To provide some analysis on the non-power ranking weeks, Full Court Press will be released every other week 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. For this week, however, it's time to choose a dark horse: a team that hasn't amounted to much thus far, but has all the pieces to make some noise in March.
Do you have your own dark horse prediction? Let me know via twitter, by email, or in the comments below!
NWAACC Men's Basketball
Centralia College - Western Region
The beauty of a dark horse is that they can come from anywhere. They can be on the fringe, or come from the cellar, but either way, they manage to put things together at just the right time and make a run. Centralia, my dark horse pick for the NWAACC men, is one of those fringe teams. They have yet to pick up points in the coaches poll, and haven't been ranked so far this season, but they have several things about them that stick out.
|Sophomore Van Lockett leads Centralia |
with 18 points and 4.6 assists per game.
Lockett is 17th in the league in
scoring and the 2nd best from the West.
1. "Defense wins championships"
The Western Region isn't a particularly strong offensive region, as evidenced by the fact that seven of the bottom ten scoring teams in the league are from the west. Only No. 6 Tacoma and No. 8 Pierce have broken that mold. The bottom seven teams average just over 68 points per game. Tacoma isn't much better at a little over 75, but Pierce sits at 6th in the league with 86.94 points per contest.
With Pierce aside, it seems as though the first team to 75 should win just about every contest in the west. Centralia is the third lowest scoring team in the league, but their defense has been solid, even throughout interregional play. Only three times has a team put up more than 80 points on Centralia, with the Blazers going 1-2 in those games, and despite Centralia's 67 point average, they've been holding teams to just 64.7 points per game.
Aside from the top two or three teams, there isn't all that much in the West that Centralia needs to fear. They were thumped a few times in the preseason, but they also had some good toe-to-toe moments as well, particularly a 71-65 loss to third-ranked Peninsula at the Clackamas Holiday Invitational. Looking ahead, the teams that Centralia has to face they've already beaten with the exception of Pierce and Tacoma, as well as S. Puget Sound (4-12, 1-6 West), whom they have yet to play. Centralia has already faced the second toughest schedule in the West according to the RPI ratings, and that number will drop from here on out.
What needs to happen:
Simply put, Centralia needs to find some more offense. Part of their offensive woes are borne of the fact that they play with such a slow pace. Centralia shoots a decent percentage, they just don't take very many shots. The low number of shots means less steals, less assists, and less rebounds, making Centralia seem offensively stunted.
The slow pace also contributes to the low opponent scoring average, but in order to get past some of their better Western Region compatriots and get a good seed in the tournament, Centralia will have to find buckets from somewhere. Their defensive mindset will work wonders in the tournament, but only if they can get there with a favorable seed.
NWAACC Women's Basketball
Columbia Basin - Eastern Region
Coming off a championship season in 2012, Columbia Basin didn't have many people believing in them. They had lost nearly their entire championship roster, and were showcasing a plethora of new faces. Starting off by losing their first three games and winning just one of their first five, it seemed that the Hawks were in for an off year. CBC won two in a row in mid-December, but went on to lose three of four stretching in to the beginning of Eastern Region play. That's when things started to turn around.
1. The Power of Momentum
A team that has momentum will play with confidence, and the combination of those two generally means success. Though they didn't look it throughout the preseason, CBC does have a title to defend, and it seems that they mean to. Holding No. 2 Walla Walla to a 59-54 [box] game, they built on the success they found against the high flying warriors and started a streak longer than anything they've seen all season. They have now won five games in a row, including a shellacking of No. 5 Big Bend. They were more of a dark horse two weeks ago, but it still remains to be seen if they can keep this momentum rolling.
2. Tested early, tested late
As with many of the teams in the East, Columbia Basin's schedule has been wildly tough. In fact, according to the RPI ratings, the Hawks are tied for the toughest schedule in the league. They've had to play No. 1 Lane and No. 3 Clackamas twice each, in addition to No. 2 Walla Walla, an uphill battle by any stretch of the imagination as those three opponents are a combined 52-5. While the East doesn't really get much easier, the fact that CBC has seen teams with such a caliber gives them some experience in the big games they will have to face to survive in the East, especially if they play as they did when they very nearly knocked off the No. 2 team in the league.
|Freshman guard Sierra Highangle (left) leads the Hawks in scoring with 13.22 points per game.|
What needs to happen:
The biggest key to Columbia Basin making a run is their ability to win on the road. Home court advantage doesn't mean as much in the NWAACC as it does in many other leagues, but travel and playing in an unfamiliar setting do have an effect. Unfortunately for the Hawks, they got the hard home games out of the way early, and will have to go on the road to face No. 2 Walla Walla, No. 5 Big Bend and Spokane. They do get Spokane at home, and there is a cupcake sitting at the bottom of the region standings, but without road wins, CBC will constantly be looking over their shoulder at the team that could knock them from the tournament.