Jan 27, 2015

Umpqua women jump back to No. 1

NWAC Women's Basketball

When we last spoke, two questions were posed: Can Umpqua keep up their good form up in Southern Region play, and will Spokane continue to lead the East? Both have been answered strongly, and in completely different directions. At 18-2, the Umpqua Riverhawks have the best record in the league, and haven't lost to an NWAC team since late November. Spokane, on the other hand, has lost four of their first five games against Eastern Region teams, and now sit near the bottom of the region standings.

Plenty of other things have flip-flopped, as well. Centralia finally lost to a Western Region foe, and Clackamas has struggled after an excellent start to their non-league schedule. Oh, and Columbia Basin is sending in heart-stopping performances left and right, and the Hawks have now jumped on top of the Eastern Region. Boom.

In some housekeeping news, both S. Puget Sound and Grays Harbor have unveiled awesome new logos, keeping with a trend which has seen new insignias from Umpqua, Shoreline, Green River and Clark in recent years. 

This edition of the Power Rankings continues the use of offensive efficiency numbers, which help to gage exactly what a team does with the possessions they're given, and how fast they do it. Bellevue is the slowest among the top eight, with Columbia Basin and Edmonds tying for the fast-paced honors. From this point forward, we'll upload a separate spreadsheet with each set of rankings so older sets can be used for reference. 

[Get the top 16 teams]

Pace is determined by taking a team's total points and dividing it by their average points-per-possession to get the number of possessions they've played. Total possessions divided by games is what the "pace" number is.

Offensive efficiency is what a team would score if they played at the average pace of the top-16 teams, which is 67 possessions per game. Current average points are in parenthesis next to each ranked team's efficiency numbers.

Updated coaches rankings, released on Jan. 22, have been posted under each team's previous ratings. You can see the full coaches poll here.

1. Umpqua (18-2, 5-0 South)
Previous ranking: No. 4, No. 1 Coaches
Pace: 69 | Offensive Efficiency: 79.06 (81)
Coaches: No. 2

Consider this a makeup call for dropping Umpqua in the last set, but regardless of my guilty concience, the Riverhawks wholly deserve their re-ascent to the top of the rankings. First the boring numbers: They continue to lead the league in efficiency now that region play has begun, and they still shoot a sparkling 48% from the field. The turnover percentage is a little higher than it should be, but it hasn't mattered in the last seven games — all victories. Umpqua has already seen the meat of the brutal Southern Region schedule, having beaten No. 3 Lane 69-61 [box] and former No. 2 Clackamas in a 71-48 blowout [box]. The margin of victory over Clackamas could have been due to poor shooting, but not even Clackamas can make Clackamas shoot 18% from the field. The Riverhawks held Lane under 40% shooting, and trailed at halftime before outscoring the Titans by 10 in the second half. One caveat: Umpqua still has to travel to Lane, Clackamas and Chemeketa, which are difficult places to play regardless of their opponents record.


2. Columbia Basin (13-6, 5-0 East)
Previous ranking: Unranked, Unranked coaches
Pace: 74 | Offensive Efficiency: 75.71 (84)
Coaches: No. 5

The Hawks might be the newly anointed heartthrob-queens of the league, but regardless of their methods they have now charged to the top of the Eastern Region standings with seven consecutive victories. This is all following a 20-point loss to Lane back in late December, and it seems to have ignited something special in Columbia Basin. First came a 10-point victory over Treasure Valley in the region opener, followed by a game in which they were less efficient, had fewer rebounds, fewer points off turnovers and fewer points off the bench, and still managed to come from behind and beat Wenatchee Valley 77-76 [box]. A few days later, the Hawks came from 11 down at halftime to force overtime with Big Bend, topping the Runnin' Viks 88-86 [box] behind a game-high 27 points from Marissa Caballero. Oh, and the next outing? Columbia Basin trailed Spokane by two at the break, and came back to win it 64-63 [box]. Their luck will run out eventually, but winning this many close games against good opponents does massive things for the Hawks' confidence, especially when the tournament rolls around to their back yard in Kennewick. They're the fastest team in the league, are very efficient and take very good care of the ball. It all translates to the league's highest scoring average, but the Hawks might want to be sure people with heart conditions stop coming to games.


3. Lane (16-4, 3-1 South)
Previous ranking: No. 6, No. 5 Coaches
Pace: 68 | Offensive Efficiency: 73.03 (74)
Coaches: No. 4

The better Lane's 20-point whipping of Columbia Basin looks, the worse their 19-point loss to Wenatchee Valley stinks. That said, the Titans have shown they're able to hang right with No. 1 Umpqua, something no other NWAC team has been able to do since late November. In both games, it's been a tale of two halves. The first 20 minutes have been close both times, only to see Lane fade down the stretch and fall while staying within striking distance. It's a good example of what can happen when Lane keeps their turnover numbers down, and they've managed to cut miscues by 45% in comparison to their season average of 20 per game. If Lane manages to play such a clean game the rest of the way, they'll have a solid chance in the Southern Region, especially because the remaining game with Umpqua isn't in Roseburg, it's in Eugene. 


