To get it out of the way, we’ll do the projected second half finishes and then go through and discuss each team’s first half play/second half projections.
10. Simon Fraser -they just haven’t shown anything in conference besides a win against WWU that six other teams have.
9. Saint Martin’s -they haven’t been able to put it together and to finish and the loss against SFU looked bad.
7. MSU-Billings -they’re putting it together, but it’s a growing process.
7. Alaska-Fairbanks -also putting it together, but again a growing process.
6. Alaska-Anchorage -see: putting it together; nice win against a better-than-normal NNU team.
5. Western Washington -would love to be wrong on this, but right now NNU looks hotter; a lot can change though.
4. Northwest Nazarene -so hot right now.
3. Seattle Pacific -CWU has more heart; they just do.
2. Central Washington -epitomizes the idea of teamwork.
1. Western Oregon -beat down of SFU, won the battle at WWU, great guard play.
A reminder: UAF is ineligible for the conference tournament, and thus by this prediction every team is in the conference tourney except SFU.
Simon Fraser: They had some wins in non-conference that now looked like a fluke. Sango can’t do it all and the lack of depth is showing -greatly. Patrick Simon II showed promise early on, but is now dealing with growing pains, which are normal. Sango graduates, but perhaps next year they’ll go back to a more traditional style and be able to build on this year’s experience. That seems like best case scenario.
Saint Martin’s: The most frustrating team in the conference. If CWU has the most heart, SMU has the least. This has been talked about a bit -Riley Carel needs to trust his teammates; true, but he chose a terrible team to do it against, showing a frighteningly low basketball IQ -SFU’s entire offense is based around getting steals, so that’s the game you decide to pass a bunch? Terrifying. The outcome would likely have been better even trying it against WOU or SPU of all teams. Zoinks. Again -still believe that this team is good and their underclassmen will be great, but they’re not getting it done right now.
MSU-Billings: Losing Austin was huge, but Momir Gataric has stepped up in big ways. They didn’t lose to the Falcons by much, comparatively speaking, and they were right in it for huge stretches of that game. Hopefully they’ll use it as an experience builder, they play WOU on Thursday, which if they could learn from the loss could look like a really respectable game, not quite upset potential, but figure keeping it within five or ten the whole time. SMU will be a great chance to flex their muscles, be in it the whole time, and hopefully pull out a W.
Alaska-Fairbanks: If they have Ruben back, they have the potential to finish higher; if they don’t, this is probably their reality. They came so insanely close to upsetting CWU and beating NNU but just couldn’t do it. Build on the experience -the second half of the season they’ll be facing SPU, MSUB, SMU, and WOU in the Patty Center, which spells four rational victories -SPU and WOU upsets, and SMU/MSUB they should be able to handle. The question always is: will they.
Alaska-Anchorage: Good win against a rising NNU team, proving that if someone wants to win they have to find a way to take Brian McGill out of the game be it literally or merely in terms of production. Anchorage also will receive visits from SMU/WOU and MSUB/SPU and thus they’ll have a chance for some good games at home and some wholly winnable games at home. Their visiting road to hoe is going to be more difficult and they’re going to have dig in and get it done, if nothing else for Travis -he deserves to go out in a good year.
Western Washington: Still no clue what to think about this Vikings team, and I’ve watched them play five times in person plus a bunch of times on the computer. There’s just no making heads or tails of it. They’ve lost every road game, won every home game, with the exception of WOU at the last second. Speaking of last seconds -every game with the exception of MSUB has been won or lost with a point differential averaging around three. What are they doing? Does anyone know? Pretty sure not even they do. They know what they’re doing as it comes to basketball itself, so theoretically they’ll turn it around in the second half of conference play.
Northwest Nazarene: I want to believe. This Crusaders team got blown out by 30 against SPU way back in early December, but a lot has changed since then. They got it done in Fairbanks, although that was a close one after being up by 15, almost got it done in Anchorage, got it done at Central, kept it relatively close at WOU. They’ve played as many close games as Western has and have five games at home to look forward to in the second half. This could be huge -they’re on the rise, that gym can get pretty loud; if people buy in, they could gain a pretty solid home court advantage and life could be really good.
Seattle Pacific: Who’d a ever thunk that SPU and NNU would be right by each other in predicted finish? SPU is underachieving, NNU is overachieving, and life is good. SPU is getting picked third here because while they’re skilled they just don’t care enough. It’s like they’ve gotten complacent because WWU is being so weird, so they’re kind of slacking. The losses they’ve had for the talent they have is inexcusable. The wins -SFU wasn’t impressive, MSUB wasn’t impressive. The only statement win they have is WOU and that was at home. Who knows?
Central Washington: I love this team and doing the grading out of conference players oddly enough only made me love the Wildcats more. Their players don’t grade out well, but as a team they’re fantastic and isn’t that what basketball is all about? What are we gonna be? T-E-A-M, TEAM! They have some difficult road games to get through in the second half of the season, but the more cohesive they get the better they’re gonna be and naturally cohesion tends to get tighter as the season goes on. They had some good wins against SPU and WWU, and then what now is a very excusable loss to NNU, so… be excited for this Central team.
Western Oregon: Another incredibly cohesive team, except one whose players grade out very, very well. When Andy Avgi grades out as the second best player, life is gonna be really good; both Andy AND Julian are juniors, with Jordan (their third best guy) also getting better every day. They play cohesively, they play smart, they only have one conference loss and that’s at Seattle Pacific, so the rest of the season should be totally doable. It wouldn’t be surprising if they walked. This could be really, really good for the rest of the conference too, because they’re making a strong enough argument that they deserve to be in the tourney no-matter-what, meaning that if a different team wins the conference tournament… a team in another conference will get boned.
There’s a new tag ‘discussions’ so if you’re feeling the need for long winded ways, check it out.
Up next will be a discussions post specifically about individual players in the conference, including but not limited to: Travis Thompson, Cory Hutsen, Julian Nichols, and Dom Williams. Should go up around 7pm PST.