Category Archives: TALES OF PLAY-BY-PLAY

Peaking Wildcats making a run at a National Championship……

*THOUGHTS ON THE CHICO STATE WILDCATS FROM 35 THOUSAND FEET*

It’s not that we didn’t think they could do it, but to expect it was totally unfair.

The Chico State men’s basketball is in Sioux Falls, South Dakota getting ready to take on Lincoln Memorial at the Elite Eight for Division II basketball. The Wildcats magic carpet ride was punctuated last weekend with three splendid performances against the three respective regular season champions in the West Region.

First, Chico knocked off high-scoring Western Washington 96-83. Despite giving up 83 points the Wildcats were more than happy getting in a shootout with the Vikings. For the first time in a long time the Wildcats found room to move on the floor. Passing lanes that were clogged and impediments that were common place during CCAA play all of sudden turned into wide gulfs of space with which they could run their offense unimpeded against a Western team that gave up nearly 80 points a game. It must have felt like a jail-break for Chico State.

The free-flowing offense where movement and motion was rewarded. It had been a while since Chico had been that wide open for drives and shots. The game was truly a testament to how good the CCAA is. To win the CCAA you MUST play defense, if not you will get carved to pieces.

On day two the Wildcats encountered a frisky bulldog-tough type of team in Hawaii-Pacific. If the Sharks were a baseball team I would affectionately call them a bunch of “dirt-bags.” Fluidity of play and dogged aggressiveness characterized the Pacific West Conference Champions. We saw them systematically take care of the best defensive team in the country, CCAA-rival Sonoma State. I was thoroughly impressed with their defensive doggedness and anticipated Chico State would have their hands full.

Chico’s 15-point lead with 9:30 to go eventually turned into a one-point deficit with 1:55 to go. A furious 25-9 rally by the Sharks had the Wildcats on their heels, before Chico State righted the ship. The Wildcats ability to rescue the game after coughing up a 15 lead showed Chico State had come a long way in a year. After Isaiah Ellis took a charge with the Cats down and with 4 fouls, Robert Duncan made a driving lay-up. After Corey Silverstrom registered a steal and driving bucket the Cats had the whip-hand and outlasted HPU 77-74. The win showed many of us Chico State lifers a toughness that at times had been missing over the last few years. It’s hard to be critical of a team that has had as much success as the Wildcats for the last several years. But, sometimes and on rare occasions, when things went south, the Cats had a hard time pulling themselves out of the abyss, especially in the middle of a game. Not this time, though.

This Chico State team made winning plays to beat Hawaii-Pacific. Sealed the game with defense and disciplined offense and moved on to the regional championship game against UC San Diego.

The championship tilt against the rival Tritons will simply go down as one of the great basketball games in Chico State Wildcats history. 10 days before this title match-up UCSD had come out in the CCAA semi-final game and as All-American guard Robert Duncan said, “punched Chico in the mouth.” With 4 minutes left in the 1st half UCSD had jumped out to a 27-11 lead. The Wildcat offense was stagnant. There was not movement, no aggressiveness, a passivity to their flow that was not conducive to winning basketball. When the final horn sounded it was San Diego 65-53 over Chico State. The final score only told a portion of the story. The Tritons had taken the fight to Chico State, and for this team to accomplish the things they wanted to accomplish, that had to change.

Right from the out-set you could tell the Wildcats wouldn’t lose this game for a lack of fight. On their first possession they would grab two offensive rebounds. They would attack on the offensive end. The ball moved, the players moved, there was cutting and motion, it was a thing of beauty. It was nothing like the three games the Wildcats had played against UCSD this year. There was a precision and rhythm to the Cats’ offensively that showed this team at their peak. To quote Norman Dale in the movie Hoosiers, “all pistons firing operating as one.”

Ellis was simply other-worldly. The Wildcat junior scored 19 of his game high 34 in the first half. The Tritons having watched Chico hit 25-of-50 from three-point range in the first two games of the regional were reluctant to double Ellis, out of fear of leaving the triumvirate of Wildcat shooters open, they paid the price.

