Thursday, March 19, 2009

Can the confident Vikings pull an upset? Thoughts from Thursday’s shootaround from Taco Bell Arena

The Portland State players have never lacked a confident attitude in what so far has been a roller coaster of a season. On Thursday the No. 13 seeded team from the South Park Blocks came into Boise determined to compete.

But one underlying question regarding this team is, can they play their best basketball game of the season for 40 minutes and defeat no. 4 seeded Xavier, who is playing in their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament.

“Last year we were just happy to get the 16 seed,” said senior guard Andre Murray in a press conference before practice. “But now we’re coming here hungry. We’re looking to get a win or two.”

In order for the Vikings to reach their goal of the second round, they will have to take down a tough and much bigger Xavier squad.

The Musketeers are led by Senior guard B.J. Raymond who averages 14 points per game and played a significant role in the team’s run to the Elite Eight last season.

“When you look at his statistics, the senior season that he’s had arguably is one of the best that we have had in recent times at Xavier,” said Musketeers head coach Sean Miller, who is in his fifth season coaching the team from Cincinatti.

The Vikings took the court at Boise State’s Taco Bell Arena for a brief practice at 5:55 Mountain Standard Time Thursday evening.

Players rotated taking shots and ran various full court drills.Throughout the practice, the players were quiet and seemed to be playing very hesitantly as they adjusted to the new scene.

Unlike their opponent who ran practice about 90 minutes prior to Portland State, the Xavier players were very loose and acted off their prior NCAA tournament experiences.

One advantage the Vikings do have over Xavier is their ability to run the floor. If the Vikings want to compete in tomorrow’s game they must out-run Xavier and get transition buckets.

“I would like us to initiate the tempo of the game, try to get out, try to push it, see if we can’t get a good look at the basket in transition,” said Portland State head coach Ken Bone.

A few thoughts about the game:

I expect senior point guard Jeremiah Dominguez to have a solid game. The Big Sky tournament MVP has willed this team back to the NCAA tournament.

The defensive matchup against BJ Raymond will be interesting. It is unclear which Portland State defender will start off on Raymond although it will most likely be junior wing Phil Nelson. Junior forward Kyle Coston has played solid defense of late, in particular a nice effort in the conference championship game against Montana State

The Vikings Big men vs. Xavier Big men: If Jamie Jones and Julius Thomas can out run Xavier’s Jared Love, the Vikings can have easy scoring opportunities in transition.

Waters-Thomas combination: The Vikings bench will have to outplay Xavier’s lack of depth. In the conference tournament Dominic Waters and Julius Thomas connected frequently, with Waters dishing out brilliant assists that typically resulted in highlight dunks from Thomas.

Posted by Tom Sedun, Vanguard staff
All photos taken by Rodrigo Melgarejo, Vanguard photographer

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