Elite Eight Preivew: Keys for Chico State

photo courtesy of Chico State Athletics ChicoWildcats.com @ChicoWildcats on twitter and Luke Reid

Its game day for the Chico State men’s basketball team as they take on South Carolina-Aiken in the Elite Eight. We are done talking about the game, it’s time to play the game. Here are some keys for the Chico State Wildcats if they want to advance to tomorrow’s National Semifinal…..

1. NO SLOW START

The Wildcats just can’t afford a slow start. South Carolina-Aiken is just too good. With all of the great success the Cats have had this year they have had a tendency to get off to slow starts and have to battle back just minutes into the game. Coach Greg Clink has said his teams’ intensity needs to be ratcheted up from the get-go. From the opening tip, the Wildcats need to play with the urgency they showed against Cal State Stanislaus 9 days ago. Anything less and they could find themselves in a hole. They can’t afford that here.

2. REBOUND REBOUND AND THEN…..REBOUND SOME MORE

When the Wildcats are dialed in, they not only defend, but they hold their opponents to one shot. That is imperative against a team in Aiken that out-rebounds their opponents by eight. The Cats don’t need to be dominant on the boards, but if they are giving up second-and-third opportunities against the Pacers it will make for a long day.

Chico needs to show that tough-hard nosed defense that has been a hallmark all season long. And, when you get that stop you MUST grab the rebound. 2nd chance points could very well determine this game. Chico needs to crash the boards with reckless abandon. Get a body on your man, block him out, and attack the glass.

3. KNOCKING DOWN THREES

The Chico State Wildcats love to shoot and knock down the three. The South Carolina-Aiken Pacers are the best in the country at defending the three. Yes, no joke. The Pacers have held opponents to 24.7 percent shooting from three-point range. Visiting their shoot-around yesterday I noticed them specifically working on defending the three-point shot. Their close-outs on shooters are well-positioned and disciplined. The Pacers coaches were emphasizing close-outs, uttering the words, “gentleman, we have to defend the three-point line against these guys. They can shoot it. We must be perfect on this.”

One strength the Wildcats have in this regard is something Pacers Head Coach Vince Alexander told me yesterday, “I am really impressed with the way Chico moves the ball to get their teammates open, that is one of their great strengths is their trust in their teammates.” Despite South Carolina potency on the defensive end, Chico has always found ways to get open shots through trust and great ball movement. Today the ball movement needs to be good. The Cats need to be patient and make the Pacers play defense, showing that tremendous team concept that opens lanes and gets shooters open looks.

Enjoy the game everyone !!

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MEDIA DAY IN EVANSVILLE

Media Day for the Division II men's basketball Elite Eight
Media Day for the Division II men’s basketball Elite Eight

MEDIA DAY AT THE ELITE EIGHT

No surprises and a lot of graciousness as the eight teams who are playing in the Division II Elite Eight get ready for their big moment on Wednesday.

Probably the most memorable moment during the head coaches confab was having the Tuskegee Head Coach Leon Douglas tell the media please don’t consider his team a “cinderella.” Douglas’ Golden Tigers emerged from the South Region as the number 8 seed and stunned the higher seeds to advance to their first ever Elite Eight.  Tuskegee will take on South Central region power Metro State. Metro is 31-1 on the season and gives up only 66 points per game. They also turn it over an Elite Eight lowest 9.7 times a game.

One of the more intriguing first round match-ups pits the West Liberty Hilltoppers (29-3 Atlantic Region) against the defending national champion Drury Panthers (28-3 Midwest Region.) West Liberty averages an amazing 101.5 points per game, while Drury tries to become a repeat champion.

The first game of the day has Southern Connecticut State (30-2 East Region) taking on the Mules of Central Missouri State (27-5 Central Region.) The Owls of Southern Connecticut average 86 points per game, while the Mules feature balanced scoring and give up only 67 a contest.

The final game of the quarterfinal round has the Chico State Wildcats (25-7 West Region) taking on the South Carolina-Aiken Pacers from the Southeast Region (32-3.) The Wildcats ride into the Elite Eight having come back from 15 points down with 2:39 left in their regional final game against Cal State Stanislaus. The Pacers have great size and are out-rebounding their opponents by 8 boards a game. The Wildcats and Pacers will play the final game of the day at 6:30 pacific time. You can hear the game on Newstalk 1290-KPAY, ChicoWildcats.com, Kpay.com, and the TuneIn radio app

GAME SCHEDULE (All times Pacific)

10am         #4 South. Connecticut State vs # 20 Central Missouri State

12:30pm       Tuskegee University vs #1 Metro State

4pm           #8 Drury vs #7 West Liberty

6:30pm    #5 South Carolina-Aiken vs Chico State

You can get scoring updates all day long by following twitter @KPAYBacaSports you can also follow Chico State twitter @ChicoWildcats

 

Regional Redux: Last 2:39 of wild regional final with post-game

 