4. Centralia (17-3, 6-1 West)
Previous ranking: No. 1, No. 2 Coaches
Pace: 63 | Offensive Efficiency: 71.69 (67)
Coaches: No. 1

Centralia's place as the top team in the league was based on an excellent non-league schedule with the assumption that they'd breeze through the Western Region and emerge pristine and perfect. One problem: They just got blown out by Lower Columbia 63-47 [box]. Now, this could be a sign that Centralia isn't alone in the West as previously assumed, and that might turn out to be a good thing — if the Blazers can top Lower Columbia in the rematch. It's unlikely that Centralia will repeat their dismal three-point shooting performance in the second match up, as so far region play has gone exactly as expected with the Red-Devil'ed exception. They've beaten their other six opponents by an average of 29 points each, including 47-point wins over Tacoma and Grays Harbor and won't see Lower Columbia until Feb. 25 — this time at home.


5. Bellevue (14-6, 5-0 North)
Previous ranking: Unranked, Unranked Coaches
Pace: 64 | Offensive Efficiency: 68.34 (65)
Coaches: No. 8

It's no secret that the Northern Region isn't the deepest league in the NWAC, but taking the first five games of region play and their last seven overall has been enough to bump Bellevue up and get the 'Dogs noticed. And it hasn't so much been who they've beaten, but how it's been done. They took the league's least efficient team by 53 points [box] as an opener for the Northern Region simply to set themselves at the top of the division, but have also won a pair of close battles with challengers in Skagit Valley [box] and Peninsula [box]. And while Bellevue has played tight games with a handful of the NWAC's top teams, there are several troubling statistics which will continually drag the Bulldogs down. Firstly, they're solidly in the bottom-half of the league in terms of shooting percentage at 38% overall. Secondly, a low shooting percentage works if a team plays at a quick pace, and Bellevue simply doesn't. They're actually out of the top-16 teams in terms of offensive efficiency, but still have a solid chance to win the North and get a good seed in the first round.


6. Lower Columbia (14-7, 5-0 West)
Previous ranking: Unranked, Unranked Coaches
Pace: 69 | Offensive Efficiency: 74.37 (77)
Coaches: No. 7

It's not often that the Western Region will get two teams in the top eight, but as I've mentioned before, this system is about what has happened lately. And for Lower Columbia, "lately" has been seven consecutive wins, including a huge win over No. 4 Centralia — 63-47 [box] back on Jan. 24. It was at home in Longview, but it's a major confidence booster and goes an awfully long way toward their first region title since the 2010-11 season. With the win over Centralia, they now have victories over all of the other teams in the top half of the west, including 12-point wins over Clark [box] and Highline [box]. The only unnerving fact is that Lower Columbia will have to face all three opponents on the road in the second half of the Western Region schedule, and falling to second in their region could mean a major difference in their seed at the championship tournament.


7. Walla Walla (13-4, 4-1 East)
Previous ranking: No. 8, No. 7 Coaches
Pace: 60 | Offensive Efficiency: 75.71 (68)
Coaches: No. 3

For the most part, Walla Walla has managed to escape the meat-grinder through the first five games of Eastern Region play. Key words being "for the most part." Usher in their last contest, a 73-58 loss to Big Bend [box] which knocked Dub-Dub from top-five to seventh. And it's not to say the East isn't relatively strong from top to bottom, but Walla Walla lost to one of only two Eastern Region teams with a losing record. All that said, the saving grace for the Warriors has been the other four games, specifically a 16-point win [box] over Wenatchee Valley and a solid victory over Spokane [box]. The real test for Walla Walla, which is still top-four in efficiency, will be their next two games. They take on a spiraling Treasure Valley team, then face No. 2 Columbia Basin — and both on the road.


8. Peninsula (14-7, 4-1 North)
Previous ranking: Unranked, Unranked Coaches
Pace: 68 | Offensive Efficiency: 73.7 (75)
Coaches: No. 6

Peninsula has made a solid argument for themselves this season, especially after playing No. 5 Bellevue to a close five-point loss [box] earlier this week. The most impressive stretch for the Pirates, though, came in the midst of their non-league schedule. They lost to Wenatchee Valley by one in the season opener, and proceeded to win five games in a row, a streak which included wins over No. 2 Columbia Basin, No. 7 Walla Walla, and previous No. 2 Clackamas. Peninsula might deserve to be a little higher in the rankings with all their non-league successes outweighing a relatively weak Northern Region, and as they continue to win region games, their stock will rise. The game on Jan. 28 on the road at Skagit Valley is a big one. Not only would it give Peninsula an edge for second in the region standings, but it gives the Pirates a confidence bump heading into a softer part of the schedule.


No comments:

Post a Comment