It’s not hard to understand; Trump supporters are not our best and brightest

I am going to try to refrain from name-calling and belittling, but just being honest here, it is going to be really really tough.

Far be it from me to be the guy that casts aspersions on people who are out-spoken in their support of a political candidate. During my maturation process I have made several verbal mis-steps that I sincerely regret. In looking back I can say I was immature and my worldview was quite narrow. As I’ve grown into adult-hood I now see the value in critically thinking about all things. I try to take emotion out of any political stand, which has landed me firmly in the Libertarian camp. Not saying it’s right for everyone, but I know it’s right for me. The beauty is that I am not led by party affiliation. If it’s a good idea, if it makes sense, I will support it.

With soul-searching, study, research and truly understanding issues I have come to the conclusion through intense critical analysis that this is the best path for me. This brings me to the case that is Donald Trump.

His popularity and emergence is one of the great phenomenons in the history of politics. I understand how mad and angry people are at the status quo and our leaders. I totally get it. But people who support Trump actually believe that his dictatorial style will play if he ever won the presidency. He is outlandish and unconventional while also being simplistic and rude. He is fiery and firm convincing his followers his word is sacrosanct, yet he can not explain in detail one of his policies is on record for flip-flopping on dozens of policy matters. He has yet to explain in a comprehensive believable fashion how he would pay for the southern border Trump Wall ( no Mexico will not and does not have to pay for it,) for his revamped universal health care package, or his insidious protectionist trade deals that are worse than California’s 15 dollar an hour minimum wage.

His style is crass and it only appeals to the deepest fears in each of us. I found it very difficult to take him seriously when he first starting running for president, I actually thought it was some kind of  conspiratorial move to ensure that Hillary got elected.  But, the more divisive he became the more popular he became. A popular phrase among his supporters is, “he says what he thinks, and I like that.” You know who also says what they think ? 4 year-old children or 92 year-old seniors with early on-set dementia. Saying what you think and offending people is not a trait, it’s a lack of self-control that needs to be quelled. It is not dignified, it’s embarrassing. It’s juvenile and not representative of the great country we live in.

Deep in my soul I can’t believe Trump actually wants to become president. From insulting entire ethnicities of people, to lacking any comprehension of how true leadership works in a Democratic Republic, to ruling in a “it’s a my way or the highway” fashion. I don’t believe Trump wants to be president. I believe it has to do in part with the edification of his enormous ego. Yet, lo’ and behold, here we sit, with Donald Trump leading a major ticket for president.  How is this happening ?

Well, here is my hypothesis. Trump supporters are suffering from some internal synapse  meltdown which prevents them from critically analyzing a situation to completion. To put it in language that they might be able to understand, it’s as if a part of their brains have actually turned off. They have been caught off-guard by the bright shiny object in the mirror. They have wrapped their arms around what is convenient, the big TV reality star, and they can’t use deductive reasoning to actually “think” straight. They have been blinded by their disgust, hate, disappointment and disillusionment from all politicians, so they are supporting what is simple and feeble minded. In fact, supporting Trump doesn’t take a lot of effort. Since their candidate is short on details, so are they.

It doesn’t take much brain power or smarts to understand what Trump is selling. He is not that complicated. He is a simple man. We all lead such chaotic lives none of us wants to have to break down policy or seek out the details. Trump treats politics as a 4th grade teacher treats sentence structure. “Give me the who, what, where and how in two sentences. No details, no adjectives or adverbs.”

So there it is. An electorate that has been mesmerized by a screaming carnival barking psychopath with an inability to rationalize, critically analyze, decipher or reason. I am not saying Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Hillary or Bernie Sanders are all that appealing, but they aren’t dangerous. It’s time for the adults to grab a hold of the wheel. The time for the simplistic neophytes is over

 

Dodger fans may need to show some patience

Close your eyes and visualize your happy place. Breathe deep focusing on the inhalations. When you exhale focus on the stream of breath emanating from your diaphragm, through your mouth and out into the universe.

“Yes,” this is what it has come to for Dodgers fans leading into the 2016 season. Dodger fans should probably take a refresher course in their yoga and meditation skills, they will need it.

I am not down on the Dodgers. It may sound like it, but I’m not. I believe it’s important to be a realist. Right now the Dodgers starting rotation is Kershaw and a bunch of question marks and the bullpen is a collection of guys who have thrown well in March, but we have no idea if that will translate to June and July.

The offense has me encouraged. I believe Dave Roberts will instill a brand of baseball that is more conducive to post-season success. For whatever reason Don Mattingly could never get this team to buying into the value of moving runners and situational hitting. It’s clear that has been more of an emphasis for Roberts, and that is a good thing.

Defensively I am stunningly shocked at how bad the Dodgers are playing in the spring. After leading the National League in fielding last year, the Dodgers rank 24th out of 30 teams this spring in defense. They have committed 25 errors in 23 games, including a couple of 4-error games. What the heck ??? This can not continue, especially with a suspect rotation.

Scott Kazmir concerns me. You never know when a player will “lose it.” It appears Kazmir’s fastball has disappeared. For a guy to be penciled in as the Dodgers number two starter, to be suddenly topping out at 86 miles per hour is troubling. Hopefully he “finds it” and finds it soon.

The injury to Andre Ethier hurts. Ethier who was primarily a platoon player under Mattingly was going to win the left field job before fracturing his tibia last week.  Ethier is a professional hitter that would have given length and veteran leadership to the line-up.

With all of this said there are plenty of positives but they may require Dodger fans to not expect immediate gratification. Yeah, I know we have had to wait 27 going on 28 years for a World Series title, well we may have to wait a bit longer.

The farm is an ocean of talent. I praise Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi for making the accumulation of talent a priority. Despite some of their foibles in their first year running the team, the one thing they have done is make a strong farm system even stronger. They have also refused to trade, what they perceive as “can’t miss” talents for a high-priced quick fixes. Julio Urias, Jose DeLeon, Grant Holmes and others are still in the fold. This is a big reason why the Dodgers were not willing to go above and beyond to bring back Zack Greinke at 206 million dollars for six years at the age of 32. The replacements and reinforcements are waiting in the wings. I certainly wouldn’t want to be locked into that Greinke contract in two years.

I am encouraged by Dave Roberts utilizing small ball. His emphasis on getting an extra 90 feet and manufacturing runs. The sample size is small but I am excited by the brand of baseball Roberts brings to the Dodgers. I think it will help the Dodgers win games, especially close games.

I am encouraged by the Yasiel Puig’s spring. He came to camp having lost 20-25 pounds and appears lean and ready to get after it. I was in favor of trading him for whatever the team could get after his less than stellar 2015 campaign. It wasn’t just his bad season but it was the general malaise that Puig was showing, his weight gain and lack discipline. Well, if you can lose 20-25 pounds, that is step number one in showing the discipline needed to get back to being a stand-out ball player. I am willing to give this Puig reincarnation another shot.  If we can get a motivated and sane Puig, I will be excited to see some colossal bat flips.

I predict Corey Seager will be the face of the franchise for years to come. This rangy and angling short-stop has the “IT” factor. You watch him play and you are just captured by his natural fluidity for the game. He is a natural. I am not comparing Seager to Derek Jeter, but every franchise looks for a Jeter like presence in their organization. I think the Dodgers have found theirs. The Giants have Buster Posey, the Yankees HAD Jeter, the Red Sox have Big Papi. Time will tell but I think that Seager will be special for years to come.

This may truly be a year where the Dodgers take a bit of a step back before they step forward. There are still glaring weaknesses that need to be fixed or improved. But, I do like the direction.

For Dodger fans that lament the Dodgers starting pitching situation, remember it could be worse. They could have spent 426 million dollars on Greinke, Cueto and Samardjiza……No Thanks !

Impression from DAY ONE of Men’s D-II West Regional

It ranks right up there with one of my favorite sports days of the year. I wouldn’t get to experience it if it weren’t for the success of my hometown Chico State Wildcats, and for that I want to thank them for another great season and a fifth straight NCAA Tournament.

Cal Baptist and Pomona

This game did not disappoint. I went into day one thinking it could be the best game of the day and it was. The contrast in styles between the electrifying Lancers and the lock-down match-up zone Broncos. We had a one point game with under two minutes to go but give the Lancers credit, they made the big plays when they had to.

Michael Smith was brilliant. The star point guard for the Lancers navigated his way through the big bodies to get to the lane and get to the bucket for some big buckets. Even though Gelaun Wheelwright scuffled with his shot, he made the one that counted with the score knotted at 53 with five-and-change to go. It would be a lead the Lancers would never relinquish.

