Chico State Baseball: Down Year Brings Great Appreciation…..

 

For the first time since 1994 the Chico State Baseball team will finish with a sub .500 record. If you pause for a moment and let that sink in, it almost doesn’t seem real. There are young men and women who are seniors in college who were not even born yet the last time the Wildcat baseball program did not have a winning season.

Later in this blog we will lament the season that was. But, for now lets appreciate the amazing run the Chico State Baseball program has had over the last two decades. This run of greatness has been epic. During this 21-year stretch the Cats have won 2 national titles, 9 regional championships and have been to the playoffs an incredible 18 times in the last 19 years. I would venture to guess this has been an unprecedented run of success in Division II baseball.

To pinpoint how and why the Wildcats struggled this year is difficult to answer, it was a multi-pronged meltdown. There was not one thing that went wrong this year for the Wildcats. There were numerous problems that became a tsunami of baseball inadequacies that led to the Wildcats demise. The struggles of the Wildcat program is certainly not lost on their CCAA competitors. You have to know there is modicum of joy in the clubhouses around the conference seeing this perrenial power fall flat. To borrow a Vin Scully line, “it’s so quiet in Chico, you can hear the chuckles in San Diego.”  In conducting the post-mortem exam I will not be mentioning specific players by name. After-all, these are college kids. This 2015 Wildcat squad tried and for whatever reason it just didn’t happen for them. But, because of the nature of the program they decided to play in, they are held to the standard of their for-bearers, and for that we must lend a critical eye. Here is the post-mortem……*grabs my scalpel*

First, A lot was expected of Chico State’s returning players. Was this an unfair expectation ? No. This program is used to slowly incorporating junior college transfers during their junior years’ (first seasons) in the program and then having them perform at a high level in their senior seasons. This was SUPPOSED to be the year these seniors dominated. They didn’t. One can make the argument that only a hand-full of Chico State seniors lived up to expectations. Nearly a dozen other Chico State seniors performed so poorly that the Wildcats had no chance to compete for conference and regional glory. A good team can with-stand down years from a couple of their key players. When a team has 10-12 players perform so far below expectations they really have no chance to be competitive. These upper class-men didn’t hit, didn’t hit with runners in scoring position, and were inconsistent on the mound.

Second, the kids in the Chico State program played like kids. It’s always nice to see young freshman come into the Wildcat program and get playing time and play well. And, while there have been moments where these youngsters have shined, they lacked the consistency to really to overcome the mistakes of their older brethren. Head coach Dave Taylor wanted to slowly incorporate the freshman into the line-up, but mid-way through the season he was forced to depend on the freshman. The struggles of this senior class trickled down to the kids, where they had to produce or else. These young players would look good one moment, over-matched the next. The result was not necessarily unexpected. I think the young kids performed well, but its tough to use their performance this year as a template for their future seasons, based on how much they were needed this year.

Third, for the past 21 seasons the Chico State program has prided itself on being the most fundamental team on the West Coast. You don’t win 2 National Titles, 9 Regional Titles and make the playoffs practically every year if you aren’t a fundamentally sound program. The Wildcats attention to detail this year was very poor. The short-game, bunting, hitting and running, base-running, even picking up signs was not very good. Fundamentally this team did not execute. To make matters worse they either didn’t understand situational hitting or just couldn’t execute.

The Wildcats inability to hit a ground ball to second base with a runner at second and nobody out was painful to watch. Their lack of consistency in trying to get a runner home from third with less than two outs was mind-numbing. THESE “situations” are hall-marks of the Chico State program. It’s THESE “situations” that have led to national and regional titles. Chico State struggled all year executing in these crucial spots. This program will only go as far as their mental toughness takes them. This year, their toughness can certainly be questioned.

Mentally tough teams don’t get blitzed week in and week out on double-header days. Chico State was swept FIVE times  on CCAA double-header days. Three of those sweeps were at home. This tells me they couldn’t mentally engage into the game for long periods of time. It’s not easy to concentrate for six hours of baseball and being mentally ready. The good teams, the great teams can. Chico State couldn’t.

Fourth, aside from a few glowing performances the Wildcat pitching was average. The numbers prove that out. With a team ERA a tick above 4, the Cats were serviceable but not of championship quality. The starting rotation was inconsistent and the bullpen, aside from the closer, was a little above-average. As an observer I can tell you its hard to pitch when you know your team can’t score. Too many times this year the Wildcats hurlers took the mound knowing they couldn’t make any mistakes because the offense was so anemic.

Fifth, the offense. Well, there isn’t much to be said about this team offensively. The Wildcats had the  worst team batting average in the CCAA (.240) they were last in the conference in extra base hits and slugging percentage (.301.) They were second to last in runs and hits. Before the season started it looked like a line-up of punishing power hitters with a sprinkle of table-setters  that would punish opposing pitching. I believed this would be one of the best hitting teams in Chico State history. The line-up gave me no reason to doubt them coming into the 2015 campaign. Considering the line-up was filled with returners from last year’s World Series squad, it was a reasonable expectation. Nope.

The post-mortem is ugly but it also makes one appreciative of the program’s greatness through the years. Taylor told me two weeks ago the whole season has been “humbling.” He added that this was a system-wide meltdown and everyone, including himself,  takes responsibility. As for the future, well there is no doubt the Wildcats are on the recruiting trail. Chico State baseball needs an upgrade in talent. Those upgrades are needed at virtually every position. Honestly there are holes everywhere, outfield, infield, rotation and bullpen. The exciting thing is because of their resources, stadium and reputation, the Wildcats will be able to bring in some high quality players and re-load quickly. Talented ball-players who may have never thought of Chico as an option now know there is an APB on the interstate for their talents at Nettleton Stadium.

As for the returners, it’s real tough to say what the future holds. The Chico State program has never been sentimental. Can you help the school and program win games ? If you can you are welcome to stay to compete and try to win a job. If you can’t your services are no longer needed…PERIOD.  This program has had success because either Lindsay Meggs or Dave Taylor never had qualms about cutting the cord. Chico State Baseball fans and alumni have an expectation. That expectation is the foundation that Taylor has come to embrace. I sense he never wants to go through another year like this ever again. He is already working hard to ensure, he never has to.

The hard work is already under-way. Contacting future Wildcats, bringing them up for a visit, having them sign on the dotted line. As is always the case in the Chico State program fall ball will be vital. Players will come in the fall of 2015 and be able to win jobs and then look to etch their names in Chico State lore. Many of the out-going seniors were part of last year’s incredible ride to Cary and the 2014 Division-II World Series. They will take those memories and cherish them, and as fans we will cherish their contributions to the Chico State Baseball experience.

Personally I see 2015 as a year where nothing went right, a lot went wrong and the universe was telling Chico State Baseball, “it’s your turn.”

