Countdown to Tip-Off: Pepperdine and Portland Preview

Zack FarmerCorrespondent IOctober 14, 2010

Portland head coach Eric Reveno has a tall task ahead thi season.
Portland head coach Eric Reveno has a tall task ahead thi season.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Tomorrow is the official start to college basketball season. Teams begin official practice on October 15.

The West Coast Conference is going to see a lot of new faces this year and these two teams are definitely going to feel the affects of that.

The Portland Pilots had much of their starting lineup graduate last year and will rely heavily on newcomers. The Pepperdine Waves are still rebuilding and are trying to put together some consistency.

Let's see how these teams will far in the WCC.

Pepperdine Waves

Returning starters: Keion Bell, Mychel Thompson

Key additions: Hector Harold (88), Jan Maehlen (88)

X-Factor: Hector Harold, F

The one bright spot for Pepperdine last season was the emergence of Keion Bell. He quickly became a force to be reckoned with and even regular season conference champion Gonzaga had to be impressed.

Bell scored 37 points against Gonzaga at the Kennel last season. Pepperdine lost 91-84. This was also a team that started 3-0 in conference only to see that lead quickly evaporate.

Hector Harold turned down Call, Stanford and Vanderbilt among others to play in Malibu. The 6’7” forward should make an immediate impact on a team looking to climb out of the cellar. If he plays to his potential, Pepperdine will give teams trouble come conference play.

Big games: 11/15-16, 22-26 NIT Tip-Off

NIT Tip-Off – This is a big opportunity for the scuffling Waves. The first game of the tournament is at Pauley Pavilion against UCLA and that is not an easy place to play. UCLA did not play well during last preseason but many of their problems in the locker room have been filtered out.

This team was playing well by the end of Pac-10 play. I expect this to continue. Because of this, Pepperdine will have a tough time against the Bruins. Keion Bell will have to be his electrifying self in order for the Waves to have a chance.

If they win, they move on to play Nevada or Pacific. Winner of that game goes to Madison Square Garden.

Portland Pilots

Key Returning players: Kramer Knutson, Luke Sikma, Jared Stohl

Key additions: Tim Douglas (88), Derrick Rodgers (TR)

X-Factor: PG position

Portland lost quite a bit to graduation. T.J. Campbell, Nik Raivio and Robin Smeulders all graduated and signed professional contracts. This leaves Knutson, Stohl and Sikma. Stohl is a lights out shooter if he can get wide open.

He struggles with defenders who play him tightly, so he needs a playmaker guard around to draw defenders away from him.

Sikma will see a huge jump in his numbers. He averaged seven points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes.

Tim Douglas and Derrick Rodgers are entering a team devoid a starting point guard. The job is up for grabs. The freshman Douglas does resemble graduated guard T.J. Campbell is stature but the transfer Rodgers has the experience.

They may well play in tandem to see whom is the better fit. Whoever wins the job will have weapons to distribute to in Stohl, Sikma and Knutson.

Big games: 11/19 Kentucky @ the Rose Garden, 12/6 @ Washington

Kentucky—John Calipari, once again, brings in the nation’s best recruiting class. Five of the six recruits coming in 2010 are in the ESPNU Top 100. They will be young, talented and inexperienced. Portland may put up a fight using their experience. It may be their only chance against a much more athletic team.

Washington—The Huskies struggled through the Pac-10 regular season but managed to win the Pac-10 Tournament and ride it to the Sweet 16.

With Isaiah Thomas still running the show, Washington is still a force to be reckoned with. The loss of Quincy Pondexter will hurt but they have the experience to get the job done.