COVER PHOTO….courtesy of Chico State Athletics at ChicoWildcats.com and Luke Reid

Listen to the FINAL 2:39 of Chico’s amazing comeback as well as the post-game interviews as heard on KPAY

Gio Estrada with knifing drive thru the against Pomona in the CCAA Tourney. Photo courtesy of ChicoWildcats.com
Gio Estrada with knifing drive thru the against Pomona in the CCAA Tourney.
Photo courtesy of ChicoWildcats.com

 

Sean Park and Amir Carraway defend Cal State Stanislaus' Chris Read in Chico's amazing West Region title win Photo courtesy of ChicoWildcats.com
Sean Park and Amir Carraway defend Cal State Stanislaus’ Chris Read in Chico’s amazing West Region title win
Photo courtesy of ChicoWildcats.com

 

 

Chico State Notes: From 30 thousand feet, I believe in OMENS !!!

 

First Class with the Chico State Wildcats from 30 thousand feet....
First Class with the Chico State Wildcats from 30 thousand feet….

Imagine my surprise as I was handed my ticket for flight to Evansville seeing First Class Priority on my voucher. While initially surprised, is it really that stunning ? The Chico State men’s basketball team has been nothing but first class during this magical 2013-2014 season.

The Wildcats are making their first ever trip to the Division II Men’s Basketball Elite Eight in Evansville, Indiana where they hope to add to this record-setting run.

Chico State has had a week to let the magnificence of last Monday’s comeback win over Cal State Stanislaus marinate in their minds. To be honest, it never gets old, it will never get old and for as long as I have cognitive thought, it will be one of the greatest sports memories I will ever have.

Now, as this group embarks on “the next biggest game” in the history of Chico State University, we are reminded during the Madness of this month why we love sport, and why we love competition. The Wildcats will play South Carolina-Aiken Pacers on Wednesday night. The Pacers are 32-3 and figure to be a tough challenge for the Wildcats. We will have time to break down the Pacers, but at this rate, unless “these” Pacers are running out Paul George and Roy Hibbert, the Wildcats will fear no one. Why the heck should they ? They are playing basketball deeper into any season than any other club in school history. They have advanced deeper into the NCAA Tournament than any other hoops team in school history. They came back from 15 and 18 point deficits in the second half in the NCAA West Regional just so they could hop on this flight to the Elite Eight. What ? These Wildcats worry ?

So, as I sit in a First Class seat, with a First Class team covering a First rate program, flying at 30 thousand feet, why should I not believe they can continue to make history ? They have believed all along, it’s just taken the rest of us a little longer to hop on board. I have……FIRST CLASS, all the way !

A comeback for the ages sends Chico State to Evansville…

They believed despite near perfection from Cal State Stanislaus.

They believed even as the clock ticked against them.

They believed even when common sense told you they had no chance.

The Chico State Wildcats are heading to the Elite Eight  Photo Courtesy ChicoWildcats.com
The Chico State Wildcats are heading to the Elite Eight
Photo Courtesy ChicoWildcats.com

The Chico State men’s basketball team is advancing to the Elite Eight after an improbable, unconscionable and utterly breath-taking 81-80 win over Stanislaus at Coussoulis Arena in San Bernardino on Monday night.

Chico trailed virtually the entire game. But for one glorious two-minute stretch the Wildcats were nearly-perfect and Stanislaus wasn’t. In all great unrealistic comebacks two things must happen. The winning team must keep playing and convert nearly every time down the floor. The team that loses has to cooperate. Stanislaus did.

We re-live the greatest win in Chico State basketball history. A win that sends the Wildcats to the Elite Eight in Evansville, Indiana.

Chico State will play South Carolina-Aiken at the NCAA Division II Elite Eight on Wednesday night at 6:30pm. You can hear the game on Newstalk 1290 KPAY, ChicoWildcats.com, KPAY.com and on the TuneInRadio app.

 

 

Road in March is paved with hopes and dreams

A lifetime of focus and practice comes down to the next three days. THAT is the NCAA Tournament.

March Madness is a phenomenon. Fortunately for the Chico State men and women’s basketball teams they are each making their third straight trip to this most wonderful of basketball tournaments. As a supporter and fan of both programs, I don’t take these trips lightly. It is hard to get into this tournament. You ear the trip based on your body of work over a four month period, but in reality it’s a test of your physical and mental aptitude when it comes to the game. How much time have you put in? Did you take those extra 250 shots at practice or did you cut out early? Do you know where you need to be in a defensive rotation and why? The teams that answer “yes” to these queries are the teams that are here. You EARN your spot in this tournament. And, with 40 minutes of stellar or sub-par play, you are either moving on or replaying the “would’ve, could’ve and should have’s” in your mind.

Like their Division I brethren, the D-II tournament has a bracket. 64 teams, eight schools from eight different regions, out of the 300 plus schools earn the right to be here.

Most of these players have been playing basketball since they were small tikes. They played in grammar school, in AAU programs, in high school and now at the collegiate level. For many of these players this will be the last time they ever lace em’ up.