In the end I am thankful for the 2015 Chico State Baseball season. Yep, I said it, thankful. Thank you for reminding me that this game is hard. Success should be cherished and winning should NEVER EVER NEVER be taken for granted.

40 Year Wait is Rewarded for Warriors fans……


As a Golden State Warriors lifer I have waited for this since I was a young tike sitting on my mom’s lap at the ole Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Watching Rick Barry light it up from deep, Clifford Ray with monster slam dunks, CJ hitting jumpers from the right base-line  and Jamaal “silk” Wilkes going for 20 night in and night out. With the great Bill King regaling the Warriors faithful with “Holy Toledo.”

With 67 wins and the best record in the Association the Warriors are considered the favorites to come out of the Western Conference. The only blemishes to the Warriors 39-2 home record was an early season loss to San Antonio and an overtime defeat to Chicago. Other than those losses the Warriors were flawless at home. They also went an amazing 28-13 on the road, winning most of their games on the home floors of their very tough Western Conference brethren.

I will not be christening the Warriors just yet, but I am feeling very good about the Warriors draw in the first few rounds. In the playoffs nothing is ever easy and I feel the New Orleans Pelicans will give the Dubs all they can handle. Anthony Davis is a superstar. His emergence helped propel the Pelicans into the playoffs and save head coach Monty Williams’ job. New Orleans has great depth. Some of the same questions that were being asked of the up and coming Warriors three years ago are now being asked about the Pelicans. With guards Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans, New Orleans is more than capable in the back-court. I do believe the Warriors can take advantage of Gordon on the offensive end. He is undersized and is not a good defender. He will have his hands full trying to contain Klay Thompson.

The front-court is where the Pelicans pose their biggest challenge. Anthony Davis will have to be contained, but he will not be stopped. The Warriors will have difficulties stopping Davis. Draymond Green will have to allow Davis his points and not pick up cheap fouls in trying to challenge him. Andrew Bogut will not be able to hang with Davis. It is the one true mis-match the Pelicans have. But, it is the only mis-match they have.  Omer Asik is capable and can be a nuisance down low, but he is not in Bogut’s class. At every other position the Warriors are better. Plain and simple if the Warriors play as well as we have seen them play all year. They should win this series in 5 games. I give the Pelicans a game at home. Anthony Davis’ greatness allows the Pelicans to get a game.

Many national prognosticators are citing the Warriors lack of experience. Huh ? What ? This is the third straight year the Dubs have been in the post-season. Two years ago they beat the higher seeded Denver Nuggets and took the San Antonio Spurs to six games in a series that could have gone either way. Last year without an injured Andrew Bogut the Warriors stretched the Clippers to seven games before falling at the Staples Center. This team is tested. They have been through playoff wars. This is nothing new to the Warriors and they will handle it in a business-like fashion.

Golden State’s offensive and defensive prowess is un-matched. They are the top offensive and defensive team in the league. The last team to lead the league in both categories was the 72-win Chicago Bulls. My presumptive MVP is Steph Curry. At better than 23 points a game he has done everything and then-some to lead this team to unchartered territory. Klay Thompson not only scores 21 a game but is also considered one of the best defenders from the 2-guard spot. Thompson can defend three different positions on the floor and he also makes 43 percent of his three-point tries. Harrison Barnes is a huge X-Factor in this post-season. Barnes can not disappear in this series or in any series. He needs to produce to propel the Warriors deep in this run. We have run out of superlatives for Draymond Green. He is simply the heart-and-soul of the club. He is vital for the Championship aspirations. While Curry is the team’s best player, Green is their guts. A fearless competitor who is constantly attacking and competing. Andrew Bogut is the defensive force that is the back-bone of this top-ranked defense. He patrols the paint and cleans up mis-cues on the perimeter by shutting down drives to the rim. Bogut must stay out of foul trouble and must stay healthy.

The Dubs bench is a tremendous strength. Andre Iguodala and David Lee could have thrown fits and turned this thing sour. Instead, they both accepted their roles as bench players and let other player’s shine. The unselfishness of these two is a huge reason why the Warriors had a record-setting regular season. Head coach Steve Kerr will ask both Iguodala and Lee to play big and important minutes in the post-season. Shaun Livingston gives the Warriors a more-than-capable back up point guard and Leandro Barbosa is an electrifying scorer that can put points on the board in bunches. Festus Ezeli will important manning the middle when Bogut needs breathers. Ezeli is an under-rated interior defender that can change shots and grab big boards. Justin Holiday and Brandon Rush are complimentary pieces. If these two need to play extended minutes then the Warriors are either blowing teams out, or…the Warriors are in big trouble.

With the Spurs losing to the Pelicans on Wednesday night the Warriors could not have asked for a better set-up in the West. The Dubs avoid the Spurs, Clippers, Rockets and Mavericks in the first two rounds of the Western Conference playoffs. Many said the Spurs had nothing to play for on Wednesday…..NOT TRUE. The Spurs had everything to play for and failed. Instead of being a two-seed and getting home court advantage in series’ against the Clippers, Memphis and Houston, they lost and now do not have home court advantage in any of those series.

If the Warriors beat the Pelicans they would play the winner of the Memphis and Portland series. Three months ago a match-up with the Grizzlies would have terrified me, not anymore. Memphis is not the same team and is so limited offensively that they just don’t have the weapons to win a seven game series against the Warriors. Curry and company will not allow the game to be played at Memphis’ pace. Portland is decimated by injury.  Losing sixth-man extrordinarre Wes Matthews and having LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum nurse injuries is too much for the Blazers. I just don’t see them winning a seven-game series against the Warriors either.

The only way the Warriors would see defending champion San Antonio, the Clippers or Houston would be if they advanced to the Western Conference Finals. That is exactly where the Warriors want to see them…..not sooner.

I have the Warriors beating Pelicans in 5. It will the Warriors and Grizzlies in the 2nd round.

Save me a seat DubNation !!!

 

2015 NCAA MENS BASKETBALL WEST REGION PREVIEW

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The West Regional Committee has spoken and now the 8 best Division II men’s college basketball teams on the west coast will battle it out for the West Region Championship and a spot in the Elite Eight. The committee chose teams from the Pacific West, California Collegiate Athletic Association and Great Northwest Conference. Clearly the Pacific West was the best conference in the west this year and they garnered four of the eight spots in the regional. Ironically, teams from the Pac-West got the top four seeds. Don’t blame the committee on this one. When you crunched the criteria, looked at head-to-head match-ups early in the season, and weighed the body of work, it was clear the Pac-West was deserving of such recognition.

