After a strong season, the Pepperdine Waves are back in the postseason after a long absence. Making their first postseason appearance since they made the NCAA Tournament in 2002, the Waves are taking part in the CBI Tournament and open play on Wednesday when they visit Seattle.
On some level, it’s a disappointment for the Waves. They have a talented and complete roster, and a few more wins probably would have gotten them closer to the NIT. But the CBI is still an achievement for them after rising out of the ranks of the mid-tier WCC teams. And with just 16 teams in the tournament, the Waves have a real chance of winning it all.
Scouting the Redhawks
Seattle University comes out of the WAC, a conference that is much weaker than it was a few years ago as football realignment stole a lot of their best teams. You’ve probably never even heard of most of the schools that currently make up the conference, including Seattle. The Redhawks have only been at the D-1 level since 2009 and in the WAC since 2012 when they moved into it after most of the WAC teams left.
They actually have a rich basketball history and reached the Final Four in 1958 led by NBA Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor. However a major financial recession hit their region of the country in 1980, causing the Redhawks to move down all the way to NAIA. In 2001 they rejoined the NCAA and spent most of the 2000’s at the D-II level.
As a result, there should be a lot of buzz around this game. It’s just a third-tier tournament, but it’s the first D-1 postseason appearance for them since way back in 1969 when they last appeared in the NCAA Tournament. They nearly got back to the Big Dance this year, but they fell to New Mexico State in the WAC Tournament Final.
Dec 19, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Seattle Redhawks guard Isiah Umipig (1) grabs a rebound in the second half against the Minnesota Gophers at Williams Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
As mentioned, the WAC is very weak right now. So the fact that Seattle made it to being a game away from the NCAA Tournament should not intimidate Pepperdine fans. The Redhawks were just 7-7 in conference play, and yet they were the #3 seed in their conference tournament. New Mexico State handled them fairly easily, and even they are just a #15 seed in the NCAA Tournament with no chance of advancing. Even the best WAC is not much of a threat to a bigger conference team.
The Redhawks are led by First Team All-WAC selection Isiah Umipig and Second Team All-WAC selection Jarell Flora. They are the only two double-digit scorers for the Redhawks at 17.0 and 13.6 points per game. As you would expect from a smaller, less athletic team, they do a lot of their damage from long range shooting. Umipig and Flora combined to make 184 three pointers this year as both shot over 40% from beyond the arc.
Unfortunately for the Redhawks, this plays perfectly into the hands of Pepperdine. We saw all season how the Waves had one of the best perimeter defenses in the nation, and they have shut down much better three point shooters from much better schools all season. Seattle’s duo of three point shooting guards will be in for a long night, and they don’t normally get much support to back them up.
They do have some size inside led by William Powell and Jack Crook. They will get some rebounds as they average 6.4 and 5.6 per game, but they don’t look like anything the Waves can’t handle. Each averages barely over 6 points per game, so the Waves will certainly get more interior offense than the Redhawks even if Stacy Davis and Jett Raines are the only players doing well in the paint.
Waves Keys To Victory
Defend the three pointer: Against a more athletic team with a superior frontcourt, the Redhawks will rely heavily on their two long range shooters. This plays right into the hands of the Waves. We have seen that they have one of the best perimeter defenses in the nation, so they should shoot down the long range shooting of Seattle. With little offense behind their two guards who shoot a bunch of treys, the Redhawks stand little chance if they can’t hit threes. And that’s perfect for the Waves. If they can stop the three, they should win easily.
Control the paint: The Redhawks do have some ability to rebound, so Davis and company need to play well. The Waves are a weak three point shooting team, so the offense will come from inside. When Davis and Raines are doing well, the Waves normally win. So even if the defense is solid outside, the frontcourt needs to do their job as well. Some help from Atif Russell would be nice as well. Just a solid effort from that trio will lead the Waves to a win.
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This game is pretty straight forward. Coming in as the inferior team, the Redhawks will hope to shoot the lights out for a victory. But against the best defense they have probably seen all year, that strategy won’t work. The Waves will dominate inside, and they should have little trouble in this one.
They should win by double-digits in a low scoring game, and it will be on to the second round to face winner of the Gardner-Webb vs. Colorado game. That will likely mean a meeting with the Buffaloes, one of the biggest names in the bracket.
PEPPERDINE – 65
SEATTLE – 53