Dec 28, 2012

Full Court Press: Holiday Edition

Normally, Full Court Press will look a little different. Two games of the week are featured, along with a prediction. This week, because of the slough of holiday tournaments on the horizon, FCP will feature a quick preview of each tournament. Be sure to keep an eye out for next week's Power Rankings, which will be heavily impacted by this weekend's action. And with that, enjoy:


Clackamas Holiday Invitational

This tournament is usually littered with big names, but this year is exceptionally stacked. The last six NWAACC championship teams will be in attendance: Clackamas (2007, 09, 10), Peninsula (2011), Yakima Valley (2008) and Tacoma (2012), and of the eight teams in the tournament, all eight teams are at .500 or above, and five could concevably be in the coaches' top eight and the JOWARD Power Rankings by next week. Three teams have seven wins or more, and all but one squad is fourth place or higher in their division.

There are several obvious favorites. Peninsula has come out and dominated NWAACC competition ever since their struggles against highly ranked Juco opponents, and seems to have rebuilt well from last year.  The host team Clackamas is always difficult to count out, but they lost to a 4-4 Centralia team, one of the tournament participants, a few weeks back. The biggest Everett, too, has a bid, as they knocked off Yakima Valley in overtime, but they followed up with a loss to Tacoma.

That is perhaps the biggest question mark going into this weekend: how will the Titans, who have just recently gotten back several key players from injury, fare going forward? Two of their top four scorers in Josh Lord and Dec. 26 Player of the Week Adrian Harper have only played the last two and four contests respectively, and their integration will be something to closely watch in this weekend's match ups.

Weekend's Pick:

On paper, Peninsula should win this one, despite their 6-4 record. The woodshedding of Edmonds that Peninsula put on was enough to turn a lot of heads, and if PC can put up that type of performance against the NWAACC's best, they will be tough to compete with.

Big Bend Holiday Classic

The BBCC Holiday Classic is lacking in big name teams in comparison to Clackamas. Only two of the competing teams are .500 or above, one of them being Big Bend, and the other being Skagit Valley (5-5). No. 6 Big Bend is already well favored by the coaches, and this tournament, should they win it without a slip-up, will give them the chance to move up even further. They currently sit at 8-3 and are tied for first in the NWAACC East with Yakima Valley, but haven't beaten many good teams so far this young preseason.

While the competition in the BBCC tournament isn't exactly stiff, the tournament provides a window of opportunity to let the high scoring Vikings let the league know if they're for real. They've put up some impressive numbers so far, 2nd in the league in scoring with 92 points a game, and three contests in which they scored over 100. By Sunday, we'll all have a much better idea of where they stand. That will be reflected on Wednesday, when the coaches rankings and JOWARD Power Rankings will be released.

Weekend's Pick:

Barring a huge performance from one of the other participants, Big Bend should win this one handily, going to 11-3 on the season and taking a lead in the Eastern Region over Yakima.

NWAACC Women: 

Chemeketa Holiday Tournament

Teams coming in to the Chemeketa tournament are all looking for very different things. The field on average is decent, with a combined 42-35 record, but 11 of those wins and none of those losses came from Lane - meaning that the rest of the teams are 31-35. Gone, it seems, are the days where Columbia Basin was a sure favorite, as they have now dropped to 3-6, and Treasure Valley is a dismal 1-8. Blue Mountain, Highline and Chemeketa all sit at .500, and there are questions over whether they seem to have the firepower needed to keep up with the big guns. That leaves two clear favorites.

Firstly, ignore that bit about counting out Chemeketa. They face Treasure Valley in the first round, and will challenge the winner of the Wenatchee Valley-Highline game on Saturday, outside of a colossal collapse in the TVCC game. Chemeketa has shown flashes of brilliance in the preseason, most notably a 64-60 win over Yakima Valley, but at the same time they have also stumbled against Everett and had to go into overtime to defeat Grey's Harbor (2-4). That said, with the good moment's Chemeketa has had, one could reason that if they were to build up momentum, they could at least make a run at the title match.

