WICHITA — About the only consensus Tuesday at the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference basketball media day at the Crestview Country Club was the lack of consensus.
Even when the media and coaches polls matched, the margin between the favorites was slim.
In both the coaches and media polls for the women, Sterling was picked as a slight favorite over defending conference champion Tabor. Bethany was a close third for the coaches, followed by Kansas Wesleyan. Kansas Wesleyan was third for the media, followed by Bethany.
Four different teams received at least one first-place vote for the coaches. Sterling and Tabor garnered all the first-place votes for the media.
The Bethel women were picked sixth by the coaches and fifth by the media.
In the men’s polls, Southwestern was a narrow favorite over defending champion Oklahoma Wesleyan for the coaches, followed by Kansas Wesleyan and Ottawa. The media picked Oklahoma Wesleyan as a narrow choice over Southwestern with Kansas Wesleyan third and Friends in fourth.
Five men’s team polled at least one first-place vote for the coaches and three different teams claimed at least a first-place vote for the men.
The Bethel men were named 10th in both polls.
The Bethel women were the most improved team in the conference last season, finishing seven games in conference ahead of the 2017-18 squad and reaching the KCAC post-season tournament with a home berth. The team was 20-10, 15-9 in conference play.
Bethel returns two All-KCAC picks in junior post Abby Schmidt, the conference defensive player of the year and sixth in the nation in NAIA Division II in total rebounds; and sophomore guard Kendall Michalski, who struggled with injuries late in the season.
The biggest loss for the Threshers is point guard Jade Brown.
“We had a great year last year,” third-year Bethel coach Drew Johnson said. “We won the most games in school history and had the best start in school history, which we’re looking to build on. We lose four seniors — Jade Brown was an all-conference guard for us and Riley Schmieder played the most games in school history. We lose a lot of experience. For me, this is the first time since I’ve been at Bethel we don’t have a big senior class to rely on in practice. We’re looking to the younger kids for leadership in practice.”
The Bethel men lose very little from last season, returning four starters. Bethel also has a record 21 freshmen reporting to the team.
Leading returnees are All-KCAC guard Jaylon Scott, the KCAC freshman of the year and an all-conference defensive pick; and senior guard Dakota Foster, an All-KCAC honorable mention.
“(Scott) has come back a much better player now than what he was at the end of last year,” second-year coach Jayson Artaz said. “From the offensive standpoint, he put in a ton of time over the summer. All of the returning starters have come back better players. Cliff Byrd (Jr.) was a spark plug for us last year. The games he was in, we were 7-2. Down the stretch, he missed a bunch of games because of concussion.
“We have a chance to be really good. We’ll play fast and we have to defend really hard. That’s the biggest thing for us is to always defend and take away all the easy stuff out there.”
The Bethel women open the season Oct. 26 in Chickasha, Okla., against Sciences & Arts of Oklahoma. The first home game is Oct. 29 against Doane.
The men don’t play a non-conference home game at all this season. The Threshers open Oct. 26 at William Woods in Fulton, Mo. The the first home game is Nov. 13 against Southwestern to open KCAC play. The closest to home the team comes in non-conference play is Nov. 1 and 2 at the McPherson Classic against Bacone and Barclay respectively.