The key to the game in my mind was Pomona’s inability to establish Jordan Faison in the block. Faison took three three’s in the first five minutes and that was a bad sign. Faison is a beast on the block but it never got established by the Broncos. It might have been something Pomona wanted to establish but Faison picked up two quick fouls in the first 24 seconds of the second half and he had to sit. Give some of the complimentary pieces credit in Jordan Ogundrian, Jeremy Dennis and Barry Bell for giving the Broncos a chance.

The Lancers showed they can win that type of knock down drag out game, where scoring is hard. They love the three. They rely on the three. They will face a team in San Diego that holds teams to 28 percent shooting from beyond the arch. Should be a great match-up.

UC San Diego and Chico State

Almost a month to the day from when Chico State knocked off UC San Diego in La Jolla the Tritons repaid the favor in the biggest of games. You could tell early on this would be a different story. On February 12th the Wildcats did a masterful job of face-guarding and not allowing Drew Dyer to get any touches or good looks. He had more good looks in the first three minutes of Friday’s quarterfinal than he did the entire game on Feb 12th.

From the outset San Diego took the fight to Chico and it showed. The Tritons jumped out to an early 7-point lead and would never look back leading this game for nearly 38 minutes of play.

Being a Chico guy I could lament on all the things Chico didn’t do well but that would short-change how well San Diego played. Dyer and his partner in crime Adam Klie played great basketball. The two leaders showed why they are two of the best competitors in the CCAA. Dyer and Klie combined for 42 of UCSD’s 76 points. Throw in the contributions of center Chris Hansen, Grant Jackson and George Buaku the Tritons laid it on the Cats.

For Chico they could never recapture the magic, that through 26 games, had been one of the best seasons in Wildcat history. They seem to wear down at season’s end and as the final horn sounded there was clear disappointment on the faces of the Cats. The life-blood of the Chico club had been defense all year but their defensive miscues over the last few weeks were glaring. For Chico to win they had to dig in defensively and get stops, but those were too infrequent over the final few weeks. The offense, which had been a mixture of cutting and moving and passing became stuck. And, when the ball sticks, and people don’t move, bad things happen. Most of the key components for Chico are coming back and when you throw in a strong recruiting class and some reserves who will get more playing time the future will continue to be bright for Chico. Still a great year, although not the finish they were hoping for, but a lot to build on.

Azusa Pacific and Seattle Pacific

Azusa Pacific put any thought of their team being down for the count to bed with Friday’s performance in beating Seattle Pacific. I certainly wasn’t buying the 37-point loss as some type of indicator that their NCAA fortunes were in jeopardy. The Cougars come at you in waves and it proved to be too much for the Seattle Pacific Falcons on Friday.

Azusa Pacific had at least 10 players PLAY at least 14 minutes, but not one player logged more than 29 minutes. That is depth people, that is depth and the Cougars have the deepest team in this tournament. The Cougars have so many interchangeable parts that they are truly tough to defend and scout because of the varied skills sets. They showed that against a perennial power.

The Cougars were led by Corey Langerveld who scored 17. LyDell Cardwell came off the bench to score 14 and I’m convinced Cardwell would be the focal point of most teams’ offenses in the region if he was the go-to guy. How good and deep is Azusa ? Their leading scorer Bruce English scored 6 points on 2-of-8 shooting in only 14 minutes.

For Seattle Pacific they could not recover from being on the short-end of a 16-0 run in the final 6 minutes of the first half. A 24-20 lead turned into a 36-24 deficit at the break. Mitch Penner, who has been such a great player for the Falcons scored 19, including 13 in the second half. Bryce Leavitt scored 14 with 12 of those coming in the second stanza. Seattle Pacific just couldn’t get enough consistent offense to keep up with Azusa Pacific. It was the 12th straight season the Falcons went dancing. An amazing accomplishment for the team with the longest tournament streak in the nation.

Western Oregon and Humboldt State

The night’s final game had a boisterous crowd and two teams that won their respective conference tournament championships. The top-seeded Western Oregon Wolves and the Humboldt State Lumberjacks. The Wolves would not let their crowd down beating Humboldt 82-65.

Watching Western Oregon is like listening to that finely tuned car that runs smoothly, almost to the point that it’s a soulful sound. Five pieces that act in concert making the whole thing sound like symphony. The more I watch GNAC Player-of-the-Year Andy Avgi  the more I love the guy. It was the third chance I had to see him in person and sixth or seventh time this year. What a player. He seems to have great basketball instincts and surprisingly a great first step. He scored 15 on the night

The guy who may be playing the best basketball on the team right now could be Tanner Omlid. Omlid scored 18 points to go along with 6 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal. No turnovers for Omlid in 32 minutes of play. He is making some big plays for the Wolves and has really stepped up his game in March.

Devon Alexander was great scoring 16 on 7-of-11 shooting. Every time the Jacks were on the precipice of a run, it was Alexander hitting a big time base-line fall-away. Julian Nichols was his solid self again scoring 17 points along with 5 boards and a team-high 4 assists.

Western Oregon could not really shake Humboldt. The Jacks showed the offensive prowess that made them one of the best offensive teams in the region. Malik Morgan kept this team afloat at times in the second half. The sophomore point guard scored 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting. Rakim Brown had a double-double going for 20-and-10 on 8-of-16 shooting. The Jacks needed their third wheel  but Thomas Witzel had an off night going 1-of-8 and scored only 6 points.

The Jacks were down 14 but whittled it down to six mid-way through the second half. The problem is even as they kept scoring they just couldn’t get a stop and that proved to be their undoing.

IMPRESSION

I’m a CCAA guy but my eyes aren’t deceiving me. The CCAA got taken to the pea patch on Friday. Four teams in the tournament and 3 teams heading home. Not good. But, I will say this. Based on the criteria that the NCAA puts forth the committee got the selections right. It’s not who is hot at end of season, the tournament teams are based on the BODY OF WORK. So, in that respect they got it right.

The Pac-West’s participants and the two teams that played in the West Region Final last year Azusa Pacific and Cal Baptist look very strong. The problem for the Pac-West is they have too many sub .500 teams and it waters down their schedule and records therefore hurting their RPI and Performance Indicator not giving bubble teams a chance to get in the tournament. It hurts a conference to have seven teams with sub .500 records.

Cal Baptist and UC San Diego at 5pm today. It should be a good one. As San Diego showed, despite their injury woes they still have a tremendous core that can defend, shoot and compete. Cal Baptist will not have to face that Pomona match-up zone, but they will have to deal with a strong perimeter defense in San Diego. Michael Smith is going to be very tough for San Diego to handle. The Tritons must also do a Pomona-like job on Wheelwright.   Cal Baptist has to close out on Dyer and stop Klie from the dribble attacks.

The Western Oregon and Azusa Pacific games bring us two heavyweights that will battle it out in the regional semis. Western Oregon behind a raucous crowd and APU with the championship pedigree. Azusa certainly has the depth to throw bodies at the Wolves. Western Oregon has the cohesiveness on both ends to get stops and make it hard on the Cougars. This will be a tremendous game and I can’t wait to see it at 7:30 tonight.

You can watch the games on http://www.gnacsports.com

March Madness: 2016 D-II Men’s West Region Preview

The field is set and we are ready for the men’s Division II NCAA Basketball Tournament. Most West Region teams knew their fate but there were some anxious moments as the NCAA committee crunched the numbers and surveyed the body of work for all the teams under consideration.

Getting hot at the right time serves you well in March and credit the Humboldt State Lumberjacks for playing themselves into the dance. They had to win three games in five days to get it done in the CCAA Tournament and they did. After watching Alaska play over the last two weeks they are probably one of the best eight teams in the region, but their non-conference schedule appeared to hurt them as their just wasn’t enough quality wins over good teams to get them into the NCAA. Dixie’s best chance went by the boards when they lost to Cal Baptist in the semi-finals of the Pac-West Tournament and when Humboldt snagged the automatic qualifier in the CCAA, Dixie’s chances were dashed.

Cc64qJ9UYAAHv5k

If Alaska had beaten Western Oregon on Saturday then I am convinced the CCAA regular season champion Chico State Wildcats would have been left out of the party. Their two mis-steps in a four-day period against Cal State Los Angeles initially looked like a minor miscue. It almost turned into a season-ending disaster. Chico and Cal Poly Pomona were the final two at-large teams selected into the men’s field and as the committee showed us, Pomona’s two wins head-to-head over Chico State trumped the Wildcats CCAA title. Speaking to many of the Wildcats after the Selection Show festivities, they realized how close they were to seeing their season unceremoniously come to an end.