And their opponent in the title game? No matter who wins on the other side of the bracket, you'd have to be a fool to pick against Lane. The Titans have stretched their undefeated season to 11 games now, and their last few contests haven't even been close. Clackamas stayed within striking distance, but even they fell away in the waning seconds.

Weekend's Pick:

Lane should dominate this one going away. Whichever team makes the final against them, whether that be Wenatchee Valley or Chemeketa, had best hold on to their britches.

Skagit Valley Tournament

Coming into the season, the two premiere teams in this tournament would have been Bellevue and Skagit Valley. However, Bellevue's star sophomore Brittany Barrington hasn't played since November 17th against Lane, and Bellevue has struggled to get ahead ever since. However, Bellevue has managed to break even, and their match up against S. Puget Sound (1-5) in the first round looks favorable. Most likely they will face Spokane next, as CCS' first round opponent is 0-5 against NWAACC teams.

Bellevue may have been doing better as of late, but Spokane seems to have the Bulldogs' number. They've defeated Bellevue twice this preseason, including a 65-59 victory on Dec. 16th. If the dice roll the way it looks they will, Spokane should be present in Sunday's title game, but that bridge will get crossed when it's time has come.

On the other side of the bracket, Skagit Valley is an interestingly mixed bag. They have two impressive victories over Umpqua, but managed only 32 points in a blowout loss to Bellevue. However, they have won three of their last four games, and have split a pair of games with Big Bend, with whom they also share fourth place in the coaches poll.

Weekend's Pick:

Being at home, it seems Skagit Valley has the edge in this one. They have more wins in big games, despite their blemishes, and their resume is a lot deeper than Spokane's.

Lady Devil Holiday Tournament 

Initially, the list of participants at the LCCC Holiday Tournament looks really impressive. Whatcom and Big Bend went to double overtime to decide the championship of the Whatcom crossover a few weeks ago. Centralia won four of their first five games, and Yakima Valley surged out of the gates.

However, many of those teams have faltered as of late. YVCC has fallen to 6-4, loosing three straight, and a fourth to Lane by 30 points. Centralia has now fallen to 5-2 with a loss at home to Clackamas, and remains unproven, despite their record and ranking. The one wild card in the mix is North Idaho, who sent Spokane and Columbia Basin to a pair of defeats each a few weeks back. NIC has been successful in the past, but their resume against NWAACC competition is fairly incomplete.

One of the big favorites in this one is easily Whatcom. They rose to the challenge in the title game of their own crossover tournament and gave a favored Big Bend a definite run for their money. Whatcom had won five of six before that loss, falling only to Highline in a close, 65-61 finish. Whatcom's first round opponent isn't an easy one, as they've drawn Yakima Valley, making for perhaps the biggest first round game all weekend.

Big Bend has been brilliant all season long, with their one and only loss being to Skagit Valley in late November. Fourth in average points, first in rebounding, first in assists, they are more than tough for just about anybody they face. They have now won their seventh in a row, and with the exception of the double overtime victory over Whatcom to take the WCC crossover championship, many of their victories have been going away.

Weekend's Pick:

One can only hope for such a finish that Whatcom and Big Bend came to at the WCC tournament, but if Big Bend is anything like they've been in most of their contests, this one has to go to the BBCC Vikings.

Dec 19, 2012

Dominant Lane women lead ladies rankings

NWAACC Women's Basketball

As the preseason has continued, several teams have emerged as dominant forerunners. Lane, Umpqua and Clackamas in the South are a combined 28-6, and Big Bend and Walla Walla are a combined 19-2. The Northern Region, by contrast, has six teams above .500, but no team better than 6-3. The Western Region is led by Centralia at 5-1, but there are only two teams including the Blazers from the West that have won more games than they've lost. Right now, the biggest questions are whether Umpqua can bounce back, if Centralia is really as good as their record indicates, and if anybody can stop Lane, who is 11-0 and has looked unbeatable so far. 

