Archive | November, 2012

Preview: Redhawks look to stop the momentum of red-hot Boise State

30 Nov

Boise State has been making noise – and deservedly so – in the media over the last few days.

They only went into the gym of #11 Creighton and whomped on the top mid-major team in the land by 13 points. A week before that, they nearly knocked off #15 Michigan State, so the upset win was no fluke.

Now they roll into Seattle on Sunday afternoon with a 5-1 record and all kinds of momentum.

Powered by Chicago-area sophomore Derrick Marks and his 19.5 points per game (including an incredible 35 on the road at Creighton), Boise State has a dynamic offense. They shoot the ball well at nearly 47% per game from the field.

They also have an extremely young team. The top two scorers, Marks and small forward Anthony Drmic (who averages 14.3 per game), are both sophomores. There’s just one senior on the roster. The roster makeup is not that of a team expected to be competitive this season, especially in a very good Mountain West Conference, but so far they’re defying that.

Since the Broncos are a young team, it’s entirely possible that a road trip to Seattle will be a little bit of a “letdown” game. Sunday’s contest is the second on a three-game road trip. Boise State will travel to Utah before heading home to host LSU, and might be looking ahead a little.

The Redhawks will need to take control of this one early. If Boise State can jump out to an early lead like they did at Creighton, when the only lead the Broncos surrendered was at 3-0, it will be tough for Seattle to come back.

Another key will be Prince Obasi. The starting point guard will need to have a strong defensive game and keep Marks from getting to the rim at will. Keeping Boise State’s leading scorer from getting hot is a task easier said than done, but it will be crucial for the Redhawks to have a chance in this one.

Seattle U is getting their toughest non-conference opponents early. First Virginia, then Stanford and now Boise State. Stealing a game against a red-hot school from a bigger conference would inspire quite a bit of confidence in this Redhawks team.

Recap: Redhawks nearly upset Stanford before falling down the stretch

29 Nov

The Redhawks lost to Stanford 68-57, but the final score definitely was not an accurate indicator of how close this contest was.

Seattle University led Stanford for the majority of the game, including at halftime. It was only at about the 6-minute mark that Stanford finally regained the advantage and held on. The game was within 6 points down to the final minute, and then Stanford stretched that lead out with free throws.

Shooting at the stripe was a huge difference-maker. Stanford went 23-28 from the line, while the Redhawks hit 11 of 16. Those free throws accounted for the 11-point margin of victory.

Although Prince Obasi turned the ball over 5 times, he can hardly be faulted for the loss. With a game-high 18 points, along with a team-high 8 rebounds and 3 assists, he had the best game of his Redhawk career.

Deshaun Sunderhaus played exceptionally well, too, tossing in 12 points and adding 11 boards for a double-double. The freshman has been one of the surprise stories of this early season, and continues to build on a great start. It’s almost scary to think about what he could do to the WAC with 4 years to develop his game.

His frontcourt-mate Clarence Trent had a much more uneven game. With 4 turnovers, 5 fouls, and a bunch of forced shots (he finished 3 of 12 from the field) he didn’t seem like he knew exactly how to attack an admittedly very skilled Stanford defense.

That defense was exemplified by Josh Huestis. He had 10 blocks. 10! That’s an amazing defensive game. I was disappointed the Redhawks kept attacking him, though. On a crucial offensive possession late in the game with Seattle U down by 6 or 7, D’vonne Pickett drove to the basket, attacked him and was summarily rejected. Driving and kicking would have been a much better choice, particularly with a guy he knew has been blocking everything all night in his way.

All these negatives are nit-picks, though. Seattle played a fantastic game. They led a very good, possibly tournament-bound team for a good 70% of the game and nearly pulled an incredible upset.

If the Redhawks can come out with this kind of defensive pressure all season long, they can beat just about anyone they face. It was an inspiring performance – one that makes you think this is a team that can contend for the WAC championship this year.

Preview: Stanford will be tough test, but one the Redhawks can pass

28 Nov

Stanford is probably the best team Seattle U will play this season. That said, they’re a beatable squad.

