university of portland basketball

Pilots ready for WCC flight

UP has high hopes for not only conference play, but beyond
Dec. 22, 2014 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

PORTLAND - Are the Portland Pilots for real?

NCAA Tournament?

If the Pilots don't reach the NCAA men's basketball tournament come March, they might actually be disappointed, that's how the non-conference schedule has gone for the team, which beat Lewis and Clark 71-49 Monday afternoon at the Chiles Center.

Portland improved to 9-3 overall, but could easily be 11-1 as two of the losses were in overtime - one at Oregon State and the other at UNLV. Were the Pilots 11-1 with wins over OSU and UNLV, there are media members who might actually raise an eyebrow regarding their season. But, it won't ever be more than a raised eyebrow no matter what their record is if the program can't get to the Big Dance.

So, that's where the Pilots are now - ready to expect they can get to the NCAA Tournament.

"Our non-conference games have given us a lot of confidence that we can do well in the WCC, and that's our goal," coach Eric Reveno, in his ninth year, said Monday. "But, conference play is just one part of the season. It leads to the WCC Tournament, and that's where you really want to be playing well."

Portland has been to the NCAA tournament just once - 1996 - by virtue of winning the WCC Tournament. They got drubbed 92-58 by Villanova in the NCAAs once they got to the Midwest Region, but a loss in the tournament is still a game in the tournament. They haven't been there since.

Not that the program hasn't been capable, at least on paper. Reveno has led the Pilots to 20-win seasons three times, and they finally beat Gonzaga last year when they might have made some late-season noise had leading scorer Kevin Bailey not went down with a foot injury.

Bailey is out again with a foot injury, but it's at the start of the conference season. And, teammates are stepping up in his absence.

Portland's guard are going to be its strength, but it's core is a trio of solid front-line players led by 6-fot-11 senior Thomas Van Der Mars, who understands his senior season perfectly.

"This is it, when you're a senior," he said after scoring 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting. "You know you've only got one season left, and you want to get to the tournament so that's what you play for."

 

 

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