Feb 12, 2015

Umpqua women lead Southern Region, rankings

NWAC Women's Basketball

Every year, there's always one region which ends up as a complete mess around this time of the year. This time, surprisingly, it's the South. Umpqua has asserted itself as a clear leader, but behind the Riverhawks loom four teams within a game of one another as the season winds down. Portland, seeing one of their best stretches in history, is within striking distance of a tournament berth but will need to unseat one of three powerhouse programs: Clackamas, SW Oregon or Lane. 

The NWAC tournament will once again be held at the Toyota Center in Kennewick, Wash., beginning on Saturday, March 7 with the finals being played on March 10. The Northern and Southern regions will match up in the first round, as will the Eastern and Western. Basically, the top seed from the North will take on the fourth seed from the South, the second northern seed will play the third southern seed and so on. You can check out the full, blank bracket on the NWAC's championship page, along with plenty of other information.

We've decided to skip the efficiency ratings this week and focus purely on match ups and what teams need to do in order to muscle their way for a better seed in the upcoming tournament. Ratings will be published along with the final set of rankings, after the last game of the regular season has been played and before the tournament begins on March 7.

Updated coaches rankings, released on Feb. 5, have been posted under each team's previous ratings. You can see the full coaches poll here.

1. Umpqua (21-2, 8-0 South)
Previous ranking: No. 1, No. 2 Coaches
Coaches: No. 1

Their numbers have fallen a little over the past few weeks, but it hasn't changed the final result in the least. The Riverhawks were even able to shake off a horrible first half from the field and rally to beat No. 2 Lane 65-63 [box] on Feb. 11, coming from six down at halftime and putting a 20% shooting first half out of their memories. Their 12th consecutive win is a big one, as it all but clinches the Southern Region title for Umpqua for the second consecutive season and pushes the Riverhawks a little further ahead of the bloodbath behind them in the standings. Southern Region teams No. 2-5 are all within a game of one another in the region standings with just a handful of contests remaining now that the league's second-highest scoring team looks to be out of reach.


2. Lane (18-7, 4-4 South)
Previous ranking: No. 3, No. 4 Coaches
Coaches: No. 7

Lane's record in Southern Region play is admittedly not the best, but in the case of the heavy-hitting south you have to consider that the top four teams have a combined record of 68-25, and that 11 of those 25 losses have come since the start of region play in January. With Umpqua seemingly ahead of the pack for good, it's come down to who will rise above the remaining pool and grab the second seed. Lane has been bitten twice by Umpqua, most recently in a 65-63 loss [box] to the Riverhawks on Feb. 11, but realize the only one team has been able to hold Umpqua to fewer points, and they don't play in the NWAC. Also, Lane has played in four consecutive games (vs. NWAC opponents) decided by five points or less and lost three of them. If the Titans can work out a way to play two full halves over the next few weeks, they'll have a shot at the second seed in the South and a solid run at the tournament.


3. Walla Walla (17-4, 8-1 East)
Previous ranking: No. 7, No. 3 Coaches
Coaches: No. 3

With five games remaining and the Warriors sporting an 8-1 record in region play, it looks like it might again be DubDub's year in the Eastern Region. You have to go back to the 2010-11 season to find a year in which Walla Walla wasn't in the top two at the end of things, but they've only won a single Eastern Region title in the last four seasons. Their lone loss against fellow Eastern Region foes this season came back on Jan. 24 on the road at Big Bend, a game in which the Warriors simply couldn't shake the shooting woes [box]. Since then, they've been averaging 75 points a game and have taken down some pretty impressive opponents — namely former No. 2 Columbia Basin in a 77-68 road victory [box].


4. Bellevue (18-6, 9-0 North)
Previous ranking: No. 5, No. 8 Coaches
Coaches: No. 5

Let's everyone take notice of the Northern Region's first representative in the top four since the Dec. 8 season preview edition. The Bulldogs, winners of their last 11 games and holder of the second-longest such streak in the league, have blown through the first month of Northern Region play. They've won all but two of their nine region games by ten points or more, and have really only been threatened once: A 67-62 win [box] on the road at No. 8 Peninsula. The Bulldogs don't shoot particularly well, aren't a great scoring or rebounding team and don't even shoot a good percentage from the charity stripe, but they seem to have an x-factor about them which goes beyond the fact that the Northern Region might not get more than one team out of the first round of the upcoming NWAC tournament. Remember that Bellevue has beaten No. 5 Lower Columbia twice this season, beat No. 3 Walla Walla back on Dec. 20 and has stuck with Spokane in both their games.