Even after an 11-0 run by the Tritons sent their faithful into a frenzy, giving UCSD a 57-51 lead, Chico would counter with a 14-7 run of their own and this time it was more than Ellis. Corey Silverstrom would get hot taking top of the key and wing three’s to set it off. All the other pieces for the Cats played well including the other duo on the “core-fore” Jalen McFerren and Duncan. The beauty of Duncan’s play is he facilitated much of the Wildcat success. In past year’s Chico had to have Duncan score, but this year Duncan and Wildcats thrive when he facilitates ball movement and action. His talents necessitates constant attention. That attention opens things up for his mates and in the regional Duncan has never been better. McFerren took the slings and arrows from all teams to run the offense with continuity and flow. His 37-minute 1 turnover performance may be one of the more over-looked great games of the season for the Cats, but not by those of us that saw him play.

Everyone in uniform for Chico State played well against San Diego. In retrospect there just wasn’t a player who didn’t play well, that how championship teams are crowned.

With as well as the Wildcats played they still had to withstand an incredible shooting display by the Tritons. UCSD shot 14-of-26 from three-point range, making Chico State pay for their double-teams against sophomore post Chris Hansen. The complimentary pieces were tremendous for San Diego, but as CCAA-MVP Adam Klie said after the game, “we just couldn’t get stops. They (Chico) just played really well.”

Knocking off three conference champions in four days is not an easy task. When you do it, deep down you have to think all things are possible and that is the attitude the Chico State Wildcats bring to Sioux Falls. The Cats finished in a tie for third in the CCAA, got knocked out in the semis of the CCAA Conference Tournament but their championship pedigree is undeniable.

This Chico State core pushed themselves to heightened levels of exhaustion just to win a CCAA regular season title in 2016. They would never win another game the night after they clinched. They expended so much energy to win that regular season title, they had nothing left.

There was a conscious effort as many Wildcats professed to me in October to perform and win in the NCAA Tournament. The conference accolades and rewards were nice, but the NCAA Tournament riches are better. This team knew this, and their experience in losing in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years lit a flame that, at times dimmed slightly, but never extinguished.

They are peaking. They are hungry. And, they don’t feel like they are anywhere near finished.

 

Chico State baseball family says “goodbye” to a man who taught us all how to be a grinder……

The Chico State baseball family buried a young man this week way too soon.

Aaron Demuth was 31 years old. He was laid to rest on Monday in his hometown of Vacaville. Those of us that knew him were not surprised to see a standing room only crowd where the church services were held.

To know Aaron was to like him. What was there not to like ? The gregarious towering man was jovial and fun-loving. Those that knew him best always said he had so much zest for life and attacked life with passion.

Aaron was a devoted family man who loved his family and friends. He had a special affinity for hunting and baseball. Depending on how the Giants were doing depended on what he loved more. Aaron passed away after a 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer. It was a courageous fight that saw Aaron live by the moniker that has been a hallmark of the Chico State program……GRIND.  Aaron and his equally as devoted and courageous wife, Lindsey fought, scratched, clawed and “grinded” their way through the fight.

As I recalled memories of Aaron, one singular moment comes to mind and tells you a lot about the Demuth family. It was a Chico State game in 2006 and the Wildcats were playing the San Francisco State Gators. The day before the game I had gone to the Bay Meadows race track and here I sat 24 hours later after that visit to watch the ponies and I wasn’t feeling too well. I had obviously eaten something that didn’t agree with me and within minutes my play-by-play calls had turned into a desperate attempt and hope that the inning would end so I could go get sick somewhere. When I finally was able to leave my broadcast set, I saw Aaron’s father, Glenn approach me.

“Mike, are you Ok?” He asked. “Not so much I am gonna get sick.” Having never met Glenn, but knowing who he was, I was appreciative he checked on me. As I stayed near the bushes and got sick, Glenn proceeded to leave a game that his son was playing in and went to get me some water. By the time he got back, which was a few innings later since there was no snack bar in San Francisco, I was feeling a little better. Mr. Demuth didn’t have to do that, but he did. It has always stuck with me as a sign of genuine kindness when you really don’t have to be.

It was a simple gesture. In the grand scheme of life, it was a small thing. But, the compassion and caring that Glenn Demuth showed me that day a great example of why Aaron turned out the way he did. It was selfless and kind. The apple certainly didn’t fall too far from the tree.

Many of his former Chico State teammates will have their memories of Aaron. Aaron’s baseball exploits are legendary and some of his home runs are still sailing through the stratosphere somewhere. Whether Aaron swung as hard as you could and connected for a colossal blast, or whether he swung and missed. He did it with aplomb and passion.

