As the calendar turns to March and the madness begins in the world of NCAA basketball, it is time to take a look at where the Pilots stand amongst its West Coast Conference rivals. Both the men’s and women’s teams have competed all year to put themselves in position for the WCC conference tournament this year in Las Vegas March 5 through March 10.
We’ll keep the section on the men’s team short, like their tournament run will be. They travel to California this week to wrap up their regular season with a game against Santa Clara on Saturday. The men’s team captured their only conference win of the season over San Francisco on Jan. 4, who they lost to Thursday 81-65. The team has lost their last 13 games and has only rendered one victory in conference play. Another disappointing year for the Pilots will most likely lead to another disappointing conference tournament.
With a 1-14 record in conference play, Portland will most likely be slated last in the seeding for the fourth time since Terry Porter took over as head coach. They will play a difficult game most likely against Santa Clara, the team who they face for their final regular-season game. Portland will have to put the woes of the regular season behind them and focus on taking it one game at a time in the conference tournament.
The women’s basketball team is a much different story. Under first-year head coach Michael Meek the team has had the most success it’s seen in a decade. With just one game left in the regular season, the Pilots have posted an 18-10 overall record with a record of 11-6 in WCC play. They’re led by players like WCC takeover player freshman Alex Fowler who has led the Pilots and the WCC with 17.8 points per game in just over 30 minutes of action a game.
Right behind her is another Australian National in returning guard Haylee Andrews who is another scoring problem for opponents averaging just over 16 points a game. Portland has made its mark this season on the offensive side of the ball by shooting a conference-leading 45% from the field as a team and just a notch over 32% from behind the three-point line.
The women’s team has actually outmatched their opponents in many statistical categories, including scoring, rebounds, turnovers and steals per game. With one game left against top of conference Gonzaga, who ranks 10th in the nation, the women’s squad looks poised to come into the conference tournament looking better than they have in a very long time.
Portland sits in the fourth spot in the conference but trails both San Diego and BYU by only half a game. If everything stays the way it is now, Portland will get a bye to the third round of the conference tournament.
Barring any upsets, Portland will most likely face Pacific in their first tournament game. Pacific is the only conference team to claim both games against the Pilots this year. However, if Portland can find their way past Pacific they would find themselves in the semifinals and a real chance to compete for the WCC crown.
Despite what happens in the tournament, this year has been a success for the women’s team. Showing a level of success that’s been uncommon for either basketball program in recent years this has to be seen as a step forward.
Portland will play their final regular-season game Saturday, Feb. 29 at home against Gonzaga before turning their full attention to the bright lights of Vegas and the conference championships.
Jamison White is a sports reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org