Friday, November 27, 2009

Portland is a Dirty Hippy Town

Yes, Portland is a dirty hippy town, and I know because I've been there.  I assume you don't want to read that whole post, so I'll just remind you instead how you can't tell the hippies from the homeless, and how I saw what I thought was a homeless guy sitting on the sidewalk with a cup in front of him for money, but it turned out he was listening to an ipod and drinking coffee, just looked homeless because he was such a damn hippy.  That being said, it looks like they have a pretty decent little basketball team out there in the Portland Pilots, the Gophers oppnonent later today.

They absolutely crushed UCLA last night, 74-47, and while the Bruins are definitely down and kind of rebuilding, don't take this win for Portland lightly - this is a very good team who is gunning for a WCC crown over Gonzaga and an NCAA bid.  After going 9-5 in conference last year, and 18-11 overall, with wins over St. Mary's, Nevada, and Washington, they were bounced in the second round of the WCC tournament and then dropped their first round CIT game to Pacific - a disappointing end to a good year.  All five starters are back, and based on the season's results this is going to be far from a cakewalk for the Gophers.

The Pilots are 4-0 with wins over Oregon, Seattle, and Eastern Washington as well as UCLA, and are killing teams with the three-ball.  Portland is shooting 54% from behind the line so far, and it's no fluke - they shot 42% last year to finish second in the nation.

Leading the way are a pair of guards, Nik Raivio (brother of former Zag Derek) and T.J. Campbell, both of whom were All-WCC last year.  Raivio is the team leader and does it all (he's more of an all-around player than Derek was), averaging 17.5 pts, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists so far this season while shooting 54% from three and 50% from the field.  He's one of those do-everything, win at all costs, annoying pesky types.  You'll hate him by the end of the game.  Westbrook needs to bring his full on, all night effort.

Campbell is Raivio's partner in the backcourt and he runs the point.  He's just 5-9, but you better believe he's lightning quick and can shoot the lights out.  Last season he hit 53% of his three-point attempts, and he's even better this year hitting at a 60% clip, and is averaging 16.8 points and 5.5 assists this season.  This is actually a good matchup for the Gophers, assuming Al Nolen can keep himself out of foul trouble.  He should be quick enough to shadow Campbell, and with his extra height and strength he might be able to keep him out of a rhythm and disrupt the Pilots' offense.  I hate to say it, but this might be the key to the game.  Yes, we are counting on Al Nolen.

The other perimeter guy to worry about is their third guard and sixth man Jared Stohl, who comes off the bench to average 10.5 points a game while shooting 68% from three, and lit up UCLA hitting 5-5 from behind the arc.  That was his third straight game with at least three 3-pointers while shooting better than 50%.

Sense a theme?  These guys shoot the three extremely well, but they aren't reliant on it.  As a team they have shot 7-13, 7-16, 11-19, and 11-19 in their four games, which isn't an excessive amount of three point attempts.  In fact, they rank 229th in the country in 3-attempts as a percentage of total FG attempts.  Campbell and Stohl shoot mostly threes, but Raivio can score from anywhere, and the Pilots have a couple half-decent forwards who can score.

With all this, you may be feeling a bit nervous and scared for tonight's game.  You may wonder if the Gophers have a chance.  Well, this Pilots team is a lot like that hippy who I thought was a homeless guy - it's all a mirage.

Portland is awful defensively.  Awful.  They rank 298th in overall defensive efficiency. They don't turn teams over at all (thank god), block shots (zero defensive presence in the paint) and don't get steals, and are completely average when it comes to field goal defense.  Even though UCLA hit just 33% of their shots last night (22% from three),

The Gophers on the other hand are the #1 defensive team in the nation (although the competition hasn't been exactly stout up until last night), including #1 at forcing turnovers and in blocking shots, #3 in steals, and #5 in defending the two-point shot.  They aren't great at defending the three (#158), which is a concern against Portland, but I expect their defense to overwhelm the Pilots so that shouldn't matter.  None of Portland's previous four opponents were very good defensively, all were awful at defending on the perimeter, and none of them had the size and athleticism the Gophers bring.

Minnesota should be able to handle this one.  If they can get out to a quick lead it could be a laugher, but I expect more of a tough game early with the Gophers pulling away in the early second half thanks to a big ole burst from Ralph, who should have his way in the paint tonight.

If the Gophers lose, it's a win for hippies everywhere.  That can't happen.

Minnesota 88, Portland 70. 

FUN FACT:  Raivio's father, Rick, also attended Portland and led the team in scoring in both 78-79 and 79-80, setting the schools all-time single season scoring and rebounding totals in 78-79 (records which still stand) and is also the school's all-time leading career rebounder.

And once again, I couldn't find a picture of a Portland Pilot coed, but here's a stewardess from Hooters Air:

No comments: