The college basketball season begins in November and it is time to start counting down the days until tipoff.
As the excitement builds, websites across the Internet start posting team previews and this will be no different. I will unveil three per week, leading up to a Halloween release date of the regular season predictions.
The next team is coming off another trip to the postseason and is the youngest in the conference with 11 underclassmen. That team is the Portland Pilots.
Conference finish: 5th
Head Coach: Eric Reveno, 6th season
Returning starters: G Nemanja Mitrovic, G Eric Waterford
Key newcomers: G Kevin Bailey, C Thomas van der Mars
Key games: 11/14 @ Washington, 11/20 vs. Washington State, 11/22 @ UC Santa Barbara, 11/26 @ Kentucky, 12/22 @ Nevada, 12/28 @ Gonzaga, 1/26 vs. Gonzaga, 2/23 vs. Saint Mary’s, 2/25 @ BYU
Portland won at least 20 games and reached the CollegeInsider.com Tournament for the second consecutive season.
The downside? The Pilots took a step backwards in the West Coast Conference standings.
Portland returns three key pieces from last year’s squad in Nemanja Mitrovic, Eric Waterford and Tim Douglas. The trio combined for 26.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and seven assists per game.
But the Pilots will have to overcome youth and an inexperienced frontline with only three upperclassmen.
Portland is expecting to get immediate contributions from freshman Thomas van der Mars. Much like Gonzaga’s Elias Harris, the 21-year-old center van der Mars comes in after some international experience.
The Netherlands native played for the 2010 U20 Netherlands National Team.
The Pilots will also be hoping for production from highly-touted recruit Kevin Bailey.
Bailey, rated 89 by ESPN and also recruited by Stanford, UCLA and Washington, will be vying for playing time and shooting guard and small forward. His length and quickness will bring a different aspect to the Pilots.
Portland’s out of conference will provide plenty of opportunity to challenge itself.
In a 13-day stretch in November, the Pilots will play three of four games on the road at Washington, UC Santa Barbara and preseason No. 2 Ketnucky. The one home game will be against Washington State on Nov. 20.
They also finish off their out of conference schedule on the road at Utah and at Nevada.
The Pilots will also have one of the toughest starts to league play with the WCC league opener at Gonzaga on Dec. 28 and follow that up with hosting Santa Clara on Jan. 5.
Portland will play 10 of its first 13 games away from the Chiles Center.
To say the least, Portland will be battle tested before heading into league play.
Follow Zack Farmer on Twitter: @ZFarmerExaminer
Coming this month:
Oct. 5 – Player of the Year candidates
Oct. 10 – Gonzaga
Oct. 12 – Loyola Marymount
Oct. 14 – San Francisco
Oct. 17 – Santa Clara
Oct. 19 – San Diego
Oct. 21 – BYU
Oct. 24 – Portland
Oct. 26 – Saint Mary’s
Oct. 28 – Pepperdine
Oct. 31 – Season Predictions