Be sure to check back in a week's time for Full Court Press (last week | this week), a bi-weekly roundup of NWAACC basketball action to fill in the gaps. Coaches rankings are in italics under each team's record, and will be posted when they are made available. 

1. Lane Titans
No. 1 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 1, No. 1 coaches

Lane's selection as the top ranked team was hardly even an afterthought. Even coming in to the season, it was obvious that they would be a force in the South, what with their returning talent and depth, but the extent of their success this season has been downright impressive. They lead or are in the top four or five in nearly every statistical category: first in points with 86.36, first in assists with 17.36, first in steals with 15.82, first in blocks with 4.64 and fourth in rebounding with 52.28. That stat line is next to unbelievable, but it helps to explain their 11-0 record, including wins over No. 7 Yakima Valley, No. 4 Clackamas, Bellevue and Skagit Valley. Oh, and the 115-36 [box] point victory over S. Puget Sound, the largest margin of victory in recent memory. 


2. Walla Walla
No. 1 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 4, No. 4 coaches

Ever since falling 95-91 to No. 3 Centralia on Nov. 17th, Walla Walla has been on a roll, winning their last nine contests. That run includes a good victory over No. 4 Clackamas [box] and a dominant win over Blue Mountain in the final of the Highline crossover. At the moment, it looks like Walla Walla owns the east. They're fifth in the NWAACC with 77 points per game, and tied for second in assists with 17 per contest. And one of the biggest credits to Walla Walla? They've played all their games against NWAACC competition. No JV squads, no alumni teams, and no All-Star throw-ins. 

3. Centralia
No. 1 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 7, No. 8 coaches

Because Centralia didn't take part in any of the crossover tournaments, ranking them could be somewhat of a challenge. However, of the five victories they do have, one was over No. 2 Walla Walla, and another over No. 7 Yakima Valley, who is also responsible for the one loss on Centralia's record. They're putting up just over 71 points per game, recording a very respectable 16 assists, and pulling down 52.33 rebounds a game, good for second in the league. From the looks of  things so far this preseason, Centralia will be playing in a relatively weak Western Region this year, as the Blazers are one of two teams in the region that has more wins than losses, which should all but guarantee them a playoff spot.


4. Clackamas
No. 1 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 2, No. 5 coaches

The Cougars seem to have recovered from their "rough patch" where they lost back to back games, and are back to regular form once again. They did have one hiccup, but that hiccup was easily easily the closest that any team has played Lane all season long, with Clackamas falling 72-68 [box] on Dec. 9. They then turned around and absolutely demolished Edmonds 97-34 [box] and went on to take the Columbia Basin Crossover Championship with a 63-51 [box] defeat of the defending champs. As in previous years, Clackamas is a 'score first, ask questions later' team, but this year that offense can come from anywhere as six players average more than nine points a game.


5. Big Bend
No. 1 Coaches
Previous ranking: NR, No. 1 coaches

Ever since losing to No. 8 Skagit Valley on Nov. 30, Big Bend has been on fire. They've won seven games in a row, including four games in four days. One of those last four was a win avenging their one loss to SVC, but outside of that victory, BBCC has only one other win over a team with a winning percentage. That win came over Whatcom in the title match of the Whatcom Crossover, which went to double overtime before Big Bend pulled out the 70-66 [box] victory. Big Bend looks good because of their record, but in order to move up in the rankings, they need a solid win against a ranked team, a chance they might very well get at next weekend's Lady Devil Holiday Tournament, which features teams like No. 3 Centralia, No. 6 Yakima Valley and NJCAA powerhouse North Idaho.


