Save for a stretch in the late 00's/early 10's it has been a rough millennium for Portland Pilots basketball.
With 2 NCAA tournament appearances in the Pilots’ history (most recently in 1996) I guess one could argue it has been a rough ever for this program.
The Pilots do have an uphill battle to establish anything in the West Coast Conference with the looming specter of Gonzaga at the top of their league annually. In addition, St. Mary’s and BYU are other WCC schools with more recent history and resources respectively than Portland (and al of the other WCC have-nots) possess currently.
So, it was kind of a surprise when Terry Porter took the Pilots’ head coaching job prior to the 2016-17 season. Porter had a great decade-long run playing for the Portland Trailblazers and the requisite local ties. But guys with over a decade of NBA assistant experience and multiple years as an NBA head coach (99-116 record) don’t usually take these kinds of jobs.
Porter has struggled to get anything going, coming into the current season with 28 wins in his first 3 years in charge, with the high mark for wins being 11 in his first season.
As of this Sunday morning, the Pilots have an 8-4 record and at first blush that might be a sign Porter’s team has figured some things out. But if you dig a little deeper, 2 of those wins were over non-Division 1 teams and none of the remaining 6 D1 wins came over a team with a higher KenPom ranking than 211 (a rivalry win over Portland State).
The last time the Pilots took the court they lost at home 73-63 to Jackson State, a team projected to finish in the middle of the SWAC. Portland was JSU’s first D1 win of the current season. Really, the most impressive result of the Pilots’ season to date might be keeping the score within 11 points to USC in an early season loss.
Grad transfer Isaiah White has been the Pilots’ best offensive player this year, averaging 14.8 points per game and shooting 41.7% on 3-pointers. White defines well-traveled, starting his college career at UNC-Asheville, going to Harford CC back in his home state of Maryland before playing the previous 2 seasons at Maine.
Juniors JoJo Walker and Malcolm Porter (Terry’s son) have been the other semi-consistent contributors out of the backcourt. Walker is also shooting about 40% on 3-pointers. Also, sophomore guard and New Zealander Takiula Fahrensohn is making an impressive 48.9% of his 3-pointers. No shock I guess that the Pilots are 2nd nationally in 3-point field goal %.
Despite being apparently a dead-eye team shooting from deep, the Pilots are an awful 65.3% on free throws (297th nationally). Go figure.
Maybe the most important indicator of how this one will go is the Pilots’ appallingly bad rebounding metrics. Specifically, they’re 327th in offensive rebound % and 318th in opponent offensive rebound %.
This is a game the Cougars should win by a fair amount and can hopefully rest some key guys for the compressed schedule they’ll face in the Diamond Head Classic over the next few days.