Unlike the many conference tournaments that take place around the country, there is a reverence for the NCAA Tournament, as well there should. If you are one of the 64 squads you are competing for a National Championship on the biggest stage your sport has.

After this weekend’s Division II regional action, many of these players will focus on school, get jobs and start families. But, whatever happens to them in their lives, they will ALWAYS remember THIS weekend for the rest of their lives. They have all worked too hard to non-chalantly brush aside these memories. THIS weekend will stand the test of time.

Clippers bench sinks Warriors

 

Last night they could do no wrong. Tonight, not so much.

The  Los Angeles Clippers got 30 points from Blake Griffin and stellar play off the bench from Danny Granger and Willie Green to knock off the Warriors 111-98.

 

Golden State Warriors bench had been averaging 39 points since the All-Star break. With the additions of Jordan Crawford and Steve Blake; and with Jermaine O’Neal coming back from injury the Warriors felt good about their subs. But, tonight they were awful.   Blake went 0-for-6 from the field and did not score. Crawford did not score and O’Neal only made one field goal. It was far cry from last night when the bench shined in a 108-85 win over Dallas.

The Clippers bench was able to always make up ground on the Dubs as Granger poured in 18, with Green chipping in with 13. With the win the Clips move to 46-20 on the season and have the second longest win streak in franchise history at nine games. The Warriors saw their 5 game winning streak snapped.

The Warriors were led by Klay Thompson who scored 26. David Lee added 20. Steph Curry had to leave the game late and it appeared he re-aggravated his injured quad. Warriors coach Mark Jackson was non-committal on Curry’s availability for the Dubs Friday game against Cleveland. The loss  keeps the Warriors at the number six spot in the Western Conference playoff chase. It pretty much guts any chance the Dubs had at catching the Clippers for the Pacific Division title.

 

NCAA MEN’S D-II WEST REGIONAL PREVIEW: Three Days of Heaven

 

What more could a basketball fan want ? Beginning on Friday the best Division II teams on the west coast battle it out for the West Region Championship and a berth at the Elite Eight.

The California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) is well represented this year with 4 teams (San Bernardino, Cal Poly Pomona, Chico State, Cal State Stanislaus) participating in the regional. There are three teams (Cal Baptist, Dixie State, Chaminade) from the Pacific West Conference (Pac-West) and one team (Seattle Pacific) from the Great Northwest Conference (GNAC)

Two-time defending regional champion Western Washington was a lay-up away from knocking off Seattle Pacific in the GNAC Tournament title game. But, with other tournament title upsets in the CCAA and Pac-West, the Vikings were on the outside looking in on selection Sunday and were left out of the tournament.

The crunching of numbers by the regional committee gives us some fun first day match-ups. There is not one opening round game that pits teams from the same conference, which should give us some great games. Let’s look at the first round pairings.

The Cal State San Bernardino Coyotes garnered the number one seed in the West Region with a dominant regular season and some impressive non-conference wins early in the year. At 23-4 the Coyotes pose numerous challenges to all comers including their first round opponent, the Chaminade Silverswords.

San Bernardino scores 81 points a game and are led by the CCAA Player of the Year Lacy Haddock. He averages 12.9 points and more than 6 assists a game. But Haddock is so much more than numbers. He is the Coyotes floor general, their leader. And, he is as tough as anyone in the conference. He has a varied skill-set but clearly getting his teammates involved is at the top of his list. A fantastic player.

Lacy Haddock was the CCAA Player-of-Year and is vital to the Coyotes success Courtesy csusbathletics.com
Lacy Haddock was the CCAA Player-of-Year and is vital to the Coyotes success
Courtesy csusbathletics.com

The Coyotes have an embarrassment of riches on the offensive end. Oklahoma State transfer Kirby Gardner averages 14 points a game and shoots 42% from three-point land. Jordan Burris is a big time scorer who has hit 48 three pointers and will leave mouths’ agape with his fade-away jumpers.

Complimentary pieces Juan Martinez, Taylor Statham and Joshua Gouch fulfill their roles and make this team work.

The bad news for the Coyotes is  their best low-post presence Andrew Young is hobbled by a broken foot, or so we are told. Last week at the CCAA Tournament San Bernardino officials were giving mixed signals. Some were saying he will be back for the regional, other people were saying he has two broken bones in his foot and he is done for the year. I don’t know what to believe. But, my eyes were telling me that it’s a long shot he will play. Young (15.3 ppg, 6.3 rebs) was in a walking boot and was clearly hobbled. If he plays this weekend it will be a surprise.

Without Young the Coyotes are lacking that go-to post presence that all good teams have. Missing Young clearly hurt the Coyotes last week in the CCAA Tourney against Cal State Stanislaus when they couldn’t buy a bucket early in the game, and let Stanislaus’ bigs get off to a quick start.

