5 things to watch: Midseason Tournament Preview

Jan, 8, 2019; Wichita, Kansas, USA; The Heights Falcons played the Bishop Carroll Golden Eagles in a City League matchup at Heights ©Kelly Ross
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The majority of the midseason tournaments have completed first round/quarterfinal action or start Thursday. Multiple tournaments have had changes because of weather and updated schedules today. Here’s a look at one of the best weekends in the basketball season, the first wave of tournament action.

1. Dodge City Tournament of Champions – The 76th annual Dodge City Tournament of Champions, one of the state’s most recognized tournaments, opens Thursday. Teams are Dodge City, Wichita North, Junction City, Shawnee Mission South, Hutchinson, Newton, Bishop Carroll and Derby. SM South is No. 9 in Class 6A. Newton has standout point guard Ty Berry, a high-level Division I prospect, and faces Carroll in the first round.

Carroll (7-3) could be the favorite, if they can get past the Railers. The Golden Eagles own one of the season’s best wins with a 61-46 victory at Wichita Heights on Jan. 8. Last Friday, Carroll lost at Maize, 56-52, in overtime.

Carroll is unranked in 5A, but Maize is No. 1 and Heights is No. 2.

This marks just the second time in the last 14 years Newton and Carroll, the defending 5A titlist, have matched up. Carroll captured a 30-27 victory on Jan. 24, 2015. Carroll has an incredibly low turnover rate with miscues on just 15.5 percent of possessions.

2. Who will win the Mid-Continent League? – The tournament semifinals, originally scheduled for Friday, have been bumped to Thursday because of weather concerns. Contests are still at WaKeeney-Trego Community.

The girls’ bracket especially presents plenty of intrigue with top-seeded WaKeeney facing off against No. 4 Smith Center in one semifinal, and No. 2 Norton versus No. 3 TMP in the other semifinals. WaKeeney has only lost at TMP on a last-second trey last week and is ranked No. 6 in 2A.

Norton is undefeated against Kansas teams and is No. 9 in 3A. TMP is not ranked but has won five straight, is 7-3 and has captured 40 straight MCL regular season/midseason tournament contests.

Smith Center was the only MCL girls’ team ranked in the preseason and got as high as No. 4 in 2A, but the Lady Red has since dropped out of the poll. Norton has already defeated Smith Center, but has not played TMP or WaKeeney this year.

The boys’ side had some minor upsets in the quarterfinals and features No. 1 Phillipsburg against No. 5 Plainville, and No. 7 TMP versus No. 6 Hill City. The Panthers, who already own a road win versus Plainville, are the favorites to win their third straight league tournament crown and stand ninth in 3A.

3. St. John tournament – The St. John Mid-Winter Classic has a high-level semifinals matchup Friday between Central Prairie League rivals Central Plains and St. John.

CP, which defeated SJ earlier this season, is the tournament’s top seed and ranked No. 1 in 1A. St. John is ranked No. 4 in 1A and is the tournament’s No. 4 seed.

CP is 10-0, St. John 9-2 after a 46-45 win against Larned in the first round. Central Plains easily handled Nickerson, 64-38.

The bottom half has Ness City, which has only lost to St. John this year and is ranked No. 3 in 2A, along with Wichita Sunrise Christian and Macksville.

CP, on a 36-game winning streak, joins Osborne and Montezuma-South Gray as the lone 1A boys’ teams without a loss.

4. Otis-Bison girls look to stay undefeated – At the Hoisington Winter Jam, the top-seeded Otis-Bison girls, ranked No. 9 in Class 1A, rolled to a 56-22 first-round victory versus Rush County rival La Crosse. O-B gets No. 5 Russell in the semifinals Friday. The 11-0 Cougars have permitted just 28 points a contest and won the Fairfield tournament earlier this year.

O-B has not had a game closer than seven points. According to KSHSAA records, Central Plains, O-B, Rural Vista, Spearville, Hutchinson Central Christian, Olpe and Golden Plains still remain perfect in 1A girls.

The other semifinal has No. 2 Pratt against No. 3 Ellinwood. Pratt (6-4) owns a quality win against TMP and has losses to Cheney, Nickerson, and Haven – all ranked schools – and a nine-point loss versus Hays High. Pratt had close losses to Cheney and Nickerson, both undefeated squads, while Haven has dropped just two games.

The Greenbacks, like Otis-Bison, have been strong defensively and have limited all but two opponents to under 46 points. Much-improved Ellinwood (7-4) won just one game last season and has multiple close wins this year. Ellinwood is 3-1 since the holiday break with wins by one, seven and three points. Senior Madison Ward averages 13.6 points and 12.5 rebounds.

5. Other key tournaments; schedule updates – The Salina Invitational, played Thursday-Saturday, has Liberal and Abilene as the top-two seeds. Liberal is No. 5 in 6A, and Abilene is No. 4 in 4A. Both have squads are undefeated with dominant seasons. Liberal has an average score of 55-29, and Abilene is 8-0 with an average margin of 48-35. …

The Salina boys tournament has Abilene and Salina Central, No. 9 in 5A, as the top-two seeds. … The Hillsboro tournament went through scheduling changes and will now have semifinals Thursday and championship Friday. … The top-four girls’ teams, at the time of seeding, all had one loss or fewer, and the championship could feature Eureka versus Clay Center. Eureka is ranked third in 3A, Clay Center fifth in 3A. … The Northern Plains League tournament, because of the weather, will now conclude Thursday.