With that said, the NCAA Tournament is a different animal. Wins in November don’t necessarily translate to March. These teams have run the marathon and now its time for that final kick to try to attain West Region glory ! Let’s look at the eight teams vying for a spot in the Elite Eight……

AZUSA PACIFIC #1 SEED

Despite losing in the semi-final round of the Pacific West Conference Tournament the Cougars were a clear-cut top seed candidate and are deserving of the top spot. The first thing you notice when look at their 24-5 season is they had a tough schedule and had no bad losses. The Cougars took care of business. I love teams that put tough teams on their schedule. The Cougars not only put tough teams on their schedule, but they were willing to go on the road to play those games.

They trounced perennial power San Bernardino by 32 in early November. They traveled to Chico and beat the CCAA Champion Wildcats by 14 on their home floor. They traveled to Monmouth to take on regular season GNAC champ Western Oregon and beat them  81-74. Throw in out of conference regional wins against San Francisco State, St. Martins and Cal State San Marcos and you can see how the Cougars paved their way to the number one seed.

They also continued their stellar play in the Pacific West Conference. They beat all the teams on their schedule aside from splitting games with Dixie State (4th seed) and BYU-Hawaii (2nd seed) They lost two games this year to the 3rd-seeded Cal Baptist Lancers falling in Riverside and on a neutral floor in the Pac-West Tournament. The Cougars other loss was an 81-78  overtime loss to the 5th-seeded Cal Poly Pomona Broncos in mid-November. A great season by the Cougars.

Sharp-shooter Troy Leaf is their top-scorer at better than 22 points a game. Leaf made 78 three’s on the year and shot them at a 40 percent clip. When Leaf puts it up, it usually goes in as he shot 50 percent on the season and is not simply a three-point specialist. He can score in a variety of ways.

Besides Leaf the Cougars have six other players who average at least 6 points a game. Robert Sandoval scores 10 points a game and averaged more than 5 assists a contest. Will Ward (8.4 ppg) Kevin Stafford (7.2 ppg 51 made three’s) along with Christian Katuala (6.7 ppg) and Bruce English (6.9 ppg 34 made three’s) round out a group that helped the Cougars average 84 points a game this year. Azusa also out-rebounded their opponents by five and turned it over 13 times a game. Don’t put the Cougars on the stripe. They knocked down their free throws at a 74 percent clip.

A very deserving number one seed and they have to feel confident entering this NCAA West Regional. The Cougars are hosting this event for the first time as a Division II institution and they were undefeated at home this year going 12-0. The Cougars open the tournament against GNAC regular season champion and number 8-seed Western Oregon. The game will be played at 7:30 on Friday night.

BYU-HAWAII #2 SEED

It was quite a run for the Seasiders through the Pacific West Conference Championship Tournament. BYU-Hawaii ran the gauntlet to capture the post-season tournament and garner the automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament. Not that the Seasiders needed the automatic bid to get to the big dance. With a 24-5 record and several quality wins there was never any doubt they were going to be in the NCAA Tournament.

If you take away a brutal five-day stretch in February, there is a good chance the Seasiders would be hosting this tournament. BYU-Hawaii lost games from February 12th thru 16th on a California road-trip in visits to Cal Baptist, Point Loma and Azusa Pacific. So, during a three-and-half-month season three of the Seasiders five losses came during a one week stretch. A very impressive season for BYU-Hawaii.

The most impressive statistic when looking at the Seasiders season is their proclivity for blowout victories. BYU-Hawaii won 22 of their 24 games by double-digits. When they were good, they were really good and they pounded teams into submission. Clearly the three-game California skid was an anomaly in their season.

The Seasiders have a balanced scoring attack with three players averaging double figures. They are led in scoring by Pablo Coro who averages 15.7 points  a game. Coro can knock down the three ball making 87 from long distance on the season. He is a 40 percent three-point shooter. Daniel Berger averages 13.3 points a game while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field. Scott Friel averages better than 11 points and 6 boards a game.

6-10 senior center Jordan Stone mans the middle. Stone averages 9 points and 5 boards a game. Stone makes 64 percent of his shots. The Seasiders shoot it really well making 50 percent of their shots as a club. The three-point shot is a great weapon for them as they make 40 percent of their three’s  while also making 75 percent of their free throws. They do a great job of utilizing their size out-rebounding their opponents by ten a game.

BYU-Hawaii averages 88 points a game while giving up 74 points a contest. Aside from one bad week BYU-Hawaii has had a dominant season. They open the NCAA Tournament against GNAC conference tournament champion Seattle Pacific at 2:30 on Friday afternoon.

CAL BAPTIST #3 SEED

Another great season by the Lancers nets them a 3-seed in the NCAA West Regional. Cal Baptist compiled a 24-6 overall record and a 16-4 Pac-West record which was good for third place a game back of both Azusa Pacific and Dixie State for a share of the title.

Cal Baptist is the only team in the field to beat co-conference champ Azusa Pacific twice. They also dominated match-ups against CCAA schools going a cool 6-0 against those teams. Most of the wins were blow-outs, emphasizing the early season dominance of the CCAA by the Pac-West. The Lancers advanced to the championship game of their conference post-season tournament only to run into the buzz-saw that was BYU-Hawaii last week.  The Lancers split their match-ups with Dixie State, but lost two out of three to the Seasiders of BYU-Hawaii.

Cal Baptist is another offensively gifted team from the Pac-West, but they are also a pretty good defensive team giving up only 69 points a game. Nearly 40 percent of their shot attempts are three-point shots and they make 37 percent of them. They made 259 three-pointers as a team while averaging nearly 80 points a game.

They have 4 players who average double-figures led by Gelaun Wheelwright. The junior transfer from Weber State averages 16.6 points per game. He nailed an amazing 95 three-point shots and shoots 40 percent from beyond the arch. Taj Spencer is a 6’7 post who scores 12 points and grabs 7 rebounds a game. Spencer shoots 55 percent from the field. Sophomores Ryan Berg and Michael Smith both average 12 points a game and are nice complementary pieces for the Lancers offense.

Cal Baptist is a deep team and uses that to their advantage. They have ten players that play at least 10 minutes a game. They make 46 percent of their shots and holding opponents to 41 percent shooting. They are also good at defending the three, holding opponents to 31 percent shooting from three-point range. The experience of getting to the tournament and coming up a little bit short could serve this team well. They have a re-match with their 1st Round NCAA Tournament opponent last year in Chico State. The Lancers let a 10-point second half lead slip away as the Wildcats beat the Lancers 77-71. Cal Baptist and Chico will play the first game of the day at 12 noon on Friday afternoon.

DIXIE STATE #4 SEED

The Dixie State Red Storm come into the tournament with a 20-7 record. They were riding a 9-game win streak before being over-whelmed by BYU-Hawaii 98-75 in the Pac-West Tournament. Dixie played great basketball in the second half of the season and shared the Pac-West co-championship with Azusa Pacific going 17-3 in conference play.