My memories will be a of a guy who played on two of the most memorable teams in Chico State history (2006-2007) He hit some big home runs and had some big hits for this program. But, I will remember him as a guy who didn’t just give lip service to the “GRINDER” moniker. Aaron is the ultimate grinder in the game of life, and in that we can all celebrate and take great pride.

You will be missed Aaron. Let your Chico State baseball family grind for you now

LISTEN TO SOME OF AARON DEMUTH’S BIGGEST HITS IN HIS CHICO STATE CAREER, INCLUDING A WALK-OFF TWO RUN HOME RUN IN THE 1ST ROUND OF THE 2006 NCAA WEST REGION CHAMPIONSHIPS…..

 

From outhouse to penthouse as Cats claim CCAA Tourney title

Be honest, you didn’t think they could do this. Be honest, No fibs here people.  After a tumultuous and sometimes rocky ride the 2016 Chico State Wildcats baseball team silenced the doubters and in turn wrote their own glorious chapter in Chico State baseball lore.

With four wins in four days, squeezed around a gut-wrenching loss the Cats summoned the guts and guile of some of Chico State’s greatest teams. The Wildcats have punched their ticket to the NCAA West Regional.

Chico State not only limped into the conference tournament, they needed a walker. Chico had dropped 5 of 8 against two sub .500 teams and had lost 13 of 22 over a five-week stretch. Even the greatest of optimists would have been pushing the envelope in thinking the Wildcats could turn the table.

In the end, this is a story about a team that refused to be deterred, refused to let recent poor performance dictate their current circumstance and a team that showed a toughness and resiliency that has been a hallmark of the Chico State program.

In winning the school’s fourth CCAA Conference Tournament title the Wildcats exorcised numerous demons from the previous three months. Their win over Pomona avenged a 9-2 shellacking where CCAA Pitcher of the Year Michael Koval threw a three-hitter over 8 innings out-pitching Clayton Gelfand. This time Gelfand twirled 7 gutty innings, not giving up an earned run and holding Pomona to 1-for-16 hitting with runners on base and 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Their win over Monterey Bay signaled the signature moment for sophomore starter Hunter Haworth. He not only won two must-win contests against Sonoma and Stanislaus over the last couple of weeks, but he shoved against the power hitting Otters. Haworth scattered five hits over 8 innings and carved up a potent Monterey line-up.

The win over East Bay on Friday night was a performance for the ages by Steven Baker. The right-hander had lost six straight decisions, primarily out of the bullpen. His gem came just a day after surrendering a game tying double to UC San Diego with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the 9th inning. But Baker shoved all of that aside and shut-down the conference’s best-hitting team, limiting East Bay to 7 hits and 2 runs over seven and a third innings as Chico played themselves into the title game with a 4-2 win.

There are not enough superlatives we can shower on Wildcat reliever Grant Wright. The submarining right-hander took the ball in the fourth inning of the title game on Saturday, pitching in his fifth straight game and for the fourth straight day. Wright pitched 5 innings of one run ball before tiring in the 9th. But, his tenacity and bulldog demeanor signified a sea-change for this 2016 team.

Historically this is a program that doesn’t get “excited” by CCAA Tournament championships. There hasn’t always been an emphasis put on this tournament,  but this year was different. Chico State played so poorly down the stretch that their regional lives were hanging in the balance. There were scenarios that if Chico went 0-2 or even 1-2 in this tournament that they would not be going to the regional. Faced with the prospect of folding and completing an epic collapse, the Wildcats instead chose to fight, to dig deep, to grind, to “figure it out” as a club. No one could do it for them. This was all about those guys in that uniform. So, while we all celebrate them and what our favorite baseball team accomplished. I think this group should take great pride in the fact that they rescued a season that was sinking fast. They went on a run against some very good teams and played at a championship level. I for one see no reason why they can’t continue this amazing run.

A week ago  Wildcat faithful were lamenting a series loss to Stanislaus State. But now, here we sit, with a banner that will hang from the rafters of Acker. I put nothing past this group. They remind me of another group of ne’er do wells, the 2006 Wildcats. Supremely talented, frustrating at times, but gutty and hard-nosed. Each and every time that team was counted out, they responded, they refused to give in. This group has had a ton of chances to do the same thing, they haven’t quit.

