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.

 

RE-POST from August of 2013: If watching kids cry and have their hearts broken, then televised Little League Baseball is for you

 

BITOBACA: In the wake of the Chicago Little League scandal, it seems as good a time as any to re-visit the failings of turning little kids into entertainment and fodder for profit and amusement

RE-POST FROM AUGUST of 2013

LLWS Pennsylvania Georgia Baseball

The great national nightmare known as the Little League World Series is finally over….Thank you Baby Jesus.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Little League baseball. I love kids getting out on ball fields all over the country and playing America’s game. I love that kids get out of the house and play such a great game. I just have a problem with ESPN’s glorification of 11-12 year-olds and the picture they paint of these kids.

Television ratings show I am in the minority when it comes to the televising and promotion of LIttle League baseball. Baseball fans eat this stuff up. But, as I watch the idolatry of 11-12 year-olds by ESPN, I have to think, no wonder we have a nation of children who feel entitled with egos the size of the Grand Tetons. I just don’t get why this is so popular.

Proponents say it is great seeing kids play the game on such a big stage. They also cite the purity with which the game is played compared to their big league brethren. All fine arguments. I just believe my argument against trumps that contention.

kidscrying

I think it is a horrible precedent to set when you have adolescents who are playing on a national stage when the games should be for the simple love of the game. There is a huge difference between playing baseball competitively at the age of 14 and playing it at 12. At 14, you are in high school, you are playing on a diamond that is 60’6 and 90 feet between bases. Its real baseball. Little League is where you learn the game, its not where you have possible life-altering moments. I am not naive. I remember the days when the networks would televise the Championship Game. I have no problem with broadcasting JUST the title match-up. But, now we have ESPN televising the Little League Regionals. Think about that for a moment. A major network televising regional games from around the country for the right to play in the World Series. Its horrible. While the kids may have a blast with the television coverage I fear for that first child who has a Donnie Moore or Buckner-like moment and costs his team a chance to go to the World Series or costs his team a Championship. Picture it, a ball dribbles up the first base line and goes through little Johnny’s legs allowing the tying and winning runs to score and his team is eliminated. Little Johnny will not only have that memory, which is part of the game. But, he will also have it frozen in time, for all to see. It could be a life defining moment, and here he is at the ripe old age of 11.

I have called the broadcasting of Little League baseball on the networks a veiled form a child abuse, and I am sticking by this take. I think it is so wrong to put kids in this position. Let them live, have fun and enjoy the game without the bright lights and former major leaguers pontificating on how if little Harvey works on his slider he will be the ace of the Mets rotation in ten years. It’s just unfair to the kids.

I would venture not many people love baseball more than I do. Having broadcast Chico State baseball for the past 16 years and eating and sleeping the game, it is my passion. Let anyone who knows me tell you about my life’s obsession. But, what the mothership (ESPN) does to these kids is shameful. I always feel relief when a Little League World Series has come and gone without a little kid having been fitted with goat horns, and having to live that down for the rest of his life. All because a bunch of suits in New York saw market share and an advertising fiscal bonanza.

The long national nightmare is over……The Little League World Series is over.

Chico State Wildcats Men’s Hoops Must Buck the Trend to make History

WILDCATS CHASE HISTORY ON ROAD-TRIP

The Chico State men’s basketball team has gone one full month and hasn’t lost a game. 9 games 9 wins. The school record for most consecutive wins is 11 set in 1953-54 and duplicated in the 2013-2014 campaign. To make history the Wildcats must win games in two of the toughest venues on the West Coast. This historic run will be tested this week as the Wildcats venture on the most arduous road-trip on the CCAA schedule.

On Thursday the Wildcats venture to Cal State San Bernardino. Chico was pushed to the limit by the Coyotes in early January. The Wildcats survived 30 points from Jacob Thomas and knocked off the Yotes 75-73 in overtime. For a Chico team that prides itself on defense, San Bernardino had their way from beyond the arc knocking down 11-three pointers in making the Cats sweat.

On Saturday the Wildcats make the trek to Arcata to play the arch-rival Humboldt State Lumberjacks. The last time the Wildcats tasted the bitter pill of defeat was against the nemesis Jacks’. Allan Guei’s 18 footer with a tenth-of-a-second left gave the Jacks a 74-73 win on January 9th.