Their most impressive win came in early January when they beat BYU-Hawaii 92-81 in Hawaii. The Red Storm went 3-2 against teams in the region but out of the Pac-West. They beat Cal State Stanislaus (CCAA) and St. Martin’s (GNAC) but fell to Western Oregon at home and to Seattle Pacific on a neutral floor. Those games were all early in the season and Dixie is clearly a better team now.

The Red Storm is another team that can rail the three. They shoot their three-pointers at a 39 percent clip. While they don’t shoot as many treys as their Pac-West counterparts, they don’t need to. Dixie’s multi-faceted interior game gives them the perfect inside-outside complement to be a very dangerous team on the offensive end.

6’10 Zach Robbins and 6’8 Mark Ogden man the middle. These two post players both shoot over 50 percent (Robbins 57 percent; Ogden 51 percent). Guard De’Quan Thompson (15.6 ppg) is a slasher who can get to the bucket but can also knock down the perimeter jumper. He is shooting 44 percent from three-point range and has made 42 three’s on the year. Mason Sawyer averages better than 12 points a game and has hit a team high 48 threes. He shoots them at 37 percent.

The Red Storm shoot 48 percent as a team and out-rebound their opponents by four. And, like most teams in this regional they take care of the ball, only turning it over 13 times a game. They knock down 73 percent of their free throws and they shot 238 more free throws than their opponents this year.

Dixie State is used to March Madness. They have been a power in the Pac-West for years and are an experienced club. Last year they were in position to beat Cal Poly Pomona in the first round of the tournament only to go cold late and fall 73-65. This year they get a chance at redemption as they take on the CCAA conference tournament champion on Friday. Start time is 5pm on Friday afternoon.

CAL POLY POMONA #5

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The Cal Poly Pomona Broncos are the best Division II defensive team in the country. This is not conjecture, it is fact. Head coach Greg Kamansky has cemented his place as a great defensive coach. He recruits long, athletic and rangy defenders who harass and bother opponents into taking bad shots leading to low-scoring games where the Broncos excel.

Pomona has been good for a long time and their players completely BUY-IN to the defensive philosophy. Their close-outs on shooters, defensive rotations and abilities to hold opponents to one shot make them a really special team.

The Broncos finished the season 23-6 and finished one game back of CCAA regular season champion Chico State. Pomona beat Chico in the CCAA conference tournament championship game on Saturday night winning 62-57 in overtime. Pomona also beat top-seeded Azusa Pacific 81-78 in overtime at Kellogg Gym in early November. They had impressive exhibition losses at 25th ranked Stanford and 2nd ranked Arizona. Those games illustrate how tough it is to prepare for that zone in a one-and-done scenario.

They also have some talented offensive players. The CCAA Player of the Year is Terrance Drisdom. A silky smooth player who never seems to be out of control. Drisdom averages 16 points and 6 rebounds a game while making 50 percent of his shots. Jordan Faison is a big-time post presence scoring 13 points and snaring 6 boards a game. Faison shoots 53 percent from the field. Barry Bell (7ppg)  is the starting point guard and is solid in all facets. He controls tempo so well and makes sure the Broncos don’t play faster than they should. Daniel Rodriguez (7ppg)  is a versatile scorer and defender who can play multiple positions.

The Broncos make 47 percent of their shots and hold opponents to 38 percent shooting. They have given up nearly 150 more three-point attempts than their opponents and that is by design. Most of the time those shots are not good ones.

I emphasize defense but the Broncos are not a one-trick pony. When they get stops they usually get the rebound. That enables them to control tempo and play the grind it out type of game that usually leads to run-and-gun teams making mistakes because the lack the patience needed to win a grind it out game. Pomona feeds off of that. The Broncos have a re-match with the Dixie State Red Storm in the 1st Round on Friday. Last year Pomona won 73-65 and it should be a great match-up. Game time is 5pm on Friday.

CHICO STATE #6 SEED

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For the fourth straight year the Chico State Wildcats are in the NCAA Tournament. Last year’s regional champions lost roughly 80 percent of their scoring punch from that team and still managed to capture the CCAA regular season title and win 22 games. Like Pomona, defense is the name of the game for the Wildcats. Chico gives up only 60 points a game and has penchant for holding opponents scoreless for long stretches of time.

The Wildcats utilize an aggressive man-to-man and a 2-3 zone with length to frustrate opponents. Having seen them all year their communication defensively is fantastic. They talk on defense and assignments are rarely missed.

Offensively Chico has a multi-faceted attack. Senior Jordan Semple has been a stand-out player in the program for several years and has the ability to put the team on his back. He averages 11 points and 9 rebound a game. He led the CCAA in rebounding while also  ranking in the top-20 in scoring, assists, blocked shots and steals. Semple’s greatest attribute is his length on the defensive end. When he isn’t blocking shots, he is changing them and can also get out on the break.

Chico’s emerging star is Robert Duncan. He led the team in scoring at 14 points a game. Duncan’s bread-and-butter entails daring dashes through the lane and aggressive attacks to the rim. Duncan can make the perimeter shot (27 three’s) and his elusiveness against the best of defenses makes him a very tough player to defend.

Chico’s supporting cast all average 7 points per game. Senior point guard Mike Rosaroso, 6’10 Tanner Giddings and Drew Kitchens all play within Head Coach Greg Clink’s team concept perfectly. Chico’s offensive and defensive discipline is a strength.

The future is bright for the Wildcats as four red-shirt freshmen get significant playing time. They are all impact players and if Chico is to make a deep run, they will have to make their presence felt. 6’8 Isaiah Ellis man’s post the post and can run the floor like a guard. Tyler Harris is a 44 percent three-point shooter and can be deadly with an open look. Jalen McFerren is a defensive nuisance and committed only 1 turnover for every 15 minutes played. Corey Silverstrom is a 37 percent three-point shooter and despite missing more than a month brings Chico great versatility on both ends of the floor.

Senior Jordan Barton is a big body off the bench that will defend and enforce in the paint. Chris Magalotti and Trevor Priest come off the bench to provide a defensive presence as well.

Chico State shoots 47 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range. The Wildcats have scuffled from the free throw line all year and their ability to hit charities could determine how deep they run the in the NCAA Tournament. The Cats only shoot 64 percent from the line.

Chico State opens play at 12 noon on Friday against Cal Baptist. Chico knocked off the Lancers in the 1st Round of last year’s tournament 77-71 on their way to the West Region title and a trip to the Elite Eight.

SEATTLE PACIFIC #7

The Falcons are back in the NCAA Tournament and to those of us that love and follow west coast Division II basketball, we are not surprised. Despite having a good season the Falcons were hurt by the Great Northwest Conference’s low power rating and could not break into the top-8 in the region. Thankfully for SPU they qualified for the tournament by running through the GNAC conference tournament and gaining the automatic bid to the tournament.

Seattle-Pacific compiled a 23-7 record and comes into the tournament on a roll, winners of seven straight. No longer do the Falcons have the incomparable David Downs, but what they do have is a core of returnees from some highly successful teams of the past to make a name for themselves.

