Coming off a trip to the NJCAA Region VI championship contest, the Barton Community College men’s basketball was picked to finish third in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference Western Division by its coaching peers on Monday at the annual Jayhawk Conference Media Day held in Wichita.
The Barton women’s team, which struggled last season, was tabbed to place fourth in the West.
On the West side for the men, which will be sans Butler this season, Hutchinson was tabbed as the preseason favorite while Seward County was picked to finish second.
Last season Seward won the regular season title, while Hutchinson was runner-up but captured the Region VI title, beating Barton in the title game.
Seward (14-2 last season in the West) has won the last three Jayhawk West titles. Barton last won the title in 2009 while Hutchinson hasn’t won a Jayhawk West title since 2004.
Barton returns just one starter from last year’s 28-6 team, which finished 12-4 in the West.
Raheem Johnson, who recently signed to play with the University of Buffalo next season, returns after averaging 8.8 points and 7.5 rebounds.
Moundridge product Trey Unruh also returns as a 42 percent 3-point shooter, averaging 5.3 points per contest.
Hutchinson (13-3 last season in the West and 31-4 overall) returns Kadeem Allen as its only starter from last year. Allen was the Jayhawk West Player of the Year, averaging 17.3 points as a freshman.
Rounding out the men’s poll in the West is Cloud County in fourth, followed by Dodge City, Garden City, Pratt and Colby. Butler is a member of the Jayhawk East this season for basketball purposes since four schools in the East — Highland, Johnson County, KCK and Fort Scott — are all NJCAA Division-II teams in basketball.
In the East, Coffeyville was picked to win the division, followed by former West school Butler.
Cowley was tabbed third with Independence fourth. Rounding out the 7-team division is Neosho County, Labette and Allen County.
Barton will tip off its ninth season under head coach Craig Fletchall at the Highland Hotel/Pizza Hut Classic at Kirkman Activity Center on Nov. 1-2. Barton will host Fort Scott and Raleigh Prep Academy.
Fletchall is just three wins shy of surpassing Dan McGovern as the school’s all-time leader in wins. Fletchall has 185 wins while McGovern had 188 during his eight seasons at the helm of the Cougars.
• Lady Cougars picked to finish fourth in West
While the Barton women had a tough season last year, finishing seventh in the West with a 3-13 mark, the coaches around the conference look for a brighter second season from head coach Carter Kruger.
The Lady Cougars were slated in the fourth spot in the conference behind Hutchinson, Seward and Cloud.
Hutch is the defending West champions, posting a 15-1 mark in conference play last season and a 36-2 overall record on its way to a third-place finish in the NJCAA tournament.
Hutchinson has won the last three Jayhawk West titles. Both Seward and Cloud finished with 10-6 marks in the West last season, tied for fourth.
Barton, 13-17 overall last year, returns sophomore Ashton Bruner of McPherson as a starter this year. She averaged 9.9 points and a team-high 7.6 rebounds per contest as a freshman.
Taylor Mayes, Kailai Brantner and Brandy Winbush also return from last season when all averaged just less than five points per contest.
Returning Freshman of the Year and the lone freshman to make All-West first-team honors is Cloud’s Jordyn Alexander. Fabiana Monte, a third-team pick last season in the West, will lead the Seward returnees this year.
Following Barton in the preseason poll is Pratt, Garden City (last season’s runner-up), Colby and Dodge City.
Cowley County is picked to win the West followed by Butler, Independence and Coffeyville. Neosho, Labette and Allen round out the East predicted order of finish.
The Cougar women will open their season at the Highland Hotel/Pizza Hut Classic as well. Barton will host Arizona Western and McPherson College JV.