The Coyotes first round opponent is Chaminade. They were not ranked in the top ten in the West Regional but then went on a wild ride in the Pac-West Tournament and nabbed the automatic qualifier. The SilverSwords are a talented offensive team averaging 84 points a game. But, they also surrender 80 points a game.

They come into the regional on a roll after catching fire from the three-point land in the conference title game against Dominican University. Chaminade hit 15 three’s in their win over the Penguins They come in with a record of 19-12 and winners of five in a row.

During the post-season sometimes you need players to step up and play at another level. That is what happened for the Silverswords against Dominican. Guard James Harper averages 7 points a game, but he erupted for 31 points on 9-made three’s against the Penguins. Lee Bailey is their leading scorer at better than 17 points a contest.

Chaminade is used to the big stage as they host the season-opening showcase Maui Invitational every year. The Silverswords can put up big numbers, but their success against San Bernardino may be dictated on how well they defend. If they give up 80 points it will be tough for them to keep up with the high-octane Coyotes. For Chaminade to pull the upset they will need special night’s from multiple players. Challenging the perimeter shooters of San Bernardino will be paramount in the Silverswords upset hopes. Game time will be at 7:30.

The winner of the San Bernardino/Chaminade match-up gets the winner of the Chico State and Cal Baptist game. Chico State comes in as the number four seed and is making their third straight appearance in the tournament with this core group of players. This is the first year Cal Baptist is eligible for the post-season and they put a 24 win-season on the board. This game will feature contrasting styles as the Wildcats pride themselves on defense and dictating tempo, while Cal Baptist is a high scoring, fast-paced team that can really fill it up.

The Chico State Wildcats have great balance. Their starting five average 63 of the 75 points they score on a nightly basis. Rashad Parker (14.7 ppg) is a slasher who can knock down the three. Sean Park (13.7 ppg) is a hard-nosed grinder with a sweet left-handed stroke. Amir Carraway (12.9) is the most versatile player the Wildcats have. He can play the small-forward and then switch to center, then fill-in at power forward. He can score inside and outside. Jordan Semple (12.4 ppg) is the Wildcats leading rebounder (7.9) and has found his niche as one of the best isolation players in the CCAA. Giordano Estrada is the point guard. He is an under-rated defender and has hit a team high 70 three-pointers. Jordan Barton gives Chico some size and toughness off of their bench.

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

Before their conference tournament loss to Stanislaus, Chico had lost six games by a total of 14 points. But, Stanislaus jumped on Chico early last week in Ontario and the Cats couldn’t recover in an 82-70 loss. The Wildcats success will rest on their defense. To be successful they need to limit the potent Cal Baptist offense to one shot. Closing out on shooters and crisp rotations will be stressed as the Wildcats don’t want this to turn into a shoot-out. Chico can win and up and down affair, but they would prefer more of a half-court pace.

Chico takes care of the ball. They average only 11 turnovers a game. This will be put to the test if they allow Cal Baptist to control tempo.

The Lancers of Cal Baptist are coming off of a remarkable regular season. It was highlighted by a 16-game win streak to start the year. Despite losing their last two games, the Lancers have been one of the best teams in the region all season long. Freshman Ryan Berg is having a tremendous season. He is averaging 17.6 points a game, while knocking down 75 three’s. Berg is one of three Lancers averaging double-figures. Anthony Cosentino has hit 64 treys and scores 12 points a game. Chris Brown is the play-maker scoring at better than 10 points a contest and registers 3.5 assists a game.

After going 24-1, the Lancers lost their regular season finale against conference foe Dixie State and then fell to Chaminade in the conference tourney. Cal Baptist is a dangerous offensive team. They score 82 points a game and have six players that average at least six points a contest.

The health of one of the Lancers best players is in question. Post player Kevin Crabb hasn’t played in the team’s last four games. He averages 7 points and 7 rebounds a contest. His status for the NCAA Tournament is not known at this time, but the numbers indicate they would love to have him patrolling the paint. Cal Baptist is quite efficient. Usually high scoring teams play fast and loose with the basketball, but the Lancers only average 11 turnovers a game. So, they get up and down the floor and take care of the ball.

While Chico can win a track meet, they would prefer a more deliberate tempo. Both teams love to shoot the three and the team that defends the arch the best should win the game. Both teams hold their opponents to 32 percent shooting from downtown. Stopping dribble penetration is a key for both teams. Chico didn’t protect the paint against Stanislaus, and paid the price. These two teams like to fill it up. But, in the NCAA Tournament, the club that digs in defensively is usually the team that emerges victorious. This should be a fun, entertaining game with two teams that have had great seasons. Game time will be at 5pm.