Cory Hutsen leads the way averaging 16 points a game and shooting 59 percent from the field. Hutsen is one of the best back-to-the basket players on the west coast. The variety of ways he can get to the hoop is impressive. Adept at beating you left or right, he finds a way to get to the rim.  Hutsen had a 34 point performance in SPU’S GNAC Tournament Championship game win over rival Western Washington.

6’5 Mitch Penner is the second leading scorer at better than 13.3 points per game, also averaging nearly 6 boards a game. Matt Borton averages 10 points and 7.3 rebounds a game.  Guard Riley Stockton averages 9.8 points and nearly 4 assists a game.

SPU has five players who have hit at least 20 three’s. Shawn Reid leads the Falcons with (37) made three’s. He comes of the bench for SPU and gives them some instant offense scoring 9 points a game.

Statistically the Falcons have several areas where they stand out. They shoot 50 percent as a team and nearly 37 percent from three-point range. They also dominate the boards out-rebounding their opponents by 13 a game. The Falcons have pulled roughly 200 more offensive rebounds than their opponents. Seattle-Pacific scores 79 points a game while giving up only 63 points a contest. This is a dangerous team as a 7-seed. They have experience and veteran leadership. This is a group that has been there and done that. They open against Pacific West Conference Tournament Champion BYU-Hawaii at 5pm on Friday.

WESTERN OREGON #8

For the first time in the history of the program the Western Oregon Wolves are in the Division II NCAA Tournament. The Wolves won the regular season championship in the Great Northwest Conference compiling a 23-6 overall record.

The Wolves had some impressive early wins on their schedule and jumped out to a big lead in the GNAC. Western Oregon gave us a sign of things to come when they beat Oregon State in a pre-season exhibition. They also had an impressive  showing with a win at Dixie State. The Wolves beat Seattle-Pacific at home in double-overtime and were sitting at 20-3 on the season three weeks ago. Then they lost their leading scorer for a few games are looking to regain that mid-season form. They dropped an 88-79 decision to Western Washington in the semis of the GNAC Tournament.

The Wolves leading scorer is Andy Avgi. He averages 18.5 points and nearly 6 rebounds a game. He makes 61 percent of his shots and is a load to handle on the block. Julian Nichols is the second leading scorer and the primary distributer for Western Oregon. He averages 12.4 points and nearly 6 assists a game. He makes 46 percent of his shots and has made 23 treys on the season. Devon Alexander is a 6’1 guard and averages 11 points a game. He is second on the team with 41 made three’s. Their most prolific three-point shooter is Jordan Wiley. He has started every game and averages a little more than 10 points a game. He shoots 44 percent from beyond the arc and has made a team high 62 on the season. Lewis Thomas rounds out the starting line-up. The 6’8 post averages 7.8 points and grabs more than 6 rebounds a game. He can also step out and make a three, hitting 27 of them on the season.

The Wolves average nearly 80 points a game while giving up 69 a contest. Like most teams in this regional they can really shoot it, hitting on 47 percent of their shots and knocking down 37 percent of their threes. They are an exceptional free throw shooting team, making 76 percent from the stripe. They out-board their opponents by four and they take care of the ball, turning it over only 12 times a game. They were the best team all year in the GNAC, and despite falling in their conference tournament were a no doubt choice by the selection committee. They were sitting with the 3rd spot in the region before Avgi went down with an injury leading to a blowout loss at Western Washington. They very well could have been a 4 or 5 seed without the stumble.

One has the feeling the Wolves will not have that “happy to be there” feel. You never know when you will get back to the NCAA Tournament. This is the first time for the Wolves and they should be excited about this opportunity, especially considering the dominance shown by Western Washington and Seattle Pacific through the years. The Wolves are familiar with their 1st round opponent and top-seed Azusa Pacific. The Cougars came to Monmouth on November 21st and beat the Wolves 81-74. Western Oregon needs to find an answer for Troy Leaf. The Cougar sharp-shooter scored 33 points going 5-of-8 from deep. Azusa also out-rebounded the Wolves by 11 (32-21) in that game. No team in this tournament is the same club they were in November, the Wolves will need to adjust to make sure Leaf doesn’t go off.

The Wolves and Cougars play the final game of day one starting at 7:30pm at the Felix Events Center on the campus of Azusa Pacific.

OUTLOOK…..

Some people may have wondered why the Pacific West Conference got the top four seeds in the NCAA Tournament ? Quit wondering. This was the biggest of no-brainers. The Pac-West was clearly the dominant conference in the west this year and they deserve all the accolades coming their way. Most of their teams played tough schedules, inter-conference West Region schedules, and they dominated the CCAA and the GNAC. The numbers certainly didn’t lie in this case. But, the great thing about the NCAA Tournament is that the numbers don’t matter. It’s how you play for those 40 minutes in the biggest game of your life. You don’t have to beat a team that may better than you in a best-of-five series. You only have to beat them once. Anyone can be beaten once. That is why we love the tournament.

As the 18-year play-by-play voice for the Chico State Wildcats I am fortunate enough  to see every Chico State game and in doing so I love to follow the West Region action closely as well. Our game day score-sheets at Acker Gym not only have scores from the CCAA, but also scores from the Pacific-West and Great Northwest Conferences. We love our basketball in Chico, and not just the CCAA. This is going to be a tremendous regional with several new faces (Azusa Pacific & Western Oregon) and also teams who have made (Seattle-Pacific & Cal Poly Pomona) or who are making (Chico State) March Madness a habit.

When looking at the match-ups it struck me that we have 1st round match-ups of contrasting styles. BYU-Hawaii is putting up big offensive numbers, but Seattle-Pacific gives up only 63 points a game.

We have two games where teams met each other last year in the tournament. Cal Baptist and Chico; and Dixie and Pomona. The Lancers of Cal Baptist are a multi-faceted triple to quadruple pronged offense. Can the versatile Chico State defense stymie and frustrate the Lancers and make it hard for them to score ? Dixie State succumbed to the Pomona match-up zone in the last ten minutes of their regional contest last year. Can Dixie adjust or will Pomona leave another opponent muttering in frustration again about what might have been.

And then we have the two-first timers. Top seed Azusa Pacific who scheduled every good team they could possibly schedule and not only lived to tell about, but also kicked those teams in the rear. And, Western Oregon, no longer living in the shadows of WWU and SPU. They made the GNAC theirs and now they look to make some noise on the biggest of stages.

Friday will feature four games at the Felix Event Center.

Hey Friday, get here already ! See you court side !

*Thank you to the Chico State and Cal Poly Pomona athletics departments for use of pictures from their sites.

