Come April, there are always a few moments that teams can point to as a “pivot-point”. A pivot-point is similar to a turning point, but a little less dramatic. I think right now could be one of those pivot-points for this Portland Pilots team.
Portland had a brutal opening three games in the WCC, managing to steal a win at San Diego to salvage a 1-2 record, and now sits 6th in the WCC, one spot behind Santa Clara. The next six games however present Portland with a real possibility to position themselves to make a real run to finish in the top 3. The Pilots will host Santa Clara and San Francisco this week, travel to LMU and Pepperdine next week, and final host Pacific and Saint Mary’s the following week. A 6-0 record over those games would be amazing, 5-1 would be real solid, 4-2 would be ok, but anything 3-3 or worse would be disappointing, and a huge blow to the Pilots top 3 aspirations.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves; it starts tonight against Santa Clara. West Coast Convo editor Mark Kramer has the following preview for tonight’s matchup:
“The Broncos will have a tough time matching up against the Pilots, but they are coming off what could be a season-altering win over San Diego. The Broncos not only got a momentum building comeback win, but how they did it was very encouraging. This is a team that leans a lot on the high scoring duo of Brandon Clark and reigning WCC Newcomer of the Year Jared Brownridge. But in their win over the Toreros, Brownridge took a backseat and dished out a career-high in assists while Clark and quality big men like Washing State transfer Matt Hubbard provided plenty of offense.
The new look makes for a much more complete team, and the Broncos have more depth and talent than their 7-8 record would suggest. The game against the Pilots could provide some good fireworks with both teams boasting some very potent long range shooters. Brownridge and Alec Wintering in particular are two of the best three point shooters in the WCC. They are currently 5th and 1st respectively in three point field goal percentage.
Unfortunately for the Broncos, they struggle inside including being a very weak rebounding team. They have never recovered from losing big man Yannick Atanga for the season during non-conference play. Thomas Van der Mars and Volodymyr Gerun should have their way with the Broncos under the hoop, and it will likely be the difference maker in this one. The Broncos will hope to limit turnovers and out-shoot the Pilots while forcing steals, but their weakness inside is often too much to overcome.
The Broncos run hot and cold quite a bit as evident by some blowout losses, and this could go in that direction playing in a tough environment against a stronger team. But even if everything goes right, the advantage still goes to the Pilots. For a team gunning to be a breakout contender there’s no excuse for Portland to drop this one at home if they play the way they should. The Broncos will sneak up on them if they’re not careful.”
I think Mark’s analysis is spot on. A few random thoughts about the game from Portland’s perspective. Kevin Bailey is probable to return but I don’t really foresee him seeing extended minutes as Rev and his staff probably want to ease him back into the rotation. Also on the injury report, Pressley is questionable for tonight after suffering a concussion during the Gonzaga game. Pressley hasn’t been putting up huge numbers, but really he has a big impact for this team and this could be a huge loss for the Pilots. With those two not quite 100%, Jason Todd, Bobby Sharp, and D’Marques Tyson will all have an elevated role.