The other side of the bracket has two fantastic match-ups. The third-seeded Cal Poly Pomona Broncos take on the sixth-seeded Dixie State Red Storm. Pomona is one of the best defensive teams in the country. They give up only 57 points a game. Their length and ball pressure in that match-up zone, that occasionally slips into man, and back to zone is something to behold. They can suffocate you with their half-court trap as well. It’s clear, if you don’t play defense at Pomona, you just won’t get on the court. Those that say watching defense isn’t fun, haven’t seen Pomona play defense. But, the Broncos will have their hands full with a Dixie team that scores 85 points a game.  The Red Storm’s efficiency on the offensive end gives them a chance to find openings against the Pomona defense. This is another first round game with two teams that feature contrasting styles.

Dixie shoots 46 percent from the field and a whopping 40 percent from three-point range. This tells me they don’t take bad shots, and show the patience to find the open man for a better shot. The Red Storm have five players that shoot better than 47 percent. Zach Robbins is the man in the middle. He scores 16 points and pulls 9 rebounds a game. Robbins shoots it at 55 percent and has taken and made the most shots on the Dixie squad. De’Quan Thompson is the Red Storm’s best three-point shooter at 45 percent from deep. He has made 48 treys on the year and averages better than 14 points a contest. Dixie out-rebounds their opponents by nearly seven boards a game.

Dixie had some great wins early in the year. Even though it was an exhibition game they knocked off UNLV in the preseason, they then got a big win against Seattle-Pacific at Royal Brougham Arena in Seattle. Dixie is battle tested making their fifth straight appearance in a regional.

Pomona is more than just a good defensive team. They pose some problems for other team’s defenses. DeRonn Scott is the teams leading scorer at 14.6 points a game. Jordan Faison is a big time player in the post. He not only anchors that defense but scores 13 points and grabs nearly 6 boards a game. Barry Bell doesn’t score a lot but he is a master at controlling tempo and running the Bronco game plan. Bell is a very good defender and understands the strengths and weaknesses of his teammates. Daniel Rodriguez, Quentin Taylor and Jordan Finn are nice pieces that fit nicely in the Pomona system. Francois Tchoyi is another big off the bench and he had a very good conference tourney.

DeRonn Scott is one of the many weapons the Broncos bring to the big dance Courtesy BroncoAthletics.com
DeRonn Scott is one of the many weapons the Broncos bring to the big dance
Courtesy BroncoAthletics.com

If Pomona has an Achilles heel it is free throw shooting. The Broncos rarely see it cost them a game, but it hurt them in their 77-73 loss to Chico State in the CCAA Tournament last week. They went 11-of-22 from the stripe. On the season, they are only a 59 percent free throw shooting team. In close tournament games, free throw shooting is pivotal. They only shoot 28 percent from three-point range, but it always seems that when they have to make one, they do. They are the last CCAA team to advance to the Elite Eight and they won a national title four years ago.

Will Dixie catch fire and show that efficiency that has been a hallmark of their 21-6 season ? Or, will Pomona’s defense dictate tempo, force turnovers and make this an uncomfortable venture for the Red Storm? I can’t wait to see. Game time is at 12 noon on Friday afternoon.

The Dixie State and Pomona winner will take on the winner of Seattle-Pacific and Cal State Stanislaus. Personally I can’t wait to see this game. It oozes with sub-plots and match-ups that will make for a competitive battle of contrasts.

The Seattle-Pacific Falcons have come excruciatingly close to winning the West Regional for the last two years. This core group of Falcons has advanced to the regional final each of the last two seasons, only to fall in both games to their bitter rivals, the Western Washington Vikings. To add to the frustration, two years ago Western won the national title. Well, this year SPU swept the regular season series from the Vikings, and then beat them last Saturday night, sweeping the three game season series and eliminating Western from post-season consideration.

The Falcons beat Western Washington to capture the GNAC title and end their rivals's season  Courtesy SPUFalcons.com
The Falcons beat Western Washington to capture the GNAC title and end their rivals’s season
Courtesy SPUFalcons.com

The core of this Seattle Pacific team is a group of heady, talented and determined upper classmen who feel this is their time. David Downs leads the way. the senior point guard is just a tremendous player. He averages 20.2 points per game while hitting 47 percent of his three-point shots. He has knocked down 79 three’s on the year. Downs averages 4.6 assists a game. But, you can’t just defend his perimeter jumper. He has the ability to break teams down and get in the lane as evidenced by his 215 free throw attempts where he makes 88 percent of his charities. He knows his teammates and sets them up perfectly. He is just a great player.

Seattle-Pacific’s Patrick Simon is a lethal three-point shooter. He shoots the three at an amazing 51 percent and has made 80-three’s on the year. Simon hit nine in a row against San Francisco State earlier this season. Simon averages 16.5 points per game.

Cory Hutsen is a solid post, who plays well with his back to the basket. He can go left or right and is adept at getting his shot off against taller players. Riley Stockton, Mitch Penner and Matt Borton also see significant minutes. The Falcons score 78 points a game and only give up 66.  SPU shoots 50 percent from the field and knocks down their three’s at 42 percent. They rolled to a 25-5 regular season record and enter the tournament as the number two seed. The Falcons only turn it over 9 times a game. They just don’t beat themselves.

