Top Teams in Men’s West Region have a hiccup….My Rankings Preview

*OFFICIAL RANKINGS RELEASED WEDNESDAY AT 1PM PST*

All four teams that were perched atop the first Division II West Region men’s basketball rankings lost last week. Either these squads   couldn’t stand success or the west region is stacked. I choose the latter.

Top ranked Western Oregon got ambushed in Fairbanks by the Nanooks, who I believe should be right in the mix of  top teams this week. Second-ranked Seattle Pacific suffered their first loss against a non upper echelon team in St. Martin’s. 3rd-ranked Chico State played in front of a national television audience on ESPN3 on Friday night and led 6th-ranked Pomona 52-34  in front of defeaning home crowd……they proceeded to get out-scored 33-9 and lose 67-61. 4th-ranked UC San Diego was tripped up in Oceanside against San Marcos. The week showed why we love Division II west region basketball. Leave your expert opinions about what you “think” will happen at the door and be sure you remove your shoes before walking on the carpet.

Here are the rankings from last week. We will look at each squad based on the NCAA selection criteria and look at some of the newcomers that could be crashing the rankings party……

Rank School
West
1 Western Ore.
2 Seattle Pacific
3 Chico St.
4 UC San Diego
5 California Baptist
6 Cal Poly Pomona
7 Azusa Pacific
8 Alas. Anchorage
9 Humboldt St.
10 Dixie St.

SELECTION CRITERIA

In-Region winning %
D-II Win%
D-II Strength of Schedule (SOS)
D-II Head-to-Head
D-II Common Opponents

Performance Indicator – This is a 23-point system based on wins and losses versus teams with records at or below .000-.249/.250-.499/.500-749 and .750 and above. (An example…….a win on the road against a team that is 20-1 is the best win you can have in Division-II. The P.I. will give that team the optimum amount of points for that victory. With that said, if you lose to a team that is 2-20 that is the worst loss you can have.)

Results vs ranked D-II opponents- This category is only applicable AFTER the first regional rankings are released. A team will have their records considered if they have been ranked in the TOP-10 of the regional rankings during the ranking period. (An example…..if Team A is ranked at #10 in the first installment of the regional rankings and then they fall out of the rankings in subsequent polls, how Team B does against Team A will be considered for this criteria.)

RPI- is won/lost record, opponents strength of schedule (SOS) and opponents’ opponents (SOS)

TOP DAWGS STUMBLE

WESTERN OREGON- Despite the loss to Alaska University I don’t see the Wolves being bounced from their top spot. Right now it is THEIR top spot. The Wolves season has been so good that even with the stumble their criteria numbers are so good it would take a complete and colossal meltdown to squander the top seed away. WOU is 22-2 against Divison II opponents and 22-2 against Division II in-region opponents. With their win against Anchorage on Saturday, a gritty 64-58 grinder, they are now 9-2 against teams above .500 on the season. With no losses against a team under .500 the Wolves are still ruling the roost. Now, if the Wolves shank a few more shots into the woods and have to take a drop after hitting one into the drink, then we might have a discussion regarding the top seed in the West. But, right now the Wolves are a solid and firm number one in the region. I would be stunned if the committee didn’t agree.

SEATTLE PACIFIC- It was bound to happen. The Falcons have been gobbling up their weaker peers all season long and then it struck last Tuesday night. Ironically there were no other games on Tuesday night so basketball nerds like me were hanging on every possession. St. Martin’s had the lead, traded leads and made big plays when it counted. Even though the Saints are “technically” over .500, their record against D-II teams was only 9-12 going into the SPU game. So, this qualifies as a bad loss for the Falcons. This was their first sub .500 loss of the season. For me, this loss was the outlier. They have still played the most games in the region against teams over .500. Kudos to the Falcons. With that said, when you crunch the numbers they may have to cede the 2nd spot in the region. The Falcons are now 18-7 against Division II and D-II in region teams. The loss to the Saints will hit the Falcons PERFORMANCE INDICATOR (see above.) I don’t think the Falcons drop this week. But, I also believe the Falcons are simply playing for seeding now. They are an NCAA Tournament team.

CHICO STATE- I have done the radio for Chico State men’s basketball for 22 years. 3 years as a student and 19 years for our local news talk station. I have never seen a crowd as excited and jacked up for a game like Friday night. 2100 fans packed into a sold out Acker Gym in a nationally televised game on ESPN3. What they witnessed were two of the top ten defensive teams in the country put on a clinical display on how to defend.

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Chico lead perennial power Pomona 52-34 with 10:26 to go. Then the greatness of Pomona and the Achilles heel of Chico State reared their heads. Pomona dug in and fought like the championship program they are, and Chico turned the ball over and over and over again. 24 Chico turnovers led to 24 Pomona points in a 67-61 win. Incredible game. Chico would bounce back like the great program they have become and would beat their rival, 9th-ranked Humboldt State on Saturday night. Chico State needed a power rating boost and they got it by playing two teams slotted in last weeks’ rankings. Chico is now 19-4 against Division II and in-region opponents. They are also a solid 8-4 against teams above .500. I think they close the gap against SPU, but the committee can’t rank Chico State above SPU since the Falcons beat Chico in Chico in November and they are next to each other in the rankings. Chico will stay at three.