There has been nothing easy about this season. The players will tell you that, the coaches will tell you that, the fans, heck even the broadcaster, but I would rather go to battle with a group that has been tested, then a team that has faced no adversity all season long.  No one can ever take away the last four days from this group. This feat belongs to them. And now they have a chance to add a chapter or two to this amazing story.

*PHOTO COURTESY OF CHICO STATE ATHLETICS VISIT THEIR WEBSITE AT CHICOWILDCATS.COM 

New found love for CCAA Tournament….

Sometimes out of a necessity you embrace something that has been seen as a hindrance or speed bump to your overall success. We see it all the time in every walk of life. How many times has a conservative complained about big government Medicare and prescription drug benefits, only to tout the programs when they desperately need them. Necessity breeds understanding.

This is where the Chico State Wildcats baseball program  is today. Embracing the CCAA Tournament as their sole life line to the NCAA West Region Championship tournament. Historically this early post-season confluence of conference foes was a pre-cursor and tune-up for the big prize, the regional. Nothing could be further from the truth this week.

The CCAA Championships is the Wildcats nadir. Their regional hopes ride on their performance over the next four days . I know it. They know it.

I will spare the Wildcat faithful the insidious numbers since April 3rd. I would rather focus on when this team was a dynamic offensive machine hitting nearly .340 as a club with an on base percentage hovering near .420. Sitting at 22-6 on the night of April 2nd in San Marcos, I never thought they would be in this position.

Several years ago after a change in Wildcat fortunes I said, “baseball is a fickle mistress.” She has never been so downright audacious.

There is no diminishing the conference tournament today in Wildcat land. It is Chico’s lifeline to more baseball next week. I saw this team perform with machine-like efficiency for two months, its time to recapture the magic.

For 20 years Chico State baseball has been about performing when the lights shine the brightest, they are shining. I fully expect them to rise to the occasion

Chico State parents turn on one of their own

The old adage is, if you go to the ballpark you will see something you have never seen before each and every time you go. That certainly happened to me over the weekend broadcasting the Chico State and San Francisco State series from San Francisco.

As the Chico State Wildcats were playing game two of their double-header on Saturday afternoon, a miniature up-rising of Chico State parents took exception to my descriptions and analysis of what was happening on the field. Let me be clear, it is well within their right to question my descriptions, especially if they are present and disagree. Hell, they can even disagree if they are not present. Momma and poppa can certainly think the radio guy is a horses arse and refuse to give his calls, descriptions and opinions any credence. I have no problem with that. They aren’t the first and they certainly won’t be the last. But, there were some comments that I did take exception to, and feel my role as a play-by-play broadcaster needs to be clarified.

First a little background, I grew up learning the trade listening and admiring the great Bill King. His descriptions and accounts were impeccably on point. His detractors cite his effusive opinions that didn’t pull any punches. He is the guy I admired. He taught me the game. King called a spade a spade and I loved that about him.

In my 19 years behind the microphone I have had several mis-steps during games. It kind of goes with the territory when you broadcast for hours on end. You come to expect the occasional foible, it’s part of the deal. It usually comes when a broadcaster backs themselves into a corner verbally, and they flail to get out. Saturday was not one of those days, which makes the parental outburst all that more confusing.

During the game in question Saturday, the Chico State pitcher was struggling with his command, struggling to find his location and hit his spots. You combine this with a ridiculously small and tight strike zone and you have the makings for some trouble. So, as the pitches continued to be called balls, and the frustration mounted the peanut gallery (Chico State fans) got a little bit perturbed and start voicing their displeasure toward the home plate umpire. Let me add, all well within their right. But, in San Francisco my broadcasting venue is behind the back-stop to the left of home plate. Not directly behind home plate, but to the left. My crowd microphone was picking up everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. There came a point, where those of us behind the dish got a little uncomfortable with the comments, as San Francisco State staff and myself kind of looked around to witness the vociferous reactions. As the broadcaster, knowing listeners at home were hearing this, I felt I needed to expound upon the reactions that were being transmitted through the crowd mic.