Seattle-Pacific’s first round opponent may be the hottest team in the tournament. The Cal State Stanislaus Warriors needed to win the CCAA Tournament just to get in the regional. And, over a three-day stretch they were as close to flawless as they have been all season long.

The CCAA Tourney MVP was their 5’8 point guard Sam Marcus. this whirling dervish of a ball-player was simply amazing in Ontario. Marcus spent three days making his teammates look good. By breaking down defenses, penetrating the lane and perfectly timing his deliveries, his Stanislaus mates were getting open jumpers or slashing to the hoop for open lay-ups and dunks. He broke down in tears when named MVP, and it was a crowning moment for a player that has been good, but always seemed to be an after-thought on this talented squad.

Sam Marcus was extra special in leading Stanislaus to three wins in three days and into the NCAA Tournament Courtesy WarriorAthletics.com
Sam Marcus was extra special in leading Stanislaus to three wins in three days and into the NCAA Tournament
Courtesy WarriorAthletics.com

6’10 Idaho transfer Marcus Bell man’s the paint. He is an imposing figure averaging 17.7 points and 10.6 rebounds a game. He can dominate the paint or step out and knock down the 15 footer.

Chris Read was the Newcomer-of-the-Year in the CCAA. He had a great tournament and if not for his stellar game against San Bernardino, the Warriors may not be dancing. Read averages 13.3 points and shoots 56 percent from the field. Rob Walters was a beast at CCAA Tourney as well. He imposed his will with a 12 point and 14 rebound performance against Chico State in CCAA final. Walters averages 9 points and pulls better than 7.5 rebounds a game. Don’t sleep on Shey Maetele. This slashing guard can take over the point duties when Marcus’ rests. He attacks the lane and also does a great job in getting his mates involved.

The Warriors shoot 48 percent as a team with four of their top scorers shooting better than 50 percent from the field. The biggest question regarding Stanislaus is whether they can “carry-over” last week’s performance into the NCAA Tournament. Last week they were desperate, knowing they had to win for their season to continue. They were flawless against Chico State, and despite surrendering a 16-point lead to San Bernardino, they didn’t rattle and rallied to knock off the top seed in the semis.

I love this match-up for so many reasons. Even though Downs and Marcus may not guard one another, they are vital to their respective teams’ success. How does Seattle-Pacific deal with Stanislaus’ length? What player does Stanislaus put on Simon, bringing a post out of the paint? Does Bell shade Simon? And, if he does how does that translate to dribble penetration from Downs? Can Stanislaus attack the paint on a stingy SPU defense?

This game has intrigue and so many variables. It will be fun to watch. Game time is 2:30 on Friday afternoon.

As the play-by-play broadcaster for Chico State I get to see a lot of these teams in action. I would stack the quality of basketball in the west against any region in the nation. This tournament will not disappoint and this 2014 NCAA Tournament should leave us with some great moments as these eight teams try to play themselves to the Elite Eight.

 

 

 

NCAA WOMEN’S D-II PREVIEW: Pomona and Billings must avoid land-mines

 

This eight team NCAA Tournament field is stacked with some very good teams from the Great Northwest Conference (GNAC) , Pacific-West (PAC-WEST) and California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA.) The regional match-ups are intriguing and it promises to be an exciting three-day tournament on the campus of Cal Poly Pomona. We take a look at the day one match-ups.

It was a tremendous season for the Cal Poly Pomona women’s basketball team. With a 22-6 record and a CCAA regular season championship they earned the right to host NCAA West Regional at Kellogg Gym beginning this Friday.

Jada Blackwell was a dominant force in the CCAA and looks to lead her team to the Elite Eight Courtesy BroncoAthletics.com
Jada Blackwell was a dominant force in the CCAA and looks to lead her team to the Elite Eight
Courtesy BroncoAthletics.com

In the first round match-up the Broncos will take on Alaska Anchorage from the GNAC. Pomona is led by Arizona State transfer and CCAA-Player of the Year Jada Blackwell. Blackwell was a dominant player in the conference averaging a double-double. She is a multifaceted offensive force who can post you up, take you off the dribble and even knock down a three. A great player. Don’t sleep on sharp-shooter Ariel Marsh (60 3’s) along with JJ Judge and Ashley Lovett.

The Broncos rolled through the CCAA and were the best team over the long haul. Pick your poison with the Broncos, if you decide to collapse on Blackwell with double and triple-teams, their outside shooters Marsh and Judge will gut you. If you play Blackwell straight up, well, good luck with that. If you can force misses, you can run on the Broncos, and Pomona must keep Blackwell on the floor. If she gets in foul trouble, Marsh and Judge will need to get it going offensively. A worthy top seed that will be helped with the home crowd.

Anchorage is one of the best offensive teams on the west coast averaging 80 points a game. The Seawolves have four players that average double figures let by Alli Madison who averages 12.9 points per game. The Seawolves have great balance to their offense which will make them tough to defend.

