Give this to the Seattle University Redhawks in their first full Division I season since 1980: They’ve certainly shown impeccable timing. A 13-game KeyArena home schedule that wrapped up Tuesday night generally alternated thrillers and lopsided victories. Opening night was the best example of the former, with Seattle U holding on for an 82-81 win over Fresno State that delighted the home fans. Senior Day was just the opposite, as the Redhawks took advantage of Dominic Waters leaving the game with a bruised heel to comfortably knock off Portland State 93-80.
Really, Seattle U has had three very different seasons. The first 11 games saw the Redhawks get off to a solid 6-5 start behind dominant play from Charles Garcia, who put up eye-popping numbers and emerged as a possible first-round pick. Then, for whatever reason–a nagging back injury, increased defensive attention, foul trouble–Garcia slowed down and Seattle U struggled badly, losing six of its next seven games. (Oddly enough, the one win in that span was the 51-point blowout at Oregon State that remains impossible to comprehend.)
Somewhere along the way, the rest of the Redhawks developed (especially sophomore point guard Cervante Burrell and junior forward Alex Jones) and Garcia began to fit in as a piece as opposed to the sole focal point. With a very winnable game at Utah Valley (No. 323 in the Pomeroy Rankings) left on the schedule, Seattle U has gone 9-3 since mid-January, the losses coming at Washington and twice to Idaho (including a two-point home loss). The Redhawks have moved up to No. 182 by Pomeroy’s metrics pending the addition of Tuesday night’s result, which is simply incredible for an independent team. Including the Great West pseudo-conference of independent teams, the next best team is No. 255 South Dakota. By the numbers, Seattle U would be competitive in the Big Sky conference and a middle-of-the-road team in the West Coast Conference, where the school obviously is hoping to land when it becomes eligible to join a conference.
While there is no conference tournament on the schedule, the Redhawks are eligible for selection by either the NIT or the CBI. The former would be a pretty considerable stretch, but Seattle U would be the kind of team that would look at the CBI as a reward and not an obligation.
As for Garcia, it’s pretty evident he’s not yet ready for the NBA and would benefit from another year in the structured environment of college basketball. While scouts remain intrigued–22 of them apparently attended the Redhawks’ win at San Jose State last week–Garcia’s draft stock has cooled considerably from its first-round peak, and a team drafting him in the second round would probably prefer to have him develop overseas before bringing him to training camp. Better for Garcia to continue playing the brand of team basketball he’s demonstrated in the last month and solidify his position for the 2011 NBA Draft.
Lastly, a note on the wonderful tradition that is Senior Day. Is there anything better than a lightly-used player having a big game after being honored? SU’s Taylor Olson isn’t exactly Mark Titus–he averages 11 minutes per game and even hit the game-winning three against the Spartans–but the pride of Bishop Blanchet High School (alma mater of friend of BBP Derek Long) reached double-figures for just the second time all season with 10 points, including a pair of three-pointers in the early minutes after getting the honorary start. The Redhawks’ senior class, which also includes key players Mike Boxley and Chris Gweth, entered college as D-II competitors and finished it having brought Seattle U back to D-I and beaten a Pac-10 team (by 51 points!) on its home court. Not bad for a college career.