Santa Clara (8-21) vs. University of Portland (6-23) (ET)
GAME NOTES: The 26th annual West Coast Conference Tournament gets underway in Sin City tonight, as the ninth-seeded Santa Clara Broncos clash with the eighth-seeded Pilots from the University of Portland at Orleans Arena.
To say the Broncos had a rough conference run this season would be an extreme understatement, considering the team didn't win a single game against the rest of the WCC. Santa Clara has gone winless since defeating Eastern Michigan on December 29 by a score of 72-55, a run of 17 straight games. Over the weekend, the team closed out the campaign with a 68-65 defeat to Loyola Marymount on the road.
As for the Pilots, they were only slightly better than SCU in conference play, winning a total of three games, and only one against a foe other than the Broncos. Last Saturday, the team was defeated by BYU in Provo, 76-66, marking its sixth straight setback and the 12th in the last 13 outings.
With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood, the Broncos lead by a count of 55-29, but obviously it was Portland that won both regular-season meetings in 2011-12.
Portland has a record of just 9-23 in this event over the years and has claimed the title only once (1998), while the Broncos have two crowns and are two games over .500 in the tourney (25-23), but their last championship came almost two decades ago (1993).
The winner of this game is set to play fifth-seeded San Francisco on Thursday in the second round.
The Broncos have dealt with quite a bit this season, some of it off the basketball court with Kevin Foster being suspended in January due to disciplinary issues. Add to that the fact that Marc Trasolini was lost to a knee injury even before the campaign began and it is easy to see why this group struggled as much as it did. The Broncos still list their scoring average as 69.5 ppg, but that's only with Foster and his 17.8 ppg factored into the equation. What the team is left with is Evan Roquemore (13.6 ppg), Niyi Harrison (10.5 ppg) and Raymond Cowels (10.0 ppg) who have been fighting hard for some respect, but it simply hasn't happened this year. Harrison gives the group some power in the paint with 6.3 rpg but still they are being beaten on the glass by more than three rebounds per game just the same.
Not much of an offensive team this season, Portland is scoring just 64.7 ppg as the team shoots 42.4 percent from the floor and 30.9 percent behind the three-point line. Also adding to the woes of the Pilots is the fact that opponents have gone to the free-throw line 183 more times in 2011-12 and that difference has led to 117 more points for the competition over the course of 28 games. Ryan Nicholas is the lone double-digit scorer for the group with his 10.9 ppg, his 7.3 rpg also the top mark for a Portland group that has pretty much kept up with foes in the paint this year. Kevin Bailey (9.7 ppg) gives the Pilots a little punch on offense, but not enough to make a significant difference.
Santa Clara showed some signs of life against BYU on the road in the last outing so perhaps it is too early to bury the Broncos.
GAME NOTES: The 26th annual West Coast Conference Tournament gets underway in Sin City tonight, as the ninth-seeded Santa Clara Broncos clash with the eighth-seeded Pilots from the University of Portland at Orleans Arena.Fact Stats
FACTS & STATS: Site: Orleans Arena (7,471) -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: None. Home Record: SCU 6-9, Portland 3-9. Away Record: SCU 0-11, Portland 1-13. Neutral Record: SCU 2-1, Portland 0-0. Conference Record: SCU 0-16, Portland 3-12. Series Record: Santa Clara leads, 55-29.Game Date and Time
Wednesday, February 29th, 9:00 p.m. (et).Predicted Outcome
Santa Clara 67, University of Portland 64