It’s that time of year again in the northwest! Roads are icy, coffee’s free flowing in the veins, and hopefully your ancient heating system hasn’t broken yet.
And no, conference basketball is not quite here yet. However, if you need a reason to check into your phones this weekend during that tech company Christmas party, here’s a college hoops roundup to get you up to speed.
Why do these games matter this early in the year? Playing against teams that aren’t very good and outside of conference won’t do much to improve a team’s ranking. However, a team’s goal during this time is to get to 10 wins before conference games. From there, if a team can win half of their conference games then at least the school can make a case to get into March Madness.
For example, while the Huskies aren’t expected to be a strong team this year, who’d leave a team with 20 wins – one of them being ranked Kansas – sitting at home during the big tournament?
Oregon at Fresno State, 3:00PM PT Saturday | CBSSN TV
Oregon is coming off a mediocre stretch over the past three games. They laid the smackdown against Colorado State, and then beat Texas Southern and Portland State rather underwhelmingly. The Ducks head down to face Fresno State team that’s looking to keep their seven-game win streak alive.
Oregon has been leaning on Payton Pritchard for production, and has been successful on the offensive side of the ball alongside Elijah Brown. The problem is that they can’t really defend.
Opponent starting guards against the Ducks have dropped nearly 90 points over the past three games. It’s imperative that Ducks coach Dana Altman puts a cap on Fresno State’s Deshon Taylor, since he’s the only guy on that team that can score at will. Fresno State would be favored here, but Oregon can snag a win here if their decent bench shows up again.
Oregon State vs Saint Louis, 7:30PM PT Saturday | PAC12 TV
Look at the Beavers! There’s no shame in winning by just one point against pesky Jacksonville State. Oregon State has really exuded team effort, and it should take them over the top against a middling Saint Louis team.
It was a little worrisome that the Beavers couldn’t out-rebound Jacksonville State, but the team stayed aggressive. Oregon State still shot over fifty percent and attempted about ten shots less than Jacksonville State. The team relies on veteran savvy to get themselves wins. Three players are averaging over 15 ppg, and four average over 10 ppg.
Washington State vs IUPUI, 3:00PM PT Saturday | PAC12 TV
The Cougars couldn’t seal the deal against UTEP, largely due to guard Malachi Flynn just being cold. He relies on his three-ball to get him going, which is usually just a recipe for disaster. Instead, look for him to get to the hoop and start getting his teammates involved early on.
IUPUI doesn’t have much going for itself as they have just one player scoring above double digits on the year. The Cougars will come out looking to put this game away early. WSU has a pretty reliable three-point shooting game this year, shooting 39% from deep.
Washington vs Loyola Marymount, 3:00PM PT Sunday | PAC12 TV
The Huskies got whallopped as expected against Gonzaga. No matter, the team is currently rebuilding from the latter lackadaisical Romar days, and it also goes to show just how insane the Kansas win was. Coach Mike Hopkins can just burn the Gonzaga tape.
Washington’s good enough to get back into shape against Loyola Marymount. LMU depends on James Batemon to generate offense for the team, but Husky length should keep him away from the hoop.
The difference here will be Noah Dickerson. He’s not afraid to get aggressive down low, and in that sense he’s pretty unique, keeping the UW offense grounded. Guard Jaylen Nowell has also really taken the reigns of the Husky offense alongside Dickerson.
Look for Huskies David Crisp and Matisse Thybulle to contribute to any runs Washington looks to make. They’re shooting 33% from three-point range this year.
Gonzaga vs North Dakota, 5:00PM PT Saturday | ESPN 3
Not much analysis for Gonzaga needed here, since it’s North Dakota for Pete’s sake. This beast of a Gonzaga team shouldn’t lose a game until March Madness! Gonzaga has already beaten the likes of Florida, and don’t even have a speedbump the rest of their way.
Interestingly Gonzaga is ranked 8th in terms of the simple rating system, per sports-reference. In short, the simple rating system is a magical variable representing the combination of a team’s scoring differential per game against their strength of schedule. Gonzaga’s rank suggests that the Zags are performing on par with the likes of Duke, Arizona State, North Carolina, and Michigan State. I’m sure you get the idea, and they play in the WCC.
Throw the Villanova tape into the trash, Gonzaga will be sniffing 30 wins right before the WCC tournament begins.
BONUS: Seattle vs Portland, 7:00PM PT Saturday
Yes, this game matters because it gives us a chance to look at two schools that could potentially take a positive step towards relevance this year. The Seattle Redhawks are led by forward Matej Kavas under brand new head coach Jim Hayford. The Portland Pilots are coached by Portland’s very own Terry Porter!
The Redhawks are pulling out the stops on offense this year, having scored 335 field goals this year so far, ranking 16th in the nation. It’s fun watching Kavas run free on the court, since the guy looks like a European pro out there. And besides, who needs defense when you’re rebuilding a program? Once Hayford starts getting established, Redhawk basketball could make some serious noise.
Terry Porter is with the Pilots for the second year, looking to build on a tough first year. So far, the offense lives and dies by the three. As Porter works to get both of his sons up to speed, hopefully Portland can have a season to hang their hats on by the end of the year.