Kip's Corner 2007-08: Bearcat Hoop Internet Release #12

By Kip Ioane

Victory over Pioneers Sets Up Dramatic Finish to Season:
In trying to describe the situation involving the Willamette University men’s basketball team, one could lean an on often-used coaching cliché: “The next game is the biggest game.” In the Bearcats’ quest to make the Northwest Conference Tournament, no statement could be more true.

Following a Senior Night victory over Lewis and Clark College on Saturday, Feb. 16, Willamette finds itself all alone in third place in the NWC. Willamette’s 9-5 conference record puts the Bearcats one game out of second place behind the University of Puget Sound (10-4) and a game and a half behind first place Whitworth (11-4 after defeating Whitman on Tuesday, Feb. 19).

Willamette will have to maintain or improve its position with two games on the road over the final weekend. The ‘Cats travel to always dangerous Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., on Friday, Feb. 22, and then advance to Tacoma, Wash., to face the Loggers of UPS on Saturday, Feb. 23.

Breaking Down the Bearcats

WillametteUniversity.gif• Junior post Kyler McClary was nominated for NWC Player of the Week recognition last week, after averaging 19.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in wins over Linfield College and Lewis & Clark. It was the fourth time McClary was nominated for Player of the Week this season.
• Sophomore post Cameron Mitchell scored 16 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in just 14 minutes of action against the Pioneers on Saturday.
• Junior post Simon Currie scored 13 points off the bench in WU’s victory over L&C.
• Senior wing Mike Smith (14 points, 4 assists) and senior post Ian Mansfield (4 points on 2 of 2 shooting, 2 assists) ended their Cone Field House careers with an important victory.

Statistically Speaking
• WU is #1 in the field goal percentage during conference games, as the Bearcats have connected on 49.9% of their shots. Four Bearcats are shooting over 50% in conference play.
• WU is #1 in the NWC in assists with 16.57 per game.
• WU is #1 in the NWC in 3-point shooting, hitting on 40.8% of their attempts from behind the arc.
• WU is #2 in the NWC in blocked shots with 2.46 per game.
• WU is #2 in the NWC in rebounding margin at +3.6 per game.
• WU is #3 in the NWC in field goal percentage defense after limiting opponents to 44.4% shooting.
• WU is #4 in scoring offense, averaging 76.6 points per game

Projected Depth Chart for this Weekend

Point Guard
Starter - Robbie Kunke
Back-up - Ricky Thompson

Shooting Guard
Starter - Michael Smith
Back-up - Nick Babij

Wing
Starter - Corey Costantino
Back-up - Simon Currie

Post
Starter - Kyler McClary
Back-up - Ian Mansfield

Post
Starter - Tain Cantrell
Back-up - Cameron Mitchell

Momentum Swing
Freshman point guard Ricky Thompson may have provided the ultimate boost to the ‘Cats on Saturday night right before halftime. With Willamette trailing by four points (and momentum on L&C’s side), Thompson drove past mid-court and hit a 40-foot 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, sending the large crowd of 1,600 into a roar of approval and the Bearcats into the break with plenty of positive energy.

The Bearcat Bench student booster club has supported the Bearcats throughout the season.An Ode to the Crowd
Despite playing two conference games during Winter Break when students were not on campus, Willamette enjoyed great home crowd support this season, as a raucous student section provided timely energizing lifts throughout the home schedule. Willamette finished the league season ranked second in the NWC in home attendance with 851 fans per conference game. In the five home games after classes resumed on Jan. 15, the Bearcats averaged 1,047 in attendance.

If This, Then That …
Going into the final week of the season, the Bearcats and five other teams are all still alive for the NWC Tournament, which will include three teams. The following includes the Kip’s Corner projection for a dozen different ways the season could shake out for Willamette based on what happens in various games this week (remember, there are a multitude of other possible outcomes, depending on almost every remaining game).

Tie-Breakers
The NWC uses the following tie-breakers to determine postseason seeding and/or qualification:

1. Head-to -Head Competition
2. Win-Loss Record vs. teams finishing ahead of those tied
3. Best Conference Road Record

Current Standings (Prior to Friday, Feb. 22):
1. Whitworth, 11-4 (Whitworth swept UPS this season)
2. Puget Sound, 10-4
3. Willamette, 9-5
4. Lewis & Clark, 8-6
5. Linfield, 8-6
6. Pacific, 7-7
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7. Pacific Lutheran, 6-8
8. George Fox, 4-10
9. Whitman, 1-14

#1: Willamette defeats Pacific and UPS over the weekend. Linfield defeats both PLU and L&C; Whitworth defeats Whitman (73-61 on Tuesday) and George Fox; UPS defeats L&C.
(WU would finish 11-5, and be second in the standings, behind Whitworth (12-4) and above UPS (11-5), based on the fact that Willamette beat Whitworth once, while UPS was swept by the Pirates…UPS would then come to Salem on Thursday, Feb. 28 for the NWC semifinal.)

