Tahlequah Daily Press

March 7, 2013

Inside the MIAA

Sports Editor

— Women's tournament schedule

Quarterfinals through finals to be played at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.

Tuesday - 1st round

NW Missouri St. 77, Mo. Southern 72

Truman 65, SW Baptist 56

Fort Hays State 70, Lincoln 57

Mo. Western 71, Pittsburg State 67

Friday - Quarterfinals

Game 1: Washburn vs. NW Missouri St., noon.

Game 2: Emporia State vs. Truman, 2:15 p.m.

Game 3: Central Mo. vs. Mo. Western, 6 p.m.

Game 4: Northeastern State vs. Fort Hays State, 8:15 p.m.

Saturday - Semifinals

Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 6 p.m.

Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 8:15 p.m.

Sunday - Finals

Game 7: Championship game, 3:30 p.m.

Men's tournament schedule

Quarterfinals through finals to be played at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.

Tuesday - 1st round

Mo. Southern 68, Emporia State 66

NW Missouri St. 66, Mo. Western 46

Central Okla. 103, SW Baptist 89

Pitt State 70, Truman 62

Thursday - Quarterfinals

Game 1: Fort Hays State vs. Mo. Southern, noon.

Game 2: Northeastern State vs. NW Missouri St., 2:15 p.m.

Game 3: Central Mo. vs. Pitt State, 6 p.m.

Game 4: Washburn vs. Central Okla., 8:15 p.m.

Saturday - Semifinals

Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, noon.

Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 2:15 p.m.

Sunday - Finals

Game 7: Championship game, 1 p.m.


Tourney favorite

Fort Hays State: The No. 1 seed Tigers aren't an overwhelming favorite, but with Central Missouri and Washburn on the same side of the bracket, as least Fort Hays State avoids them until the finals. The quartet of Dwayne Brunson, Lance Russell, Craig Nicholson and Ben Congiusta will be hard to overcome for any team in the field. The Tigers also enter the tournament as winners of their last two games.


Northeastern State: The RiverHawks would have a tough road to win the championship, but it doesn't seem impossible. NSU opens against a Northwest Missouri State team that it lost to by one point on the road in late January. A win there would likely create a matchup against Fort Hays State, who the RiverHawks blasted, 76-61, in Tahlequah earlier this season. Beyond that, a championship game against either Washburn or Central Missouri isn't as insurmountable as it might sound with Bryton Hobbs manning the point guard position and Jermaine Bransford on the low block.


Central Oklahoma: The Bronchos certainly have the talent and the coaching to win the league crown, but it would be the steepest of uphill climbs. Central Oklahoma, winner of two straight games, could face a three-game obstacle of Washburn, Central Missouri and Fort Hays State. That's tough enough to make any team crack.


Regional rankings: Northeastern State is the highest-ranked team in the Central Region rankings this week at No. 5. The RiverHawks are one of three MIAA teams currently in the top eight, which all qualify for the NCAA tournament. Central Missouri is at No. 7 and Washburn is No. 8. Minnesota State-Mankato, Winona State, Augustana (S.D.) and Harding round out the top four in the region. Upper Iowa is at No. 6.

MIAA Women

Tourney favorite

Washburn: The Lady Blues have been nearly untouchable during the regular season, sporting a 22-4 overall record and a 16-2 mark in league play. Washburn's only hiccups were on the road at Northeastern State and Emporia State. Ron McHenry's club, led by Laura Kinderknecht, is poised to win its second straight tournament crown and 10th title since 1992.


Emporia State: The Hornets shrugged off two straight losses to Pittsburg State and Northeastern State in late February are riding a brief two-game winning streak heading into the tournament. One of those victories came against Washburn, and sure enough, Emporia State is on Washburn's side of the bracket. Laura Patrick and Co. could be a dangerous club if they can catch fire early on in the tournament.


Missouri Western: The Griffons are the lowest-seeded team in the tournament and would have a brutal three-game stretch to try and win the title. Missouri Western, the No. 10-seed, would have to upset Central Missouri in the first round and then beat Northeastern State or Fort Hays State in the semifinals. Then, a championship game would include showdown against either Washburn or Emporia State. If Missouri Western can navigate through that with three wins, then it certainly deserves a spot in the NCAA tournament.


Regional rankings: Washburn and Central Missouri appear to be virtual locks for the NCAA tournament, sitting at No. 1 and 2 in the Central Region rankings, which were released on Wednesday. Northeastern State is in as of right now at No. 8, but the RiverHawks will likely have to win one or two games in the conference tournament to feel safe about their postseason aspirations. Nos. 3 through 7 in the region are Concordia-St. Paul, Minnesota State-Mankato, Arkansas Tech, Augustana (S.D.) and Southwestern Oklahoma State. Sitting on the outside right now at Nos. 9 and 10 are Truman and Emporia State, respectively.

NSU previews

Men: The RiverHawks (19-7, 12-6 MIAA) the No. 4 seed headed into the tournament. They'll face a Bearcats club that is 19-9 and 11-7. NSU's biggest challenge will be to shake the emotional victory over Central Oklahoma that was more than a week ago. Against the Bearcats, NSU will have to focus on shutting down DeAngelo Hailey, who averages 14.2 points and 5 rebounds a game. Dillon Starzl (13) and Alex Sullivan (11) also average double-figure scoring marks for the Bearcats. The RiverHawks will counter with Bryton Hobbs (18.2 points, 5 assists per game), Jermaine Bransford (16 points, 9.7 rebounds) and Ethan Anderson (10.6 points, 4 rebounds).

Women: NSU, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, will take on a misleading No. 6 seed in Fort Hays State (21-6, 12-6). The Tigers, despite losing to NSU earlier this season, are capable of springing a mild upset with the likes of Kate Lehman (16.3 points, 8.4 rebounds) and Katelyn Edwards (13 points, 7.9 rebounds) on the floor. Both clubs are receiving votes in the nation's top-25 poll, and both need solid showings in the league tournament to make a last-ditch run at the NCAA tournament. This and the Emporia State-Truman games will be the ones to watch when the tournament gets started on Friday.