The season one day away and expectations for the 2013-2014 Portland Pilots are all over the place. Overall the media is projecting this to be another down year for Coach Rev and Co. Internally optimism is a little easier to find. For example, last month the Portland Athletic Department chose the student submitted hashtag #YouDidntSeeThisComing as the official hashtag for the 2013-2014 Campaign.
The people in charge of this decision (I’m assuming a collection of PR personel, Coaching Staff, AD, etc.) fully understand the implications of choosing this as the official hashtag. The Pilots are saying “Yeah, we can ball with Oregon State in Corvallis (November 13), we can keep it manageable in East Lansing against number 2 Michigan State (November 18), we can make some noise in the WCC and finish in the top half. No one see’s that one coming but we believe.”
It’s the kind of “chip on our shoulder” attitude that the team has lost because of ridiculous difficult scheduling the past few seasons, but this season’s out of conference schedule is much more manageable, and is built in a way that could see Portland getting hot at the perfect time.
So without further ado, here are 5 bold 2013-2014 Portland Pilot predictions that #youdidntseecoming:
The Portland Pilots will be 10 games over .500 at some point this season. For most programs in the upper echelon of College Basketball this is a yearly occurrence, but for those like Portland that are trying to climb up to the top tiers, it’s a big stepping stone. In the Coach Reveno glory days Portland hovered around this level but they failed to take the final step up to a 25+ win team and they failed to ever make a WCC Championship game or NCAA tournament. The schedule plays out that if they take care of the teams there are supposed to take care of, plus win two of three against Oregon State, Princeton, and Bradley they will be 10-2 heading into WCC Conference play. With a front-loaded home schedule during WCC play the Pilots could be looking at a 11-4 or 12-3 record heading into a home game vs. Saint Mary’s. If Portland wants to surprise people these are the types of games that they need to win. Which leads me to my next bold prediction.
Portland will get two wins vs. the WCC Big Three (BYU, Gonzaga, and Saint Mary’s). The Pilots record vs. these three teams has been terrible. The Pilots have registered a few wins of Saint Mary’s at the Chiles Center over the past 10 seasons, but for every “W” registered against the top teams, there are two blowout losses. Two wins against the top three teams will definitely shock some people. In order to get these wins, Portland will have to take care of the ball, and shoot better from deep which is why:
Portland will be in the top three in the conference in three point shooting percentage. When the Pilots were winning 20+ games a season, they had lethal three point shooters. Jared Stohl was the purest shooter I have ever seen, TJ Campbell could shoot, as could Nemanja Mitrovic, Ethan Nedermeyer, and Nik Ravio. It wasn’t just one shooter, it was multiple shooters on the court at any time, which forced the defense to spread out, and all of a sudden there was space and open with high quality shot attempts. Last season the Pilots were at the bottom of the league shooting a terrible 31% from deep. This season they’ve brought in JuCo transfer Bobby Sharp who shot 44% from three at Santa Rosa Junior College last season. Additionally, the strength of Portland’s lineup are the posts, so look for the Pilots to go down low early, and when the defense collapses there should be space for Alec Wintering, Bryce Pressely, Kevin Baily, Bobby Sharp, and even Ryan Nicholas.
Speaking of some of the guards my fourth Prediction is that Bryce Pressely will be the most important athlete for the Pilots this season. The trendy names on Portland’s roster are Ryan Nicholas, Kevin Baily, and Thomas van der Mars. If any of these guys end up on the All-WCC team it would be a great accomplishment for sure, but I don’t think that it would be that surprising. But for Pressely, a sophomore who had a solid freshman campaign, the honor would really come out of nowhere for most WCC fans. Pressely has a very understated game. He rebounds very well from the guard position, and he always seems to do the right thing. He’s the type of player that may not take over a game, but he always seems to be making the smart play. If Portland is going to be shocking people, his game will surely stand out.
Finally, at the end of the season, Portland will play in the semi-finals of the WCC Championships. Portland has played in the game twice before, but never really threatened Saint Mary’s in those games, but with the change in the Tournament format, the playing field will be evened a bit. While I’m not predicting a WCC Tournament championship for the Pilots, I do believe that they will play with a chip on their shoulder all year long culminating in a solid season with a solid finish.