By Fred Liggett
The 2018-19 MIAA basketball season will see something both old and new before it ends. The old is how the teams will finish in the standings on both the men’s and women’s sides. The pre-season media poll has both defending champions coming out on top again. The Central Missouri Jennies are expected to repeat as women’s champion as they received 13 of a possible 14 first place votes. Northwest Missouri, the men’s champion, was picked to repeat but only received six out of a possible 14 first place votes.
The new won’t be seen for a while by MIAA fans as they won’t occur until after the regular season ends. First change that will be noticed is the MIAA post-season tourney played every year in Kansas City. The conference now has plans to hold a five-day 10-team tournament March 5-10. In the past the league would have first round games played at campus sites with only eight teams advancing to play at the historic Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City. Starting this season there will be 10 teams on both the women’s and men’s sides coming to Kansas City to compete for a championship. This means the top two seeds will receive byes into the next round. The next change MIAA followers will see is both Southwest Baptist and Lindenwood are leaving the MIAA for the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Lindenwood has been a conference member for less than 10 years but for SBU it’s been a 32-year relationship.
For alumni of MIAA schools in the Kansas City area there are many opportunities for them to catch their favorite school in action. The MIAA Challenge will take place again this year at Municipal Auditorium with four MIAA teams playing in four games all on one day, Monday, November 19. This in addition to the expanded men’s and women’s tournaments give the league additional exposure in the KC area.
The MIAA women’s favorite, Central Missouri, has a “Great nucleus in place” according to head coach Dave Slifer. Slifer adds his team “Looks to make a nice run again” referring to last season when the Jennies won the 2018 Regional, then the NCAA national title. The Jennies are expected to be led by senior guard Paige Redmond a 5’8″ Senior. The MIAA men’s favorite, Northwest Missouri, “Likes the expectations” according to head coach Ben McCallum. McCallum states his team “really doesn’t talk about it.” The Bearcats have lost just five games the last two years but losing Player of the Year Justin Pitts will have to be overcome for them to realize the same success this coming season.
Currently there are 14 members in the MIAA with a desire to win a league title. When the league returns to Kansas City for the post-season tournament in early March fans and media will know then if there is more changes in the conference than predicted such as a new conference champion.