Jan 16, 2012

Bellevue takes shot at NWAACC top spot

NWAACC Men's Basketball
There were only three losses between the eight teams ranked in the top eight, but those three losses were big ones. The #1 team got knocked off by the #7 team, #4 fell to #5, and #5 fell big to an unranked team. Despite the small number of losses and no new teams gracing the JOWARD Power Rankings, the order of things has been shaken up quite a bit, with Clark being the only team to retain their previous ranking. Coaches rankings are in italics under each team's record, and will be updated when they are made available.


1. Bellevue (13-0, 3-0 North)
#1 Coaches
Previous Ranking: No. 2, No. 1 Coaches 

While Bellevue's back to back defeats of Clackamas are beginning to fade in significance, their early season 83-78 defeat of Whatcom is beginning to gain importance. And while critics might say that Bellevue hasn't seen many high ranking opponents so far this season, they have still managed to stay unbeaten. They will be further tested as the regular season progresses, as the North is shaping up to be one of the toughest divisions in the NWAACC. Bellevue's efficiency will be their greatest asset, as four of the six teams that lead the NWAACC in scoring are from the North. Bellevue continues to lead the league in field goal percentage at a solid 50%, and is third in 3pt percentage at 40%.


2. Whatcom (12-2, 4-0 North)
#4 Coaches
Previous Ranking: No. 7, No. 7 Coaches

Whatcom had just barely broken into the rankings two weeks ago. Since then, they've had two meager victories over pitiful Northern opponents Edmonds (1-10) and Everett (3-10). That was when Whatcom kicked things into high gear. They marched in to #1 Peninsula's gym, and marched out with a thrilling 74-71 victory (box), marking the first time since February 2010 that Peninsula had lost at home. Just three days later, Whatcom proved that scoring wasn't an issue either when they put up 120 points on Shoreline behind Dereck Dickerson's 39 points.


3. Clark (14-1, 4-0 West)
#2 Coaches
Previous Ranking: No. 3, No. 3 Coaches

Clark's numbers have dropped slightly since their lone loss to Snow College on December 30th. However,  it's more likely that Clark has settled into a rhythm than they're backtracking. They've won their first four meetings in region play, and have already defeated Tacoma during the preseason, a team that is sure to challenge them as the regular season continues. Clark has dispatched every team from their division that they have faced, defeating Tacoma, Lower Columbia, and Green River, who are #2, #3, and #5 respectively in the West.


4. Peninsula (14-2, 4-1 North)
#3 Coaches
Previous Ranking: No. 1, No. 2 Coaches

Coming into the season as both the defending champs and arguably the NWAACC's most talented squad, Peninsula has fallen on a bit of a rough patch. They dropped a game to #7 Whatcom on their home floor, and went back out a few nights later only to barely escape with a 79-77 victory over a dreadful 1-10 Edmonds team. And that was after the "best practice of the year," according to head coach Lance Von Vogt, who also said over twitter that things were "back on track" after the win on the road at Edmonds.  We'll have to wait and see if the league's front runner is back to their old, dominant selves.


5. Tacoma (12-3, 4-0 West)
#5 Coaches
Previous Ranking: No. 6, No. 6 Coaches

Given that Tacoma has started out the regular season 4-0 and that their only two losses in the last 13 games have been to #1 Peninsula and #3 Clark, the fact that they now have point guard Josh Lord back in the lineup can only spell good things for the Titans. Tacoma's star guard Mark McLaughlin has continued to improve, now leading the league with 28.47 points per game, and is also averaging over seven rebounds and three assists per contest.


6. Chemeketa (11-4, 4-0 South)
#9 Coaches
Previous Ranking: No. 8, No. 5 Coaches

Chemeketa is an example of a team that runs a lot, but actually plays some defense. Of the two teams that average over 100 points, they are the much more efficient squad. They shoot a higher percentage and commit far fewer turnovers. One of three teams from the South to start off the regular season 3-0, Chemeketa has the best overall game. Wherever they lack, they make up for it in pure scoring, putting up 103 points per game, which is 13 points better than Whatcom, the next team back. Chemeketa's biggest hurdle seems to be playing on the road, where they've had some close scrapes. They nearly lost their lead at Clackamas, but finished with a 100-88 overtime victory, and were nearly caught off guard again when they faced Lane, but escaped with a 95-92 win.


7. Big Bend (12-2, 2-1 East)
#6 Coaches
Previous Ranking: No. 5, No. 4 (tie) Coaches

Big Bend has been putting together an impressive season. They began by winning 11 of their first 12 games, including a stunning 80-77 victory over then #1 Spokane to hand them their first loss. Since then, Big Bend put a beat down on Spokane, flattening the Sasquatch 101-84 (box). After that, things didn't look quite as good. In a game that doesn't quite make sense, Big Bend fell 94-76 to unranked Yakima Valley, throwing a wrench into their strong season so far. The East is a whole new breed of mess at this point, as there are six teams tied at 2-1 in region play, including the 3-11 Treasure Valley Chuckars. In the likely event that the loss was a fluke, Big Bend should ride their solid across-the-board numbers to a region championship.


8. Spokane (13-3, 2-1 East)
#7 Coaches
Previous Ranking: No. 4, No. 4 (tie) Coaches

For a team that started off by winning their first 11 games, Spokane has fallen a long way. A pair of losses to Big Bend have made it clear that the Sasquatch definitely aren't the dominant team in the East that they appeared to be during the preseason. Spokane does have a few categories to note: they lead the NWAACC in three pointers made, but also lead in attempts by a decent margin, while only shooting 34% from beyond the arc. Something they do excel in is free throw shooting. They are tied with Peninsula at 74% for the best in the league. 


Teams moving up: Bellevue, Whatcom, Tacoma, Chemeketa
Teams moving down: Peninsula, Spokane, Big Bend

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