Jan 9, 2014

Columbia Basin women back at No. 1

NWAACC Women's Basketball

Oy, talk about an interesting week for Clackamas fans. First you get an unbelievable blowout of the defending champs, then you fall to Portland, who hasn't ever made it to the tournament. Now, it looks like the team from across the river in Vancouver - that's Clark, people - might have an edge on the Cougars, but was it just a fluke? We'll find out, as Clackamas will play SW Oregon (12-5), Chemeketa (10-6) and No. 6 Umpqua (10-5) before the next rankings are posted. 

Also, your responses, sports takes, arguments and venting are welcome here, as the original intent behind this system was to generate discussion. Your input is always greatly appreciated, and you can reach me in a number of different ways throughout the season by commenting on each story, sending me an email, or contacting me via twitter @JowardHoward.

The Coaches Poll, released on Jan. 8, are in italics below each team's ranking. Keep in mind that the coaches poll was done before games on Jan. 8, and the Power Rankings tabulated afterward.

1. Columbia Basin (11-3, 1-0 East)
No. 1 Coaches
Last set: No. 2, No. 2 Coaches 

Aaaaand they're back. Five in a row will do that for a team, especially when the sixth - the Hawks' last loss - was to No. 3 Clackamas by just four points. That 59-54 (box) loss on Dec. 14 was the only loss to NWAACC competition that Columbia Basin has suffered, the other two coming at the hands of North Idaho, each by a fairly wide margin. And as I've mentioned before, these Hawks can score - they're still averaging 82 points a contest, good for second best in the league, and they shoot a blistering 46% from the floor. Much of that has to do with their shot selection, which heavily favors higher percentage shots from the paint instead of the traditional perimeter-based women's team. 


2. Clark (10-2, 2-0 West)
No. 3 Coaches
Last set: No. 6, No. 6 coaches

Early on, when Clark lost two of their first four games, it was easy to count the Penguins out. They'd been blown out by former No. 1 Blue Mountain, and trounced by former No. 1 Clackamas, but behind all that, something was brewing. They won a game, and then another. They waltzed past Mt. Hood by double-nickles (that's 55, if you don't speak the lingo), and then they knocked off Blue Mountain. At that point, you start to wonder - is Clark for real? They're a little shaky in their new-found spotlight, but yes. Clark holds a league-best eight-game winning streak and are third in the league in scoring, averaging just under 82 points per game. They shoot a stupidly-good 48% from the field (best in the league) and are simply ridiculous from long range. So ridiculous, in fact, that they lead the rest of the NWAACC by four percent (check it out) from beyond the arc. Look out, Western Region.

3. Clackamas (12-3, 1-1 South)
No. 2 Coaches
Last set: No. 1, No. 3 Coaches

Had the rankings come out a day earlier, the Clackamas bio would have spoken mostly about the dominant performance by the Cougars over visiting rival Lane. And that will get mentioned, as it's an impressive feat: Lane isn't often beaten by 18 (box), but we're not just about the positive things here. Now for the bad and the ugly. The next game, Clackamas turned around and laid an egg, losing 73-65 (box) to unranked Portland. This has nothing to do with the depth of the South. Portland won't be making the playoffs any time soon, Clackamas beat themselves. You can't have two of your leading scorers combine for 4-21 from the field and continue to shoot three-pointers: 48, in fact. Clackamas is right on the edge percentage-wise (34%, 177 3PM) where it's okay to shoot from distance, but if teams can shut down the three-point line, Clackamas has a long way to fall.


4. Lane (14-4, 1-1 South)
No. 6 Coaches
Last set: No. 4, No. 5 coaches

First, that ugly we just mentioned: a nasty, 82-64 (box) loss to No. 3 Clackamas. Along with a 93-75 (box) loss to Wenatchee Valley on Dec. 29, It's easily the worst loss from Lane in recent memory, and having it come to their rival from up north makes it that much more painful. Normally, the concern after a loss like that is a post-game hangover, and not what you're thinking. It's easy for one hard loss to turn into a pair, then a trio and before you know it, you haven't won for two weeks. To Lane and head coach Greg Sheley's credit, they got right back on the horse. Umpqua was looming, either licking their chops or grimacing at the prospect of facing a likely-to-be-pissed group of Titans, and it so happened to be the latter. Lane buttoned down in the second half and held on - though by a hair's breadth - to beat Umpqua 94-93 (box). They keep their spot this week, but a night off is rare in the South.