2015 Chico State Basketball Regional Montage

 

The 2015 Chico State Wildcat men’s basketball team will be playing in their 4th straight NCAA TOURNAMENT. Along the way they have given us some amazing moments……

#6 seed Chico State takes on #3 seed Cal Baptist in the 1st Round of the NCAA TOURNAMENT on Friday at Azusa Pacific University

*AUDIO may not work on some mobile applications*

 

 

Defense Wins in CCAA

 

PHOTOS courtesy of Chico State Athletics at ChicoWildcats.com and Jason Halley

There will be four teams playing for two separate California Collegiate Athletic Association Conference Tournament Championships today and you can make the argument the four best defensive teams in the men’s and women’s ranks will be participating.

Today’s first CCAA conference title tilt between the Dominguez Hills and East Bay women features the co-conference champion Toros versus the surging Pioneers from Hayward. Dominguez Hills defensive discipline and attention to detail on the defensive end makes them a tough match-up. East Bay has put themselves in position to win a conference title with guts, guile and stellar play from their veteran leaders. The Pioneers have refused to give in, especially when down by 16 against perennial power Cal Poly Pomona on Thursday afternoon. East Bay also showed some big-time toughness after letting a 20-point lead slip away against Humboldt State, only to dig deep and pull out a 73-67 semi-final win on Friday.

It sets up a fun match-up tonight between hard-as-nails Toros and the magic-carpet riding Pioneers in a battle for the women’s CCAA Tournament Title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Dominguez Hills will be playing next week in the NCAA’s, but East Bay must win to get to the Big Dance. Game time is tonight at 5:05pm at Stockton Arena in Stockton.

The men’s match-up pits the two best teams on the men’s side all season long. The regular season champion Chico State Wildcats take on the Cal Poly Pomona Broncos. Chico took both games from Pomona this year, but both match-ups were clinics in how to play defense. These two squads pride themselves on defending and making it hard for you to score. Pomona, under 15-year head coach Greg Kamansky, has been the envy of the nation on the defensive end for the last decade. Pomona knows exactly what they are and they do it better than anyone. When they assert their defensive will, they are very tough to handle. They force tough shots, they rebound and they control pace with their match-up zone.

The Broncos were down six late in their semi-final contest with Humboldt and then just ran away from the Jacks. The constant defensive pressure finally wore down Humboldt and led to easy buckets for Pomona as they won going away.

Chico State was locked into another epic match-up with Stanislaus. The Wildcats were playing the Warriors for the 7th time in 16 months and for the third time in the post-season. Chico was also down six at the 10 minute mark and went to their zone which flummoxed Stanislaus. Chico finished the game on a 21-6 run and beat their old Northern California Athletic Association (NCAC) rival 72-60. It was the 15th win in the last 16 games for the regular season CCAA champ.

Chico’s strength is also their defense. While not as  renowned as Pomona yet, Chico is building quite a reputation as a team willing to get physical and also get into you defensively.  The Wildcats bring great length to the interior of their defense. They also do a good job holding teams to one shot. Usually that shot is challenged with pressure and a hand in the face. The commitment to defense by this Wildcat program under head coach Greg Clink has been a methodical climb to regional prominence.

The four teams vying for CCAA conference titles today will not make it easy on you. They all like to score. They all LOVE to play defense. Offense is sexy. Defense is hard.  These teams didn’t start playing defense this week. They started playing defense the second their season ended last year……and that is why they are here today.

Chico State and Stanislaus Renew Acquaintances in Post-Season

Rashad Parker is Chico State's leading scorer at better than 14 points a game. Courtesy ChicoWildcats.com

For the 7th time in the last 16 months the Chico State Wildcats and the Cal State Stanislaus Warriors will a 40 minute (maybe longer) basketball game to determine who advances to the championship game of the CCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament. At stake for the conference champion is an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament which begins the next week in a yet to be determined location.

For the Wildcats and Warriors this match-up is just another in a litany of tremendous match-ups that can be described with such words as stupendous, riveting, spectacular. The two teams have split their previous six match-ups, with most games decided in the waning moments. None more exciting than Chico State’s mystifying 81-80 win in last year’s West Region Championship game propelling them to the Division II Elite Eight.

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The other match-ups haven’t been too shabby either. In November of 2013 the Wildcats lost to Stanislaus 80-78 in overtime in Turlock. The Cats would repay the favor one month later with a 88-67 trouncing at Acker Gym.

On March 8th of 2014 in the Championship game of the CCAA Tournament in Ontario the Wildcats would lose to a surging Stanislaus 82-70 ensuring the Warriors a ticket to the NCAA Tournament. The two teams would meet nine days later in San Bernardino for the West Region title. The Warriors held an 18 point lead mid-way through the first half and seemed poised to advance to Evansville, Indiana. But, a furious Chico State rally coupled with a melt-down of epic proportions by Stanislaus gave Chico State the historic win.

This year each team won on the other’s home floor. Chico suffocated  Stanislaus with a stellar early season defensive effort beating the Warriors 59-47. One week later the Wildcats appeared ready to sweep the season series leading 26-4 early in the first half but Stanislaus came roaring back and got a Chris Read buzzer beating jumper as time expired to beat Chico in overtime 62-60.

Three of the six games have been decided by two points or less. While today may not be the most important of the seven match-ups, like any Chico State and Stanislaus men’s basketball match-up it holds significance in this renewed rivalry of old Northern California Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAC)  schools. Game time is 5:35pm this afternoon and you can hear the game on Newstalk 1290 KPAY with the pre-game show at 5:10

PHOTOS COURTESY of Chico State Athletics at ChicoWildcats.com

 

Dubs Demise Greatly Exaggerated

 

They are coming out of the woodwork now. You can hear them on the Mothership (ESPN.) You can hear them on Mad Dog Sports Radio. You can hear them on the Sirius-XM NBA channel.  The talking points are in line. The Warriors have never done it before. The Warriors are getting tired. The Warriors shoot too many jump shots to seriously contend. Oklahoma City will beat them in the first round. Blah blah blah blah…….

It’s as if these prognosticators are completely discounting the Warriors season. Are they not watching the games ? Golden State leads the league in field goal percentage offense AND field goal percentage defense.  In laymen’s terms the Dubs have the best offensive and defensive efficiency in the NBA.

These so-called “experts” continue to tout Oklahoma City and Houston. Oklahoma City has the two-men wrecking crew of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But, Durant has had nagging leg and feet injuries all season and is on the shelf again with a toe issue. It seems for every game he plays he misses two. Most of these experts a la ESPN’s Chris Broussard assume Durant will be healthy. They pick the Thunder in a head-to-head match-up with Golden State with the caveat that the Dubs would win if Durant isn’t healthy.