I love that the committee put emphasis on strength of schedule and road success. If you played good teams, even if you didn’t win them all you were rewarded. They also showed that when you win road games you get the credit you deserve. We all know how tough it is to play on the road in the GNAC, Pac-West and CCAA. I know it’s not easy in these tough budget times for Division II schools, but I can’t stand when Division II teams play Division III schools and NAIA opponents. It’s my pet peeve. THE GAMES DON’T COUNT !!!! Please stop !!! *jumps off of soap box* I thought the committee did a real good job this year and they got the field and seeding right. Good wins help you but bad losses can ruin you, the seedings reflect that.

The field this year is strong and nothing would surprise me. 1-thru-8 it is a stacked. I can’t wait to see the games and witness who rises to the occasion to punch their tickets to the Elite Eight.

Lets’ look at the teams headed to Monmouth, Oregon the home for the Western Oregon Wolves, the host institution for the 2016 West Region Basketball Championships.

WESTERN OREGON #1 SEED

wou-tournament-champions-2016

*Photo courtesy of http://gnacsports.com and http://www.wouwolves.com/index.aspx?path=mbball

The Wolves were far and away the best regular season team in the West Region. They took on all comers and emerged victorious. What a tremendous season for head coach Jim Shaw and his squad. They beat GNAC power Seattle Pacific three times including a thriller in the GNAC tourament. They beat Alaska Anchorage twice. Plus they knocked off a solid Monterey Bay squad and fellow NCAA participant UC San Diego on the road. At 27-3 (26-2 against Division II opponents) the Wolves were a lock for the tournament and the clear-cut number one seed.

Post player Andy Avgi leads the way but they have six primary offensive contributors that make this team so difficult to handle. Avgi (19.9 ppg) wreaks havoc with his inside/outside game (41 made three’s and 36% from three-point range.) Julian Nichols and Jordan Wiley have started all 30 games and have put up great numbers with Nichols averaging 12.5 points and nearly 5 assists a game. Nichols ability to create and set up his mates makes him special. He has a penchant for slashing to the hole and getting to the line where he has attempted the most charities on the squad. Wiley is the Wolves most prolific three-point shooter. He has knocked down 64 treys on the year and shoots them at a 44 percent clip.

How deep are the Wolves ? Many would consider Devon Alexander their fourth option but he was named the GNAC Tournament MVP after going to 16-10-5 against Alaska in the tourney final. Tanner Omlid (10.3 ppg/5.7 rebs) and Alex Roth are potent as well. Roth is a 47 percent three -point shooter and has hit 37 of them on the year. The Wolves have eight players who average double-digit minutes.

As the season has shown  the Wolves can put 90 points on you and win or they can win a slug-fest junk-yard dog grind it out defensive game 58-57 as they did against SPU in the semi-finals of the GNAC Tourney.

The Wolves will be playing in front of their home crowd where they went 12-0 this season. This is a special team and it will take a special performance to beat them in the NCAA Tournament. Their first-round match-up are the Cinderella’s of this West Regional, Humboldt State.

HUMBOLDT STATE #8 SEED

MBB_Champ_Splash_Page

*Photo courtesy of http://hsujacks.com/news/2016/3/6/mens-basketball-heading-to-monmouth-for-ncaa-west-regionals.aspx

Magic carpet ride, pixie dust, The Secret, heck I am sure head coach Steve Kinder and staff said a few Hail Mary’s as well, but it worked and the Lumberjacks are in the NCAA Tournament. They were not going to get in unless they won  the CCAA Tournament, which they did in resounding fashion. All kidding aside there is one big reason why Humboldt is making the trip to Monmouth, DEFENSE.

Yep, defense. The Lumberjacks were ranked dead last in the CCAA in defense for the entire year, but when the lights were shining the brightest Humboldt held Monterey Bay, Cal State Los Angeles and UC San Diego to an average of 61 points per game over a five day stretch. This was a team that gave up 76 points a game over the course of the season. #DefenseWins is our motto and in Lumberjack Nation they have to be proud of how the gaping holes and lack of back-side rotations were finally remedied.

Humboldt is an offensively gifted ball club. They are led by their senior Rocky Brown. He averages 19.2 points and 9.2 rebounds a game. He can score on the block, hit the mid-range and knock down the three. Thomas Witzel and Malik Morgan are his partners in crime. Witzel has unlimited range and you better not let him get a good look. He averages 14.1 points per game and has hit 55 three’s on the year. Morgan is the guy who makes them go. He has penchant for making big plays and is creative when getting into the paint. He averages 13.2 points and better than 5 assists a game. Morgan has three partners in that back-court who have all hit more than 30 three’s on the year. Freshman Tyras Rattler (30) hit the game-winning three in their CCAA Tourney opening round win against Monterey Bay. Ethan Dillard (37 3’s) is a savvy veteran that has a cagey way of getting open and freshman Nikhil Lizotte (36 3’s) has been a nice boost for this team.

Many thought the Jacks would struggle this year after the loss of imposing post player Calvin Young II to a torn ACL before the season but they found their niche offensively early in the year and they rolled with it. The Jacks were 21-8 on the season but only 17-8 against Division II opponents. Humboldt State averages 83 points per game and they will need that high-octane offense clicking if they are to spring the surprise in round one against Western Oregon. In my opinion this is not your typical 1-versus-8 match-up. Humboldt is dangerous right now. If they defend the way they did over the last three games, they will have a chance, but even if they do defend at a high level, it’s contingent on the Big Three in Brown, Witzel and Morgan to bring their “A” games. Can’t wait to see this one, Humboldt and Western Oregon in round one. They will tip this one at  7:30pm on Friday night

SEATTLE PACIFIC #4

rp_primary_WillParkerCelebrate_3_3_16

*Photo courtesy of http://www.spufalcons.com/index.aspx?tab=basketball&path=mbball

Make 12 straight NCAA Tournament appearances for this perennial power in the West Region. To make it to the tournament for twelve straight seasons you need consistency at the top and the Falcons certainly have that with head coach Ryan Looney.

Despite a heart-breaking one point loss to Western Oregon in the GNAC Tournament the Falcons were a lock for the NCAA Tourney with a strong resume that included what I think to be the best strength of schedule in the region. The Falcons beat Dixie in St. George. They beat Chico in Chico and they waxed first round opponent and defending West Region champion Azusa Pacific in mid-December. The only team they haven’t been able to solve this year is the top-seeded Wolves, losing three times by a total of NINE points including two overtime games.

The Falcons are led by Mitch Penner who averages 18.6 points per game. Penner is the Falcons go-to player who can consistently hit the mid-range jumper and also slash to the basket and attack the rim. He is a heady player who has a great ability to get to the free throw line having attempted 182 charities and knocking them down at an 80 percent clip. This is a talented group that features several players that willingly fulfill their role. When you watch the Falcons, and they are clicking,  you feel they are five players working as one.

Center and 7-footer Gilles Dierickx has been very good this year. He averages 11.4 points and pulls 7 boards a game. He is one big dude and he can change shots in the paint. Bryce Leavitt could be the Falcons most complete player. He averages 9.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and better than  4 assists a game. Leavitt shoots 47 percent from the field. Brendan Carroll is the Falcons best perimeter shooter knocking down 43 treys on the year. He averages 10.8 points a game.

The Falcons have guys who know their roles. They are one of the best defensive teams in the tournament giving up only 64 points per game. You know deep down they want another shot at Western Oregon but they better not over-look the Pac-West champion Azusa-Pacific. Seattle-Pacific certainly has the mettle to win the NCAA West Regional. They are tested and despite a ton of new faces, winning just oozes from this team. 12 straight NCAA Tourney’s will do that for you. The Falcons know they are in for a tough first round match-up, but don’t be surprised if they make a deep run.

AZUSA PACIFIC #5

24401dl_main_photo

The Cougars Bruce English hopes to lead Azusa Pacific to another West Region Championship in Monmouth

*Photo courtesy of http://www.apu.edu/athletics/basketball/mens/

It was another strong campaign for the defending West Region champion Cougars. Despite a minor rough patch bridging January and February where they lost three straight games, consistency was the name of the game for APU. A late season surge where they won 6 out of the final 7 netted them the Pac-West regular season championship. The Cougars had two impressive wins against arch-rvial and primary conference nemesis Cal Baptist during the regular season, but were paid back in spades on Saturday. The Lancers beat APU by 37 and had a lot of fun doing it. I don’t think this will affect the Cougars negatively at all. They are too good to let that game affect them leading into the regional.

