Alright, we got busy and so this is coming a day late all in one post. We’re going to go in reverse order, just to mix things up and make it countdown style.
10. Simon Fraser
9. Northwest Nazarene
8. Central Washington
6. Saint Martin’s
4. Western Washington
2. Western Oregon
1. Seattle Pacific
11. CU-PDX. We’re giving them the spot because they got blown out by MSUB. Transitive property time! From what we know, SMU is better than MSUB, SMU only beat SFU by eight, MSUB beat CU-PDX by 20, thus SFU is better than CU-PDX. There’s also the fact that SFU has had players put up numbers that we see from other good guys in the conference -not consistently, but we’re yet to see CU-PDX hit a couple of metrics, which… Balance, maybe, but if you have a guy that can be your go-to, you use him as much as possible, unless you’re up by 25+. Even in blow outs it’s still important for good guys on not-so-good teams to get shots up and play against the better (or more equal in terms of opposing bench) competition.
10. Simon Fraser. We like Max Barkeley, we theoretically like Michael Harper, we like JJ Pankratz. In particular with JJ and Max, they’ve had good games against some good teams. They haven’t won, but they’re going to. It always happens, they just need to work on the consistency and all of that good stuff. They really need to commit to playing as a team and digging in. It can be frustrating to try and commit every day when you’re not winning, but it’s a catch-22. You’re not gonna win if you don’t commit, and yet a lack of winning means it’s hard to create that atmosphere of commitment. We think Max, Michael, and JJ in particular need to hold some type of meeting between the three of them and say “this is what we’re gonna do, we’re gonna go hard, we’re going to get after each other in practice, and even if no one else cares: We’re going to play hard like a conference title is on the line.” Fake it until you make it.
9. Northwest Nazarene. This feels too low because they have been tested slightly but when they were tested again they fell flat on their face against CSULA. If it was Dominguez Hills or East Bay, that’d be different. It was CSULA. Yikes. They have the win against Dominican, but it was at home and again: the Crusaders didn’t win; the penguins lost. We want to see NNU do well -they have Bouna, they have Mike, that’s gotta equate to something. We’ll see. We really want to see Mike get a handle on the turnovers and really commit to playing smart basketball.
8. Central Washington. The level of ick that is CWU taking on SFU as non-con is such that we just can’t get over it -and we’re not against cousin marriage; biologically there’s nothing wrong with it unless it happens generation after generation- but those games were sibling marriage + procreation, which is a huge no. We don’t blame SFU; we see them as the victim in all of this. It’s CWU that gets the blame and they always say they want to be held up high as a legitimate program -that’s great, this is what you get. You get needled like we do with SPU, WWU, and UAA.
7. MSU-Billings. It seems like this could be somewhat of a write-off year because Momir Gataric is out and Kendall Denham is struggling, but the year is still young. We say this all of the time but we love that coaching staff and we know Billings sucks and is hard to recruit to. Still, the buy-in factor. Win games, make the conference tournament, no longer be in Montana. Trade it for the picturesque town of Lacey, WA.
6. Saint Martin’s. The reason they’re getting the nod ahead of Central is because they tested themselves more in non-conference -not by much, but Central only played two D2 games. We don’t count the incestuous ones against SFU. We really like SMU’s player personnel -we’re waiting for Trey Adams to bounce back, Fred Jorg has a good advantage, Tyler Copp made one of our all-conference under classmen teams last year, Victor has had his moments. This team is capable, they only lost to WWU by three, but it’s just a matter of putting the pieces together.
5. Alaska-Fairbanks. No wins off of the tundra, but good guys in Bangaly and Travante. This is a building year for the Nooks, so fifth is better than we expected and gives them plenty of room to do more. Because they’ve already ruled themselves out of an at-large berth in the tourney, finishing 5th would put them in good position to make the conference tourney and hopefully create some magic that propels them further.
4. Western Washington. We were torn, but ultimately Western Washington has blown out SFU and been blown out by SPU, while UAA blew out both CWU and NNU. Western has won a neutral court game but no away games, while UAA hasn’t, but… UAA has Suki Wiggs. We love Kyle Impero, think he’s a fantastic player, would take him over Suki any day of the week and twice on game day, but we think he could cause the Seawolves to finish higher while Kyle Impero’s style of play will propel the Vikings farther.
3. Alaska-Anchorage. As noted above: Suki Wiggs. Also Corey Hammell. Also Diante Mitchell. We learned last year that you can have good success with only three functioning guys. Plus, Suki actually does a lot besides take an obscene number of shots. He rebounds, he picks up assists, we hate his shooting percentage but Coach Oz gonna Coach Oz. We really want to see them win off the tundra, obviously, they need to start putting up some legitimate numbers which theoretically conference play will be a great opportunity for them to do. Curious to see what they do, they should be safe to make the conference tourney, but we’re thinking it’ll be very challenging for them to win it -especially as the conference teams figure out how to shut Suki down. Conference coaches are sitting here going “Figure it out? We’ve had it figured out since mid-November! Now we finally get to try it.” Shoutout to coaches Shaw, Looney, and Dominguez.
2. Western Oregon. We wanted to put them first, but blog ethos dictate that second is where they belong. Last year when Andy went down, they suffered some losses. This year they were able to overcome them, but the teams they beat this year with Andy out weren’t necessarily as good as the teams they were facing last year that they severely struggled against. They made a first round exit in the regional tournament and bring back essentially the same team. We love the Wolves, believe in them wholeheartedly, believe that they’re bound for the regional again, and could very well split the conference title with SPU on both fronts, but… The Wolves blew out the Cavaliers and the Yellowjackets; the Falcons blew out the Vikings and the Clan; right now, that gives them the slightest of edges. Andy is the best player in the conference this year, no question, but we need to see Julian Nichols start acting like himself again and not pulling a Travis Thompson.
1. Seattle Pacific. “Rebuilding year.” Uh huh. Sure. We hate putting them first, but from what we generally say as a blog we can’t deny this position. They have better strength of schedule. They’ve had their best player go down and still functioned smoothly. They have an amazing point guard in Bryce Leavitt, great wing in Mitch Penner, enforcer in Garrett Swanson, and center that only vaguely knows what he’s doing in Gilles Dierickx, but that never mattered before! And Gilles has essentially a four inch advantage on everyone with the exception of Fred, so that match-up’ll be interesting to watch. We can’t help but mathematically believe in the Falcons -they’ve proven enough, going above and beyond with every opponent they’ve faced (minus CU-I) including Chico State. We’re excited to see what the Falcons do in conference play, but won’t be surprised if the Wolves end up in first, either.
Once again: Sorry about the delay. A new NABC poll came out, so our thoughts on that will be up at around 2pm today, and then tomorrow the game day preview will go up at 10am.