6. Skagit Valley
No. 1 Coaches
Previous ranking: 3, No. 7 coaches

Skagit Valley has a lot to feel good about. The only one of their losses to an unranked team was an embarrassing 63-32 [box] blowout at the hands of Bellevue, but that one aside, the Cardinals hung tough with No. 5 Big Bend and got flattened just like everybody else against No. 1 Lane. Now that all that is out of the way, we can focus on the positive things. First in Skagit's book the fact that they seem to have No. 7 Umpqua's number. SVC has knocked off Umpqua twice so far this season, 88-81 and 88-80, and account for two of UCC's three losses. The Cardinals also have a solid win over a resurgent Wenatchee (7-3) team, as well as a 75-67 [box] victory over No. 5 Big Bend.


7. Yakima Valley
No. 1 Coaches
Previous ranking: NR, No. 2 coaches

Looking at the list of Yakima Valley's losses, there's only one that is really a surprise. Most people didn't see the loss to Chemeketa coming, but then again Chemeketa is one of the more underrated teams out there at this point. It wasn't that YVCC lost to No. 1 Lane that was unusual. It was that the Yaks got their tails handed to them by 30 points, after keeping things close even in their losses. That blowout, though did again showcase Yakima Valley's inability to score. They're last of all the ranked teams in points per game with 64.6, and they have been held to 54 points or less three times, a far cry from years past.


8. Umpqua
No. 1 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 8, No. 3 coaches

Somewhere along the way, Umpqua lost their footing. Whether a nagging injury or a stroke of bad luck, guard Christal Jeff has been in a slump as of late, and hasn't had a double figure scoring night since Nov. 30, after doing so in six of her first seven games as a freshman. Hayley Renolds has stepped up her game to fill the gap, and is now playing more minutes and averaging more than 18 points a game. It's obvious that Umpqua misses' Jeff's contributions, however, and none more apparent than their back to back losses to No. 8 Skagit Valley and Lower Columbia at the Whatcom Crossover tournament. Something has to change for the Riverhawks, who came out of the starting gate looking like a possible finals team.


Dec 18, 2012

Pierce ranked No.1 after crossover weekend

NWAACC Men's Basketball

With the preseason Crossover tournaments now behind us, things are a little clearer. The Northern Region is strong as ever, with six teams at .500 or better, and four teams with seven wins or more. The East, too, is on sure footing with five teams above .500 and two teams with eight wins. The West and South, however, aren't faring so well. We'll see come tournament-time, but in inter-region play the Southwest won only one tournament, with Lane cruising to a victory at Green River. The South is particularly convoluted. With the absence of Mt. Hood, and the slow start of Chemeketa, there doesn't appear to be a dominant team outside of Lane, who has run out to a league best 11-2 record. Many questions will be answered this coming weekend at the Clackamas Holiday Invitational, where the invitees have a combined record of 48-27, making for some excellent basketball ahead.

Be sure to check back in a week's time for Full Court Press (last week | this week), a bi-weekly roundup of NWAACC basketball action to fill in the gaps. Coaches rankings are in italics under each team's record, and will be posted when they are made available.


1. Pierce (8-3, 0-0 West)
No. 6 coaches
Previous ranking: NR , No. 3 coaches

The Raiders may be one of the best offensive-defensive packages in the league. They average 91.27 points per contest, good for third in the NWAACC, but only give up an average of 69.6. The league doesn't keep defensive stats like that, but if they did, it's sure to be in the top ten if not higher. While they're not leading in average points, they've managed to score 100+ in four regulation games, none of which were against old ex-college players or alumni squads. In their three losses, their one Achilles heel seems to be lack of opportunities at the free throw line. They were badly outshot from the charity stripe by both Bellevue and SW Oregon.


2. Lane (11-2, 0-0 South)
No. 1 coaches
Previous ranking: NR #, No. 6 coaches

Lane is a difficult team to rank. They sit at 11-2 which looks impressive, but then you have to slow down and look at their games. They squeaked by Blue Mountain (4-5) and Shoreline (1-8), and beat a couple of JV squads. They lost to Bellevue early on and got blown out by Spokane [box], but have also beaten No. 7 Yakima Valley and crushed Green River (7-3). Their victory at the GRCC Crossover may be telling, but something still just doesn't sit right. Is Lane for real yet? 


