NWAACC Men's BasketballA few weeks removed from our first set of power rankings, we've had a lot of chances to see the top ranked teams in action. The NWAACC crossover tournaments December 16-18 provided a lot of inter-region play, and the Clackamas Holiday Invitational grouped together some of the top talent in the league in the days between Christmas and New Years. Let's take a look at how the teams stack up now. Coaches rankings are in italics next to each team's record.
1. Peninsula (10-1) - #2 Coaches
Previous Ranking: No. 2, No. 3 Coaches
Main reasons for Peninsula's advancement? After falling to a darn good North Idaho team back in November, the Pirates have reeled off seven consecutive wins, including a 78-75 nail biter vs. #6 Tacoma and a 20 point blowout over Holiday Invitational host Clackamas in the tournament championship. Early in the season, it seemed that J.T. Terrell would be Peninsula's everything, and that all of their offense would run through him. Watching them play, it's apparent that he is only a part of their potent offense AND defense. Peninsula has at least three players that could go Division-I after this season, and maybe more.
2. Bellevue (10-0) - #1 Coaches
Previous Ranking: No. 4, No. 2 Coaches
It's always difficult to snub an undefeated team, especially after a convincing 88-50 win like Bellevue had over Walla Walla on December 18th and the victory over then #8 Whatcom on November 27th. However, with Bellevue there are a few suspect moments: they beat unranked Highline (1-8) by the skin of their teeth, and have played mediocre Clackamas and lowly S. Puget Sound twice each. That said, Bellevue is averaging 49% from the field and 39% from behind the arc, good for 2nd and 3rd place respectively in the league.
Previous Ranking: Unranked, No. 7 Coaches
Clark was one of those teams that somehow fell through the cracks early in the season. Even boasting a 5-0 record and a crushing win over then #3 Clackamas, Clark couldn't muster anything higher than a #7 ranking in the coaches poll. This time around, they're taken much more seriously. Clark went off for five more victories, including a 81-71 victory over then #4 Tacoma, before falling to Snow College 77-59 in the championship of their own holiday tournament [bracket]. One of the best shooting teams in the NWAACC at 48%, one of only five teams to average 18+ assists, and second in the league in rebounding, Clark will be a force to reckon with as they enter region play.
4. Spokane (11-2) - #4 (tie) Coaches
Previous Ranking: No. 1, No. 1 Coaches
That's right, Spokane is on a losing streak. After flashing out to an impressive 11-0 record and grabbing a win over powerhouse North Idaho college. Now that they've fallen to Big Bend in a close match up and then were blown out 76-56 in a rematch with North Idaho, their lack of outstanding stats is a little less easy to forgive. Their gaudy blocks were about the only thing that they stood out in, and that has lost a bit of its luster. One thing that can be said in the Sasquatch's credit: they've only allowed one team to score more than 80 points.
5. Big Bend (10-1) - #4 (tie) Coaches
Previous Ranking: Unranked, No. 8 Coaches
Big Bend has been somewhat of a surprise this season. Their one loss came against (wait for it) North Idaho, and it was they that knocked undefeated and #1 ranked Spokane from their pedestal in a 80-77 thriller. Big Bend is averaging 89.55 points per game, good for 4th in the NWAACC and leads the league in steals at a stunning 14.91 per game. Big Bend will need to show a few more wins over quality teams, as nearly all of theirs are against opponents with more losses than wins, but if the success keeps up, Big Bend could make some noise in this year's tournament.
6. Tacoma (8-3) - #6 Coaches
Previous Ranking: No. 6, No. 4 Coaches
Tacoma has fallen on some hard times recently in the injury department, forcing them to lean heavily on their star Mark McLaughlin in last week's Invitational at Clackamas. McLaughlin showed that he was worthy of the go-to position on the team, and stepped up to the plate, scoring 86 points in his three games at the tournament. However valiant McLaughlin's efforts, basketball really is a team effort, and that should change when Tacoma gets several of their key players back. "Once we get our point guard (Josh) Lord back next week from an injury we will make a run," said Tacoma Head Coach Carl Howell. "He is our heart and soul and has missed the last four games." And Howell is right. When they get those pieces back, Tacoma will be scary good.
7. Whatcom (8-2) - #7 Coaches
Previous Ranking: No. 7, No. 5 Coaches
Watcom's only two losses are to current #2 Bellevue and #4 Spokane. They're averaging 91.67 points per game and outside of a 2OT win over Highline and a 188-109 win over the NWAACC's highest scoring team, Shoreline (103 ppg), Watcom has only allowed a team to score over 80 points twice, holding their opponents to under 70 points a game. To compound that, they lead the NWAACC in shooting percentage at a red hot 51% and are third in rebounding.
8. Chemeketa (8-4) - Unranked Coaches
Previous Ranking: No. 7, No. 5 Coaches
Since going 0-2 to start the season, Chemeketa has gone 8-2, but it's not their record that impresses. It's their ability to score. Now they may forget completely about defense from time to time, but they have a high of 153 points (vs. NW Elite) and score an average of 102.75 points per game. They're also second in the NWAACC in assists (18.42 apg). Now if they could just learn to slow down the other team...
Teams moving up: Peninsula, Bellevue, Clark (added), Big Bend (added), Chemeketa (added)
Teams moving down: Spokane, Yakima Valley (dropped), Walla Walla (dropped), Clackamas (dropped)