Unlike last year where the Cougars were hosting the regional, this year they hit the road. They have a type of game that travels. They were 11-5 away from home this year. They are a prolific three-point shooting team. They spread the floor, slash, make you defend, attack the rim or dish it out to their plethora of shooters.

Bruce English is one of three players who averages double figures. He averages 11.6 points per game and has hit 57 three’s on the year at a 41 percent clip. Lydell Cardwell is an even better three-point shooter knocking down 69 treys at a 41.1 percent rate. Joey Schreiber is also a great three-point shooter knocking down 54 three’s and also shoots 41 percent from behind the arch. This team can really shoot it. They have taken an amazing 749 three’s and have made 38 percent of them as a team.

They can also do some damage in the paint. Petar Kutlesic is their second leading scorer at 11.1 points and 8.9 rebounds a game. He makes 54 percent of his shots and has taken the third most shots on the club.

Depth is one of the great attributes of this team. They have eight players who play more than 20 minutes a game. This is a team that can wear you down and beat you late. They will come at with body-after-body-after-body. This goes a long way when playing a long schedule with long road trips. Fresh bodies are a luxury and especially when you need to win three games in four days, it’s imperative. Some may see the blow-out loss to Cal Baptist as a sign for trouble ahead for the Cougars. I think to the contrary. I see a team that probably forgot about that thing as soon as the horn sounded. They have too many players that know what THIS tournament means and were able to quickly wipe that thing aside. Azusa is seasoned and they will be ready for what should be a tremendous first round match-up with Seattle Pacific. They will tip at 5pm late Friday afternoon. 

UC SAN DIEGO #2

GGNUCGWBTXOPWDL.20160213060620

Drew Dyer is one of the best shooters in the West Region and he hopes to lead the Tritons to a long stay in Monmouth

*Photo courtesy of http://www.ucsdtritons.com/SportSelect.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=5800&SPID=2337&SPSID=29884&DB_OEM_ID=5800

It’s been quite a season for the CCAA regular season runners-up. The UC San Diego Tritons opened their season with a big win over Cal Baptist at home, and also a near miss against Western Oregon. They were really good away from home this year winning 11 of the 14 contests they played away from RIMAC Arena. The Tritons are the CCAA’s version of Seattle Pacific. They know who they are and they don’t try to do too much. They rely on their group of superb shooters and now they are getting some great play in the paint from young post Chris Hansen.

The saying goes, “a cornered animal is a dangerous animal.”  The Tritons haven’t used the injury excuse all year and don’t expect them to say it now. After playing only two games, they lost one of the most versatile players in the league, Hunter Walker to an injury. Then cruelly they lost their second best three-point shooter Alexs Lipovic to an injury in their first round CCAA Tournament game against Sonoma. There is no official word on his status, but if he can’t go against Chico this is a very tough loss for the Tritons. Do they have enough to not only beat Chico and win the regional ? Absolutely.

Drew Dyer is the heart-and-soul of this group. A tremendous player and leader. A well-respected competitor in the CCAA. This guy brings it every night and you better be ready to compete when playing against him. Dyer averages a team high 14.9 points per game and has hit an astonishing 86 three’s on the year, making 46 percent of his tries. Give him room in three point land at your own peril. When you defend Dyer, it better be a no touch defense, if it’s not you will be in trouble.

Adam Klie’s size belies his skill set. He can hit the 10-to-15 footer but he attacks the basket aggressively and is a shot creator. He has gone to the line a team high 115 times. Undersized, maybe ? But you won’t find a tougher dude than Klie. Point-guard Grant Jackson has expanded his game. He has always been a great defender, but now he is slashing to the hole is doing a great job of setting up his mates.

Freshman Chris Hansen is really coming on. He led the Tritons with 27 in the CCAA title game loss to Humboldt. More is expected of him with all the injuries and he is delivering. He could be the next great big-man in the CCAA. Hansen is a load and the Tritons will lean on him in the regional.

With the injury to Lipovic, sophomore Anthony Ballestero is getting the starts and he is not shy. He has made 26 three’s and is only averaging 11 minutes played per game. Of course those minutes are going up with his new role.

There is no way around it. The Tritons have had their depth decimated by injury. They played an entire season without Walker and almost won a conference title. Now, they lose Lipovic. If any team can circle the wagons it is Eric Olen’s team. Chico beat UCSD on February 12th 77-71 in a game that featured 15 lead changes and 12 ties. Chico will not have any letdown knowing the Tritons are short-handed. They know how good this team is. I expect Dyer and Klie to rise to the occasion and play some of their best games of the year.

CHICO STATE #7 

rp_primary_AckerCrowd3_wide_

*Photo courtesy of http://www.chicowildcats.com

As the 19 year-voice of the Chico State Wildcats, there was a moment on Saturday when I didn’t think the Wildcats were going to get into the tournament. Chico entered the week as the number-two team in the region, but their bad-upset loss against Cal State Los Angeles on Tuesday turned them into the role spectator. With Humboldt winning the CCAA Tourney, Chico couldn’t afford to see Alaska swipe another automatic spot. Chico would have been battling with Pomona for the last at-large bid and the Wildcats were swept in the season series by the Broncos. Case closed. So when the Wolves were sinking late three’s, it was a welcome relief for Chico State fans.

Chico State comes in as the regular season CCAA Champions garnering their fifth straight appearance in the NCAA Championships. Once again they had a tremendous regular season. Their biggest win of the year was the victory over UC San Diego in La Jolla. Chico also had a very strong resume going 12-3 on the road and 11-4 against teams with a record over .500. They went 22-6 on the season (20-6 against D-II opposition.)

The staple of this team is defense. Ever since Greg Clink took over eight years ago he has preached defense, defense, defense and the Cats are one of the best in the country at stopping teams from scoring. The Wildcats give up 64 points a game and do it solid perimeter defense and three imposing figures in the paint. 6’10 center Chris Magalotti is the anchor, changing shots and forcing penetrators to deviate from their path. 6’10 Power forward Tanner Giddings not only averages 9.9 points but he also changes shots and plays big in the paint. The key for Chico’s big men is they are so good at switches and rotations. They are adept at hedging out on high screens causing problems on the perimeter and in the paint.

CCAA-Player-of-the-Year Robert Duncan is their electrifying leading scorer at 15 points a game. Numerous times this year he has taken games over with his dynamic dribble attacks. He also has hit 44 three’s shooting them at a 39 percent rate. 6’8 post Isaiah Ellis also canvasses the paint defensively but his offensive game has reached new heights this year. He is averaging 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds. He runs the floor about as well as any big man in the region. Corey Silverstrom is their best three-point shooter. He has hit 58 three’s on the year and shoots them at a 42 percent clip.

Sophomore point guard Jalen McFerren has had a solid campaign averaging 9.9 points and pulling 5.5 boards a contest. McFerren can burn you if you leave him open having hit 38 three’s on the year.

Tyler Harris and Nate Ambrosini provide great energy and presence off the bench. They will be needed if Chico is to make a great run. They can both score attacking the basket and knocking down the three-ball.

Chico State has an achilles heel and its turnovers. If they take care of the ball they can advance, but if they don’t value possessions and get careless with the ball, their stay in the tournament won’t be long. Taking care of the ball is paramount for this team that averaged 14.1 turnovers a game.

This may seem sacrilegious but Chico State looked dead on their feet in the final few weeks of the season, especially against Cal State Los Angeles. The mental grind of the season and the hard push toward a conference title seemed to wear this team down. So, when they finally cut the nets down and captured that conference title, there clearly was a let-down, and it almost cost the Wildcats their tournament chances. A few Wildcats told me that the rest they got by NOT playing in the conference tournament has refreshed their legs and brought back their mental edge. It’s never good to lose, but if you do, have it work for you. Fresh legs at tournament time helps.

It should be a highly entertaining Chico State and UC San Diego game that will TIP at 2:30pm on Friday afternoon. You can hear the game on our flagship station AM-1290 KPAY, http://www.kpaysports.com and the KpaySports app.

CAL BAPTIST #3

rp_primary_i_J7NMdHF_X2

The Cal Baptist Lancers come into the NCAA Tournament on a roll. The Lancers racked up 27 wins on the year with 26 of them against Division-II opponents. Aside from a stretch bridging mid-January to early February where they lost four of seven games, the Lancers were dominant.

This is the third straight NCAA Tournament for the Lancers and after coming up a game short last year, losing to Azusa Pacific in the regional final they are now determined to finish the job. Watching the Lancers I feel they have mastered the “controlled aggression” concept. It appears they are playing at break-neck tempo, but in reality it is what they are, a supremely talented offensive team with multiple weapons that can hurt you .