3. Peninsula (6-4, 0-0 North)
No. 8 coaches
Previous ranking: No. 7, NR coaches

Coming off a preseason in which they played hardly any NWAACC teams, opting for nationally ranked NJCAA schools instead, Peninsula's 6-4 record doesn't exactly reflect how good this team is. They more than kept pace with some of the best Juco squads in the nation, and to add a cherry on top of the Pirate sundae, they dominated No. 4 Edmonds in the championship of the Umpqua Crossover Tournament. They're fourth in points and first in assists, and if they can come out the other side of the Clackamas Holiday Invitational unscathed, it will be an almost done deal to put them in the top sp


4. Edmonds (7-2, 0-0 North)
No. 3 coaches
Previous ranking: NR, No. 2 coaches

After finishing the 2011-12 season at a dismal 3-21 overall, Edmonds has definitely bounced back. In their six games, they have only lost to North Idaho and Peninsula, and are beginning to rack up some impressive victories. They knocked off now No. 2 Pierce on Nov. 28 (box) and defeated Spokane in a reasonably close match on Dec. 2 (box). Edmonds is one of those odd situations where a team has average stats across the board, and yet is able to go out and win just about every time they step on the floor. They're middle-of-the-pack in nearly every category but wins: 6-1 against NWAACC competition in what looks to be a tightly contested Northern Region race. The 22 point loss to Peninsula stings, but Edmonds will get a chance at a rematch on Jan. 9th.


5. Big Bend (8-3, 0-0 East)
No. 5 coaches
Previous ranking: NR, No. 4 coaches

Big Bend's stats are a little wacky, as their 143 point game vs. BBCC Alumni somehow counts towards their average points, but that said, the Vikings are still a solid offensive team. They average 87 points per game outside of their initial contest, which is good for 5th in the league. Probably BBCC's biggest win so far was their victory over Clackamas where they withstood a furious rally that sent the game into overtime, during which Big Bend outscored Clackamas 19-14. However, time will tell if Big Bend can keep pace with their early season frolic. If not for a last second turnover in their 80-79 loss to Treasure Valley on Dec. 16th, Big Bend could very well be leading these power rankings.


6. Bellevue (7-3, 0-0 North)
No. 4 coaches
Previous ranking: NR, No. 4 coaches

One of the few teams with better defensive numbers than Pierce, Bellevue is holding opponents to just 66.4 points per game. While they're not the strongest on the offensive side of things, averaging a fifth-worst 71 ppg, they have several notches in their belt with which to build on going forward. Firstly, they have a close victory over a talented but inexperienced Clackamas team early in the season (box). They also held the high scoring Big Bend Vikings to just 72 points in a 75-72 win (box).


7. Yakima Valley (6-3, 0-0 East)
NR coaches
Previous ranking: No. 6, No. 1 coaches

Before the Green River Crossover this last weekend, Yakima Valley had things rolling rather nicely. They picked up an important win over Spokane (box), forcing the Sasquatch into 22 turnovers and just 32% shooting and were leading the NWAACC in blocks with five swats per contest. Then they ran into the buzz saw that is No. 2 Lane, and lost 82-75 [box] despite five blocks from freshman Joel Yellow-Owl. The following night, they came back to send the game against Everett to overtime, but ended up losing 91-89 [box]. That aside, YVCC still seems to have a good chance of challenging for the Eastern Region title, especially as they now average 5.55 blocks per game.


8. Green River (7-3, 0-0 West)
NR coaches
Previous ranking: NR, No. 8 coaches

Humbled in their crushing loss to Lane in the championship of the GRCC Crossover, it can be easy to forget how well Green River had done prior to that contest. They pushed a rebuilt Clackamas team to 21 turnovers in a 75-69 [box] early season victory. A few weeks later, they beat Spokane (8-4) and then Everett (7-3) before getting dominated by Lane 68-46 [box]. Green River is another one of those teams that gets by on the intangibles, the stats that don't get recorded. They're in the bottom half of nearly every category with the exception of steals, yet they've done impressive work so far.


