Boxing Day Blog Marathon #6!

Topic: What we’ve learned and can extrapolate going into conference play.

We used to know something about GNAC men’s basketball. In our first year, we did because the GNAC was knowable. Enter the last two years where it’s been massive amounts of parity, except WOU always being amazing.

This year, admittedly some of what’s making it hard this year is that the Pac-West is an absolute mess in the same way we were last year, and playing so many games against them means that it’s hard to extrapolate the meaning of any given win, so… Maybe it’s not so much that we don’t know anything, as there’s just still not enough data, despite that 1/3 of the season is over.

These are our thoughts on each team as they stand now:

Alaska-Fairbanks

If they can gel, UAF could still put a fairly decent season together. Because of non-con, regardless as to what they do they will need the autobid, but making the conference tournament is still a possibility. Kimball Davis, Michael Kluting, and Alex Baham all show promise, plus Donny Wilder has been slumping and if he bounces back, that could make a huge difference.


Alaska-Anchorage

This is part of why the season feels so strange. Everyone was telling us UAA would be great, we felt 60/40 about it but thought Jacob was fantastic, but we didn’t expect the Seawolves to be as mediocre as they are nor did we truthfully expect Jacob to have played as well as he has. It’s all going to be about him staying healthy and Coach Oz being able to get the rest of the guys up to speed. For the Seawolves the conference tournament is do or do not; there is no try, plus it would suck to miss it when you finally host it.


Simon Fraser

BETTER THAN NORMAL!!!!!!! We’re sooo excited about SFU, but unfortunately the other two conferences are such a mess that we can’t give them quite as much credit as we’d like. They’re also 0-2 in conference play, which helps nothing. Wait and see. Unfortunately their “up” year is coming in an up year for the rest of the conference too, so they may still end up in 11th, but they’ll probably actually win five or six games in conference, which is massively better than their usual 3-17 type performances.


Western Washington

We still think that they’re the deepest and the best in the conference, but with Trey slumping and Deandre adjusting to being a starter, Daulton has been carrying the load and it’s a lot different for a sophomore to carry the load than a senior (e.g. Tanner Omlid). We’re not convinced anything can really be done, because they have had performances like the WOU game, thus it’s just a matter of if things’ll click during any given game. It’s interesting -they have a lot of talent and so it’s much less teamwork reliant, but at the same time in games that are hard, they don’t have that propensity for falling back on teamwork.


Seattle Pacific

We love Gabe Colosimo, but we are 100% not convinced that even with as perfect as he was in the Stanislaus game that all of their issues have simply come from not having him. This team is funny in that every single piece is there and yet often they just can’t get it to work as it should. Maybe it’s a youth thing?


Saint Martin’s

This is the blue-collar version of SPU. They’re not as talented, but they’re more athletic, they care more, and they definitely have the mindset of “everyone is doubting us, forget the haters,” which is amazing. It’s funny -we’ve been bandwagon with SMU forever, but this year we feel like it’s so much more because Prib’s system is finally coming into place with his own players and we’re really getting to see this nitty gritty small school, beat the big dawgs, ‘win or lose they’re gonna feel it in the morning’ mindset, which is the best.


Central Washington

This is another school that we’re confused about and they did so little in non-con that we have no idea. On paper their numbers aren’t bad and the win against NNU looked really great, but one of the reasons we really like having CWU tickets: every game is up for grabs. They’re middle of the pack and so winning is always 50/50 in both directions. They can be upset by lower teams, they can beat the top teams, and so… We’ll see. We’re still saying they’ll make the conference tournament, but that’s largely because they did just beat NNU and NNU is going to be their main competition for that final sixth spot.


Northwest Nazarene

We loved their non-con and then they just lost convincingly to CWU and now we’re confused. We were like “oh, they’re definitely conference tournament bound,” and now… Who knows? They’ve clearly got the skills and we’re super impressed with Paul Rush’s system now that he’s had time to implement it. Simply getting Maurice Jones to stick around -that would have never happened under a prior coach, and so… Good things are on the horizon, but is the conference tournament one of them this year? We shall see.


MSU-Billings

They looked soooo good and then reality hit. We’re not anticipating a conference tournament berth. While we don’t talk about non-D2 games on this blog, we still keep an eye on all of them and look at all of the numbers, and… Honestly: We’re really not impressed. Kendall Denham needs to get his head back in the game because he’s a lot better than he’s been playing this year. It would be nice to see him actually play like we know he can, especially because it is in fact his senior year, but… There’s a good amount of doubt that he actually will, which is unfortunate.


CU-Portland

*beats head against desk* Can an entire team be slumping? CU-PDX proves that yes, yes they can. They have so many guys that when we look down the roster we’re like “oh, he’s really good!” and yet… No. Literally though, looking down their roster: Jace Cates, Cody Starr, Jarrett Gray, Bryan Michaels, Christopher Edward, Taylor Harris, and Hunter Sweet all are legit, and yet… the Cavs are 4-8. We know Coach B too well for this to be a coaching thing -this is the whole “I sent a raft/boat/helicopter, what are you waiting for?” thing. Hopefully they figure it out, because depending on how much of a mess the rest of non-con is, they could be a dark horse for the conference tournament.


Western Oregon

We bow down to Tanner Omlid and Jim Shaw because it appears as though it’s Tanner Omlid with a 2K rating of 99 and everyone else in the high 60s to low 70s, and yet… They have a quality non-con schedule and only one loss, that being to a super talented WWU teams. This is yet another variation on talent vs. teamwork, but they throw the best coach in the conference into the mix, so… No idea what their in-conference record will actually be. Something like 16-4 would be our guess, but it could be less, it could be more, and regardless: We think they’ll win the conference again, although don’t regret picking them 2nd because on paper they should be.


Ultimately: We still feel like we have no idea what we’re looking at, but also feel confident that when we get to the end of the season, we’ll understand why we have no idea.