Dec 23, 2011

Clackamas Holiday Invitational Preview

It finally feels like basketball season is here! Clackamas is hosting their first men's tournament of the 2011 campaign, and I'll be there to take in as many games as possible. Here are some ways to keep up with the action:

Firstly on twitter @JWHsports.
Secondly on my Facebook page.
Thirdly on Cybersports for a live stats broadcast!

Until then, Merry Christmas!
John William Howard

Clackamas Holiday Invitational -
 A good first look at some NWAACC powerhouse potential

Early in the season, it's often difficult to get a good read on how teams will finish in the standings by the time that the NWAACC tournament rolls around in March. Some of that is satisfied by the four "crossover" tournaments that are held each preseason where two teams from each region are hosted by one of the participating schools and play a short, and usually drab three-round tournament. There are exceptions, though. Sometimes one of the tournaments will be heavy laden with ranked teams, providing great entertainment for the handful of fans that show up expecting a run-of-the-mill exhibition match, as well as giving a chance for the top teams to clash before it really counts.

Another one of the chances that those teams have is the set of holiday invitational tournaments. These tournaments don't have the crossover requirements, and that means that hosts don't have to bother inviting teams that don't really belong there. The most prestigious of those tournaments on the men's side is that hosted by Clackamas Community College beginning December 28th. This tournament features five teams that I've put in my JOWARD Power Rankings, and three of the top teams from the current coaches poll. It is the only one of the three invitational tournaments that has all NWAACC teams (Clark's alumni are participating in their tournament, and Big Bend's has only four teams, one of which is from Canada) and is the only invitational that has more than one ranked team.

Let's take a look at the first round:
Rankings are Joward Power Rankings

No. 6 Tacoma CC vs. Linn Benton CC
Mark McLaughlin
Wednesday, Dec. 28 - 1 p.m.
As silly as this may sound, don't let Linn-Benton's three wins fool you. See, of those three wins, two of them were against Linfield JV. The other was against 4-4 Columbia Basin, which is semi-respectable. But they lost to 2-5 Everett, for goodness sakes. Expect Tacoma to come in and wrap this one up, complete with a little bow, fairly early and cruise to an easy victory. Tacoma guard Mark McLaughlin will be a player to watch, as he is second in the league in scoring with 28 points per game, and he is the only player to have broken the 40 point barrier so far this season.

No.2 Peninsula College vs. No. 3 Yakima Valley CC
J.T. Terrel at Wake Forest last season.
Wednesday, Dec. 28 -  3 p.m.
This should be the highlight of the first round, despite the coaches not ranking Yakima Valley in the top 8. This game will feature the top scorer in the league in Peninsula's J.T Tyrell (32.25 ppg), who started at Wake Forest a season ago, against one of the best defenses the NWAACC has to offer. Yakima Valley leads the league in both blocks and steals, and is a much better offensive rebounding team than Peninsula. YVCC should put up a fantastic fight, but eventually the Pirates will come out on top by a fairly close margin.

No. 5 Walla Walla CC vs. Everett CC
Michael Crane averages 1.3 blocks 
per game for Walla Walla.
Wednesday, Dec. 28 - 5 p.m.
Unlike many of the teams ranked in the top eight, Walla Walla doesn't have flashy stats either offensively or defensively. They don't score a lot of points (73.4 ppg) and their rebounding is middle of the pack at best. They don't have a lot of steals, and while they average a fairly good amount of blocks, it's nothing fantastic. But what they don't do is give up points. Of Walla Walla's seven wins so far, they've held their opponents under 60 points five times. Everett is another one of those slow paced, defensively minded teams. Expect to see a low scoring game, probably with both teams staying under 75 points in a Walla Walla victory.

No. 8 Clackamas vs. Blue Mountain
Taylor Dunn verses Clark
Wednesday, Dec. 28 - 7 p.m.
This match up is as much a coin toss as any of the others. Both teams average around the same stats-wise, and seem to balance one another out. Clackamas gets more steals, Blue Mountain gets more blocks. Clackamas shoots better from the three point line, Blue Mountain shoots better overall. Truthfully, this game could go either way. The game will come down to which team gives their star better support. Clackamas' Taylor Dunn has been averaging over 22 points, ten better than the next man behind him. If I had to choose a winner, I'd say Clackamas simply because they're playing at home and haven't had to travel.

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