Don’t let their number eight seed fool you. Many of us who followed west region basketball all season were surprised to see their precipitous drop in the final regional rankings. Some tough mid-season losses to sub .500 teams may have hurt their resume, but this team is dangerous. If Pomona relies ONLY on Blackwell to do the heavy-lifting, the balance of Anchorage could give them fits. This game doesn’t FEEL like your typical 1 vs 8 seeding match-up. This should be a good one. Tip is at 7:30pm on Friday night.

The Pomona/Anchorage winner will play the winner of the 4 vs 5 match-up. Cal State Dominguez Hills and Chico State. These two teams will be playing one another for the fourth time this season; and for the third time in the last month. Dominguez is surging after a great run through the CCAA Tournament. The Toros had gone 0-4 against both Chico State and Pomona before dispatching of both teams in Ontario last weekend.

Chico got off to a rough start but turned their season around with some big road wins at Pomona and Humboldt in late January. It started a run of seven straight wins for this senior laden team.

It’s hard to gauge and define mental toughness, but the eyes don’t lie when watching Dominguez at work. They have it.  They trailed Chico by 15 points with 14 minutes to play and rallied for a 12-point win.

This young team didn’t get discouraged when shots wouldn’t drop, they kept grinding and eventually it paid off with a game closing 38-11 run. The Toros are led by Monay Lee at better than 14 points a game. Dominguez feeds off of her toughness. Tayler Champion is a post who loves to step out and knock down the three. She has hit 62 treys on the season. Amber Wharton and Breanne Garcia are back-court mates that run the show and can utilize the dribble drive to get their teammates involved. The inside toughness of Talia Rayford and Shomari McCorkle can not be over-looked. McCorkle doesn’t score much but her effect on the game can not be over-stated.

The Chico State Wildcats are making their third straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. It’s also the program’s 10th appearance in the last 12 years. Chico is led by four seniors that have been part of one of the most successful classes in school history. Courtney Hamilton makes this team go. She is their fearless leader who led the CCAA at better than 6 assists a game. Hamilton is not a big scorer, but if her team needs her she will attack the rim. The Wildcats feed off of her tenacity and its fair to say as she goes, so go the Cats.

Courtney Hamilton is the heart and soul of the Chico State Wildcats. Chico and Dominguez Hills get ready for their fourth match-up of the year COURTESY chicowildcats.com
Courtney Hamilton is the heart and soul of the Chico State Wildcats. Chico and Dominguez Hills get ready for their fourth match-up of the year
COURTESY chicowildcats.com

Jazmine Miller is their leading scorer at better than 13 points a game. She has hit a team high 48 three-pointers on the year. The Wildcats need Miller to be engaged early. If she is, she can carry the scoring load. McKenzie Dalthorp and Analise Riezebos are the senior posts who patrol the paint. Riezebos pounds the boards and provides solid defense, while Dalthorp scores 10 points a game and is a very good passer out of a double-team. Her ability to find open teammates when she is doubled is one of her greatest strengths.

Chico beat Dominguez twice this year in two thrilling match-ups. 80-78 in Chico and 54-51 on February 15th in Carson. If Chico was a younger team last Friday’s second-half blitzing by the Toros may have lingered and left a bruise. But, having covered this team all season long I would be surprised if that loss will have any residual effect on this team. This could be the best game of not only the first round, but of the tournament. Chico’s head coach  Brian Fogel and Dominguez Hills head coach Molly Goodenbauer are good friends. Goodenbauer coached at Chico and had Fogel as an assistant. There will not be any surprises. It’s pretty simple, the team that plays better, stays the most consistent over 40 minutes, and minimizes mistakes will win this one. The game will be played at 5pm on Friday night.

The first game of the day pits the Simon Fraser Clan against the Western Washington Vikings. Again, a match-up of conference teams that are quite familiar with one another. Simon Fraser went 19-9 on the season are led by a triumvirate of three-point shooters that can carry the load. Erin Chambers averages 22 points a game and has hit 55 three’s on the year. But, she is also a versatile scorer as she can take the ball to the basket and has a penchant for getting to the free throw line. Chambers has taken 206 free throws. She can put points on the board even when the perimeter shot isn’t dropping. Katie Lowen has hit a team high 57 three’s and Marie-Line Petit has hit 37 from long distance. The Clan have seven players that average at least 6 points.

So much for a rebuilding project for the Western Washington Vikings. After their final four run last year the Vikings are now rolling into the 2014 NCAA Tournament after knocking off Simon Fraser 78-74 in the conference tourney title game, Western earned the automatic qualifier out of the GNAC. They were a true bubble team after sitting at number nine in the region but the win over The Clan removed any doubt.