The Cardinal are 4-3 but they’ve played a deceptively difficult schedule. The Battle 4 Atlantis had the toughest field of any non-conference tournament, and Stanford went 1-2, with close losses to top-25 teams Missouri and Minnesota and a big win over Northern Iowa.

They also return the majority of a team last year that went on a late run to win the NIT. Chasson Randle and Bellevue native Aaron Bright combine to form an experienced and skilled backcourt that rivals pretty much any other in the Pac-12.

If there’s a weakness on this Stanford team, it’s outside shooting. Randle shot well from beyond the arc last year, but so far is a chilly 9 of 37. Nobody else is much of a shooter – the team is well under 30% from three. Mixing up the defense and packing the zone in might be an effective strategy.

When Stanford is forced to shoot from outside, they can be beaten, as Belmont showed earlier this season. In Stanford’s most surprising loss, they shot just 2 of 19 from beyond the arc and were upset at home.

Preventing easy baskets will be a key. Seattle has been turning over the ball too often, and a quality team like Stanford can and will take advantage.

Perhaps Stanford will be caught at a good time, after just coming back from the Caribbean and with a big non-conference game at North Carolina State on the horizon. Colorado was in the same situation in-between marquee matchups, and were nearly upset by lowly Texas Southern in overtime.

It’s a good time for Seattle, too, with no game until Sunday, and having had a week to prepare for this showdown.

At any rate, a performance better than the effort turned in at Virginia would be nice. Cameron Dollar should have his squad nice and motivated for this one. A win at Stanford won’t be easy, but it could quite possibly be the highlight victory of the season.

If Denver leaves the WAC, Seattle University needs to find a new conference fast

26 Nov

Seattle University’s new conference, the WAC, has been teetering on the brink of self-destruction for over a year now.

A mass exodus was already going to leave the conference with just six members next season, with Idaho, New Mexico State, Denver and Seattle welcoming conference newbies CSU-Bakersfield and Utah Valley. Idaho has announced its departure to the Big Sky in 2014, but that still gave the conference a year to come up with a replacement.

It doesn’t have that luxury anymore, because according to a CBS report, Denver is going to skip out of the WAC and join the Summit League in the summer of 2013. The WAC would be left with five (soon to be four) members.

I cannot emphasize enough how big of a problem this would be for Seattle. Five teams likely means no possible way to get into the NCAA tournament. Five teams means the conference would be on the level of the Great West as a complete afterthought. Five teams means the WAC, needing to have eight members by 2015, would have virtually no chance of survival.

It also is going to scare some recruits away from the program. A team with a secure conference future is always going to be more attractive than one in flux.

And all the school’s other athletic programs are going to take severe hits, too. Can the baseball team get Division-I players with no NCAA bid up for grabs? Will anyone watch the women’s soccer team play meaningless annual games against Utah Valley?

So here’s an urgent message to the people in the athletics department at Seattle University: Get to work.

Secure a future in Division-I athletics for the Redhawks, whatever it takes. It might require writing a hefty check to the Big West or the Big Sky, but it will be worth it in the short and long term.

Because the WAC is, sadly, not going to be a viable conference much longer. For this basketball program – and athletics program – to continue to grow, it needs to be in a different athletic conference, one with the promise of potential bids into the NCAA tournament years from now.

Recap: Redhawks surprisingly struggle, unsurprisingly defeat PLU

22 Nov

There are two ways to look at a victory such as this one, a 58-49 triumph over Division-III Pacific Lutheran University.

One is that a team like Seattle, a respectable D-I school vying to stake a place at the top of the WAC, shouldn’t turn the ball over 22 times, shouldn’t score less than 60 points and shouldn’t allow some Division-III freshman named Andrew Earnest to put up 22 points against them.

The other is that it’s a win that moves Seattle’s record to 2-1.

Both are correct, and if you’re an optimist, you should hang on to the second view, because it wasn’t exactly a pretty contest. There were the aforementioned 22 turnovers. Seriously, 22! PLU had 10 steals, so 12 of those were unforced. Not good numbers against anyone.

