Free State Classic

Kansas City, MO — The cold clutches of the winter still blow across the Midwestern plain.  There may be  snow on the ground, but the Free State Classic will be happening this weekend. Four Ozark Conference teams take to the fields in Overland Park and will be facing Division I powerhouses Iowa and Illinois — rain, sleet or shine.

Arkansas – Ludicrous Speed is full of sophomores and freshmen. They may not have the most experience, but what they lack in game-time experience they make up in youth and hustle. That hustle translates into lots of lay out d’s. The real problem Arkansas has is they have yet to be challenged. Speed rolled through competition on Saturday at Big D in Little D and had an easy time Sunday until the very end of the Oklahoma game and the very beginning of the Kansas State game. The first and last games of Saturday– Missouri and Iowa respectively — will be tough competition and put Ludicrous Speed to a true test.

Kansas – The Horrorzontals don’t rebuild: they reload. This year might be different though as Kansas’ fall tournaments give doubt to their traditional strength. At Harvest Moon they split into X and Y, which is good for player experience, but both underperformed and had problems with Harding and Hendrix. At Missouri Loves Company, they beat Kansas State 17-16 after coming back from five down and lost to Illinois 10-13. This is the first tournament of the spring for Kansas and will let everyone know if the Zontals are still ‘the team to beat’.

Kansas State – The Huckstables are much improved from last year. It is almost like something has clicked and Kansas State is running on extra cylinders. They took the T-Town Throwdown Chumpionship over Vanderbilt on January 30, and won Big D in Little D last week by beating Arkansas. They pull the short straw by facing in-state rival Kansas for their first game and Illinois right after that. If they can win the first two then they should lock up the pool, but that is a big if. The Huckstables may have hung with Florida at T-Town Throwdown, but this tournament will tell us where the Huckstables really stand. Are they a real player in the Ozark Conference or are they just a tough team?

Missouri – The MUtants are an interesting team. In the fall, the MUtants lost to Harding at Itchfest but beat them at their home tournament, Missouri Loves Company. Then they lost  9-10 to Iowa and 6-7 to Kansas, both historically tough teams. Missouri’s weakness, however, also happens to be their strength — streakiness. But if Missouri loses their first game to Arkansas, will they be able to regroup against Iowa? Only Saturday will tell.