As the pitches out of the strike zone mounted, the voices grew louder. My contention on the broadcast was, “if you are a pitcher, and you don’t have any command of the strike zone you should not expect border line pitches to be called strikes from an umpire that has a tight zone and hasn’t seen you establish any of your pitches.” Broadcasting out in the open is never really fun. It’s better to be self-contained in a booth where one can have some semblance of privacy, in this instance I needed it.

Chico State parents took exception to this analysis of the strike zone and where these pitches actually were. Some of the comments that reigned down, “get with it, you are clueless.” (Good One), “you are a Chico State announcer, you shouldn’t be saying these things, you need to be supportive of Chico State” (talk about this in a moment) “I am behind home plate, these pitches are right over the plate, you have no idea what you are talking about.” (LOL)

Love it !!!!

Let me answer a few of these things since I couldn’t answer my “home” fans while on the radio. First, any parent or fan would be hard pressed to find someone who wants Chico State to win more than me. Chico State is my alma mater. I have broadcast Chico State athletics for 23 years dating back to my days as a student. I absolutely want Chico State to win in all athletic endeavors every single time without exception. My competitiveness when it comes to Chico State winning is obsessive. I am happy and gleeful when they win, I am bummed and trudge around the house when they lose. So, this inference that I relish their demise is comical.

My job as a radio broadcaster is to provide, what I believe to be an accurate account of what is taking place for the Chico State fans. It’s not to sugar-coat a sub-par performance from an athlete when he or she isn’t performing. This is not an indictment on that player as a person, it’s just about their performance. I would venture to guess not many of those in attendance on Saturday would agree with the legions around the conference who have asserted that I am the ultimate”homer” in the CCAA. I have never thought of myself as a “homer” where I mask the performance of Chico State athletes with platitudes.

Being called “clueless” been there…..done that. “No idea what I’m talking about” not the first time I”ve heard that. “Being a Chico State announcer, and having to tailor my description a certain way.” Well, I haven’t done that for 23 years and it’s probably not a good idea to start now.

The crux of the problem on Saturday was I simply didn’t think command had been established, so when a pitcher throws some borderline pitches, doesn’t get them, and then complains, he isn’t going to get any calls. The peanut gallery can disagree, heck even Chico State head coach Dave Taylor got ejected for his disgust with the strike zone. I agree, the zone was tiny and it was horrible. How else would a 7-inning game last three hours ? What I was trying to impart, as I usually do during a broadcast is “today, those aren’t strikes, and if you want them to be strikes, you better have command.” If I was an umpire, I wouldn’t have called those strikes either. I can certainly empathize with Chico State fans who thought the San Francisco State pitcher was getting those borderline calls. In fact, he was. He was also getting hit hard by Wildcat hitters. Therefore there weren’t a lot of deep and leveraged counts.

The passion of Chico State fans is unmatched. I am far from perfect. I make mistakes all the time. Heck, I may even be wrong about this. But one thing has always been clear to me, being a Chico State broadcaster shouldn’t blind me to the reality of the action, and Saturday it didn’t.

 

 

 

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

Chico/Pomona: It was a great night….except for the ending

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Last Friday night’s Chico State and Cal Poly Pomona nationally televised men’s basketball game had everything. The Chico State students with a rousing rendition of the national anthem. The artistry of Wildcat junior Robert Duncan, and an 18 point lead with 10 minutes to go…..

But then, the floor caved in.  We look back at a memorable albeit unfulfilling night at Acker Gymnasium

*PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHICO STATE ATHLETICS AT CHICOWILDCATS.COM

D-II West Region Men’s Basketball Breakdown; Regional Rankings

In early November there are 38 teams in the Western Region that have designs at earning a bid to the NCAA Division-II Men’s Basketball Tournament. In a little more than three weeks only EIGHT teams from the West Region will have qualified for the madness that comes in March.

Those eight squads come from the Great Northwest Conference (11 teams), the Pacific West Conference (14 teams) and the California Collegiate Athletic Association (13 teams.)

It is not an enviable endeavor for the NCAA West Region Committee. This group is a mixture of coaches and athletic administrators that are tasked with crunching a specific set of criteria to determine the best eight teams in the region. This criteria is multi-pronged and multi-faceted and is designed to take the human element out of the equation. Here are the criteria for the teams wanting to make the Division-II Men’s NCAA Tournament……

  1. In-Region winning %
  2. D-II Win%
  3. D-II Strength of Schedule (SOS)
  4. D-II Head-to-Head
  5. D-II Common Opponents

For every Division-II sport there are THREE ADDED criteria. For men’s basketball they are as follows……

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.)
  3. RPI is won/lost record, opponents strength of schedule (SOS) and opponents’ opponents (SOS)

For the purposes of this blog we are not going to break down all eight categories, but we will give you a general overview based on certain criteria that the committee must consider.

