And our bracket. In D2 it’s funny -predicting the bracket is the real game to win; forget the games, the games you’re invested in because you want your team to win. Right now we’ve been procrastinating on posting a bracket all day because the idea of being wrong kills us, even though… It’s D2 basketball. Why does being right in predicting a bracket matter? Yeah, yeah, yeah, pale blue dot, giant universe among some insane multiverse, are we a computer sim? Nothing really matters, blah blah blah, insert existential crisis here.
Instead, let’s talk about the GNAC championship game:
#4 WOU 69 @ #1 WWU 71
First and foremost: We were wrong. Taylor Stafford is the real deal, especially when you watch him in person. Now, how well that’ll translate to anything else, we have no idea. But for D2 basketball, dude is legit. The game itself was frustrating, exactly as WOU intended. WOU as these games have depicted epitomizes the defensive grind it out games that are amazing to watch in person and at the time they’re being played, but that seem useless to re-watch because there are too many variables and “how do they get this stuff to even work?” because some of it is dumb luck and some of it is incredibly calculated. Big props to WOU for almost taking down what is a very good WWU team.
How good is this WWU team? Naturally we’re not sure. This entire year has felt like an episode of the Twilight Zone. The numbers they put up are mediocre, which speaks to WOU, but also doesn’t speak well of WOU, because WOU’s entire game is treading water. There’s a joke about the BYU-Hawaii admissions decision comes from throwing all of the applications in the air and picking the ones that land in particular places -that is the WWU vs. WOU game. Even in hindsight, now that we know who won (congrats Viks) we still don’t know who we’d pick to win because on paper WWU should win about 8/10 times, but paper isn’t reality.
Wolf highlights: Tanner Omlid went 8-10 from the line and had six boards; Ali played well and ended up with 16 points; and off the bench Demetrius Trammell lost his mind in the best way possible, scoring 33 points and being 6-6 from the line.
Viking highlights: Taylor Stafford had 33 points; Blake Fernandez had five boards; Daulton Hommes had 10 points and seven boards; and off the bench Deandre Dickson had 10 points and seven boards.
Our favorite part of the game was watching WWU’s Brad Wallace -he didn’t put up particularly interesting numbers, but the dude is a mule. He’s short, he’s sturdy, he’s stubborn, and we’re pretty annoyed he’s a senior because we’d rather keep him for another year. He really just did not give one single crap and for the 22 minutes he was in, he was basically like ‘I’M GOING TO RUN YOU OVER!!!!!!!!’ and then did it. One of those players that you can’t exactly figure out what they do, but they make life easier/more difficult, depending if they’re on your team or the opposing team. Super awesome. We had a blast watching, so thanks Brad!
Now, let’s get into D2 bracketology. At this point, the bracket is set; it just hasn’t been announced yet. We’ve been contemplating our bracket all weekend and still don’t feel confident, but whatever. This seeding is an approximation, although we have no expectation that it’ll be reality:
UCSD -not because they’re necessarily the best team in the Region overall, but because they’ve succeeded in jumping through the hoops most recently and do deserve to host. They beat the opponent with the best record in their conference Championship game and did so convincingly, which says that they’re hot right now and that’s important. Slightly worse record than HPU, but have played what we believe to be a harder schedule.
Hawaii Pacific -We have nothing against Point Loma (we loved them last year because they always schedule so well, and now they have our former coach, so what’s not to love?) but Point Loma had a bad record this year and only squeaked into the tournament by virtue of the Pac-West saying that CU-Irvine wasn’t eligible, just incase they won the tournament. That doesn’t scream “we’re so awesome,” about HPU -especially because the Sea Lions remained in the game for a long time. HPU didn’t break it open until there were about eight minutes left.
San Francisco State -We think losing to UCSD is more respectable than barely squeaking by a depleted WOU team that had played a 3OT game the night before, and only got that far because the opposing team’s (and the conference’s) best rebounder wasn’t playing.
Western Washington -This is too low and had they blown out WOU, we might suggest they host. They’re the GNAC regular season and tournament champions. Great team, good players, pleased with them, but until they make it to the Final Four we personally won’t be convinced. There was so much carnage in the GNAC this year and they still left it up to chance until about a week left, losing games in particular to MSUB (apathy) and at Anchorage. We’ll excuse @ Fairbanks because the Viks always lose at Fairbanks; they did last time they won a title too.
Cal Baptist -we love their strength of schedule in non-con, they’re a good team, their losses come via Dixie, HPU, and PLNU in the tournament (hi, try not playing apathetically) and they have a win over UCSD in non-con, but we’re not really convinced of that; so does WWU and while both CBU and WWU are good teams, there was clearly something up in December with the Tritons.
Chico State -Good non-con, good in conference, had a string of losses mid-season which we assume saw a player injured, but came back from it strong. Only losses are to tournament-bound teams, with the exception of Cal Poly Pomona, and that was a close loss, plus CPP notoriously has a good program. Probably caught the rebuilding on a good night.
Sonoma State -They have two head scratching losses (Dominguez Hills and Cal Poly Pomona) but otherwise their in-conference losses from from SFSU. They have wins over Chico State and UC San Diego, their non-con wasn’t atrocious, and if you’re looking for a trendy upset pick, you should go with the Seawolves because of that info.
Dixie State -This is actually just “who can we rule out?” Dixie scheduled themselves well in non-con, but didn’t really do anything impressive, including losing to a CWU team that didn’t even make the conference tourney. They lost in conference to the teams above and more, they lack a signature win, but we like what the other teams available bring to the table even less, so we’re going with Dixie.
Burst bubbles: UAA. Had UAA made it to the Championship game of the GNAC tourney, we would take them over Dixie State in a heartbeat. We have no idea why Corey Hammell didn’t see more minutes, but whatever the reason, we don’t trust them to have him going into the NCAA Tourney and that’s the difference in whether or not we think these Seawolves could make a run. If the committee has more info than we do and know that Corey is going to play -by all means, Alaska-Anchorage is a better option than Dixie, they should be in it. But if UAA doesn’t have him, it’s a waste of a spot in our opinion.
There’s a ton of post season blog stuff and catching up on player of the week and updating the chart and all kinds of stuff that’ll go on intermittently this month as we watch WWU, hopefully make a deep run, in the NCAA tourney. More stuff is coming -this is far from the end, there’s tons to talk about in such a weird year.
Selection show starts in five minutes……… Update: it started in 25 minutes; the GNAC website was wrong. Starts at 8pm best coast time.