Portland Basketball: Pilots will be a spoiler for the WCC in 2018-19

Portland Basketball isn’t expected to accomplish much in WCC Basketball this upcoming season. Underestimating them could be fatal for opponents in 2019-20.

WCC Basketball looks to be as strong as they’ve been as a league in some time. With the exception of Saint Mary’s and LMU, everyone else returns their key players from last season’s team. That includes Portland Basketball, who was stronger than expected in year two under Terry Porter.

The Pilots were projected as the worst team in the preseason last year in the WCC. That was after losing eight of the team’s top nine scorers from the previous year, ushering in a bunch of newcomers that fit the new coach’s system. There were going to be a ton of rough patches – and there was, with 10-22 overall record.

But don’t be fooled by Portland’s record, as they were much more competitive than expected. Despite going winless in the PK80, the Pilots showed themselves well against North Carolina, Oklahoma and DePaul. The highlight of the season overall was the stretch between late-January and early February where they won four out of six games, with the losses coming to Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s.

Those wins clearly gave the young team confidence, with the rest of the games being in single-digits in the final minutes. They did lose their final seven but it ended up being a valuable learning experience for the team.

Portland is in a good position as a program for the next couple of years. They will lose seniors Phillip Hartwich and D’Marques Tyson, yet retain six of their top seven scorers without anyone transferring out. They also bring in Junior College transfer Ty Glover, a 6’7 wing who shot nearly 40% from three-point range last season.

What makes this team so intriguing to watch is the amount of young talent they possess, starting with freshman leading scorer Marcus Shaver. Outside of his perimeter shooting, the 6’2 guard showed his offensive potential, scoring 15+ points 13 different times.

The key frontcourt piece is Tahirou Diabate, a 6’9 forward from Mail via Japan. After a slow start, he came into his own as a freshman. Diabate became a starter with several quality performances, including a 15-point, 10-rebound game against Santa Clara and a season-high 19 versus Pepperdine. He shot 56% from the field showed real promise as a big man.

With shooters like Josh McSwiggan and brothers Malcolm and Franklin Porter nailing three-pointers, the Pilots have potential to be a lethal offense in due time.

Next: Preseason WCC Rankings for 2018-19

With just a couple of seniors on the projected roster for next season, Portland Basketball will be the youngest overall in the WCC. That could mean that more losses are on the way in conference play but that also could mean great things in 2019-20, when the seniors all graduate from the other teams. In the meanwhile, the Pilots will continue doing what they did the ladder part of last season – being a very tough out for all opponents.