Pac-West MVP Michael Smith orchestrates this team, whether it’s a perimeter J, a slash to the hole or a tear-drop floater, the lefty point guard finds ways to beat you. Compared to his mates Smith doesn’t take a ton of three’s but when he does shoot them, he is proficient knocking them down at a 36 percent clip. Smith averages 21.5 points per game and grabs 6.8 boards a game (2nd on team.)

Gelaun Wheelwright is the second-leading scorer on the Lancers scoring more than 17 points a game. He is quite a shooter with unlimited range. Head coach Rick Croy has given Wheelwright the ultimate green light. Wheelwright’s light is a strobing neon green. He has taken 282 THREE’S on the year making 101. When Wheelwright gets hot he is almost impossible to stop, as Chico State learned last year in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Hands in face and no touch defense didn’t stop him.

Post-player Trevone Williams does much of the dirty work in the post for the Lancers. He averages 7.9 points and 5.7 boards a game. Williams plays great defense, while sometimes being under-sized. He sets screens and plays well within the team concept. Every winning team needs a guy like Williams. Williams can also step out and rail a three hitting 35 treys on  the season.  Kalidou Diouf is another quality post for CBU. He is  the only player on the roster who has not attempted a three-point shot, but when he does put it up, he usually makes it, shooting 62 percent from the field. Diouf averages 9.9 points and pull 5 boards a game. Just when you thought you only had to deal with this group, the Lancers have Jordan Guisti who has hit 47 three’s and makes 49 percent of them. Jordan Heading (35 made three’s) and Alexander Birketoft (24 made three’s) also provide a spark, especially from deep.

Many thought the Lancers might miss one of last year’s sharp-shooters Ryan Berg. Instead the offense adapted, giving Wheelwright the more shots, and Smith more freedom. Many thought the Lancers might stumble after losing Taj Spencer to injury in early February, instead they rattled off 9 straight wins, and haven’t lost since Spencer went down.

This club is tested, veteran and dangerous. If you are going to beat the Lancers you must be on point defensively and be able  to score enough to nip them a tight game. If there is one team that could give Lancers fits its Cal Poly Pomona and that incredible match-up zone. This will be an incredible contrast between the Lancers explosiveness and the Broncos lock-down defense. Game time is 12 noon on Friday.

CAL POLY POMONA #6

passthru_imagecredit_wideleaders

*Photo courtesy of http://www.broncoathletics.com/news/2016/3/6/mens-basketball-cppmbb-headed-to-ncaa-tourney-with-6-seed.aspx

Let me start by saying I love how Pomona plays the game. Over the years I have marveled at the continued defensive discipline that wins them games, league titles, West Region titles and National Championships. Head coach Greg Kamansky and staff have implemented a system that works. Pomona relishes getting into you. They are big. They are long. The move as one cohesive unit defensively and the longer the game goes, the more frustrating it can be for teams used to getting open and easy looks. When dialed in they can beat anyone.

The  Broncos have had a good season highlighted by some impressive wins, but also some peculiar low-lights that have left observers shaking their heads. They were rolling along at 14-1 after a 69-56 win over Chico State on january 9th. The following weekend they would drop back-to-back games to two sub .500 teams in the LA basin Cal State Los Angeles and Dominguez Hills. They also lost one night after beating Chico State on ESPN3 in late February to a Stanislaus State team that had lost 11 of 12. Mixed in with the bad losses are wins over Azusa Pacific, and two victories over Chico State.

The Broncos will not “Wow” you with their offense but their team isn’t built to. They built to dig in and lock you up. But, don’t take their offense for granted. One of the best players I have seen in my years covering the CCAA is Jordan Faison. He is the only Bronco to average in double figures in points. Faison scores 17.2 points per game and pulls 7.6 rebounds a contest. Faison will get his somehow-someway. A highly skilled back to the basket scorer who is adpet around the hoop. He makes 58 percent of his shots.  In late February when Pomona played Chico on ESPN3 Faison had 6 points and 1 rebound with the Broncos trailing by 18 with 10 minutes to go. Faison would finish with 16 points and 7 boards (5 offensive) leading a 35-9 run to give Pomona a stunning 67-61 win. Faison is the real deal and my respect for his game is immense.

Point guard Barry Bell is the life blood of this team in a lot of ways. The McClymonds High product expertly controls tempo and when watching him you feel that Kamansky has a coach on the floor. His offense has improved over the years and now he is a guy who can hit an open jumper. Bell averages 8 points a game, but his effect on a game is more than statistics. Bell is a winner.

Jeremy Dennis and Quentin Taylor both average 8 points a contest. The sophomore Dennis is 6’5 and has the makings of special piece to the puzzle for the Broncos. Taylor hits 37 percent of this three’s and has a penchant for big shots. Freshman  Jordan Ogundrian is the heir apparent to Bell at the point position. This lightning fast guard plays the game with no fear. He will only get better under Kamansky and has shown flashes of brilliance. He can be electrifying off the dribble in attacking the rim. Ogundrian averages 7.9 points and has a team high 38 steals.

Sophomore Daylan Lawrence and freshman Chris Sullivan are way more than complimentary pieces. They are part of this defensive monster  that can also score when called upon. Back-up post Francois Tchoyi is a tough as they come. The Broncos feed off of his defensive mind-set when in the game.

The Broncos only shoot 30 percent from three-point range. Their style isn’t glamorous, but if you find hard-nosed defense sexy, this is your team…..LOL ! As you can tell I have admiration for this team and style. I can’t wait to see what types of defensive strategies the Broncos come up with to try to shackle the potent Lancers. Does the zone slow down CBU ? Can they force left-handed standout Michael Smith right and try to disrupt his comfort zone ? Can they lock down Wheelwright and force him to chuck it from 25-26 feet rather than 22 ? Do they have depth to deal with the rangy Lancers ? I can’t wait to see this game !!! 12 noon tip time on Friday afternoon.

ENJOY THE GAMES !!!!!

*Mike Baca called Chico State basketball games from 1990-94 as a student and has been the Voice of Chico State Basketball since 1997*

Listen to the 2nd half of Chico State and UCSD from Feb 12th

It was a first place showdown that did not disappoint. The Chico State Wildcats traveled to La Jolla to take on the UC San Diego Tritons with CCAA supremacy at stake. We pick up the game in early in the second half with the Wildcats leading by one….

Chico State and UCSD will play in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday in Monmouth, Oregon. Game time is at 2:30pm and you can hear all the action on AM-1290 KPAY. KPAYSPORTS.COM and the KpaySports app

Predicting NCAA D-II Men’s West Regional; Humboldt crashes party

WEST REGION RANKINGS GOING INTO THE 

GNAC, CCAA, PAC-WEST TOURNEYS

                                           Overall DII Record In-Region Record
1 Western Ore.                          24-2 24-2
2 Chico St.                                     20-5 20-5
3 UC San Diego                         20-6 19-6
4 Seattle Pacific                        20-7 20-7
5 Azusa Pacific                           20-7 19-7
6 California Baptist                 23-6 21-6
7 Cal Poly Pomona                  19-6 17-6
8 Dixie St.                                      18-8 18-8
9 Alas. Fairbanks                       18-7 18-7
10 Alas. Anchorage                 17-9 16-9

The Cal Baptist Lancers trounced their arch-rivals Azusa Pacific in the Pac-West Men’s Conference title game locking up their spot in the in NCAA Tournament.

The Humboldt State Lumberjacks, not ranked in the top-10 in the region when play started this week, won three games and captured the automatic qualifier in the CCAA. The Lumberjacks will advance to the NCAA Tournament as well, crashing a party they didn’t appear invited to. It was great run by the Jacks and they did a great job of taking care of their business. Definitely a dangerous team entering the NCAA Tournament.

And, the Western Oregon Wolves completed the season sweep in the Great Northwest Conference by beating Alaska Fairbanks and capturing not only the regular season but also the post season conference tournament championship. Unless they can’t reserve enough hotel rooms the Western Oregon Wolves should be hosting the Division II West Regional next weekend in Monmouth, Oregon.

So with Western Oregon, Humboldt State and Cal Baptist locked in that leaves 5 spots for a bunch of deserving teams. Let’s take a quick look at those teams and see where they may fall…..

Chico State– I think they are in. But, they are pretty darn fortunate that their CSLA loss on Tuesday did not torpedo their tremendous campaign. Chico will drop in the rankings but I believe their strong regular season that included a great road record and an impressive record against teams over .500 will get them in. I see Chico as a number 6 seed.

Seattle-Pacific- This is another team that I believe is in the tournament. I believe they played the toughest schedule in the region and it will be rewarded. They took Western Oregon to the wire before falling by one on Friday. SPU is in as a number 5 seed.