Contrary to what many may think this is a numbers based strict criteria that is designed to get the best eight teams from every region. When the process ends there are usually a few teams that are distraught that their name wasn’t called, but most of the time there was something they could have done about it. If you want to go to the NCAA Tournament its’ pretty simple…….WIN !

Pet Peeve. Remember when analyzing teams, wins against teams that ARE NOT Division-II teams DO NOT COUNT. They are basically scrimmages. The committee does not take Division-I, NAIA or Division-III wins into account. So, remember, schedule those cupcakes at your own peril……..

Below are 17 teams that I believe are vying for 8 spots in the Division-II West Regional. Six of these teams are in real good positions, but all of these teams realize they could be bounced from the rankings after the three respective conference tournaments in the GNAC, Pac-West and CCAA. The winners of those tournaments in two-and-a-half weeks get the AQ (automatic qualifier) into the NCAA Tournament. This means if you are sitting in the bottom half of the regional rankings and you are bounced from your conference tourney, you better hope there are not upsets in other conferences that could knock you out.

Alright let’s look at the 17 teams that are in the mix……

LOOKING GOOD

WESTERN OREGON WOLVES- The Wolves are ranked number one in the nation and I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be ranked number one in the West Region. They have been virtually flawless all season long. With D-II and D-II in region records of 19-1  and a season sweep of perennial power Seattle Pacific, their resume is as close to a clean sheet as you get. They lost to Central Washington and D-I Oregon, and that’s it. The Wolves are 8-1 versus +.500 teams, 11-2 on the road. They have a huge road-trip taking on Anchorage and Alaska this weekend. Barring an Alaskan meltdown, I don’t see them falling from their perch. Unless they really stumble, we could all be heading to Monmouth for the Men’s 2016 West Regional.

CHICO STATE- The Wildcats sit atop the CCAA by virtue of their big road win at UC San Diego last weekend. The Wildcats are 18-3 against D-II and D-II regional foes and have not lost to a sub .500 team all year. Chico is 7-3 against plus .500 teams and is 10-2 on the road. They play three of their final four at home, but two of those games are this weekend against Pomona and Humboldt. Pomona dealt Chico one of  their lone losses in early January. Chico has taken care of business, and they have put themselves in a good spot with two weeks to go.

UC SAN DIEGO- The Tritons let a golden chance to put a strangle-hold on the CCAA regular season title slip through their fingers last Friday, but that doesn’t mean this team isn’t as close to a lock for the regional as both Western Oregon and Chico. The Tritons have the most plus .500 D-II wins in the region along with Seattle-Pacific at NINE. They are 9-3 against good teams. They are tied with the Wolves and Cal Baptist with 19 D-II wins at 19-4. The Tritons are 10-1 on the road. The one loss on the schedule that is against a sub .500 team is against Monterey Bay, but the Otters don’t figure to be a sub .500 team when the season ends. In my opinion the Tritons have nothing to worry about. I think they are in, the only question is whether they will be wearing  their home or road jersey in the first round of the NCAA’s.

 SEATTLE PACIFIC- This perennial power is 17-6 against D-II and in-region opponents. There is not one bad loss on their resume. All their losses have come against quality opponents. The Falcons have played the most difficult schedule BY FAR of anyone in the region. 15 of their 24 games have come against teams over .500. In those games they are 9-6. They are also an impressive 10-3 on the road including a big win at Chico in November. I like teams, check that, I LOVE teams that schedule good teams and I really love teams that schedule good teams on the road. SPU is a no brainer in my opinion. They have put up good to great numbers against quality opponents. They deserve a return trip to the dance.