5. Lower Columbia (19-7, 12-0 West)
Previous ranking: No. 6, No. 7 Coaches
Coaches: No. 4

When last we met, the talk about Lower Columbia centered on their 63-47 win [box] over Centralia back on Jan. 24. I used terms normally reserved for young, growing teams and a league fighting to gain traction and relevancy — things like "confidence booster" and pointing out that the Red Devil's win over Centralia came at home. Well, as it turns out, Lower Columbia just might be that darned good. The Red Devils won their 12th consecutive game — that's a league high — in an 84-35 trouncing [box] of Green River on Feb. 11, and have now seized control of the Western Region with four games to go. Now, all eyes are fixed on the biggest Western Region match up of the year when Lower Columbia visits Centralia on Feb. 25 with the region title and No. 1 seed on the line.


6. Centralia (21-3, 10-1 West)
Previous ranking: No. 4, No. 1 Coaches
Coaches: No. 2

If it seems a little unfair to drop the Blazers, who have the league's second-best overall record, that's because it is. At the same time, until Centralia can prove their ugly loss to No. 5 Lower Columbia — a team who is surging at the moment — they won't pass up the Red Devils in the rankings or the Western Region standings. A loss in the rematch could be disastrous. Example: As things currently stand, Centralia will face No. 6 Columbia Basin in the first round of the tournament at 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. That's in the defending-champion Hawks' home town in prime-time, and a prime reason why the Blazers need an excellent finish down the stretch of Western Region play.


7. Columbia Basin (14-9, 6-3 East)
Previous ranking: No. 2, No. 5 Coaches
Coaches: No. 6

The law of averages finally got to the Hawks over the last two weeks. The magical streak of last-second thrillers hasn't ended, but the stretch of wins for Columbia Basin has quickly morphed into a stretch of three consecutive losses. Fresh off a wild come-from-behind 79-77 victory over Blue Mountain [box], Columbia Basin promptly ran out of gas. Their final game in January, a 77-68 loss [box] to No. 3 Walla Walla snapped an eight-game winning streak and seems to have set the Hawks on their... uhh... back-talons. Blue Mountain returned for revenge a few days later, followed by a 78-60 thumping [box] at the hands of Wenatchee Valley on Feb. 11. Is the Eastern Region just that competitive? Yes, but these are games Columbia Basin needs to win if they want to avoid a difficult seed at the tournament, or worse: missing the postseason altogether.


8. Peninsula (14-5, 8-1 North)
Previous ranking: No. 8, No. 6 Coaches
Coaches: No. 8

Two weeks ago, what the Pirates needed was to top Skagit Valley and hold on to the second spot in the Northern Region. Not only did Peninsula come away with a 63-59 win over the Cardinals [box], they've also won the three games since and are a half-game behind No. 4 Bellevue for the Northern Region lead. When Bellevue first entered the rankings, it looked like the 'Dogs might run away with the north and enter the tournament with a huge winning streak — and for their part they've won their last 11 games — but Peninsula is positioning themselves as a challenger in the North. The rematch on Feb. 22 is a big one, as it likely decides who gets the lowest seed from the Southern Region in the first round of the championship tournament.



  1. Lane #2? This is your blog and you are entitled to post your view of reality, but Lane is not the #2 in the NWAC, no way, no how. The South region is strong, for sure, but not any stronger than the East (and you could argue the East is tougher top to bottom), but I don't see you giving Blue Mountain (also 4-4 like Lane) the #2 spot in your NWAC Power Rankings.

  2. Once I found the actual rankings (the link on the front page took me to an older ranking), I read with great anticipation your latest effort because I enjoy your viewpoint even though I always don't agree.

    I got as far as the first paragraph before I started shaking my head.

    "Portland, seeing one of their best stretches in history, is within striking distance of a tournament berth but will need to unseat one of three powerhouse programs: Clackamas, SW Oregon or Lane."

    Perhaps our definition of "powerhouse programs" differs. SW Oregon? Huh? SW Oregon hardly qualifies as a powerhouse program, in my opinion. The Lakers have been to exactly three post-season tournaments and have an overall record of 2-5 in the tournament, with both wins coming in the same tournament. In their other two appearances they were eliminated without winning a game.

    As far as your actual rankings, I agree with Umpqua No. 1. Never count out Lane, especially at tournament time, but are they the second best team now? Don't know.

    The rest is pretty good. Centralia, in my opinion, may be a tad low in your poll.

    Appreciate your interest. Thanks for "putting yourself out there" for us to read, enjoy and comment.

    1. From NWAC SID @ Anonymous
      My apologies for providing the the wrong link to the latest women's power rankings (Feb12)