The Wildcats have allowed under 60 points in seven of their last eight games, all victories. The last time teams’ put over 70 on Chico State was at Acker Gym on January 9th against Humboldt and January 10th against San Bernardino. This will be a huge test for Chico State’s attacking and relentless defense. Both teams have highly skilled offensive players that can score even against good defenders. This means not only will Chico need to be at their best on the defensive end, but offensively their pacing, ball movement and togetherness will be vital. Being stagnant and having the ball “stick” as Head Coach Greg Clink likes to say, will not work this weekend.

Chico State sits at 16-5 overall and 13-3 in the CCAA. They are one game clear of Cal Poly Pomona, two clear of Cal State Stanislaus and three games ahead of UC San Diego. How have they won 9 straight ? How are they in first place after most prognosticators had them pegged for a 4th or 5th place finish ? Let’s take a look……

DEFENSE WINS

The Chico State Wildcats are defending the “heck” out of teams. I would use more vociferous terms, but this is a family blog. Suffocating, swarming,  and relentless. At times, Chico State has been flawless defensively this year. This team defends better than last year’s Elite Eight team. They are bigger, more agile and create match-up problems. Their size inside makes them tough to navigate in the paint, while their ball-hawking tenacity on the perimeter makes it difficult for opponents to get into a rhythm offensively. There have been times this year where the Wildcats have been dis-jointed and stunted on the offensive end.  In these instances they have won games solely because they defend. The best thing about this team defensively…..they love getting after it. During this 9-game winning streak the Cats have been at their best on the defensive end holding opponents to fewer than 60 points in seven of those games. In 16 CCAA games the Wildcats are giving up an average of 58 points a contest.

GOTTA LOVE THOSE KIDS

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The Chico State youngsters have been incredible. It’s clear these red-shirt freshman were paying attention to the Amir Carraway’s, Rashad Parker’s, Gio Estrada’s and Sean Park’s last year. These young freshman have stepped right in and given the Wildcats a jolt of exuberance, passion and hunger the program needed on the heels of their first Elite Eight in history. Sophomore Robert Duncan and red-shirt freshmen Corey Silverstrom (injured now), Isaiah Ellis and Tyler Harris have played great giving the Wildcats a boost. True freshman point guard Jalen McFerren is fearless. He is an absolute treasure, who never backs down. Sophomore Trevor Priest has given the Cats valuable defensive minutes off the bench. While Wildcat faithful may like to say the “future is bright.” These youngsters say the “future is now.”

Duncan has just garnered his second straight CCAA Player of the Week honor as he had back-to-back 19 point efforts in the Wildcats two wins versus UCSD and Pomona. Two weeks ago, Duncan had the now famous post-game chat with Greg Clink telling his coach, “I think I can take most these guys who are trying to check me.” To which Clink responded, “then do it then.”  Four games and two Player of the Week honors later, we may be seeing an emerging star in Wildcat Cardinal and White.

SIMPLY SEMPLE

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We are running out of superlatives for the Arcata product. Jordan Semple leads the conference in rebounding and blocked shots and ranks in the top-20 in scoring, assists and steals. He simply does it all. His defensive prowess was on display on Saturday night against Cal Poly Pomona’s supremely talented forward Terrence Drisdom. While Drisdom scored 16 points, he could have had an even better offensive night. Semple was able contain the Broncos versatile forward. Semple played 13 minutes in the first half against the Broncos on Saturday and did not attempt a shot. His length and stellar defensive play on ball and in help was a big reason why the Wildcats held the Broncos to 19 points and forced 12 turnovers in the game’s first half.

Semple is averaging 11 points and nearly 9 rebounds and close to two blocks a game. His silky smooth touch around the bucket and his ability against smaller and even bigger players makes him as valuable as anyone on any team in this conference and maybe in this region.

One of Semple’s biggest weapons can also be his kryptonite…..emotion. Semple has a tendency to get a little over-zealous in his celebratory exultations. He has been whistled for three technicals on the season. This weekend will be a highly emotional home-coming for Semple. He returns to the hometown school (Humboldt State) he spurned for Chico State. The fans always give him the business when he gets to Lumberjack Arena, and it will be at a fever pitch this Saturday. It is imperative Semple keep his emotions in check. I don’t worry about Semple getting frustrated. No, I worry about the supremely confident Semple. I worry about that “chip” he carries each and every time he does something so silky smooth that he elicits a Jammal Wilkes reference from yours’ truly. No smiles, no finger-wags. Semple is at his best when he simply cold-blooded. I expect him to play great. A win for the Cats and Semple in Arcata on Saturday night would make three wins in four tries for Semp and the Cats in the last four years at Lumberjack Arena.

