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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.