Last week was a rough one for the Portland Pilot program. Portland went into the week looking for a turnaround from a bad loss to San Francisco, but instead of being inspired the Pilots came out flat, and essentially all of the good vibes that Pilot fans had felt over the past year from wins over Gonzaga and BYU ran out with that performance.
Portland rebounded a tad by competing against a solid Pepperdine club, but moral victories are losses, and only satisfying for young teams that are in rebuilding mode. Portland is not that. They are in win-now mode, and last I looked it’s been two weeks since they’ve won.
But forget the past, let’s look ahead. At this point, Portland is focused on securing a top 6 spot, so they can at least play on the weekend in Las Vegas at the WCC Championships, and because of that, tonight is all of a sudden a game with major implications. Portland is currently tied for 6th with Pacific, San Francisco, and San Diego. At this point, every game against a bottom half opponent plus Santa Clara becomes a “must-win” and the games against Saint Mary’s, Pepperdine, and BYU become “this win could be huge for final WCC standings”.
So the question becomes how do we get there? Well it starts tonight. I could throw out some stats like in the last three games (all losses) the Pilots have managed to only shoot 31% from three while they have allowed their opponents to shoot 47% from three.
This is a problem, but I think a bigger problem can’t be summed up by numbers. Any fan of Bill Simmons NBA coverage will know that he loves the “eye-test” and right now Portland just isn’t passing. The Pilots need to show some heart, some leadership, and some toughness. It was clear early on that the Pilots could make up for the production from Pilot great Ryan Nicholas, but now it i
s clear that they miss his intangibles. There is hope for the future in this category, as the young guys showed some of that last week, but like I said earlier, Portland is in “win-now” mode and they need that leadership today. So in order for the Pilots to get the W tonight, I’m looking right at Kevin Bailey, Thomas van der Mars, and Bryce Pressely to be vocal, and fight for this win.
West Coast Convo’s Mark Kramer has previewed the game from Pacific’s point of view below:
The Tigers have suffered from a tough schedule recently, and they’ve actually played much better in WCC play than their 2-5 conference record indicates. They have played some good teams well, and they continue to play more team-oriented games. They are built around top scorer T.J. Wallace, but they were too reliant on him early in the season. Since he was limited for a stretch by a preexisting turf toe injury flaring up, the Tigers have started to get better production from other sources.
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Unfortunately, this is still a very young and inexperienced team that has a lot of trouble putting it all together. Each night someone different might step up, but it’s never enough guys at the same time. The Tigers won’t flash the depth that the Pilots will in this game, and even an average night from Portland with 3-4 players in double figures would be enough to overtake the Tigers.
The big difference should be in the three point shooting. Pacific is an extremely poor long range shooting team, and that plays well for the Pilots. Guys like Alec Wintering won’t need to hit many three pointers to give a big advantage to the Pilots, and the Tigers are not good enough in other areas to cancel this mismatch out. The Tigers could really struggle in a game against better shooters, so the Pilots should win this one.