WE WILL TAKE COMPLEMENTS

Other schools may see Tanner Giddings, Mike Rosaroso  Chris Magalotti and Drew Kitchens as complementary pieces. Chico State fans know better. The 6’10 Giddings has been steadily getting better since the first game. When Chico goes into their 2-3 zone defense, Giddings usually plays on one of the low blocks. At his size he is nightmare for offenses. His ability to clog the middle, rotate and close-out on shooters isn’t seen at his size in this conference. He is an active defender who really makes Chico’s defense work.

Rosaroso is exactly what a Greg Clink coached team needs at point guard. He makes good decisions and doesn’t turn the ball over. In 555 minutes of basketball this season Rosaroso has committed 32 turnovers. That is 1 turnover for every 17 minutes and 34 seconds played. When you consider that Clink has handed the keys to the  car for Rosaroso to drive, he has done it with aplomb. Rosaroso also has the penchant to hit a big shot. While he is only shooting 33 percent, he finds himself with the ball in big moments and is asked to make the dagger jumper. He has been knocking it down. And, for a team that hasn’t shot their free throws that well this season, Rosaroso is the exception shooting them at an 83% clip.

Drew Kitchens has been starting for the last several weeks. His performance has been a key to the Cats success. He has greatly improved as a defender over the last few years and now the Wildcats can confidently expect Kitchens to make the right decision when it comes to their team defensive principles. Kitchens has also been getting loose from three point range and gives the Cats some punch from beyond the arch. He has also improved his game off-the-dribble.

While Chris Magalotti no longer starts, he is vital to what the Wildcats want to do on the defensive end. Magalotti is a space eater. When the Cats have the 6’10 Magalotti and Giddings on the floor together when playing zone it is nearly impossible to get to the rim for opponents. Magalotti will be asked to continue being that defensive presence when the match-ups call for it.

BUCK THE TREND

The six CCAA teams that have gone to Coussoulis Arena in San Bernardino and Lumberjack Arena in Arcata have all made the trip and lost. Both Humboldt and San Bernardino are a combined 17-1 at home this year. The task is clear and it’s not easy. The only loss suffered by either squad this year was when San Bernardino beat Humboldt on November 22nd in Arcata. With that said the Wildcats are undaunted by road challenges. They are 6-1 away from home this year and are an amazing 17-3 away from home over the last 20 CCAA games away from Acker Gym.

On the surface perennial power San Bernardino is having a down year but don’t be fooled. This is still an explosive,  talented team that is on quite a roll. They have won four straight games and are undefeated at home (6-0.) The Coyotes have been the road warriors this year playing 13 of their 19 games away from their home arena.

When looking at Humboldt I have to scratch my head. How is this team 9-7 in the CCAA ? How ? They are one of the most talented teams I have ever seen in this league. I don’t get how this team is languishing in sixth place. Austin Bryan is as pure a shooter you can get with great size. David Howard is a 6’7 stud with a sweet left-handed stroke and the size to take anyone off the dribble. Why he isn’t averaging at least 15 points a game, minimum is beyond me. Allan Guei is a tremendous slasher/scorer and baller. He has put the Jacks’ on his shoulders and led them to victory numerous times this year including the Chico game earlier this season. He is also a tenacious perimeter defender that can wreak havoc with his ball pressure. When you throw into the mix talented freshman point guard Malik Morgan, who figures to be a star in this league for years to come………..personally I think this is one of the biggest under-achieving teams I have ever seen in 15 years of watching CCAA hoops. This team is too good to have lost 7 league games.

Allen Guei game-winning shot against Chico State on January 9th…

This promises to be a fun, nerve-wracking and thoroughly entertaining weekend of basketball. You can hear the games on Newstalk 1290-KPAY beginning on Thursday. The women play at 5:30 on both Thursday and Saturday nights. The men play at 7:30 on both nights. You can also hear the games on KPAY.com, the KPAY mobile app and ChicoWildcats.com

PHOTOS COURTESY OF JASON HALLEY OF CHICO STATE AND CHICO STATE ATHLETICS…..