Azusa Pacific- Pay no attention to their blow-out loss in the Pac-West title game on Saturday. Azusa is in. They faced a team on a roll in the Lancers and it was the proverbial snowball rolling downhill. Azusa was the regular season champion in the Pac-West. They had a tremendous season. They get in and will be a solid 4 seed.

UC San Diego- They needed a miracle to beat Sonoma on Tuesday. They overwhelmed Pomona on Friday but ran into a desperate, talented and hot Humboldt team in the CCAA Final. The Tritons have been decimated by injury all season long but they are tough as nails. I think they are in as a 3 seed. I don’t see them dropping in regional ranking because they beat two plus .500 teams in getting to CCAA title match-up. Great season is rewarded with a 3-seed.

Dixie State- The Red Storm needed a win against Cal Baptist. They didn’t get it. Despite an amazing late season run after a rough start to the year, Dixie put themselves in a position to get into the dance. I think they would have gotten in if Humboldt didn’t snag one of the automatic qualifiers (AQ’s) I think the season has come to an end for Dixie.

Alaska Fairbanks- Alaska went on a mad run at the end of the season including a huge win over Western Oregon on their home floor in the final week of the season. Sadly for the Nanooks they couldn’t duplicate the feat on Saturday. I think they will be strongly considered for the final at-large. In the end, I don’t think there will be enough Division -II wins to get them in. Oddly, it might have helped Alaska’s case if they didn’t have a first round bye in the GNAC Tournament. They could have used another resume building win. The victory over a sub .500 in D-II Western Washington team won’t help them when crunching the Performance Indicator and RPI numbers.

Pomona- They get in on the strength of beating the Pac-West Champion Azusa and beating CCAA Champion Chico State twice. The Broncos got a much-needed boost with a first round CCAA Tournament win over San Francisco State. The Gators were ranked 7th in the last regional poll and they went 1-1 versus two teams with plus .500 records. The Broncos are in as a 7th seed.

HOW I SEE PAIRINGS

This is nothing official. I have no inside info. This prediction is simply my ramblings and take it for what you will……

8-Humboldt versus 1-Western Oregon

5-Seattle Pacific versus 4-Azusa Pacific

6-Chico State versus 3-UC San Diego

7-Pomona versus 2-Cal Baptist

The tournament will be held in my opinion in Monmouth, Oregon on the campus of Western Oregon University next Friday, Saturday and Monday.

The Selection Show will be on Sunday night at 7:30pm on http://NCAA.COM

 

Dodger Front Office Apologists are missing our point

I was one of the first ones’ on the Andrew Friedman bandwagon when the Guggenheim Group brought him in. “In Friedman I trust” was the mantra as a new in organizational structure was about to take hold. What has followed have been some glaring mis-steps and a lack of attention to detail that have this life-long Bleeding Bluer a tad confused and disappointed.

To be clear, I am not saying or professing that the Friedman/Zaidi/Byrnes/(insert name here) era has been or will be a failure. That is where I think many of the front office defenders get their panties in a bunch. I am still glad that Friedman is running the show. In a recent LA Times interview the man in charge finally gave us a detailed look behind the curtain.

(http://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/la-sp-dodgers-dugout-andrew-friedman-20160218-htmlstory.html)

He laid bare the baseball-side philosophy of where this organization is going, wants to go and expects to go. I could hardly find much to argue with philosophically in his statements. I respect the fact they don’t want to overpay players that could hurt them on the back-ends of deals. I respect and LOVE their desire to build a minor league juggernaut. I respect the fact they wouldn’t give up the farm for a rental in their starting rotation that they knew they weren’t going to over-spend for anyway.

There is crazy spending and there is essential and necessary spending. This is where my biggest beef emanates from. Friedman tells us every transaction goes through the cost-benefit analysis. If that’s the case then why did they think it was wise to give oft-injured Brandon McCarthy 4 years and 48 million dollars and even more oft-injured Brett Anderson 2 years and 28 million. They have spent 76 million dollar on two pitchers that many of us (raises hand) predicted would go down like the Hindenburg. This isn’t a strong cost-benefit analysis. The signs were all there that not only would these two pitchers struggle to stay healthy, but they were also grossly over-paid. How does this front office rationalize overpaying some pitchers, yet letting others walk ?

Let me put it in bold print, I did not want the Dodgers to overspend for Zack Greinke. More power to the Diamondbacks in the 3rd and 4th year of that deal when Zack is decimating their books and going 12-13 with an ERA north of 4. The Dodgers were wise to pass on injury risk Johnny Cueto and on Jeff Samardjiza. Let the Giants deal with those long-term ramifications. I believe Friedman and company deserve credit for showing restraint there. But, what are the analytics that actually showed these guys that McCarthy and Anderson were good acquisitions. Wouldn’t it have been better to solidify the bullpen and hand the back-end of the rotation to the Mike Bolsinger’s of the world ?

Friedman’s “idea” of a strong bullpen is odd. He actually believed that Chris Hatcher, Joel Peralta, Juan Nicasio and Pedro Baez comprised a strong bullpen. In this case it has nothing to do with analytics. Judgements like these makes me question his baseball acumen. Baez has one pitch and has done his best Broxton versus Matt Stairs impersonation in back-to-back post-seasons. He needs a second pitch and should not pitch in leveraged situations with the game on the line if he doesn’t have one. Hatcher spent much of the summer with only one pitch. He certainly has a future and an electric arm, but he wasn’t ready for big spots last year. Peralta lost about 5 miles per hour from his fast ball yet Friedman thought he was the best answer to shore up those late innings. Nicasio was eventually released, primarily because of free passes.

This is the second straight season where the Dodgers enter the year with an average bullpen at best in front of lights out closer Kenley Jansen.

Many Friedman defenders will point out, rightfully so, that the front office tried to overpay for Luke Gregerson and he took less money to play for the Astros. They will point out that the Dodgers tried to lure Darren O’Day from the Orioles and he took less money to stay in Baltimore and the Dodgers had a trade in place for Aroldis Chapman before details of his garage gun-play/domestic violence case emerged. This is bad luck. I do recognize Friedman has tried. A lot of the Dodgers problems would have been solved by simply paying Andrew Miller and let him carve up lefties and righties up. It would have taken 4 years and 40 million. A little more than half what you have given to two injury-riddled pitchers to man the back-end of your rotation.

The Dave Roberts choice was a good one. I think he will hold this team accountable and make them, force them to manufacture some runs. Friedman and staff deserve credit for recognizing that Roberts may be just what the team and organization needed. I am still a fan of Friedman. I want him to succeed. I want the Dodgers to win. I love there is going to be an influx of kids that can come help within the next season or two. I see the sustainability model and I like it.  I think his philosophy can work, but I do have some serious questions on the value he places on essential pieces to the puzzle, and how that value equates to wins.

Chico State Men’s path to NCAA Tournament is clearer

The woulda coulda and shoulda’s are probably all out of the Chico State men’s basketball team’s psyches right now, but it is so obvious their road to the NCAA Tournament would have been made so much easier if they didn’t stink it up on Tuesday night against Cal State Los Angeles.   The Chico State trek to the tourney is less hazy today. And now, after two days of conference tournaments the road to the  tournament has clarified.

I believe there are five teams that have, in all probability, punched their tickets to March Madness. Cal Baptist and Azusa Pacific will be playing for the Pac-West Conference Tournament Championship. Both teams have had strong seasons and will be dancing next week, regardless of who wins tomorrow’s (Saturday’s) title tilt.

Western Oregon and Alaska will be playing in the Great Northwest Championship game. The Wolves squeaked by Seattle Pacific this afternoon while Alaska survived in a thriller over Western Washington. Western Oregon will not only get into the tournament regardless of tomorrow’s outcome, but they will also host the tournament in Monmouth next week. Alaska may have already punched their ticket with their GNAC opening round win, but a win would ensure their spot in the regional. Only the committee can determine whether Alaska’s win over Western Washington is enough to lift them past Dixie State in the regional rankings and get them into the top eight.

The CCAA Tournament will have UC San Diego taking on Humboldt State in the tournament final. The Tritons out-distanced Pomona today while Humboldt easily handled Cal State Los Angeles.

With tournament results so far I see Cal Baptist, Azusa Pacific, UCSD, Western Oregon and Seattle Pacific as teams already in the tourney. That leaves three spots open and several teams vying for them.

Humboldt only gets into the NCAA’s with a win over UC San Diego. But, if they do, they could throw chaos into the selection process. If Alaska wins they vault into the top eight, a place they may already sit after today’s win. The Nanooks certainly can’t take the chance that is why a win is imperative.

