Here is an ESPN article on UP... If you follow the link you can get previews of other WCC schools and of the conference as a whole. It's also on their College Basketball homepage. The Link
COACH AND PROGRAM
Portland returns its top two playmakers and an All-WCC wing from last season, but the glass, if you will, is half empty.
Rebounding from the departures of posts Luke Sikma and Kramer Knutson won't be easy for the Pilots, who out-rebounded opponents by an average of 3.4 per game in 2010-11. Sikma (10.5 rpg) and Knutson (5.1) were the top two rebounders and accounted for 48 percent of Portland's boards.
Fortunately for Pilots fans, Portland coach Eric Reveno provides the right climate for posts to blossom in the City of Roses. The former Stanford pivot man mentored Mark Madsen, Jason Collins and Jarron Collins, and instructed six years at the Pete Newell Big Man Camp.
And the key to maintaining the standard Portland has set during the last three seasons -- 60 victories, a 26-16 WCC record and three CIT berths -- figures to be the progress of 6-10, 225-pound sophomore Riley Barker (2.5 ppg, 1.4 rpg) and 6-11, 225-pound Thomas van der Mars, a freshman from the Netherlands who will turn 21 on November 15. Van der Mars played on the Dutch U20 National Team at the FIBA A-Division European Championships in Croatia in 2010 and spent the last year at the Canarias Basketball Academy in Spain.
Last Season 20-12 (.625)
Conference Record 7-7 (5th)
Starters Lost/Returning 3/2
Coach Eric Reveno (Stanford '89)
Record At School 78-81 (5 years)
Career Record 78-81 (5 years)
RPI Last 5 years 279-299-127-84-103
"He's more veteran than your average freshman," Reveno said. "Thomas really runs well for his size and has good thickness. I really think he'll be able to play. And he's a really bright kid."
The Reveno resume wasn't van der Mars' only attraction to Portland. His uncle's family lived there for some time, and he vacationed in Portland when he was six.
Barker was also landed in international waters, although it was nearby British Columbia. The Canadian known as "Big Red" is the returning player most likely -- and most needed -- to make a giant step after averaging around nine minutes in 28 games as a freshman.
"The big one in terms of having a much more pronounced role is Riley Barker," Reveno said. "He's gonna have to step up. & We're expecting a big jump from him."
A year after having to replace T.J. Campbell and Nik Ravio, the backcourt still appears solid despite the loss of leading scorer Jared Stohl (14.1 ppg), who shot 42.7 percent while making 91 three-pointers. Actually, 6-5 senior wing Nemanja Mitrovic (13.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg) made more three-pointers (93) and shot a higher percentage (46.3) from behind the arc, although Reveno says that was partly because of all the attention Stohl attracted.
Mitrovic shot only 58 free throws while averaging more than 30 minutes in 32 games, and it's not a problem among Pilots that is unique to him. Making more field goals than opponents didn't always translate into victory in 2010-11.
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"Mitrovic has worked hard at other parts of his game," Reveno said. "We need to get some free throws somewhere."
The progress of 5-10 sophomore Tim Douglas (7.7 ppg, 3.0 apg) and fellow point guard Eric Waterford (5.0 ppg, 2.3 apg), a 6-1 senior, should boost the free throw attempts. Douglas ended up starting nine of the 28 games he played before being sidelined four games with a foot injury. His assist average led the team, his 72 free throws attempts are most among returners and he shot 36.5 percent (19-of-52) from three-point distance.
A bright student majoring in biology, Douglas started to figure out when to pick his spots and when to get others involved as the season unfolded. Douglas had 26 points, five rebounds and four assists in an 85-70 home win against WCC co-champion Saint Mary's on January 29.
"The light went on for him," Reveno said. "I definitely saw some maturation from him throughout the course of the season."
Waterford averaged 19.4 minutes and started 23 games. He recorded the team's best assist-to-turnover ratio (1.9) and made 18-of-49 three-pointers (36.6 percent).
Tanner Riley (2.9 ppg, 1.3 rpg), a 6-3 sophomore who was bogged down behind Mitrovic and Stohl, should take on a larger role on the perimeter. Reveno anticipates improved three-point shooting from Riley, who shot 30.4 percent from behind the arc (17-of-56) last season.
The other experienced guard is 6-1 junior Derrick Rodgers (2.3 ppg, 1.2 rpg). He started one game last season in his first year out of junior college and averaged around 12 minutes in 31 games.
Reveno is high on 6-5 freshman guard Kevin Bailey (24.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.0 apg, 2.5 bpg). Rivals rated the athletic Bailey a top-150 player.
"We haven't recruited a lot of those," Reveno said. "He's not the type of shooter we've had, but he can attack off the dribble."
Reveno is also excited about two other freshmen, 6-7 forward Dorian Cason (15.1 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.6 bpg) and 6-3 guard David Carr (14.1 ppg), a Portland product who helped Central Catholic to a 24-4 record and third-place finish in the state tournament.
"David Carr is a skilled combo guard who fills out our backcourt nicely," Reveno said. "Dorian Cason can shoot it a little bit. He has long arms, can block shots.
"We have some skilled posts, but before, we had such veterans with Luke and Kramer Knutson. Our youth in the post is a concern."
Portland's frontcourt includes 6-7, 235-pound sophomore Ryan Nicholas (2.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg) and 6-8 redshirt freshman John Bailey.
All nine players who have left Portland in the last two seasons have played professionally overseas, a fact Reveno is understandably touting.
"We're selling that hard," he said, the inflection in his voice revealing the right mix of pride and pragmatism.
He says strength and conditioning coach Brad Scott, who was in the same position at USC when it went to the Sweet 16 in 2007, has played a key role, as have assistant coaches Joel Sobotka, Eric Jackson and Michael Wolf, who have helped hone fundamentals.
"Portland is an opportunity to be the best you can be," Reveno said. "No school is gonna do a better job player-development wise."
BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS
The Pilots' rise in the WCC has come while the league is on an uptick. Gonzaga has achieved astounding consistency, and Saint Mary's seems to be quickly becoming synonymous. And bringing BYU into the mix will make it that much more difficult to sustain momentum.
"Gonzaga -- they are the gold standard of our conference," Reveno said. "If we can get good enough to beat Gonzaga at Gonzaga or here, then we'll take our chances with BYU. & We're getting there; now, we've got to get over the hump."
Portland has a young nucleus that might complete such an ascent, although it might take another year or two to peak.
I've been checking ESPN often for this. Good read. I think Ryan Nicholas will have a bigger impact than they talked about, though.
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