UC SAN DIEGO- The Tritons played one game on the week and it wasn’t a good one. They fell to the closest thing they have to a cross-town rival Cal State San Marcos. The Cougars are an offensively gifted team and if you have just the slightest slip defensively they will make you pay, the Tritons paid that price on Wednesday night. UC San Diego has lost two of their last three and now sits at 19-5 against Division II opponents and 18-5 against in region opponents. The Tritons 9-4 record against teams above .500 is one of the best in the region. There is a chance they fall this week, but I don’t see them dropping more than a spot. Based on the criteria the top-4 teams had created a little bit of a buffer against the rest of the field, but as I will explain that buffer is a lot smaller today than it was last week. UCSD is a very good team, but they do need to snap out of their little funk and turn it around before the CCAA Tournament.

CAL BAPTIST- The Lancers had a great week. They not only beat first place Concordia but then they beat Point Loma on the road to go 2-0 on the week. With UCSD stumbling and seeing that the Lancers beat two teams above .500 one might think this is the time to move Cal Baptist above UCSD. As Lee Corso would say, “not so fast my friends.” Based on how teams are gauged and how the national committee “usually” instructs the regional committees, if two teams are next to each other in the regional rankings and the selection criteria are close, which I believe they are, then the committee MUST seed the team that won the head-to-head match-up above the other. UCSD beat Cal Baptist 76-67 on November 24th. The Lancers resume continues to shine despite their rather pedestrian 6-5 record away from home. They are 20-6 against Divison II teams and are 18-6 against in-region teams. I love their 9-5 record versus teams above .500. If anything the Lancers removed any doubts about their body of work. If they hadn’t lost that November game to the Tritons they most assuredly would be 4th in the region. Sadly for Lancers fans they move DOWN in the rankings. How is this even possible ? Well, as I will explain, the committee may have no choice based on outcomes of other games last week.

CAL POLY POMONA- So one night after pulling off one of the great comebacks in the Chico/Pomona rivalry the Broncos went to Turlock and laid and ill-timed egg against Stanislaus State. The Warriors of Stanislaus had lost 11 straight before upending Humboldt in triple OT on Friday, then they shocked Pomona in overtime on Saturday. How is that for breaking an 11-game skid ? Beating two regionally ranked teams in extra sessions. For Pomona, what a tremendous let-down. A great win followed by a big stub of the toe. The win against Chico was huge for the power ranking. The loss to Stanislaus State sinks the power ranking. Pomona is 18-6 against Division II and is 16-6 against in-region teams. While the Broncos are an impressive 7-2 against teams above .500. They have inexplicably lost games to sub .500’s Cal State LA, Dominguez Hills and Stanislaus. The Broncos match-up zone is a bear as Chico can attest, but if that zone isn’t on point, they are vulnerable. I think the Broncos put themselves at risk of dropping this week. It’s not because they don’t belong among the top five or six teams in the region. They might drop because the team sitting behind them in last week’s rankings, Azusa Pacific.

AZUSA PACIFIC- The resume got a little brighter for the Cougars last week as they beat two teams with better than .500 records. Azusa knocked off Dominican in a barn-burner 96-94 avenging an early season loss in San Rafael. Then on Friday they also stung first place Concordia. With the wins Azusa Pacific moved to 18-6 against Division II opponents and 17-6 against D-II region foes. They now also have a REGION BEST 10 wins versus teams above .500. With no losses to teams below .500 I think Azusa moves up. The big question is how far ? Here is where things get crazy-tricky for the committee. I don’t envy them this week. If they move the Cougars into the 6th spot above Pomona, they would then HAVE to move Azusa above Cal Baptist into the 5th spot since Azusa swept the season series from the Lancers. Ouch for the Lancers….Azusa had a great week and I think it might get even better for them when they check out the official rankings on Wednesday.

ALASKA ANCHORAGE- It was not the greatest of weeks for the Seawolves. While they did beat Concordia of Oregon on Thursday, their 64-58 loss to top-ranked Western Oregon was a missed opportunity. The loss made the Seawolves 16-8 against Divison II opponents and 15-8 against in-region opponents. They dropped to 7-5 against teams above .500. When you crunch the criteria it’s so much that Anchorage lost to Western Oregon, it’s really what the teams below them are doing. While Anchorage isn’t feeling pressure from Humboldt in the regional rankings, Dixie State is fast on their heels and if the criteria matches up, Dixie might move up to the 8th spot in the region. (HINT: Dixie and Anchorage played in Billings in November.) Anchorage is also feeling heat from other squads but the Dixie threat is the most ominous. My “guess” is that Anchorage holds on to the 8th spot by a whisker since simply playing Western Oregon will help the power rating. Just to show you how fragile the rankings are, if Anchorage had beaten Western Oregon they might have moved to 7. Now, they might drop out of  top-8.