Now we move to the Chico State dilemma. On the surface they look like a team that will be in the tournament. I have never seen a team drop from number two to OUT of the NCAA Tournament after a bad loss. But, if both Humboldt and Alaska win their games that would guarantee both of those teams an NCAA berth and only one spot would be left to fill. That spot would either go to Chico State or Cal Poly Pomona. Here is where it gets tricky for the Wildcats. Pomona swept the season series from Chico. And, while Chico’s resume when crunching the strict criteria was certainly better than Pomona’s a week ago, that may not the case right now. Chico lost twice in four days to a team in Cal State Los Angeles that was 9-17. Those losses are crushing. Not only does it hurt their Performance Indicator but it also damages their RPI. If it’s close between Chico and Pomona, does the committee still choose Chico even though they lost twice to the Broncos ??

The Wildcats get in if either Alaska or Humboldt lose, but if they both win…….it is nervous time. Chico should be in. Never have a I seen a team 20-6 against Division II opponents NOT get in. It’s pretty obvious, if you are a Chico State basketball fan you are pulling for UC San Diego and Western Oregon. If Humboldt and Alaska both pull upsets………bust out those rosary beads.

 

UPDATED: In Clink I Trust; MARCH 2ND REGIONAL RANKINGS

WEST March 2 NCAA DIVISION WEST REGION RANKINGS
Overall DII Record In-Region Record
1 Western Ore.                               24-2                               24-2
2 Chico St.                                          20-5                               20-5
3 UC San Diego                               20-6                               19-6
4 Seattle Pacific                              20-7                               20-7
5 Azusa Pacific                                20-7                               19-7
6 California Baptist                      23-6                               21-6
7 Cal Poly Pomona                       19-6                                17-6
8 Dixie St.                                           18-8                                18-8
9 Alas. Fairbanks                            18-7                               18-7
10 Alas. Anchorage                       17-9                               16-9

*The latest regional ranking doesn’t take into account the Chico State loss against Cal State Los Angeles on Tuesday night*

Chico State is still in a good position. But, as I stated in the blog the Wildcats will be in a much better place for their fifth straight NCAA Tournament if other teams ranked in the regionals win their respective tournaments.  Here is my blog written before the rankings were released……

Two days ago I had my gall bladder removed. The procedure took about an hour. They make four small incisions in the stomach and remove the dastardly organ that when healthy filters fat, when not causes discomfort and pain. They give you anesthesia. They give you a container full of drugs to help ease the pain in recovery.

No drug in any vial can make me forget or un-see what I saw on video  last night at Acker Gym.

The Chico State men’s basketball team came up with a performance for the ages, the Dark Ages. And now have put themselves in quite the predicament. An NCAA Tournament bid which seemed like a formality just 48 hours ago has now turned into one big question mark. I will explain the details of what Chico needs to have happen in other conference tournaments later. But first, lets analyze what happened last night with our beloved Wildcats.

BREAKING DOWN THE BREAK DOWN

“What was that Baca ?” “What the hell happened?” “Can you explain what I watched tonight?” These are just some of the comments sent to me  from Chico State Wildcat fans as I lay in bed last letting last night’s 54-37 loss to Cal State Los Angeles ruminate in my cranium. Let me be clear, the Golden Eagles came to play and compete. They took the fight to Chico State at every turn. They did what they do expertly and deserved to win the game. Because I analyze what went wrong with Chico State, should not diminish how great LA played last night.

Seeing the game from a television perspective instead of court side gave me a completely different view of what happened to the Wildcats. First, their offense seemed beyond out of sync. I love to use dis-jointed, sometimes I over use it. But, last night was the epitome of dis-connect. CSLA does such a good job of shutting down options, and “usually” Chico State does a good job of running their sets two or three times and eventually getting a breakdown that leads to a good look or an easy bucket. Chico didn’t aggressively run those sets, which didn’t lead to LA breakdowns, instead Chico was stuck. Stuck in the lane, stuck on the wing, stuck on the baseline, generally stuck in the mud.

Ball movement, motion and flow are vital to Chico’s offense. I thought it was non-existent last night. When all good offensive teams are in rhythm the ball is a blur, the men are in motion, they are cutting. It’s like a pinwheel, an offensive cut begets another cut and so on and so forth. Motion, movement it’s the key for Chico’s offense. When they don’t move, it looks like last night. Much of it had to do with a great job by LA clogging the middle, but much of this rests on the Cats themselves.

Defensively I thought Chico State played fairly well. The Golden Eagles Duce Zaid was in the zone all night, and unlike the scouting report where he is prone to take bad shots, that was not the case last night. Zaid took great shots, got his teammates involved and was the best player on the floor. He scored 26 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. He hit 6-of-9 from deep. Just a big time game from a big time scorer. Joshua Munzon hit three big THREE’S, two of which twisted the dagger in the second half. Could Chico State done a better job on LA’s shooters ? Sure, but CSLA is not a great shooting team, as a defense you want to cut off dribble penetration. The numbers tell you they are not going to go hog-wild from three-point range. Sometimes teams get hot, LA did so last night. Chico was able to force 22 turnovers which lead to 19 points, but Chico’s 14 turnovers were also converted into 19 points so the turnover battle was a draw.

The rebounding differential tells the whole story. Chico out-boarded CSLA 39-25 last Saturday night in a one point loss. On Tuesday LA out-rebounded Chico 40-30. That is a 24 rebound swing. What changed in four days ? This stat is simply about the fight. How much fight do you have in your gut ?

I think the thing that troubles me most is how small Chico State played when the lights were shining the brightest. I know how good this team is. I have seen them all year, but that was a passive performance in the biggest game of the year. Too many deferrals. Too many passed up open looks. Too many open 15-footers to drive into the paint where two defenders were waiting. I wanted to see toughness, fight, grit. I didn’t see it. That was very disappointing. Collectively, this team needed to say, “this #$%@# aint happening on my watch.” That didn’t happen. It needed to.

We have talked about wake up calls for this team, this is the ultimate in alarm ringers.  The situation the Cats find themselves in is totally and completely fixable. It’s not as if they have a problem here that can not be remedied. There is not another coach that I would want in charge of my program at this time than Greg Clink. Clink and his assistants Lucas Gabriel and Justin Blake have their work cut out.  I am pretty confident they will be having to use some tough love around this group over the next few days. If anyone can break a team down and build them back up for the regional, its Coach Clink. It also wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for this team to talk amongst themselves. The Cats have 9 days to put the puzzle back together. But, as we will explain. Chico getting to play more basketball is not such a sure thing anymore. Chico qualifying for their fifth straight NCAA Tournament no longer rests on their shoulders. Now it’s out of their hands.

UPSTARTS COULD UPSET CHICO

When you crunch regional numbers and Performance Index numbers of the best teams in the West Region, the worst numbers you can get are when you lose to a sub .500 team at home. That is exactly what Chico State did last night. The West Region rankings will be coming out in a few hours but they actually don’t mean a lot. What really matters from Chico State’s perspective is that we don’t see a ton of upsets in the CCAA,  GNAC and Pac-West Tournaments. Remember the winners of these post-season tournaments get an automatic bid to the NCAA’s. Even if these teams are well under .500. Winning this tourney gets them a bid. Here is where Wildcat fans need to put their rooting allegiances as these conference tourney’s get underway.

CCAA

Chico State fans need to pull for either UCSD or Cal Poly Pomona to win the CCAA Tournament. UCSD and Pomona play one another so one of these clubs is guaranteed a spot in the championship game on Saturday. Both Pomona and UCSD are ranked in the West Region rankings. The bad news for Chico is  either Humboldt or CSLA is also guaranteed a spot in the championship game and neither of these squads is ranked in the top-10 in the region, which means they will take a spot in the NCAA’s if they win the CCAA Tourney. If you are Chico fan, you are pulling for the Broncos or Tritons…..BIG TIME !

GNAC

The Great Northwest Conference Tournament gets underway on Thursday and this tourney will be nerve-wracking for Chico State. There are only two teams ranked in the top-8 in the region playing in this tournament. So, that means 4 of the 6 teams are not currently in the NCAA Tournament field but could bump a team, like Chico out. The top seed in the GNAC is Western Oregon. They get a first round bye and will play the winner of Seattle Pacific and Central Washington on Friday. Oddly, Seattle Pacific is the other team ranked in the West Region rankings but is only a 4-seed in this tournament.