CAL BAPTIST- Speaking of difficult schedules, here are the Lancers. With a 19-6 record against D-II opponents and a 16-6 in region record Cal Baptist is a much deserving squad. Only SPU has played more plus .500 teams. the Lancers are 7-5 against plus .500 clubs. Cal Baptist has only played 10 road games and they are 5-5, although they will finish the season on the road against some of the bottom teams in the Pac West. They are looking for their third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. Right now they are trying to not be in the bottom three in the final regional ranking, they don’t want to be a team edged out if upsets occur in the conference tournaments. With no bad losses, the Lancers should buy their dancing shoes.

AZUSA PACIFIC- Azusa Pacific is 16-6 against D-II opponents sweeping Cal Baptist and Dixie State on the year. They are also an impressive 8-4 against plus .500 teams.  They also went on the road and did some work going 8-3. Oddly they have two losses against teams  that could finish below .500 (Fresno Pacific & Dominican) and that might hurt their power rating. They have a tough home game against Concordia and then head to the Hawaiian islands for three games. This is a tough stretch. It will help their power rating but if they lose two or  three games down the stretch, the LOOKING GOOD label will turn into a bubble team real fast. Pivotal 10 days for Azusa Pacific.

BETTER THAN BUBBLE

CAL POLY POMONA- I really wanted to put Pomona in the LOOKING GOOD column but those losses a month ago to Cal State Los Angeles and Dominguez Hills just stand out like a thumb that was slammed into a car door. The Broncos are 16-5 against D-II opponents and 15-5 against D-II in region teams. When they play plus .500 teams they figure it out going 6-2. They have good wins against Chico and Azusa Pacific. They are also a glittering 9-3 on the road. If they beat Chico this Friday night on the road and sweep the season series from the Wildcats, book the Broncos reservations. I have always said, bad losses hurt worse than good wins feel good. Despite the strong resume, those two losses to teams with a combined 15 wins are still hurting Pomona. They look like a tournament team. They feel like a tournament team, but they still have some work to do.

ALASKA ANCHORAGE- The Seawolves have a strong case for a bid. While they only have 14 D-II wins, half of those victories have come against teams with a better than .500 record (7-4 versus plus .500) They are also an impressive 9-4 on the road. While we can’t take their travel considerations into account, that is an impressive number. They do have two bad losses against sub .500 teams (Dominguez Hills & Montana State-Billings) and if they can’t bolster that resume a bit before selection Sunday it could hurt them. They will have a chance to strengthen the ole resume hosting Western Oregon on Saturday and playing at Central Washington next week. Very good numbers but in a stacked West Region, they have some vulnerabilities.

BUBBLING OVER

HAWAII PACIFIC- Hawaii Pacific is in a tough spot. On one hand you look at their 17 wins and you consider them a shoo-in for the dance. But when you dig deeper you see a team that only has 13 D-II wins. In my opinion they haven’t done enough with a schedule that hasn’t been as tough as other teams in the Pacific West Conference. It really isn’t their fault that they were only scheduled to play Cal Baptist, Azusa Pacific and Dixie State once  this year. But, this crushes their strength of schedule (SOS.) They ended up beating Azusa and Cal Baptist but those are only two of their 4 wins against teams with plus .500 records. They are only 4-5 against good teams. They are 7-6 on the road. I think they need a strong finish to the regular season and deep run in the Pac West Tourney. They also need to hope there aren’t big upsets in the other conference tournaments. Definition of a bubble team…..

DIXIE STATE- After a pedestrian two months of hoops the Red Storm are charging hard, the question is whether it will be enough. Dixie State has won five in a row and all of sudden has put themselves in the conversation. They are 14-8 against D-II opponents and 5-6 against teams with plus .500 records. They can tout that they haven’t lost a game to a sub .500 team all year. Dixie is 6-5 on the road and with three of their final four on the road, they need to keep putting W’s on the board. They will also need a deep run in the conference tournament, but based on history, committees usually like teams that get hot late in the season. Bubbilicious….

CENTRAL WASHINGTON- The Wildcats from Ellensburg have some numbers that make us sit up and take notice, but they also have one that makes us question them as well. Central is 13-6 against D-II opponents but they are only 3-5 against teams with a better than .500 record (3-5.) But, they are the ONLY D-II team to beat Western Oregon. Because of that  and their strong 7-4 road record I believe they do deserve consideration. Like Hawaii Pacific and Dixie, Central needs a strong finish and a big time run in their conference tournament. I want to see more wins against teams with a better than .500 record. I am sure the committee wants to see that as well. Big League Chew Bubble Gum…..

