Fresh off finishing her inaugural women's basketball season in guiding the Lady Greyhounds to a 16-16 record and runner-up champions of the NJCAA Division I Region 16 Tournament, Moberly Area Community College head coach Hana Haden last week announced the program's 2019-2020 schedule.
Unlike last summer when Haden inherited a ledger that was already in place by her predecessor, Chad Killinger, Haden garners nearly full ownership of the Lady Greyhounds direction and the privilege of establishing playing dates and challenges to better strengthen her team over the course of a season.
In addition to the Region 16 match ups that serve as double headers with the men's team, there is one item on the schedule of which Haden, as well as other regional women's basketball head coaches have little control over.
That's the new Region 16 Showdown Classics established last spring by member coaches to be used annually upon the start of the upcoming women's college basketball season. As a result of this new concept, regional teams will now play one another at least three times in the regular season yet only the home-and-away series outcomes will count toward Region 16 standings and seeding purposes for the post season tournament. Some programs will compete a fourth time against one another as they travel through the regional tournament bracket.
Haden explained that beginning with this coming season, and each campaign thereafter, there will be two Region 16 Showdown Classics held. The host of these venues will rotate from year to year among Region 16 colleges. Showdown Classics will be held in the months of November and December having one location allow for each team to play three games while the other venue offers each team to play two games.
“I voted against this and was out-numbered 4-to-1. The other coaches wanted this saying they believe it will strengthen everyone's schedule. They also liked it because it automatically puts 12 Division I JUCO games on the schedule, and it helps to decrease the amount of non-Division I opponents that may appear on a schedule.They believe this will also help our Region 16 be noticed to get an at-large bid to the national tournament ,” said Lady Greyhounds coach Haden during a July 12 interview about the topic. “I don't necessarily agree with all of that. One of my biggest arguments against it is that I did not want to play against the same team four times in a single season because it will happen in our regional tournament. There are some regions in the country that are doing this kind of format such as in the panhandle in Florida and I think this idea came from that.”
This season's inaugural Region 16 Showdown Classics will be held Nov. 22-23 at State Fair CC in Sedalia where MACC competes against State Fair and Mineral Area College of Park Hill; and Dec. 6-8 at Three Rivers CC in Poplar Bluff where the Lady Hounds face Three Rivers, Crowder College in Neosho and Jefferson College in Hillsboro.
Coach Haden said a potential perk to the Showdown Classic is that the venue likely will draw more spectators to the host arena by having several regional games played in two days, and it may attract coaches from a variety of four-year college programs as it provides a “one stop shop” atmosphere to look at several prospective athletes to recruit.
However, with the installment of the two Showdown Classics this takes away opportunities for Haden to schedule more home dates as well as contests in which they face five opponents not found in Region 16. The result has the MACC women having only 11 home dates on this season's schedule.
The Lady Greyhounds preseason agenda has the team participating at the Illinois Central Jamboree in Peoria, Ill. on Oct. 5 and Oct. 19 at the Mid-America Showcase in Lawrence, Kan. where the squad will compete in three scrimmages at each site.
Official tip-off of the MACC women's basketball season is at home come the weekend of Nov. 1-2 when the college hosts its annual Orscheln Properties Classic. This will be the first of two such home venues featuring both men's and women's games played at the Fitzsimmons-John Arena.
“I like our schedule. I see it to be a challenging one, and one that will prepare us to compete strong at the regional tournament like it did last year when we peaked, playing our best basketball, and gave Three Rivers a good fight in the championship game,” Haden said. “We play in several weekend classics in the first semester. Playing these back-to-back games on consecutive days will be a test of strength and endurance, but I feel we have some good team-depth this year that will help us meet and hopefully overcome those kind of challenges.”
Moberly Lady Greyhounds taken on Marshalltown, Ia. the first night of the Orscheln Properties Classic and Rend Lake, Ill. about 24 hours later. Independence CC, Mo. is the third college team participating but Moberly will not match up with them.
The next two playing dates are also at home when John Wood College of Quincy, Ill. pays a visit here Nov. 5 and four days later the opponent is the jayvee squad from Missouri Baptist University of St. Louis.
Mt. Carmel, Ill. is the first road trip destination where MACC competes in the Wabash Valley CC Classic on Nov. 15-16 as they contend with Vincennes University, Ind. and the event host.
“Both Vincennes and Wabash have been powerhouse women's basketball programs with the Vincennes coach entering his 30th year and approaching about 700 wins I think so he has a long history of success. I believe Wabash Valley has five (NCAA) Division I transfers on its team and they are coming off a year going 32-1 and playing in the national tournament,” Haden said. “I see those two games will be among our toughest if not the toughest ones of the first semester.”
The month of November closes with Moberly hosting Metropolitan CC of Kansas City on the 26th and then the annual Thanksgiving Classic is held Nov. 29-30. MACC women engages with Kennedy King CC of Chicago and then the jayvee squad Lindenwood University of Belleville, Ill. on Nov. 30.
“We had a late change of our schedule where Highland had to cancel their plans to play in our classic and it was hard to find another JUCO Division I team to fill-in on short notice. After searching around I found that the jayvee team at Lindenwood of Belleville had dates to fill on its playing schedule and they wanted to come here,” Haden explained. “We are trying not to schedule jayvee teams now because coaches within our region now want to use only player stats in games against Division I colleges when it comes to voting for regional honors and such. It was unfortunate that we had a sudden schedule change like this.”
Besides the second Showdown Classic, MACC women's only other playing date in the month of December is the 15th when they participate against an opponent to be named at the St. Louis CC Shootout.
Moberly Lady Greyhounds ring in the new year Jan. 4 playing at Illinois Central College and three days later they return to St. Louis CC to play the Archers. Illinois Central lost just a couple of games last season and was ranked No. 1 in the NJCAA Division II women's final regular season poll and was upset in the second round of the national tournament.
With the exception of three playing dates, the remaining regular season schedule consists of home-and-away series of contests against Region 16 rivals starting Jan. 10 at home against defending regional champions Three Rivers.
Haden believes the defending champs will be the regional favorites once again as they return five of the seven players who all averaged double figures in scoring last year. Mineral Area, who Moberly upset in the regional semifinals a year ago, should be strong contenders having five of their top eight players returning as well.
Moberly plays at Metropolitan CC on Feb. 7 and the next night at Iowa Western of Council Bluffs, and then the Lady Greyhounds host North Central Missouri College of Trenton on Feb. 10.
The annual NJCAA Region 16 Tournament returns to the campus of Lincoln University at Jefferson City on Feb. 25 through March 1.