There are no ‘gimmies’ in the Region VI men’s basketball bracket this year. At least for all teams not named Hutchinson.
But this year’s bracket has to be somewhat appealing to Coach Craig Fletchall and the Barton Cougars.
Barton will start its quest for a Region VI title at 7:30 pm Thursday at the Barton Gym as Seward County visits. The game will follow the Barton and Northwest Tech women’s game. Admission to the final home game of the season is free.
The Cougars earned the No. 2 seed for the Region VI Tournament this season. With a pretty balanced league other than No. 2 ranked Hutchinson – job one was to be on the opposite side of the Blue Dragons in the bracket.
That mission was accomplished with that second seed. But there are other positives about the bottom half of the bracket for the Cougars. Barton’s overall record against the bottom half of the bracket is 10-2. Against the top half, the Cougars are 9-5.
“Obviously, being opposite of Hutchinson is nice,” Coach Craig Fletchall said. “They are by far the best team in the region. But you still have to win games or it doesn’t matter too much.”
In Seward, Barton gets traditional power. The Saints have struggled this season. Seward is 9-21 overall and finished just 6-20 in the Jayhawk.
Although, to prove just how balanced the league is after Hutch, Seward won its regular season finale over Garden City, 77-68. A Garden City team that handed Barton its worst loss of the season. Seward also beat Coffeyville this year, a team that just beat the Cougars Saturday.
Seward is led in scoring by sophomore guard Kevin Sims, averaging 21.5 points per game. Charles Beauregard, another sophomore guard, is scoring 16.3.
So despite a No. 15 at No. 2 matchup on the surface, there are no’ gimmies’. Barton won 88-81 at Liberal back in November. The Cougars won 108-95 in January at the Barton Gym.
“We just want to get out of the first round,” Coach Fletchall said. “That has been a problem for us the past few years.”
Surviving the opening round has not been something Barton has done well the past three years. Barton has taken the exit door in the opener all three years – the last two on the Cougars home floor.
The last time Barton did get past the first round, the Cougars played for the Region VI Championship – a loss to Hutchinson in 2013.
The latter – not the former – is the path Barton is looking to take this year. With perhaps a different result in that title game.
Barton has five players scoring in double figures this season. Ezekiel Charles leads the team at 13.9, just ahead of Malik Rhodes at 13.7. Anthony Smith is at 12.1, Jahili Rawley 10.6, and Malik Toppin 10.3. Smith (8.0) and Toppin (7.5) are among the best rebounders in the conference as well.
If Barton does get past Seward, the winner of the Cowley/Northwest Tech game awaits at Hartman Arena in Park City, just north of Wichita. That game would be played at 7 p.m. Sunday night.
The other part of the bottom half does include a couple teams the Cougars split with this year in 3 seed Dodge City (20-10) and 6 seed Coffeyville (18-12). If Barton was to reach the semifinals, chances are the Cougars would play one of those two teams in a 5 pm game Tuesday at Hartman.
Region VI Playoffs
First Round – Thursday at home sites
1 Hutchinson (29-1) receives a bye
9 Independence (13-16) at 8 Garden City (16-14)
12 Allen County (13-17) at 5 Butler (17-12), 7:30 pm
13 Pratt (10-19) at 4 Cloud County (20-10), 8 pm
14 Neosho County (11-19) at 3 Dodge City (20-10)
11 Colby (14-16) at 6 Coffeyville (18-12), 7:30 pm
10 Northwest Tech (12-17) at 7 Cowley (16-14), 7:30 pm
15 Seward County (9-21) at 2 Barton (23-7), 7:30 pm
Quarterfinals - Sunday at Hartman Arena in Park City
Hutch v Indy/Garden winner, 1 pm
Cloud/Pratt winner v Allen/Butler winner, 3 pm
Dodge/Neosho winner v Coffeyville/Colby winner, 5 pm
Barton/Seward winner v Cowley/Northwest Tech winner, 7 pm
Semifinals – Tuesday at Hartman Arena
Top half winners, 7 pm
Bottom half winners, 5 pm
Finals – Wednesday at Hartman Arena
Championship game 7 p.m.