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

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