I contend the Warriors are a better team than Oklahoma City even if Durant is healthy. I give credit to the Thunder for some savvy trade deadline moves. They picked up center Enes Kanter to man the middle, and nice complementary pieces Kyle Singler and DJ Augustin. I still don’t believe those acquisitions give them the same depth as the Warriors. Former All-Stars Andre Iguodala and David Lee are coming of the bench and producing. Shaun Livingston is exactly what the Dubs envisioned when they signed him as a free agent. A defense first point guard with length and ability to take the ball to the basket and hit the mid-range jumper. Festus Ezeli is more than a serviceable back-up center. He is a high energy and is a defensive presence. I believe a healthy Durant makes Oklahoma City formidable but to call them the “favorites’ against the Warriors is being blinded to the Warriors 2014-2015 accomplishments and instead, focusing on the flash of the Thunder’s dynamic duo.

I have no idea where these analysts and experts can say the Rockets are a threat to win the Western Conference. Have you seen Houston play defense ? I know, they don’t.

James Harden is spectacular, but the Warriors have stifled The Beard with the combo of Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala. The Warriors have played Houston four times this season. The Dubs are 4-0 with three convincing blow-out wins. Three of those  games were all played with Dwight Howard. It doesn’t matter if Howard plays. His impact on a game against the Warriors is negligible. Howard stands around on defense, waits to try to block a shot and on offense does nothing but clog up the middle for Houston’s array of rim attackers. He is a 6’10 non-factor and is clearly the most over-rated player in the game.

I don’t understand how anyone who knows the game can say the Rockets will beat the Warriors in the playoffs. Is it possible ? Sure. Plausible ? Yeah, if you have a wild imagination. If I’m the Warriors I salivate at the thought of playing the Rockets.

The Warriors will have their hands full when they hit the post-season. All bets are off if Andrew Bogut isn’t healthy. The health of Steph Curry and Bogut are imperative to Warriors post-season success. The Dubs face great challenges when the second season begins, especially if they face San Antonio or Memphis.  But, to say they would and should be underdogs if they face Oklahoma City or Houston is laughable.

 

Dodgers owe it to Andre; Trade him

 

He played good soldier during the 2014 season. He has been a good Dodger. Andrew Freidman and the Dodgers brass should trade Andre Ethier and let him play for someone else.

It’s clear that Ethier is not part of the Dodgers long-term plans. Far be it from me to feel sorry for a guy making 55 million dollars over the next three years. But, the Dodgers should reward Ethier’s loyalty and trade him so he can get some playing time.

Ethier emerged from a meeting with Don Mattingly this week saying “most” of the right things. He said that he wanted to play, adding that he doesn’t foresee himself as an everyday center-fielder. He said he is best suited to be a corner outfielder.  Sadly for Andre none are available……at the moment.

Phenom Joc Pederson is being given every opportunity to win the center-field job. Yasiel Puig is locked into right field (Ethier’s best position.) and the Dodgers are penciling in Carl Crawford in at left.

The problem with this scenario is that Pederson is unproven and Crawford is brittle. So, the Dodgers are hedging their bets by keeping Ethier just in case Crawford breaks down or Joc flames out. In my opinion that isn’t doing right by Ethier. I know the retort will be, “hey, the dude is making 17.5 million a year whether he plays or not, he should keep his trap shut and do what he is told.” That is nice in theory but unrealistic. Ethier is competitive. He wants to play. I don’t blame him. Plus, he has been a real good Dodger. Not only with his play on the field but his demeanor. Last year he could have thrown a fit when he was benched. Instead he  took his seat on the bench and cheered for his mates. But now, the guy wants to play. The Dodgers should let him. If not for them, for someone else. The Boys in Blue already acquired their outfield insurance plan when they brought in Chris Heisey. He is a capable back-up, and I feel comfortable with Heisey and Scott Van Slyke as the reserves.

My only caveat to the “trade Ethier plan” is do not trade him to an NL West team. We are already paying a big-time former Dodger 30 million dollars to play AGAINST us. I don’t want to pay another Dodger in the same division. An American League team would be ideal. The Dodgers would have to pay a significant amount of Ethier’s salary, heck it might just be a salary dump. But, trading him accomplishes two things. It clears up the log-jam in the outfield and it shows that loyalty does have a place in this game. Ethier has been a good Dodger and if he isn’t going to play everyday in Los Angeles, I hope he gets a chance to play somewhere else.

CCAA Men’s Basketball Blog: First D-II West Region Poll-No Surprises

 

NCAA DIVISION II WEST REGION RANKINGS

1 Azusa Pacific                        19-4 19-4
2 California Baptist             19-4 19-3
3 Western Ore.                      18-3 18-3
4 BYU-Hawaii                         18-4 16-4
5 Cal Poly Pomona               15-5 15-5
6 Dixie St.                                  17-6 17-5
7 Chico St.                                 15-6 15-6
8 Point Loma                           18-6 18-6
9 UC San Diego                     13-9 13-9
10 Seattle Pacific                 15-7 13-7

A fellow blogger who follows the Great Northwest Conference writes a blog that can be accessed here

https://gnacmbb.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/west-region-rankings-1/

He has some great insights and comes at the region from a Great Northwest perspective and its always good to get insights on teams we don’t get to see that often…….

 

With the first region poll in the books the reality and the plight of California Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball teams becomes abundantly clear. The Pacific West conference is STACKED.

With only Chico State and Cal Poly Pomona garnering enough votes to be in the Top-8, it’s clear that neither team has clinched a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The specter of the regular season conference champion not making it to the NCAA Tournament is a distinct possibility, making the CCAA Conference Championship Tournament vital for teams that want to punch their ticket.

The first West Region poll is dominated by teams from the Pacific West Conference. Azusa Pacific (1) California Baptist (2) BYU Hawaii (4) Dixie State (6) and Point Loma (8) would all make the tournament if the season ended today. That would be an amazing five teams from one conference. When looking at the resumes of the teams you can not argue with the committee’s reasoning. The Pac-West has dominated inter-league and cross conference play in the West Region. They have earned the respect the West Region committee is giving them.

The power center of men’s Division II West Region basketball used to lie in the Great Northwest Conference. That is no longer the case. There is one clear-cut team that has the resume to get into the tournament and that is the Western Oregon Wolves. They have had a fantastic regular season and sit at number 3 in the first regional poll. Regardless of whether they win their post-season conference tournament I think Western Oregon is a deserving entrant. Seattle-Pacific is on the outside looking in at the moment, but this is team full of veterans that do have post-season experience. Do not be surprised if the Falcons must the mo-jo for a strong final push into their conference tournament. Currently the Falcons sit at number 10 in the region.