Dec 5, 2012

Full Court Press: 1st Edition

A word of introduction,

To provide some analysis on the non-power ranking weeks, Full Court Press will be released every other Wednesday throughout the NWAACC basketball season. In most installments for both the men and the women, FCP will include a prediction and two games of the week, as well as any interesting tidbits that happen to come to light. Now with that out of the way, dig in:


We haven't seen much of top-ranked Chemeketa so far this season, as they've played three of their five games against non-NWAACC competition. As previewed in the first set of power rankings, the Storm are returning a lot of class talent that we have yet to catch a glimpse of. They play Lower Columbia on Dec. 8th, but won't play again until they have a rematch with LCCC at the start of the Bellevue crossover on Dec. 14th. Because of their lack of games, Chemeketa will most likely take a bit of a dip in the December 19th Power Rankings, especially if Big Bend and Yakima Valley continue to win as they have been of late.

Of note: Congrats to Portland. They won their first game in two years on November 19th, their last victory coming over Linn-Benton on February 24th, 2010.

Dec. 8th - Bellevue vs. Big Bend

One of the biggest early season matchups, this game pits two playoff squads from last season against one another, with the two teams combining for a record of 9-2 so far. Both Bellevue and Big Bend are tied for the best record in their regions. While Big Bend has the definite scoring edge (1st in the league with 94.3 ppg), Bellevue has held two teams to 50 points or less, and has only allowed more than 65 points just once so far. This being preseason, the game doesn't have any playoff implications, but this will be a big test for both sides, both having lost big names in the off season and both looking to rebound.

Dec. 8th - Skagit Valley vs. No. 4 Tacoma

Skagit Valley and the Titans have seen one another once already this season, with Tacoma's furious second half rally coming up just short in a 62-59 Cardinal victory. This game presents an interesting early season chance for the 2012 NWAACC Champion Tacoma Titans to prove their metal after getting 12 new players on their roster. They took down a good Big Bend team (their only loss),  and lost to Everett (3-1), making the rematch with Skagit Valley somewhat of a fork in the road. For Skagit Valley, this game could be a statement. Two victories against the defending champs in as many weeks with a tough regular season looming in the Northern Region would be great momentum going forward.

NWAACC Women: 

Things are always difficult to call at the beginning of the season, but that being said, the starts  They've dominated teams thus far with the exception of a close loss to Skagit Valley, and their height and talent will be extremely difficult to deal with all season long. Expect Umpqua to take a huge leap in the power rankings when they come out next on December 19th, and if their current streak continues, to contend for a championship in March.

Dec. 9th - Yakima Valley vs. No. 5 Chemeketa

Chemeketa is a hard team to read, at this point. They played a close game with Umpqua (8-1) and lost, and then went on to lose four consecutive times, in each instance to non-NWAACC competition. They faced a semi-pro squad and community colleges in Idaho and Salt Lake City, and are just now returning to face teams they'll see later on in the season. This game against Yakima Valley, who is undefeated up to this point, will be a reality check. Did Chemeketa face much tougher competition, or does their 1-4 record really reflect their future. And for Yakima Valley, this is another game to prove that they haven't missed a step since losing Brandi Henton (injury, graduated) and Simone Jordan (graduated) from last season.

Dec. 8th - No. 8 Umpqua vs. George Fox JV

This one is simply intriguing, pitting one of the NWAACC's best in the early season against George Fox's JV squad. It may seem innocuous at first, but realize that George Fox has one of the best women's basketball programs in the third division of the NCAA. They won the 2009 national title after a perfect season, and advanced to the 2012 final four. This may not be the varsity team, but it is part of a national powerhouse and could be an interesting chance to gauge how Umpqua stacks up. Right now, the Riverhawks are 2nd in the league in average points, and lead the league in both field goal percentage and three point field goal percentage. George Fox JV is 3-1 against the NWAACC so far, their only loss coming to SW Oregon.