Before we get into todays matchup between Pepperdine and Portland I want to look back at what I said after the Gonzaga game:
"At this point Portland heads into an interesting stretch of their schedule. Portland’s next five games are vs. Santa Clara, vs. San Francisco, at LMU, at Pepperdine, and vs. Pacific. For the Pilots to threaten a top three WCC finish, they will need to win ALL of them. Winning 3 or 4 would be ok, but those losses can have a major impact on where the Pilots finish this season."
Well a couple weeks later and they have gone 1-2 with those two losses coming from the two teams that were considered the weakest competition. They now will have to try to salvage their WCC season against a really solid Pepperdine squad. These Portland Pilots are really in a situation that they did not want to be in.
Over the last three games, the Pilots have been playing uninspired basketball. They have given up way too many easy layups and open threes and in each of those games they have come out flat. Bottom line is Portland needs to be better in all aspects of the game. They need to defend better, shoot better, coach better.
If there are any positives to take for the past few games, it’s the play of the young Pilots. I haven’t talked a lot about Gabe Taylor but the freshman has been playing solid ball recently. Against LMU, it was Taylors play that led to a 12-3 run that brought Portland within one in the second half. Additionally, as always, Jason Todd has been super solid. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the younger Pilots see a lot more playing time over the next few games, starting today.
West Coast Convo’s Mark Kramer has the following to say of Pepperdine:
Pepperdine is red hot despite the fact that they are coming off a loss. They used their strong inside presence and excellent perimeter defense to push #3 Gonzaga to the limit and nearly pull off the upset of the year in the WCC on Thursday. At 4-2 in conference play with a marquee win at BYU already, they are becoming a legitimate contender.
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The Waves are led by Stacy Davis, a consistent source of points and rebounds who is one of the best bigs in the conference. The Pilots will have their hands full with him, and he’s the kind of guy you just hope to limit versus completely shutting down. Jett Raines is also a player to watch as his breakout performance has been a key factor. How these two match up against guys like Thomas Van der Mars and Volodymyr Gerun could decide this game.
On the outside, Jeremy Major leads a group of guards that is among the best in the nation at defending the perimeter shot. They kept teams like Gonzaga and BYU on their toes all night, and they can completely shut down the long range shooting of a team. For a team like Portland that likes the long range shot, that could be a big problem. Guys like Alec Wintering may find their normal number of three pointers hard to come by, and that’s exactly what the Waves want.
Despite having no seniors, the Waves boast amazing depth. Key role players like Atif Russell, Shawn Olden, and A.J. John will provide consistent production behind the stars. The Waves may be without Amadi Udenyi again as he has missed some time, but they have more than enough to make up for it. This team can overwhelm opponents with their defense and inside play, so the Pilots will need to play one of their best games to have a chance