By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Five doubleheaders on Wednesday night tipped off basketball conference play in the MIAA.
Two more doubleheaders are scheduled tonight, including Central Oklahoma at Pittsburg State. The women’s game starts at 5:30, and the men’s game will follow.
Missouri Southern will be the last school to begin conference play. The Lions play Saturday afternoon at Truman State, with the women’s game starting at 1.
The MIAA has its largest basketball field ever — 15 teams — but this year’s conference slate consists of only 18 games, two fewer than last year when the 11 teams played a home-and-home league slate.
The schools have been split into three somewhat geographic pods — not divisions. Teams will play their other four pod schools twice and the 10 teams in the other two pods once.
Missouri Southern and Pittsburg State are “podded” with Emporia State, Northeastern State and Central Oklahoma.
An “all-Missouri” pod has Truman State, Central Missouri, Southwest Baptist, Lincoln and Lindenwood.
A “three-state” pod consists of Nebraska-Kearney, Fort Hays State, Washburn, Northwest Missouri and Missouri Western.
MIAA teams have compiled a 66-21 record so far, and 10 of the 15 teams have one loss or less.
Entering this week there were nine undefeated Division II women’s teams nationwide, and four of them are in the MIAA — Fort Hays State, Truman State, Central Missouri and Washburn. That list shortened when Fort Hays State whipped Central Missouri 95-50 and Missouri Western beat Truman State 71-54 on Wednesday night.
Five MIAA teams are in this week’s national poll — Washburn at No. 8, Pittsburg State (11), Fort Hays State (17), Emporia State (21) and Central Missouri (23). Truman State and Missouri Western are receiving votes.
Missouri Southern, Pittsburg State, Missouri Western, Central Oklahoma, Southwest Baptist and Emporia State all begin league play with one loss.
Pittsburg State’s Lizzy Jeronimus, 5-foot-11 sophomore and last year’s league freshman of the year, leads the conference at 20.5 points per game. BreAnna Lewis, 5-7 junior from Central Missouri, is next at 18.4, followed by 6-4 sophomore Kate Lehman of Fort Hays State at 17.7 and 5-9 freshman Shelby Winkleman of Central Missouri and 6-1 senior Tiara George of Washburn both at 17.2.
The men’s nonconference record (54-36) isn’t as strong as in past years, but it includes tournament meetings between league foes. For example, Missouri Southern and Pittsburg State both beat Lincoln in the Freeman Sports Medicine/Chris Tucker Memorial Classic last month at MSSU.
The two undefeated teams are nationally ranked — Washburn at No. 2 and Northwest Missouri at No. 12.
Will McNeil, 6-1 senior guard from Washburn, leads the scoring race at 21.0 points per game. He finished second in the league last year behind Missouri Southern center Keane Thomann.
Guards dominate the top of the scoring race. Jon Henderson, 6-4 senior from Nebraska-Kearney, is second at 20.0, followed by 6-4 junior Kaleb Wright of Emporia State at 19.2 and 6-2 senior Alex Bazzell of Lindenwood and 6-2 senior Cedric Ridle of Lincoln both at 18.4.
Pittsburg State freshman Kaleb Porter is sixth at 17.8, and Missouri Southern junior Marquis Addison is ninth at 16.9.