5. Blue Mountain (11-3, 0-1 East)
No. 4 Coaches
Last set: No. 3, No. 4 coaches
Blue Mountain had an absolutely brilliant start to the season, winners of their first nine, and the wheels have somewhat come off since. They dropped back-to-back games to now No. 2 Clark and No. 6 Umpqua, and started off Eastern Region play by falling to unranked Walla Walla 84-74 (box). Perhaps their offensive pace in combination with a relatively low shooting percentage has begun to haunt them. For some reference, the Timberwolves average just barely over 60 shot attempts per game. That's near dead last (third, in fact) in the league, and if they're hitting the shots they take, that's not a problem. Running teams can miss shots because they get more attempts, but a slow-paced, defensive minded team has to shoot a high percentage to survive. That hasn't been happening as of late, as the Timberwolves have averaged 37% - below their season average of 40 - over their last four games. To be fair, they're missing a big gun in post Danah Haley, who led the team in blocks and rebounds while pouring in 13 points a game before a season-ending injury against Clark on Dec. 22, but without Haley, the Timberwolves aren't as potent.


6. Umpqua (10-5, 1-1 South)
No. 5 Coaches
Last set: No. 5, No. 8 coaches

Dropping the Riverhawks feels a little unfair, given that their only loss in the last week was a 94-93 squeaker (box), but taking a closer look at the reasons why can shed some light on Umpqua's fall. Ashli Payne went for 38 points on 14-25 shooting with five treys, the Riverhawks shot 38% from downtown - and still lost. And that's completely due to getting worked by Lane in the post. The Titans are a good rebounding team with a strong inside presence, but so is Umpqua. It's been a stalwart of Riverhawk teams for years, and so any time an Umpqua squad gives up 27 second-chance points it's fairly noteworthy.


7. Big Bend (11-4, 1-0 East)
Unranked Coaches
Last set: No. 7, Unranked coaches

The Runnin' Viks, often in the shadow of their mens' team as of late, don't seem to get much credit around the league. To some extent, I see where that hesitation lies. Big Bend doesn't have an awesome resume of wins. They have plenty, don't get me wrong, but not many that really stick out. There's a reason, though, that they shouldn't be ignored - they take darned good care of the ball. They might not be an excellent shooting team, fairly middle-of-the-pack at 40%, but the Vikings make up for it by making the most of their possessions. They're the best team in the league when it comes to taking care of the ball, giving up the rock only 14.7 times a contest. That, in addition to leading the league in pace (79 shots per game) allows them to average almost 82 points each outing (5th best) while shooting a pedestrian percentage from the floor. Well done, Golden St- I mean...


8. Bellevue (9-6, 2-0 North)
Unranked Coaches
Last set: Unranked, Unranked Coaches

If the NWAACC North were to play in the NBA, they'd look something like the Atlantic division: Bellevue is second (overall percentage) in the region, but wouldn't even make the post season in any of the other regions. Not to knock on the North, simply look at the numbers. Bellevue is worth mentioning, though, because they've picked up a solid string of victories as of late. They blew past a solid Eastern Region team in Spokane 60-48 (box) on Dec. 29, part of a four game-winning streak culminating in a blowout of Shoreline (box) to kick off Northern Region play. If Bellevue can pick up some speed in league ahead of a post-season berth, they'll make teams think twice.


1 comment:

  1. You write that "Lane hasn't been beaten by 18 (box) in a long, long time..." Actually, Lane was beaten by 18 by Wenatchee only six days before they were beaten by 18 by Clackamas. That's not very long.