Game Day Preview: University of Portland Pilots


University of Portland (Private – Roman Catholic)
Mascot: Pilots
Location: Portland, OR
Enrollment: 3,600

2010-2011 Record: 20-12 (7-8 in the West Coast Conference)
RPI: 103
Coach: Eric Reveno (6th year)

First Thought: The University of Portland has one of the smallest enrollments in Division I basketball. I was unable to find a comprehensive list of all DI enrollments, but it appears UP is around 30th smallest out of 347 schools.

Best win: 85-70 over St. Mary’s (RPI 46)
Worst loss: 72-68 to Loyola Marymount (RPI 268)
Last Game: 76-64 loss to Hawaii in the CIT

Average Scoring: 71.0 ppg (105th)
Average for Opponents: 68.5 ppg

Synopsis: The University of Portland is certainly a team Romar and the staff know well. UW has played Portland the last few years and most of us remember that UW lost in Portland in 2008 despite 30 points by Jon Brockman. Portland has definitely been competitive the past few seasons under Eric Reveno, with two straight 20 win seasons and three straight post-season appearances in the CIT. Unfortunately, while sporting Top 100 RPI’s and clawing near the top of the WCC standings, they have not been able to get over the hump to overtake Gonzaga’s and St. Mary’s dominance.

Last year things collapsed down the stretch after a promising 14-4 start. They ended up finishing 5th out of 8 teams in the WCC, a below .500 record, and were shocked in the 1st round of the WCC tournament by lowly Loyola Marymount. They have since lost three of their starters and highest scorers to graduation including Luke Sikma, so Reveno will be in definite rebuilding mode this season. Nonetheless, they are considered to have a pretty strong in-coming recruiting class for next year for a mid-major including 6’10” Thomas van der Mars from the Netherlands who attended Canarias Basketball Academy in Spain. They are also bringing in a tall 6’5″ guard from California named Kevin Bailey who is the first national Top 100 recruit in Portland’s history (#11 in California). They also add 6’7″ forward Dorian Cason from Fontana, CA who was ranked the #24 recruit in California last year.

Portland’s biggest returning threat is 6’5″ Bosnian senior guard Nemanja Mitrovic who averaged 13.5 ppg and hit 46% of his three point shots. His height will make it difficult for defenders to get out on his deep shots, so it’ll be important for UW to put a taller defender on him and play him tightly. Portland also has two other players who like to shoot from deep in the form of sophomore guard Tim Johnson and senior guard Eric Waterford. So, tight perimeter defense will be a must. Luckily, that type of defense does tend to be a strong suit for UW.

What Portland can do inside will remain to be seen based on how well van der Maars adjusts to his transition to America. Without Luke Sikma’s nearly 11 rbs per game, they do not have much experience inside. No one else on the team grabbed more than 3 rbs per game. So, clearly the other players will need to step up inside.

My analysis: Portland has been just the type of team Romar likes to schedule in recent years, as their solid RPI usually helps UW come tournament time. However, I think this is going to be a difficult transition year for the Pilots. Unless their touted recruting class can come in and make the transition quickly to replace the seniors they lost, I think Portland may be in for a rough year in the WCC. Mitrovic is a very solid player who might have a professional future and has the ability to take over games at the college level. But, if he ends up being a one-man show, teams with lock down man-to-man defenses are going to focus on him and take him out of the games by mid-season. Thus, Portland has to hope someone else is going to be able to step up. I predict Portland will finish 4th or 5th in the WCC and will not end up being the solid win we are used to. The only saving grace for Portland might be that both Gonzaga and St. Mary’s will probably be down a bit this year. Unfortunately for Portland, the sleeper in the WCC this year may be San Francisco, not them.

My Prediction: UW 93 Portland 67