NWAACC Men's Basketball
The Racin' to the Basin is definitely on, as the NWAACC tournament is now only about two weeks away. Things have gotten tight in the Western region with a pair of teams battling for the top spot, Whatcom continues to whether the numerous runs made at then in the North, and Clackamas is beginning to make things interesting in the Southern Region. At this point only seven of the sixteen playoff seeds are spoken for, meaning that this year's tournament is still largely up in the air. Here's how things look from Joward's perspective: Coaches rankings are in italics under each team's record.
Previous Ranking: No. 1, No. 2 Coaches
Early in the season, most of the attention was on Bellevue and defending champion Peninsula. While Whatcom was once the dark horse that came somewhat as a surprise, everybody knows about them now. In just the last two weeks, Whatcom has defeated Bellevue, Shoreline, and Peninsula, the closest victory being 88-80 (box) at home over Peninsula. Time and again, Whatcom has proved their prowess, both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. They are third in scoring in the league (89.55 ppg) and second in rebounding (44.36 rpg), and haven't lost since late January.
Previous Ranking: No. 6, No. 5 Coaches
Tacoma won of what may have been one of the biggest games for the NWAACC men this season when they went on the road to take on Clark and went home with a 74-71 victory (box). The victory pulls Tacoma into a tie for first in the West, a tie that will be broken when Tacoma visits Clark on February 18th. The number one seed in the west will more or less be on the line in that game, as no other team has a real chance of catching the two programs before the season ends. Tacoma continues to be led by one of the NWAACC's best guards in Mark McLaughlin, who leads the league in scoring with just under 28 points per game.
Previous Ranking: No. 2, No. 1 Coaches
Clark continues to be one of if not the most efficient team in the league, averaging 18+ assists on 30 made baskets per game. They are also impressively balanced, with five players averaging in double figures, and no player averaging over 16 points per game. However, their fantastic season may be ruined by Tacoma if they can't beat them on the road. It'd be a shame to see such a strong team not win their own region, but things are that tight at the top of the West.
4. Spokane (19-4, 8-2 East)
Previous Ranking: No. 8, No. 8 Coaches
Things got a little interesting when Spokane dropped off the face of the earth for a few games following the streak of terrible weather in eastern Washington. Since then, Spokane has definitely gotten back on track. Before falling 80-77 (box) to Walla Walla on the road, Spokane had won eight in a row, reclaiming first place in the East. Spokane has improved dramatically in scoring, now averaging more than 84 points per game. Of course, the 114 points that they put up on Blue Mountain may have helped with that...
5. Big Bend (19-4, 9-3 North)
Previous Ranking: No. 3, No. 8 Coaches
Big Bend has won eight of their last ten, the two losses being reasonably close losses to Spokane and Walla Walla on the road. They have asserted themselves as one of the better offensive teams in the league, averaging a steady 48% from the field and putting up 88.48 points on average. At this point, Big Bend still has hope of a region championship if they win out.
Previous Ranking: No. 5, No. 3 Coaches
Much of the hype surrounding the super team from Port Angeles has faded now that they've failed to beat Whatcom twice. The team that wowed during the preseason has come down to earth, but just barely. There's no doubt that Peninsula has the talent to make another run at the NWAACC finals, it's just a matter of whether they can get things together and make it there. Peninsula's offense continues to be led by the league's second leading scorer in J.T. Terrell.
7. Shoreline (15-9, 9-4 North)
Previous Ranking: UR, UR Coaches
Shoreline's stats are downright ridiculous. As their motto is "40 minutes of fast break basketball with defense as an afterthought" it makes perfect sense that they lead the NWAACC in scoring by a wide margin. They also lead in assists, rebounds (offensive, defensive and total), turnovers and are second in steals. Their breakneck pace has translated into flashy stats, but also into wins. Shoreline has simply run away from nearly all their opponents with the exception of Peninsula and Whatcom. While defense does win championships, defense would get quite a test from a team like this.
8. Clackamas (13-10, 7-4 South)
Previous Ranking: UR, UR Coaches
This ranking would make no sense if you simply look at the standings in the Southern Region. Clackamas is third, behind Mt. Hood and Chemeketa. Then you look at Clackamas' record as of late and you begin to realize that they're a lot better than their record might say. They've only lost twice in the last seven games, and one of those two losses was on a score keeping error on the road against Chemeketa and a two point loss to Mt. Hood at home. Since the 74-73 (box) loss at Chemeketa, Clackamas has more than bounced back, beating Linn-Benton before traveling to Mt. Hood and blowing out the Saints 67-46 (box). According to Clackamas head coach Clif Wegner, he and his team believe that they're the "best team in the south." They just might be right.
Teams moving up: Tacoma, Spokane
Teams added: Shoreline, Clackamas
Teams moving down: Big Bend, Clark, Peninsula,
Teams dropped: Bellevue, Clackamas