Basketball season begins Monday

It’s really hard to believe, as I get ready to head to St. Louis tomorrow to cover Blue Springs South in the state championship game for football that basketball season really starts two days later.
Personally, I am happy our friends at the Missouri State High School Activities Association limited the number of basketball games before Thanksgiving.
With the short week and so much going on, it was nice to have these last few days to kind of regroup and get ready for what should be an amazing Winter Sports Season.
Since I took up this theme during the football season, I’ll give a quick top five list of things to watch for during the upcoming winter season.
1. Can Oak Grove win a wrestling title?: Of all the teams in our area, I believe the Panthers are the top threat to win it all this year.
And that’s saying something with as good as the Blue Springs girls basketball and girls swimming teams are.
The Panthers came so close to winning the title last year, despite not putting anyone in the finals.
I’ve talked to the coaches and some of the wrestlers. While they were happy to get a trophy again, a lot of the people in the wrestling room feel like they let a trophy slip through their fingertips last year.
The Panthers have a good senior class, as well as a good sophomore class. A lot of those sophomores got experience last year – some even at the state tournament – and I think that experience will really pay off.
Monett will be tough, as will Excelsior Springs. And Platte County can never be counted out after the recent run of title the Pirates racked up.
Class 2 will be tough. But the Panthers have what it takes to win it.
2. Title town?: I already mentioned Blue Springs and that the Wildcats will have a strong girls basketball team.
And the Wildcats have won three of the last four state titles in girls swimming.
But the Blue Springs wrestling team could also make some noise at state.
Class 4 opens up a bit this year with perennial champion Oak Park moving down to Class 3.
The Wildcats should be strong contenders, but Park Hill and two-time Class 3 Wentzville-Holt – who moved up this year – will be tough as well.
Despite losing a pair of state champions in Clarence Neely and Chris Chionuma, the Wildcats will again be in good position this year to bring home a state trophy, if not win it all.
3. Delayed start: With Blue Springs South playing Saturday for a state football title, you can be sure boys basketball coach Jimmy Cain doesn’t mind waiting until Friday for his team to play its first game.
His only two returners – Michael Vann and Javier Delvillar – both play on the football team.
If it was up to him, he’d probably wait another week to let the football players heal up and get in the groove for basketball.
But at least the Jaguars aren’t starting Monday or Tuesday, so the players have at least a little time to get ready for Oak Park.
4. New faces: Truman and Oak Grove both have a lot of new starters for their boys basketball teams.
Oak Grove returns one varsity player, while the Patriots rebuild around James Hosey and Tyler Sevy.
But if these teams struggle early, Truman proved last year you can start slowly and still make a late run – all the way to the state semifinal.
5. Fear the Bear: This last one is for Jeff Fox, our Editorial Page Editor, who roots for his alma mater come rain or shine.
This year should bring a lot more shine to both the boys and girls basketball team.
In fact, I think all four teams at Chrisman will be much improved this year – none more than the swimming and diving team.
I think both basketball teams could finish with winning records and in the top two spots in the Suburban Big Six. I also think the wrestling team will make some noise and the swimmers will be fourth in the conference – a big improvement over the past few years.