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As the voice of the Chico State Wildcats I am most familiar with teams in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA.) Cal Poly Pomona sits at number 5 in the region. They have a very nice body of work. They have a huge early season win against the top team in the region Azusa Pacific. The Broncos beat them 81-78 on November 15th. The Broncos also beat UCSD on the road. A quality win considering the Tritons sit at number 9 in the region. The Broncos also staged a miracle comeback, coupled with a Humboldt State meltdown to beat the Lumberjacks on the road. They have also beaten Cal State Stanislaus twice. Pomona has a strong case for getting in the tournament, but I don’t think you can write their name down in INK on your bracket just yet. They have some work to do, including a huge game in two weeks in Arcata against a surging Humboldt State squad. The Jacks haven’t lost at home in more than two months.

The Chico State Wildcats sit at number 7 in the region. I almost immediately got messages from Chico State’s faithful lamenting the Wildcats’ spot in the region. I believe it’s a fair ranking, here is why.

Chico State has a 15-6 Division II and West Region record. If you look at the teams ranked in the top eight in the region it’s the worst record of the bunch. Chico State loyalists will say, “hey, we are 17-6.” Um, “No, you aren’t.” For post-season purposes the Wildcats are 15-6. Two of their early season wins were against NAIA schools. Those games do not count. Sure, they count in a teams’ overall record but games against Division III and NAIA schools do not count when your post-season resume is considered. It prevents teams from putting a bunch of cupcakes on their schedule and having those wins against inferior programs count for the post-season. So, the Wildcats are really only 15-6.

The Wildcats have some really nice wins. The biggest wins they have is a regular season sweep of Cal Poly Pomona. That is big. I think it’s the primary reason they are ranked in the top eight. They won at Stanislaus. They beat Alaska Anchorage on a neutral floor. They have swept Cal State San Bernardino, dealing the Coyotes their only home loss of the year. Nice resume, but not as good as Pomona at this point, even with the sweep.

Teams that go to the NCAA Tournament can usually sustain one or even two bad losses as long as those losses are balanced with good wins. The Wildcats have a bad loss. Chico State lost at home to Dominican University 67-61 on November 28th. The Penguins are a solid squad, but playing in the tough Pacific West Conference they are only 11-13. So, losing at home to a sub .500 team really hurts. The Wildcats would be helped if Dominican could get that record over .500 by the end of the season. If not, it’s a blemish the Wildcats will have to overcome.

People need to remember that when people say this is a “body of work” issue, they aren’t joking. Games played on November 15th matter just as much as games played in mid-February. Just ask Humboldt State. The Lumberjacks are 11-7 in CCAA play. They have won 11 of their last 14. They are playing great basketball. But, odds are Humboldt State will only make the regional if they run the table in the CCAA Tournament. They have some bad losses when you really crunch the numbers. They lost to San Francisco State who has a record of 9-13. They lost to Sonoma who is 11-11. And, they lost two weeks ago to 6-18 Dominguez Hills. When you add all of those losses up, and you analyze the regional criteria. I don’t think there is any way Humboldt gets in unless they get the automatic qualifier and win the CCAA Tournament in two weeks. All games matter, even in early November.

With two weeks left in the regular season I can’t remember a year where the final three or four spots in the regional rankings are so unsettled. Both UC San Diego sitting and number 9 and Seattle Pacific sitting at number 10 are both very much in the mix. They are hoping Chico State and Point Loma stumble so they could possibly  move up. There is so much on the line over these final few weeks and then we get ready for one of the most tension-filled three days of basketball in recent memory, when teams from the CCAA, GNAC and Pac-West play for that automatic qualifier to try to get into the NCAA Tournament. It’s only February, but it already feels like MARCH MADNESS

 

PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHICO STATE ATHLETICS @CHICOWILDCATS.COM 

Kenley injury highlights Dodgers swing and miss in off-season

 

With word that Kenley Jansen will miss the first three months of the season after having  surgery to remove a growth on his left foot the Dodgers find themselves in a rough spot, that I believe could have been avoided.

Jansen along with lefty J.P. Howell were the only reliable arms out of the Dodgers bullpen last year and now the Dodgers lynch-pin at the back-end of their bullpen will be lost for several months. The Dodgers have options to close in the short-term and none of them are very good. Howell is a left-handed set up man and  should not be your man to close. Brandon League is on the roster but we have all seen that movie and know how that will turn out. While League has struggled in the closer’s role, I like his power sinker as a right-handed set up man. I just don’t want to see him trying to hold down a one-run lead in the 9th. New acquisitions Joel Peralta and Chris Hatcher are possibilities, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable handing the ball to these guys and expecting them to get the final three outs.

This all adds up to one big swing and miss for President Andrew Friedman and General Manager Farhan Zaidi. These analytics gurus and tacticians were brought in to bring their special kind of expertise to the table. I do not doubt they are making long-term decisions that are designed to best serve the organization, but I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what they are trying to do with this Dodgers bullpen. The pen was the weakest of links on the Dodgers team last year and this need was left to abscess during the off-season

The Friedman-Zaidi answer to the Dodgers bullpen woes was to trade for Hatcher and Peralta and to pick up Sergio Santos. So, with the Dodgers most reliable arm is on the shelf, the cupboard is rife with unproven arms that either aren’t closers, or are looking to revitalize their careers. This does not make sense.

One has to believe the Dodgers are now in the market for another arm and there are some pretty proven closers still available, but it will be costly. Considering the Dodgers are backing up the Brinks truck to bring in Cuban infielders Hector Olivera and 19 year-old phenom Yoan Moncada, the Guggenheim Group may have to dig even deeper to solidify this 2015 bullpen.

Still on the market are closer Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano. Rodriguez is looking for a two-year deal which teams are reluctant to give him. K-Rod  has a lot of mileage on that arm. He was still effective last year with 44 saves but there are signs his skills may be eroding. He gave up 14 home runs in 68 innings.  He did strike out 73 batters. He no longer throws as hard as he used to, but he relishes the big spot and has more than a decade of experience in the role. I don’t see the Dodgers giving him a two-year deal, but I do see an incentive-laden one year contract.

Soriano lost his job in Washington to Drew Storen and seemed to lose all confidence in his abilities. It would be a huge gamble, but it might be worth it if Soriano can rediscover his old form.

Another option may be Joba Chamberlain…….don’t laugh. This isn’t a laughing matter. The Dodgers bullpen, in my estimation is just desperate enough to bring in Joba. He could fill in for Kenley until he gets back, and then could give the Dodgers a right-handed power arm in a set-up role. Additionally he wouldn’t be reluctant to giving up the closers role to Kenley when Jansen came back, unlike K-Rod and Soriano who have been closers for most of their careers.

In closing, I wasn’t convinced that the Dodgers had done enough to strengthen this bullpen before the Kenley injury, now I am more certain than ever that the Dodgers missed a chance to add some arms through free agency or trades. It’s desperation time in Dodger-land. Unless Friedman and Zaidi see something in this group I don’t see, the Dodgers may be forced to bring in an old veteran to shore this thing up until Kenley returns. This bullpen was an albatross last year, its weighing even heavier now  just days before spring training.