#2: Willamette defeats Pacifc and UPS. Linfield wins both. Whitworth loses it remaining game. UPS loses both.
(Willamette and Whitworth would be 11-5, including 1-1 in head-to-head games. Willamette would be NWC champion with a 5-3 NWC road record, compared to Whitworth at 4-4. Linfield and UPS would be tied at 10-6. Linfield would take third place with a 1-1 record against Whitworth, compared to an 0-2 record for UPS against the Pirates. Willamette would host Linfield on Thursday, Feb. 28.)

#3: Willamette defeats Pacific and UPS. Whitworth loses its remaining game. UPS splits.
(WU would finish at 11-5, tied with Whitworth and UPS. Whitworth would be league champion based on their 3-1 record vs. WU and UPS. Willamette would finish second because of their 2-2 mark, and host third place UPS, which would be 1-3 against Whitworth and Willamette.)

#4: Willamette defeats both Pacific and UPS. Whitworth wins against George Fox. Linfield wins both. UPS loses both.
(Whitworth would be the champion at 12-4. WU would be 11-5 and finish second, hosting Linfield, which would advance instead of UPS because of the Wildcats’ one victory over Whitworth. UPS lost to Whitworth twice.)

#5: Willamette defeats Pacific and loses to UPS; Linfield loses to PLU and defeats L&C; Whitworth wins at George Fox; UPS defeats L&C.
(WU would finish 10-6 and take third place. Whitworth would win the league at 12-4, UPS would finish second at 12-4 (0-2 vs. Whitworth). Linfield would be 9-7 and place fourth.)

#6: Willamette defeats Pacific and loses to UPS; Linfield defeats to PLU and loses to L&C; Whitworth wins at George Fox; UPS loses to L&C.
(WU would finish 10-6 and take third place due to a sweep of Lewis & Clark (10-6) during the regular season. Whitworth would win the league at 12-4. UPS would finish second at 11-5. Linfield would be 9-7.)

#7: Willamette defeats Pacific and loses to UPS; Linfield defeats both PLU and L&C; Whitworth wins at George Fox; UPS defeats L&C.
(WU would finish 10-6 and OUT of the playoffs. Whitworth would win the league at 12-4. UPS would finish second at 12-4 (0-2 vs. Whitworth). Linfield at 10-6 would advance over the Bearcats based on the Wildcats defeating UPS once and WU being swept by the Loggers.)

#8: Willamette loses to Pacific and beats UPS; Linfield defeats both PLU and L&C; Whitworth defeats George Fox; UPS defeats L&C
(WU would finish 10-6 and IN the playoffs in third place over Linfield (10-6), as a result of WU’s road record in the NWC (4-4) and Linfield’s (2-6) … Linfield and Willamette would have the identical records against Whitworth and UPS, sending the tie-breaker to NWC road games. Whitworth (12-4) would take first place and UPS (12-4) would be second.)

#9: Willamette loses both games to Pacific and UPS. Linfield wins one game. Pacific loses to Pacific Lutheran:
(WU would finish 9-7 and OUT of the playoffs, unless Linfield loses to PLU, but defeats L&C and L&C beats UPS Friday night. That would put all three teams at 9-7, and the Bearcats would then be IN the playoffs based on a 3-1 record vs. the other two. Linfield would be 2-2 and L&C would be 1-3 in this case.)

#10: Willamette loses to Pacific and UPS. Linfield loses both games, L&C loses to UPS, and Pacific wins both games.
(WU would finish 9-7 along with L&C and Pacific. WU would be 3-1 against the other tied teams, while L&C would be 2-2, and Pacific would be 1-3. WU would be IN the playoffs.)

#11: Willamette loses both games to Pacific and UPS. Linfield wins both games:
(WU would finish 9-7 and OUT of the playoffs. Linfield would finish 10-6 and take third place.)

#12: Willamette loses to Pacific and UPS. Linfield defeats PLU but loses to L&C. L&C loses to UPS. Pacific goes 2-0.
(Willamette would finish 9-7 and be IN the playoffs. WU, Linfield, L&C and Pacific would all tie for third place. WU would be 4-2 against the other three, L&C 4-2, Linfield 2-4, and Pacific 2-4. WU and Lewis & Clark would still be tied. WU would then be in by virtue of its season sweep of L&C.)

Scouting the Opponents

Pacific.gifPacific University is member of the Northwest Conference and competes in NCAA Division III. Head Coach Jason Lowery and the Boxers begin this weekend with a 9-14 record on the season, 7-7 in the NWC. The Boxers, who fell to the Bearcats 62-57 on Jan. 25 in Salem, Ore., have been paced this year by Garold Howe, with 16.3 points per game, and Joe Van Domelen, 14.1 points per game.

PugetSound.gifThe University of Puget Sound belongs to the NWC and is an NCAA Division III institution. Head Coach Justin Lunt has guided UPS to a 17-5 record in 2007-08, including 10-4 in the NWC. The Loggers, who defeated Willamette 90-75 in Salem earlier this season, are led by the potent trio of Jason Foster (19.3 points per game), Antwan Williams (17.4) and Robert Krauel (15.1), who combine for over 51 points per game.

MIke Smith has averaged 15.9 points per game this season, while shooting 50.6% from the field and 85.1% at the line.

MIke Smith has averaged 15.9 points per game this season, while shooting 50.6% from the field and 85.1% at the line.