Things are finally calming down and getting a sense of normalcy and as such -depending, Tuesdays or Wednesdays’ll serve as a chance to discuss questions that pop up and answers that start to flesh out as the season goes on.
To be addressed: Riley Carel (trust your teammates, darn it); repetitive player of the week nods (it’s math); Seattle Pacific (deserves more love around here); parity in the GNAC (is a bad thing right now).
Let’s talk about Riley Carel. Yeah, stop groaning, he’s just a really interesting conundrum because of the parallels that exist and because his shot selection is so bad and because the supporting cast around him isn’t as bad as he pretends it is. Trey Ingram, Tyler Idowu, and Tyler Copp are all good -Brent Counts is improving by the game. Ryan Rogers probably deserves as much crap as Riley, but doesn’t have the misfortune of transferring from a good GNAC school to a bad one.
Make all of the arguments you want about Riley’s lingering injuries and the reasons he transferred, but: he was buried on the bench at SPU when Riley Stockton wasn’t. That was the big problem. It would’ve been one thing if he’d gotten to Saint Martin’s and positively killed it (which he could have if he’d committed to fundamentals) but he didn’t. And doesn’t. SPU is criticized for having their system and sticking to it; it’s strict, it’s frustrating, it’s aggravating as a player in its ‘do or do not -there’s no try’ method, but so far it’s mostly worked for them.
Matt Borton keeps winning player of the week -that’s another issue that’s coming up. Is it a product of the fact that SPU wins? No. Not at all. Is it a product of the SPU system? No. Is it because he’s primarily looking out for his own stats? Maybe -but that’s a bit more subjective than is really desired for this discussion. Is it because he’s a forward rather than a guard? No, Riley Stockton does well -there are players on every team in the conference at each position that do well; the difference with the two of them is that they’re incredibly consistent.
However: Does Mitch Penner get punished because he’s the second option shooter and thus has a worse shooting percentage? Maybe. Mitch could maybe have a legitimate bone to pique with that one, except it seems like it’s a matter of getting comfortable. Mitch had to defer because of David Downs and Patrick Simon the last couple of years and so it’ll be surprising if his shooting percentage doesn’t go up. That being said, the fact is -Matt, Mitch, and Riley are all largely zooming toward the same stats, their biggest competition in terms of POW is often each other, and usually they end up right in the realm of one another because they play cohesively with each other in spite of all that.
The Falcons simply play a very nice form of basketball and their guys are also for the most part incredibly patient and unselfish. Cory Hutsen is such a dominant center that the immediate decision should always be “Can we kick it in? No? Let’s kick it out. Let’s reset the offense. Can we kick it in? No. Okay, kick it out, reset the offense. Can we kick it in? Nope. Open three. BAM.”
You’ll notice that a couple of their guys play more similarly to Western -Shawn Reid plays more of a street ball style and as such there are nights when he’s really good, but there are also nights when he’s really not on and if the Falcons other guys weren’t so methodical, it could be a major liability.
SFU parallels slightly -although Sango is pretty good at making the guys around him better. Still, the major difference is SFU started with nothing this year. They implemented their offense, he’s willed them to wins, they have a great second guy in Patrick Simon II, and again: since their expectations were a crossing their fingers of “be competitive” it’s a whole different bowl of spaghetti than what the Falcons deal with.
As such: in moments when SFU gets praise, Central gets “it’s okay,” WWU gets “they’ll bounce back,” and Western Oregon gets “they got it done;” Seattle Pacific gets eye rolls of “uh huh.” And what does that mean for the Falcons? Is it fair? Do their guys getting the nod at player of the week more often balance it out?
Not really. It was assumed at the beginning of the season that Seattle Pacific would get a fair bit of attention around here because they were the regular season and tournament champions last year -it makes sense. It makes sense that Western Washington gets a lot of benefit of the doubt, it makes sense that Western Oregon falls somewhere in the middle; Alaska Anchorage gets some grief because this blog was one of the few doubters of the Seawolves that said “hmmm,” and while Brian McGill and Kalidou get praised until the cows come home -that’s not really done with SPU.
Player-of-the-week is done by a mathematical formula. It’s not biased in favor of SPU, it’s biased in favor of good basketball. SPU is winning; often times winning comes with good basketball. And yet as a team, they’re not necessarily getting what they should be in terms of kudos.
With SPU, we treat it as “STFU and get it done.” Not fair but the meek inherit the earth, right? Hashtag Sermon on the Mount.
People have made the argument that the GNAC needs parity this year. Yeah, the GNAC needs parity except in the case of one or two teams. Right now, that’s SPU and WOU. Central didn’t have any convincing non-conference wins, they lost to NNU, they beat SPU except that’s a rivalry game -anything can happen in a rivalry game- and quite frankly: that game was a darn good gut check for the SPU coaching staff to start using the starting lineup they should’ve been using all season.
As a conference: We need SPU to win out of there’s any hope of getting a second bid in the real tourney. The Pac-West is an incredibly strong conference and they hold our number. The CCAA isn’t even anything that special this year (no teams currently in the top 25) and they hold our number -by a lot.
People in the GNAC like to tell me that making our conference tournament says something good about their program. BS; eight teams go. UAF’s ineligible this year. That’s all but one. It’s a bad thing if you don’t make it, not a good thing if you do. And this year on the assumption that MSUB and NNU both pull it together, those eight bids are gonna be a fish fight (see: pacific northwest heritage) and MSUB is likely to cheat by throwing rocky mountain oysters instead.
As it stands right now: In terms of the real tournament, we’re going to be a one bid league. The odds of it being Seattle Pacific are one in nine -same as the odds for everyone else- because it’s the conference tournament champion that goes. However, if we have any hope to get an at large bid we need to have a team that’s so incredibly deserving of it that regardless of what they do in the conference tournament the committee says “that’s not a team I want to play,” and that still might not be enough simply because of non-conference reputation alone.
I’m in the GNAC and don’t take our conference seriously -if I was in the Pac-West, I’d be standing here pointing and laughing going “AHAHAHAHA, play a GNAC team, that’s like a first round BYE,” and I don’t know that I’d be wrong.
No one has the non-conference resume except SPU, WOU, and potentially WWU if the Vikings win out. And even then we could have a situation like last year where one team was going to go no matter what, one team looked likely, and then teams that were nowhere inside the bubble won the Pac-West and CCAA conference tournaments and our second team’s bubble burst.
The general thinking is that had WWU won the conference tournament, SPU would’ve gone and Dixie State would’ve stayed home. Dixie had beaten SPU early in the season in OT, but in terms of the “what have you done for me lately,” SPU’s resume beat theirs. But writing that… not sure. Really not sure. We could’ve been a one bid league no matter what, which at this point is what’s expected this year.
So the good news is: Everyone has the same percentage chance of making the tournament: 1 in 9, courtesy of UAF’s poor APR score. The bad news is: Everyone has the same chance of not making the tournament: 8 and 1. Those aren’t good odds, so… better start playing some defense, or if you’re SFU: recommit to your offense.
If you made it through that: Congrats.
TL;DR: Saint Martin’s has good starters, POW repetition is because some people are just good, Seattle Pacific is a good team contrary to the lack of praise of them around here, and the GNAC has parity alright but most likely we’re doomed.
Tomorrow: Predictions and the usual game day previews.