The Western Washington overcome a rough start to their season to surge into NCAA Tournament Courtesy WWUVikings.com
The Western Washington overcome a rough start to their season to surge into NCAA Tournament
Courtesy WWUVikings.com

Western’s early season losses had them playing catch up for much of the year, but they have played really good basketball since early January. The Vikings have won 14 of 17 since January 9th, including two wins versus Simon Fraser. Western has great balance to their offense with four players averaging double-figures. Katie Colard leads the way scoring 14 points a game. Colard has nailed 78 three’s on the year and shoots the trey at 40 percent. Jenni White (10.6 ppg) and Taylor Peacocke (11 ppg) are keys as well. Sarah Hill has been a solid post for several seasons. She patrols the paint and averages 10 points and nearly 9 rebounds a game.

Like the Chico and Dominguez match-up there will not be any surprises between these two teams. This is the fourth time they will meet this season and it’s the third time in the last 13 days they will battle it out. This should also be a great game for the fans.  Western Washington and Simon Fraser will play at 12 noon on Friday afternoon at Kellogg Gym.

The final first round match-up pits Montana State Billings against Academy of Art from the Pac-West Conference. Billings was in the running for the top seed in the tournament, but when they bowed out early in the GNAC tourney it all but ended any hopes they had of hosting the regional.

Billings has had a great year going 23-6 including an 11-game winning streak. They also won 13 of their final 14 regular season games. They have three players that average double-figures. Bobbi Knudsen is their best scorer and distributor. She averages 17 points a game and nearly 6 assists. She not only fills it up but she gets her teammates involved. Knudsen also helps out on the boards pulling more than 5 a game.

One of the big question marks for Billings is the loss of Janiel Olson. She played in the first 23 games for the Jackets leading them in minutes played while pulling down 10.4 rebounds a game. She can not be replaced, instead the Yellow Jackets will need multiple players to fill the void to make up for her loss.

Trying to do so will be Kayleen Goggins (10.8 ppg) and Chelsea Banis (10.4 ppg.) They are part of a core group that has the Yellow Jackets outscoring their opponents by 11 points a contest. Quinn Peoples comes off the bench and has hit 68 three’s on the year. One of the great strengths of the Jackets’ is their ability to board. They out-rebound their opponents by 8 rebounds a game. Billings will get into you defensively giving up only 63 points a game. Its’ going to take a well-played game to knock out Billings. They pose a major threat in this regional.

Academy of Art, the lone representative from the Pacific West conference takes on Billings in the first round. Art was clearly the class of the Pac-West but because of the perceived weakness of their conference may have needed to win their conference tourney to get in. The Urban Knights won their tournament in resounding fashion and punctuated their season with Pac-West Tourney wins over Dixie State and Cal Baptist.

Academy of Art has five players that average double-figures as they put up nearly 80 points a game. Post player Krystal Forthan leads the way scoring more than 19 points and grabbing 12.5 rebounds a game. She has been a dominant player in the paint for the Urban Knights. Forthan also makes her presence felt on the defensive end blocking 47 shots and changing countless others. For Academy of Art to try to pull the upset they will need a big game from Forthan. Regina Camera, Zoie Sheng, Sha’Nice Storey and Molly O’Brien all average more than 10 points per game.

The Urban Knights have done a great job in forcing turnovers as their opponents cough it up nearly 21 times a game. While they force a lot of turnovers they don’t commit many. Academy of Art has committed nearly 200 fewer turnovers on the season.  This statistic will be critical in their upset bid. The Urban Knights take on Billings at 2:30 on Friday afternoon.

The Division II Women’s West Regional should be an exciting three days of basketball.  Pomona is the top seed, but they have a tough first round match-up, and even if they win, they might have to face a Chico team that swept them during the regular season or a Dominguez team that beat them in the CCAA Tourney final on Saturday.

Billings is balanced, but even if they get past the Urban Knights they will have to face a familiar GNAC foe (Simon Fraser or Western) in the semis just to get to the title game. The committee put a bunch of landmines in front of the top two seeds. 1-thru-8 in this regional is wide open and it will be a great test for all the schools making their way to Kellogg Gym.

The NCAA West Regional begins with four games on Friday beginning at 12 Noon. You gotta love March Madness !!!

Love What You Do…

I truly love my job. I am not talking about a strong like. This is a strong, constant love of task that invigorates me everyday.

I am not gonna lie there are some specifics that are not appealing about working in radio and play-by-play. Most of those have to do with everything not associated to the actual broadcasting of the game.

Office politics bugs me, frugality bugs me, engineer-speak bugs me, broken equipment bugs me, lack of clarity bugs me. But, when you get right down to it, the actual job is about as great as it  gets.

For seven months I travel with the Chico State basketball and baseball teams. During those months I love and die with these teams. Wins bring joy, loss brings despair, but deep down there is this personal fulfillment that is intoxicating. Call it adrenaline, call it my drug but I love going on this journey with teams as they search for that perfect performance and that perfect game.

As I sit in an airport headed for So-Cal for the start of March Madness there is great clarity in what moves me. Passion for sport, the competition, the stories and the people. It all makes for a wonderful journey that makes my life pretty great.