Coaches vs. Cancer Classic
Portland Pilots (1-2)
Idaho Vandals (2-1)
Columbia Lions (1-2)
North Texas Mean Green (2-1)
Radio: Sports 910 AM and PortlandPilots.com
Live Video: PilotsVideo.com (Portland games only)
Portland returns from a promising yet unfruitful trip to East Lansing to host the four team, round robin, Coaches vs. Cancer Regional. The Pilots will square off against Idaho on Thursday (5:00 PM Tipoff), Columbia on Friday (7:00 PM Tipoff), and conclude the Classic against the Mean Green of North Texas on Saturday (7:00 PM Tipoff). Portland heads into the three game set having lost two in a row against Major Conference foes.
The Vandals come into the Classic sporting two wins over Western Illinois and NW Nazarene, sandwiching a loss to Oklahoma. Idaho is led by shooting guard Stephen Madison who is averaging 14.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. If the senior matches his season average he will reach the 1000 career points plateau, only the 14th Vandal to ever do so. As a team Idaho is averaging 70 points per game on 42% from the field.
Before Portland squared off with Michigan State, Columbia had the pleasure to take on the Spartans in East Lansing and faired a little better than the Pilots losing 62-53. The Lions come into Thursdays opener having beat Maryland Eastern, and losing to Manhattan by 1 and Michigan State by 9. Picked to finish 8th in the Ivy league, Columbia is led by Sophomore guard Grant Mullis who aveages 12 points per game while shooting 61% from the field including 45% from deep.
The Mean Green enter Thursday’s opener 35th in the country in scoring (87ppg) and 73rd in rebounding (41.5 rpg). In the past two games (a loss at Oklahoma and a win vs Nicholls State) North Texas has scored a combined 174 points. The Mean Green currently have 7 players averaging more than 8 points per game led by Alzee Williams who is averaging 20 point per game.
Keys for the Pilots:
Despite coming off two consecutive losses, the overall mood around the Portland program is optimistic. The Pilots played well against #1 Michigan State and need to take any confidence from that performance into this three-game set. This could be a turning point in the young season for Portland as a few wins could really propel the Pilots into the final month of their non-conference schedule. Conversely, if things don’t go well for the Pilots they could be looking at another long season. In past seasons, the Pilots have been inconsistent from game to game, playing well against top opponents, and then inexplicably losing winnable games against lesser opponents. For Portland to come out of this weekend 4-2, they will again need to take care of the ball and avoid the lapses in judgment that have haunted them in their two losses this season.
Fitness of the Pilots vs. Fitness of the other teams. With each team playing three games in three nights, conditioning and depth will be tested for sure. It will be interesting to see the contrasting styles of North Texas and Columbia and how each team fairs in the Classic. Don’t be surprised if Coach Reveno goes to his bench early and often. Games formatted like this do provide some good experience for future tournaments, mainly the WCC Championships at the end of the year. Overall it should be a fun weekend.
I’m making the trip out to Portland to see the three games live so I’m excited to see how everyone looks in Person.
So far its been Bailey, Nicholas, and Sharp as the scoring leaders. Will someone else (Voldy, Pressely or van der Mars) step up and lead the team in points?
Portland has given up way too many second chance and fast break points. Can the Pilots take care of these early season issues?
Follow me @davidvthompson on twitter for live updates. Also like I stated above I will be in Portland for the weekend so I will not do individual game recaps but will have a weekend recap up on Sunday.