SCOUTING THE PILOTS
Portland continues to shock at the 76 Classic, upending UCLA and No. 16 Minnesota in consecutive days to advance to the final. The Pilots (5-0) are the only team never to trail in the Classic, and have topped major BCS programs via hot shooting and overall offensive prowess. Head coach Eric Reveno, whose influences include former Cal head coach Pete Newell, runs a system that relies heavily on the three-point shot, but isn't truly a Princeton or five-out style. The Pilots, who start four seniors and a junior, took 25 threes against Minnesota, making eight, and managed to outrebound the Gophers 42 to 33 thanks mostly to Nik Raivio's 11 defensive boards. The 6-4, 205 pound guard also scored nine points but had a bad shooting game in missing 11 of 15 from the field. He averages 15 points and eight rebounds per game, and has a very solid shot from outside. Point guard T.J. Campbell (5-9, 190 lbs.) ripped the Gophers for 23 points (five more than his average) and made four of eight threes. The senior will turn the ball over, though, and isn't as dependable as most WVU has faced in assist-to-turnover ratio. He is excellent from the line, but doesn't bang on the boards like Raivio.
Center Kramer Knutson (6-9, 220 lbs.) is serviceable, but doesn't play much more than 15 minutes per outing. The junior isn't a great shooter, and does not step outside the arc for tries, so it's not a Kevin Pittsnogle situation. Forward Ethan Niedermeyer (6-6, 200 lbs.) hits for seven points and three rebounds per game. Twenty of 34 shots this season have been three-pointers, and though he isn't shooting as well as his teammates, his 35 percent from three is solid. Power forward Robin Smeulders (6-10, 230 lbs.), who scored 13 points against Minnesota, has not taken a three this season either. He is an above-average rebounder, though, and has quick hands. Smeudlers averages 13 points and five rebounds. Reveno uses three other players that see an average of at last 11 minutes per game. Sixth-man Jared Stohl (6-1, 165 lbs.) finished third nationally in three-point percentage last year (45.6, making 89), and thus far has made 15 of 27 this year. The junior averages 10 points per game, and he rarely scores from inside the arc. He is a pure shooter, and won't attack the basket or try to get to the line. You know what you're getting with him, which is a positive, but if WVU doesn't close out on Stohl, he will connect often with great range.
Forward Luke Sikma (6-8, 235 lbs.) and guard Taishi Ito (6-0, 180 lbs.) play about 24 and 12 minutes per game. Sikma is entirely an inside player. He averages four points and three rebounds a game, and he is primarily a defensive player. He is working back from a knee injury, but is close to 100 percent. Ito, mainly a point guard, is more a distributor than scorer. He has taken just four shots but does have eight assists. In all, Portland has four legitimate three-point shooters, but isn't terribly large or athletic. The sets are intelligently designed, though, and the Pilots – who have also beaten Oregon – will work for the best shot if it takes five seconds or 25. They don't play a slowdown game, but one should not expect to see a lot of pressing and running. The West Coast Conference members are still a mid-major, however, and the win over Minnesota was their second over a top 25 team in 28 years. If West Virginia can get physical with Portland and contest shots, it should be able to handle the majority of what it is shown when the Pilots are on offense.
The worry here is as much for the emotional and psychological state of West Virginia as it is for the offensive antics of Portland. The Mountaineers may enter the game with false security because of the opponent name. But the Pilots are extremely experienced and have hit a stride in shooting and in running the system of their fourth-year coach. Reveno has all his players now, and the pieces are fitting like at no other time. The coach has said his team has vastly improved over the last two weeks. Again, physical play and challenges to shots are paramount. Portland isn't going to out-jump West Virginia for rebounds, so as long as the Mountaineers get a body on a body they should not be beaten on the boards as was Minnesota. WVU must also switch screens much more effectively on the perimeter than it did against Texas A&M, and it needs to find intensity and desire to win from the tip-off.
|Sun. Nov. 29
10:00 p.m. EST
Anaheim Convention Center
WVU 4-0, 0-0
UP 5-0, 0-0
WVU - 6
UP - 7
WVU: Joe Mazzulla (Shoulder) – Will Play.
According to Portland's official athletic site, the school was once known as Columbia. It grew weary of the confusion with it and the New York City-based school, and so changed its name. When the University changed its name from Columbia University (its earliest sports teams were known as the Cliffdwellers or the Columbias), to the University of Portland, the name and University had already begun to adapt a more "nautical motif," suitable for a campus site overlooking the Willamette River. At the same time, the Pilot athletic teams became associated with Wally (a stylized riverboat pilot), and the pilot's wheel became the logical logo. The many student associations and publications on campus followed the nautical theme - from the student newspaper - The Beacon - to what is today the University's bookstore, student cafe and campus ministry center (The Pilot House). Thus, the Pilot nickname refers not to air-based travel, but water navigation.
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The Mountaineers are trying to bring the school is 210th all-time tournament game win. If they do, WVU will win an in-season three-plus game tournament for the first time since 1997 at the San Juan (Puerto Rico). West Virginia is 0-2 against current members of the West Coast Conference.
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West Virginia is 8-9 all-time in games played in California. It won its last three games in the state.
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The two head coaches in this game are both 6-5 or taller. Reveno stands 6-8, and has gained respect for his disciplined style of play and coaching, while Huggins has national acclaim for his fire and defense.
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Actor Kunal Nayyer, of The Big Bang Theory, attended Portland. He has a business degree from the school.