It was sloppy basketball being played, and the players knew as much. Deshaun Sunderhaus admitted that he had a bad game – he didn’t finish particularly well – but he was hardly the worst offender. Clarence Trent led the team with 17 points, but he also led the team with 6 turnovers. Sterling Carter and Sunderhaus each went 3-10 from the field. D’Vonne Pickett went 0-4 from the free-throw line. Chad Rasmussen was mostly invisible off the bench.

Prince Obasi did have a good game – he was a perfect 3-3 from the field, only turned the ball over one time, and filled up the stat sheet with positive numbers. But most everyone else seemed just a bit out of sync.

Chalk it up to players being stressed over finals, maybe. Whatever the reason, it’s still a win, and coach Dollar has another week until the next game to get his boys to play with a bit more preciseness.

Recap: Seattle loses to Virginia by somewhat large margin

18 Nov

Well, let’s just try and forget that that game ever happened.

Nothing seemed to go right for the Redhawks against the Cavaliers of Virginia. Against a weaker team than the one Seattle nearly upset at KeyArena last year, SU failed to score (no player had double-digit points) or defend (they were behind by more than 30 at halftime).

Seattle put up contested shot after contested shot and couldn’t get them to fall. Virginia held them to 25% shooting from the field. Incredibly, Seattle lost 83-43 while actually taking 9 more shot attempts than their opponents.

Fortunately, it’s just one game, and the Redhawks will try and put that one out of their memories as soon as their plane touches down in Washington State. They have the perfect get-well tonic on Wednesday – a date with Division-III Pacific Lutheran. If they can reverse this scoreline for that game, all will be well.

Preview: Redhawks have a great chance to again upset rebuilding Virginia

17 Nov

Yes, Virginia really lost to Delaware at home.

No, Virginia isn’t the same as they were last year, when they played Seattle U as a very dangerous ranked team.

Under Tony Bennett, they’ve made their mark on the ACC by playing stifling defense, but this year the offense has suffered. They’re sporting a 1-2 record after playing 3 mid-major schools and 2 home games and they’ve yet to break the 60-point barrier.

Against George Mason, they lost and scored 59. Against Fairfield, they won by scoring 54, and the aforementioned Delaware loss came with just 53 points. All three games Virginia has played have been close, and all three have been painfully low-scoring affairs.

The Cavaliers will definitely be motivated against Seattle (because, as I may have mentioned, they just lost to Delaware at home), but it might not be enough.

Joe Harris is probably the only scoring threat on the team. If the Redhawks can lock him down, they have a very real chance of repeating their upset in Virginia from 2 years ago.

I think the key could be the interior defending by Seattle U. If big men Deshaun Sunderhaus can keep Virginia from getting offensive rebounds and easy putbacks, and limit the Cavaliers to one-shot possessions, the Redhawks could spring the upset. Virginia shoots just .385 from the field. Allowing them a low number of shots from in close will mean another score in the 50s for Virginia.

And Seattle can definitely score, so if they get to 70 points, they should win this contest. They’re a really, really bad matchup for Virginia, and they stand a solid chance to score a really, really good victory tomorrow.

British big man Shore Adenekan commits to Seattle University

15 Nov

I’m happy to be the first place to report that Shore Adenekan, a 6’9”, 235 pound forward, has committed to Seattle University.

Shore is from London by way of Lamar Community College in Colorado. A sophomore, he spent a brief period of time with the Great Britain U-20 basketball team before heading to the United States.

Although he averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds per game in his freshman season last year, Shore’s toughness and scoring ability in the paint were noticed by a lot of schools. He had 8 different Division-I schools offer him a scholarship, recently took a visit to mid-major Detroit, and had been receiving interest from major schools like Oklahoma and Memphis.

The power forward will be a junior next season, assuming he chooses not to redshirt, and would have just two seasons of eligibility for the Redhawks.

It’s still a very good pickup for Seattle U, and hopefully the beginning of a pipeline from England to the Pacific Northwest. Mining one country for talent can be quite effective at the mid-major level, as Saint Mary’s has shown with all their Australian imports like Matthew Dellavadova.

First Jack Crook, now Shore Adenekan. Let’s build a pipeline to the UK. And let’s hope Seattle’s new British import can make his country – and his school – proud.

Seattle U is a perfect fit for ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon

14 Nov

It’s not easy to get your games on national television when you’re an upstart mid-major program. Playing one of them at midnight is a way to counter that.

One of my favorite college basketball traditions, ESPN’s 24-hour tipoff marathon, is and has been taking place since Monday at 9 p.m, when Gonzaga took the court against West Virginia. Since then, there’s been a Division-I college basketball game on ESPN at all times. Yes, that means games beginning at midnight or 6 a.m. local time.

Not all of them are “name brand” basketball programs, either. Check out a couple of these games that were part of the 2012 marathon:

New Mexico 86, Davidson 81
Hawaii 73, Houston Baptist 60
Stony Brook 54, Rider 46
Valparaiso 69, Northern Illinois 46

Those games tipped off at 11 p.m., 1 a.m., 3 a.m., and 5 a.m. Pacific time, respectively. The first two games were late-night local time starts, the latter two were early mornings, and none of them featured a “name” school. Only New Mexico is anything more than a plucky mid-major.

Obviously, not a ton of fans are going to be able to stay up that late, and the players themselves might be a bit off when asked to shoot pressure-packed free throws at 6 in the morning, but there’s a ton of benefits from being a part of this marathon.

– National media coverage. Hawaii’s Vander Joaquim is getting some love in the press after a strong performance against Houston Baptist, as are solid Davidson and Valparaiso squads.

– National television. This speaks for itself. When you’re recruiting players to a D-I basketball program and you can show them times when you’ve been featured on the largest sports network in the country, it’s a huge advantage.

– It’s a special event for the students. Even though the New Mexico game tipped off at midnight in Albuquerque, 14,000 fans packed the building. It makes a weird, unique, funky event out of a college basketball game.

I know coach Cam Dollar likes the idea. And I know it couldn’t be too hard to line up a matchup against, say, Hawaii – independent Houston Baptist managed it, after all. So here’s hoping the Redhawks can score a little late-night ESPN time next season. I’d stay up late for that, wouldn’t you?

Recap: Trent, Redhawks roll Montana State 87-72 to open season

12 Nov

Well, that couldn’t have gone much better.

One key player had a career-best night, another had what could be a breakout performance, and the rest of the Redhawks ably filled in as a supporting cast in a dominant 87-72 victory over Montana State.

The game really wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Seattle U led 80-55 with five minutes left in the game and coasted from there. These were supposed to be two decent teams from two semi-decent conferences, but there was only one quality side on the court, and that side was wearing red.

Clarence Trent led the red charge and looked good doing it. His vicious first-half dunk was reminiscent of another hard-slamming star forward who used to ply his trade in KeyArena. Trent looked fitter and more focused, and he filled up the stat sheet with 18 points and 9 rebounds in just 21 minutes. Those numbers surely would have been higher had he been needed all game. It was a great start for one of the Redhawk leaders.

Deshaun Sunderhaus was another star on the night. I didn’t even expect the redshirt freshman to start, but he performed admirably in scoring 14 points and collecting 8 boards of his own. He had a sweet little spin-and-score move early in the first half that had me checking the roster to see who that skilled forward was.

A couple things popped out at me that were problems last year and showed up again last night – poor free-throw shooting and difficulties taking care of the ball.

Seattle went just 17 of 31 from the stripe, shooting under 55%. That’s the kind of thing that can really punish a team in close games – and there figure to be quite a few of those in WAC conference play.

Maybe even more troubling is the turnovers. 25 of them, to be exact. The four main rotational guards who each played at least 15 minutes had at least three turnovers EACH. Coach Dollar’s style is to play a pressing, fast-paced style, and with that comes some natural aggressiveness that can lead to a misplaced pass here and there. But 25 turnovers is a bit ridiculous.

The saving grace was that the Redhawks forced 28 turnovers of their own. Montana State had an assist-to-turnover ration of 1:4.7, which is so bad I don’t even have an adjective to describe it.

So, a great defensive effort, a solid if flawed offensive effort, and a few big plays that really got the KeyArena crowd going. On the whole, it’s hard to argue with that. There are things to improve upon, but for the first game of the season, the Redhawks will be quite pleased.

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