HUMBOLDT STATE- Here is another team that on the surface looks like a true contender for an NCAA berth. But FIVE of their 17 wins are not against D-II opponents. This just kills their resume. Non D-II wins don’t count. So, the Jacks only have 12 D-II wins and  this doesn’t help their cause. They only have a 4-5 record against plus .500 D-II teams. What does help their cause is they have a win against UC San Diego on the road. They only have one bad loss at Dominguez Hills. If I want to see more from the Jacks, then I would guess so does the committee. They’ll have their chance as they travel to Chico this weekend.

BYU-HAWAII- The Seasiders have had several near misses, and that could cost them a spot in the tournament. A few weeks ago with a one-point lead at Cal Baptist all they had to do was either make a lay-up or dribble the clock out and get fouled. Instead they lost in excruciating fashion at the buzzer. BYU-Hawaii is 12-9 against D-II opponents and in-region. They are only 4-6 against plus .500 teams but they are 6-5 on the road. I watch them and they “look” like a tournament team. But, the resume is a little thin and they have some work to do to firmly state their case. An impressive late season run is imperative, and even with that it may not be enough. They need to eye-ball that automatic qualifier.

SAN FRANCISCO STATE- I put them here because they are 13-9 against D-II opponents but with a sub .500 record at 8-9 in the CCAA I don’t think they can get an at-large berth. They are an impressive 7-4 on the road which helps their power rating. They are 4-5 against teams with a plus .500 record. If the Gators want to  those alligator zapatos and hit the dance floor they probably need to beat UC San Diego this weekend in La Jolla. If not the resume is just too thin. Their best chance is the automatic qualifier.

SONOMA STATE- I am honestly a little shocked Sonoma State is not better than 13-10 against D-II teams. They are also only 8-9 in the CCAA. Sonoma beat Chico at home and then took them overtime. But, with a 3-7 record against plus .500 D-II teams, Sonoma needs to win the CCAA Tourney. they have three losses against sub .500 teams and that hurts their cause as well.

POINT LOMA- The Sea Lions are 11-10 against D-II opponents and are worth a mention but they are only 2-8 versus teams over .500. That will not cut it. They are an impressive 6-4 on the road, but again this is a team that will need an automatic qualifier to get in.

MONTEREY BAY- I know the Otters may only be 11-12 but hear me out on this one. The Otters started the season 0-5. I saw them in Monmouth at Thanksgiving and they looked like a rudderless team. No leadership. Saw them 10 days ago and they were a completely different group. They have wins against UC San Diego, at Pomona and against San Marcos. They were up 13 at Chico with 9 minutes to play and frittered that lead away. The Otters are dangerous. The three-headed monster of Evan Zeller, Alex Fertig and Ryan Nitz are legit and when they play together and unselfishly they are potent. I don’t like including teams under .500 on the bubble, but if one qualifies, this is it. They can’t get in without the automatic qualifier. The dangerous thing is they probably know this and are gearing up for the stretch run.

BITOBACA WEST REGION RANKING

  1. Western Oregon
  2. Chico State
  3. UC San Diego
  4. Seattle Pacific
  5. Azusa Pacific
  6. Cal Baptist
  7. Cal Poly Pomona
  8. Alaska Anchorage
  9. Central Washington
  10. Dixie State

NOTE I had Cal Baptist ranked higher than Azusa Pacific, but since Azusa swept Cal Baptist and they are ranked next to each other in the regional rankings Azusa gets the higher ranking. By my understanding the committee is required to put Azusa higher than Cal Baptist in cases like this based on head-to-head match-ups and the decided advantage Azusa has on Cal Baptist.

It should also be noted that Concordia from Irvine and Cal State San Marcos are ineligible for the post-season since they are new entrants into their respective conferences. They should both be eligible for post-season play next year.

What does my ranking mean ? Absolutely nothing ! Just my opinion. Besides, there is so much basketball still to be played these rankings will be in constant motion. One thing I do know…..there are nearly 20 teams that still have that dream of making a deep March run and regardless of how their seasons have gone so far, they can still make that dream a reality.

We will update this blog when the OFFICIAL rankings are released ! Enjoy March Madness one of our favorite times of the year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Baca is broadcasting Chico State men’s and women’s basketball for his 19th season