Kip's Corner: Bearcat Hoop Internet Release #1 for 2006-07

By Kip Ioane

Willamette Heads to Idaho for Opening Weekend
Head Coach Gordie James’ team opens 2006-07 with a difficult trip to Idaho. Awaiting the Bearcats in the Duane Wolfe Memorial Golden Rule Shootout are the Yotes of Albertson College and the Mountaineers of Eastern Oregon. Both squads have opened their seasons in impressive fashion, highlighted by both sweeping Montana Tech and Montana-Western in action last weekend.

Breaking Down The Bearcats
Coming off last year’s 17-8 campaign, the Bearcats will be without both C.J. Stuvland and David Fife (projected starters) for much of the early season, and will lean heavily on Captain Josh Erickson and returning starter Ian Mansfield for guidance through a difficult non-conference schedule. Newcomer Danny Nugent, along with senior Robbie Andrus and sophomore Kyler McClary round out WU’s initial lineup, with junior Michael Smith and a group of sophomores (Corey Costantino, Simon Currie, Tain Cantrell) providing quality depth off the bench. Willamette enters the season picked #3 in the Northwest Conference Preseason Coaches poll.

Projected Depth Chart this Week

Point Guard
Starter - Josh Erickson
Backup - Corey Costantino
Shooting Guard
Starter - Robbie Andrus
Backup - Michael Smith
Starter - Danny Nugent
Backup - Nick Babij
Starter - Ian Mansfield
Backup - Simon Currie
Starter - Kyler McClary
Backup - Tain Cantrell

Road Warriors
Willamette is no stranger to the Golden Rule Shootout, having participated in the Idaho tournament two other times in the past six seasons. WU has a split its last four games there, losing the opening Friday game on both occasions, only to rebound with Saturday victories.

In addition, this will mark the 10th time in the past 10 seasons that WU has opened its season on the road, as Coach James’ teams have routinely faced daunting non-conference schedules that typically prepare them for the grueling nature of the NWC.

Scouting The Opponents
Albertson College is member of the Cascade Conference and is an NAIA institution. The Yotes, lead by Head Coach Mark Owen, are coming off a 12-17 campaign, something unaccustomed for the traditionally-strong program. Albertson is currently 2-0, following wins over Montana Tech and Montana-Western (although the Yotes are also 1-1 in exhibition games vs. Idaho State and Northwest Nazarene). Albertson has adopted an up-tempo style very similar to NWC defending champion the University of Puget Sound, as evidenced in their 129-120 victory over Montana-Western. The Yotes forced an eye-opening 53 turnovers in the game, and shot 22 of 46 from the 3-point line.

Eastern Oregon is also a member of the Cascade Conference and is an NAIA institution. Head Coach Ryan Looney brings back a squad that finished 17-11 a year ago, including wins over nationally-ranked Oregon Institute of Technology and Warner Pacific. The Mountaineers and the Bearcats will be playing for the first time in over 10 years.