HUMBOLDT STATE- The Lumberjacks saw the nightmare scenario hit them this weekend. They lose in Triple OT to Stanislaus State, breaking the Warriors 11-game losing streak. Not only did they lose the game, then they had to drive to Chico and play their rival Wildcats on Saturday. Both teams seemed mentally tired after taxing Friday night games, the Wildcats depth and experience outlasted the Jacks 82-74. Humboldt is now 13-8 against Division II and in-region opponents. They now have three losses to teams under .500. While the game against Chico helps their power rating, their loss against Stanislaus is a performance indicator crusher. I think the Jacks drop out of the Top-10 in the region and will need to catch some lightning in the CCAA Tournament.

DIXIE STATE- The Red Storm are that race horse that broke badly out of the gate, looked disjointed at the quarter pole and one had to wonder if the horse was feeling OK. By the half mile pole, you liked the stride but didn’t think the mare had enough. Then as they entered the far turn, you saw the Red Storm picking them up and layin them down. As we enter the stretch Dixie’s jockey has gone to the whip and they charging hard. Winners of 7-in-a-row the committee will no longer over-look the Dixie State Red Storm. They are playing some great basketball. At one point the Red Storm were 4-5 and now they sit at 15-8 in the region and against D-II opponents. They are also 5-6 against teams above .500. Dixie won two games last week, beating Holy Names twice. Those wins won’t help Dixie much since Holy Names only has four wins. But, as we are writing this we see that Dixie beat Dominican on Monday night. Sadly for Dixie that came will not count for THIS WEEK’S regional rankings, but it will be counted when rankings are determined next week. I think Dixie moves up to number 9 in the region. The only thing that keeps them at 10 would be the power rating equations because of Holy Names poor record.

BEST OF THE REST

ALASKA FAIRBANKS- I watched the Nanooks and their fans storm the court last week and Alaska has us sitting up and taking notice. I didn’t list them here last week. It wasn’t an oversight I just didn’t think they were eligible this year, but they are eligible and they are alive and well. They beat the number one team in the nation and region in Western Oregon last Thursday and then knocked off Concordia of Oregon on Saturday. Alaska is now 16-7 against Division II opponents and in-region foes. They are also 5-4 against teams above .500. What hurts them is they got swept by Anchorage. Unless the Fairbanks criteria numbers are significantly better than Anchorage, the committee will not rank them higher than the Seawolves. Fairbanks has a huge game against Central Washington in Ellensburg this week. This is a huge game with bubble teams angling for a regional spot. Nanooks also travel to Nampa to take on Northwest Nazarene on Saturday.

CENTRAL WASHINGTON- It’s not Central Washington’s fault that the two teams they played last week are sub .500 teams, they did what they needed to do and are still in the discussion for the West Regional. Central beat Western Washington and Simon Fraser. The good news for the Wildcats is that both wins were on the road and they are now 9-4 away from home. They also haven’t had a loss this year to a sub .500 team. The problem for Central is ONLY 3 wins versus teams over .500 this year. They NEED wins against good teams. They will get their chance this week at home. This could be the week Central makes a jump. They need to win both games against Alaska and Anchorage to make the argument. The committee wants to see wins against plus .500 teams.

HAWAII-PACIFIC- HPU suffered a bad loss to Hilo and that really hurt them. They sit at 13-8 in the region and against D-II opponents. They will need wins against Point Loma and BYU-Hawaii this week and then get lots of help.

BYU-HAWAII- Not a good week for BYU-Hawaii. They lost by 29 to Chaminade. With a 12-10 in region and D-II record they just don’t have enough right now. They host Azusa Pacific and play Hawaii Pacific this week. Needless to say wins in these contests are essential.

POINT LOMA- I had Point Loma in the discussion but they are only 2-9 against teams over .500. It’s really hard to consider them a regional team with only two wins against good teams. They are 6-4 on the road and are 12-11 in region. They play Hilo, Chaminade and Hawaii Pacific. They need to win all three and get help.

SAN FRANCISCO STATE- The Gators got a big win over a fellow bubble team in Sonoma on Saturday. The win moved the Gators to 14-9 in region and against D-II opponents. They are also 5-5 versus plus .500 teams. The Gators do have three losses to teams below .500, but their 7-4 road record is impressive. This Friday and Saturday they play two big road games against UC San Diego and San Bernardino. They need two wins and they still might need to win the CCAA Tourney to get in.

SONOMA STATE- Sonoma is almost off the bubble entirely. Losing to San Francisco State hurt them immensely and to this point they only have three wins versus teams over .500. Losses to Academy of the Art (5 wins) as well as losses to San Bernardino and Dominguez Hills hurt their case. The Seawolves will need to win the CCAA Tourney and garner the AQ.

My Rankings (2nd Installment)

1. WESTERN OREGON

2. SEATTLE PACIFIC

3. CHICO STATE

4. UC SAN DIEGO

5. AZUSA PACIFIC

6. CAL BAPTIST

7. POMONA

8. ANCHORAGE

9. DIXIE STATE

10. ALASKA FAIRBANKS 

*PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHICO WILDCATS ATHLETICS AT CHICOWILDCATS.COM*

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