a new team – he brought in 14 new players.
That pack of newcomers is led by a trio of junior-college transfer forwards that will be counted on to make an immediate impact – 6-5 Ernest Maize, 6-6 Paige Beeler and 6-4 Latron Jolly.
Coach: Clair Oleen, 22nd season
2013-14: 20-11, 12-6
Outlook: Replacing NAIA All-American Idris Ibn Idris and his 27.3 points would be difficult on its own, but the Swedes lose all five of their top scorers from last season and will be in full rebuilding mode. Bethany’s only returning starter is 6-4 senior guard Nathan Coleman (8.5 points, 5.8 rebounds).
The Swedes could go guard-heavy and still have some size this season if a pair of junior-college guards – 6-4 Jonathan Gidson and 6-5 Cody Harris – can deliver. Harris, a Rapid City, S.D., native, averaged 15.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals for Minnesota West Technical and Community College and could become a star in the KCAC.
9. Kansas Wesleyan
Coach: Chris Fear, third season, 17-48
2013-14: 6-22, 4-14
Outlook: The Coyotes have finished next-to-last in the KCAC the last two seasons under Fear, and haven’t reached double-digit wins either season. One look at KWU’s roster shows Fear’s approach is going to be building from the ground up – the Coyotes have one senior, two juniors, three sophomores and even freshmen.
KWU has two key returners in junior point guard Dylan Hidalgo, who averaged 9.2 points and 2.4 assists, his first as a starter, and 6-5 sophomore forward Jacob Lunz, who averaged 9.7 points and 6.5 rebounds while only playing half the season due to injury. Big things are expected from freshman Jonathan Dutra, who comes to KWU from San Diego’s Mater Dei High.
Coach: Tony Hoops, first season
2013-14: 0-27, 0-18
Outlook: The Threshers posted the KCAC’s only winless campaign in the last decade. Bethel hired Hoops, a former player, to replace Alonzo Jamison and turn the moribund program around. Hoops has been a high school coach at Herington and Halstead for the last eight seasons, and was an All-American for Bethel in 2005.
Coach: RaeAnne Booth, fifth season, 87-47
2013-14: 25-8, 15-3 KCAC
Outlook: Picked to finish fourth in last season’s preseason polls, the Falcons ended up in the NAIA Division II tournament for the third straight year and return the nucleus of that team, led by senior guard Kayla Mollere.
Mollere was the KCAC defensive player of the year and KCAC newcomer of the year after transferring from Brown Mackie and leading the league in steals (3.24) and rebounds (8.3). Mollere was also fourth in the league in both scoring (13.7 points) and assists (2.8).
Honorable-mention All-KCAC picks Kayla Justice and Kassy Ptacek also return. Neosho transfer Ashley Grant, a 5-11 junior forward, was an All-Jayhawk East pick last season after averaging 21.3 points and 7.6 rebounds.
Coach: Dave Denly, 17th season, 326-161
2013-14: 20-5, 18-0
Outlook: The Moundbuilders ran the table in the KCAC last season, posting a perfect record in league play. They also have the league’s only returning All-KCAC player in junior guard Jessica Hobbs, who led the team at 11.1 points.
Carroll product Jana Reichenberger, a 6-foot forward, averaged 9.3 points and 6.7 rebounds.
Coach: Shawn Reed, fourth season, 48-42
2013-14: 21-11, 13-5
Outlook: The Bluejays return three starters, led by 5-11 senior guard Tonisha Dean, a second-team All-KCAC pick after averaging 12.5 points and 4.9 rebounds. Sophomore forward Tena Loewen, a Hillsboro native, averaged 7.5 points and 6.4 rebounds and was named honorable-mention All-KCAC.
Junior guard Mallory Zuercher averaged 9.1 points and led the KCAC by shooting 39.6 percent on three-pointers. What Tabor lost can’t be underestimated – 2014 KCAC player of the year Nikki Lewis and 2013 KCAC player of the year Janelle Rust. The two averaged a combined 23.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and Lewis led the team at 6.9 assists.
Coach: Bruce Tate, eighth season, 70-134
2013-14: 15-14, 11-7
Outlook: Tate flipped things around for the Braves behind two up-and-coming stars in 6-foot sophomore center Ashley Romig and 5-6 senior guard Mikayla Skidmore, a pair of third-team All-KCAC picks.
Romig averaged 11.7 points and 6.7 rebounds, while Skidmore averaged 10.3 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
5. Kansas Wesleyan
Coach: Ryan Showman, third season, 34-28
2013-14: 16-15, 10-8
Outlook: Senior guard/forward Vanessa Kresin was an honorable mention All-KCAC pick last season after averaging 15.0 points and 5.4 rebounds – numbers on the same level as first-teamers – but her 3.2 turnovers held her back. Showman has another returning starter in point guard Kalie LeShore, who started all 31 games.
Coach: K.C. Bassett, first season
2013-14: 6-12, 10-19
Outlook: Bassett takes over for legendary coach Lonnie Kruse after 34 seasons and 706 wins, although the once-powerful Warriors are in the midst of a decidedly mediocre stretch – fourth place in the KCAC in 2012, fifth place in 2013 and sixth place last year.
Bassett, a Leavenworth native, was the KCAC women’s player of the year in 2007 for Sterling and spent the last six seasons as an assistant to Kruse.
Coach: Brett Morehouse, second season, 5-25
2013-14: 5-25, 3-15
Outlook: Morehouse hopes he’s found a difference maker in Canisius transfer and Kansas City Wyandotte product Royce Shields, a 5-6 senior guard, who averaged 10 points for Highland Community College two seasons ago.
If Bethany is to make a move in the KCAC standings, they’ll have to do it behind guards – junior guard Alex Brammer led the team with 11.5 points last season and is one of two returning starters with senior guard Kaitlyn Norton.
Coach: Gordon Reimer, second season, 10-21
2013-14: 10-21, 6-12
Outlook: Reimer, the career wins leader at Kansas Wesleyan, brings back a pair of junior guards that started all 31 games for McPherson last season in Bailey Brown and Whitney Jefferson. Brown averaged 11.1 points.
The diminutive duo – both Brown and Whitney are 5-4 – will get some help in the post in the form of 6-2 freshman Alicia Demerat and 6-foot junior Megan Acklin, a transfer from Seminole State.
Coach: Mark Fox, 10th season, 97-150
2013-14: 12-17, 6-12
Outlook: The Threshers have a bona fide star in 5-10 senior guard April Harpe, a Memphis native who was a second-team All-KCAC pick last season after averaging 13.5 points and 9.3 rebounds. Harpe was a preseason All-KCAC pick. Last year’s promising start – the Threshers were 5-2 at the end of November – fell apart once KCAC play started.
10. Saint Mary
Coach: Bruce Erickson, second season, 3-24
2013-14: 3-24, 2-16
Outlook: Erickson, a former assistant at UMKC and Oklahoma State, struggled mightily in his first KCAC season, but has brought in 19 new players to turn things around. The new Spires split up as 13 freshmen and six transfers. The transfers have a tremendous amount of height – 6-8 Christi Holt, 6-4 Cenyeaa Williams, 6-2 Kari Devlin and 6-foot Gabby Hacker.