The other GNAC match-up is Alaska Anchorage and Western Washington. The winner of this game plays Alaska-Fairbanks. None of these teams is ranked in the top-8 and is guaranteed at playing for an automatic bid to the NCAA’s. Fairbanks gets a first round bye. Here is another instance where a team NOT ranked in the top-8 in the region will be playing for the conference championship on Saturday.

So to sum up. Chico State wants either Western Oregon or Seattle Pacific to win the GNAC Championship Tournament. If either Alaska-Fairbanks, Alaska Anchorage, Central Washington or Western Washington win that tourney, Chico could be in trouble.

PAC-WEST TOURNEY

The Pacific West Tournament is another conference with a six team post-season tourney. The top seed is Azusa Pacific which is ranked in the top-8 in the region. The second seed in their tournament is Dixie State which is also ranked in the top-8 in the region. Cal Baptist is the third seed and also ranked in the top-8. Azusa, Dixie and Cal Baptist are all teams Chico wouldn’t mind seeing win this conference tournament. Here are the teams that could crash Chico’s party. Dominican, who the Cats beat earlier this year, are the sixth seed. They open post-season play against Cal Baptist. Chico is big Lancer fans.

The other match-up pits BYU-Hawaii versus Hawaii Pacific. The winner of this game takes on Azusa on Friday afternoon. Chico needs Azusa to win this game. A perfect scenario for Chico State would have Azusa Pacific playing Cal Baptist in the Pac West Tournament final.

****CHICO STATE IS PULLING FOR: POMONA, UCSD, SEATTLE PACIFIC, WESTERN OREGON, CAL BAPTIST, AZUSA PACIFIC AND DIXIE****

****CHICO STATE IS NOT PULLING FOR: HUMBOLDT STATE, CAL STATE LOS ANGELES, WESTERN WASHINGTON, CENTRAL WASHINGTON, ALASKA ANCHORAGE, ALASKA FAIRBANKS, BYU-HAWAII, HAWAII-PACIFIC, AND DOMINICAN.

By my estimation if there are upsets in two of the three conferences then Chico State is in big trouble. 48 hours ago Chico State basketball fans were looking at possible second round match-ups in the conference tourney and how their seed might be heading into the NCAA Tournament. Now, all Chico can do is sit back and hope they get invited to the dance.

*PHOTO COURTESY OF CHICO STATE ATHLETICS ON CHICOWILDCATS.COM

MARCH MADNESS IS HERE: Conference Tournaments Highlight a thrilling two weeks of Division II hoops.

All three west-region conferences will lace em up this week and begin post-season play, with many teams fighting for their West Regional lives.

It all starts tonight with first round play in the CCAA. Four games are on tap with Chico State, UC San Diego and Cal Poly Pomona all trying to bounce back from a disjointed final few games of their seasons.

WEST
Rank School Overall DII Record In-Region Record
1 Western Ore.                                    22-2        22-2
2 Chico St.                                               19-4        19-4
3 UC San Diego                                   19-5         18-5
4 California Baptist                           20-6         18-6
5 Seattle Pacific                                   18-7         18-7
6 Azusa Pacific                                     18-6         17-6
7 Cal Poly Pomona                            18-6          16-6
8 Dixie St.                                                15-8          15-8
9 Alas. Anchorage                              16-8          15-8
10 Alas. Fairbanks                             16-7           16-7

CCAA

Chico State was ranked number two in the official West Region rankings and knocked off Dominguez Hills 64-57, but fell to their first sub .500 team on the season Cal State Los Angeles 65-64 on Saturday night. The  CCAA Champion Wildcats are the top seed in the CCAA Tournament and will host Cal State Los Angeles at Acker Gymnasium tonight at 7pm. Chico played the game without their second leading scorer Corey Silverstrom. They are optimistic he will be back tonight.

UC San Diego was ranked third in the regional poll and they lost at home to Sonoma State 64-62. Like Chico, the Tritons will play Sonoma State again in the first round of the conference tourney. It will be interesting to see what the committee does with Chico and Sonoma and their late season losses. We saw Seattle Pacific take a dip three spots in the poll after their lone loss to a sub .500 team.

Cal Poly Pomona is hosting San Francisco State in another first round match-up. These two defensive minded teams should have a grind it out, knock down drag out ball game. Pomona was ranked 7th in the last regional poll. We still wait on this week’s poll, due out this Wednesday

The other game could be the most offensive and entertaining contest of the quartet. Humboldt State is hosting Cal State Monterey Bay. Both teams are prolific scoring clubs and both teams need to win their respective conference tourney’s to get into the NCAA Tournament.

The winner of the Chico/CSLA game will play the winner of Humboldt and Monterey on Friday afternoon at Noon.

The winner of the UCSD/Sonoma game will play the winner of the Pomona and SF State game on Friday at 2:30pm.

The Championship of the CCAA Men’s Basketball Championship is at 5pm in Stockton on Saturday afternoon.

GNAC

The six-team Great Northwest Conference Championship Tournament gets underway on Thursday. By Thursday we will have our latest installment of the regional rankings. The top two seeds in the GNAC get first round byes. Top-seed Western Oregon and 2-seed Alaska will get to sit and watch two pretty good games.

Third-seed Alaska Anchorage takes on Western Washington. Anchorage is firmly on the NCAA bubble. The Seawolves sit at number 9 in the latest West Region rankings.  They not only need to advance deep in the GNAC tourney, but they also most likely need Dixie State and maybe Pomona to stumble as well. Western Washington needs to win the GNAC Tourney to get the automatic bid. The game will be played at 12 noon on Thursday.

At 2:15 on Thursday Seattle Pacific will take on Central Washington. This is another game that should be a good one. We’ve been touting the Falcons all season. Their 61-50 win over Chico State in late November is still emblazoned in my memory bank. They have played a strong schedule, have only lost one game to a team below .500 all year. They sit in the number 5 spot in the region. Regardless of how they do in the conference tournament, they will be dancing next week at the regional. I have been impressed with Central all year but their resume just isn’t strong enough to get into the NCAA Tournament as an AT-LARGE team. They need to win this thing to get in

That brings us to Alaska. They have a first round bye, yet they are only number 10 in the West Region rankings. They would almost be better served playing a first round game and giving themselves a chance at another quality win. This does bring us to the dilemma that is non-conference scheduling and wins. There is no doubt the Nanooks should be in the discussion and are one of the best teams in the West, but every game matters and when you break down the regional criteria, they are lacking. They will probably need to win the tournament to get into the regional. All these teams have a chance. That is why this week, these games are so important.

PAC WEST

This Thursday the Pacific West Conference begins. They also have a six-team tournament with top two seeds getting first round byes. Top seed Azusa Pacific and second seed Dixie State will play their first games on Friday.

Sixth seeded Dominican will take on Cal Baptist on Thursday at 12:30. Dominican is looking for a great three-day run to punch an at-large ticket to the NCAA’s. The Penguins are a team that likes to spread you out, slash to the bucket and knock down the three. They can beat anyone on any given day. There is never a question about their effort. The Lancers are tournament tested and ironically sit two spots ahead of Azusa Pacific in the regional rankings. Cal Baptist could lose to Dominican and I still think they are in the regional. This should be a fun game to watch.

The other first round match-up has BYU-Hawaii taking on Hawaii Pacific. Neither of these teams is ranked in the top-10 in the regional so both the Seasiders and Silverswords need to win the post-season tourney to get the automatic bid. The winner of BYU-Hawaii and Hawaii Pacific will play Azusa on Friday at 5pm.

Dixie State will play the winner of Cal Baptist and Dominican at 12:30 on Friday. Dixie is in a similar situation to Anchorage. Right now they are at number eight in the regional. If they lose their first game they are putting themselves at great risk of being bumped out by a team that is not in the top-eight earning an automatic qualifier.

Dreams are dashed, dreams are fulfilled this week. The most important thing to note is that these conference championship tournaments are nice. They are fun. But, in the grand context they are third most important thing, IN MY OPINION, to win. The West Region Championship is the most important thing to win. Second, is winning the three-month struggle that is a regular season conference title. And, coming in a distant third is this three-day extravaganza. We have seen that these tourney’s do hold great sway when it comes to the final regional rankings and the NCAA Tournament field.

We are most likely headed to Monmouth for the regional next week. I would call it a virtual certainty. Enjoy the games everyone. Since I am bed-ridden for the week, I will be enjoying the games with all of you, on the various video and audio casts. I will post the latest regional rankings when they are released on Wednesday. Remember, this last installment of the regional rankings are nice, but they are expected to change SIGNIFICANTLY by next Sunday when the tournament field is announced.

Enjoy the games everyone !

*PHOTO COURTESY OF CHICO STATE ATHLETICS AT CHICOWILDCATS.COM