Foothill Men’s Basketball Playoffs: Four Things to Watch in Round One

There are four key things to keep an eye on as the Foothill Owls face the Butte Roadrunners in the first round of the CCCAA playoffs on this Friday, February 23rd at 7:00 pm.

1) Repeat Matchup

This matchup is the second matchup between these two teams. The first being on December 2nd, where the Foothill Owls fell short 80 – 70 due to an inefficient first half in which they scored 17 fewer points than the Roadrunners. The Owls also had 15 turnovers and were dominated in virtually every stat possible: 43% field goal shooting for the Roadrunners compared to 41% field goal for the Owls, 53% 3 point shooting for the Roadrunners compared to 42% 3 point shooting for the Owls, and 37 rebounds for the Roadrunners compared to 27 rebounds for the Owls. Although behind in stat categories, the close score from last time indicates that the Owls have more than a puncher’s chance against the Roadrunners if they perform better during Friday’s game.

2) The Matt Factor

Matt McAndrews has been the focus of the second half offensive surge this season, and continuing this excellent performance is the key to success in the playoffs and the Owls’ title hopes. After an excellent performance in the final game of the Owls’ season, the odds are that the offensive star is about to continue his uncanny success.

McAndrews was sensational during the Owls’ magical  end-of-season run leading to this playoff game, with only two stats needed to highlight his stellar performance — his shooting percentage of 54.3% and 20 points per game — both of these being one of the highest marks on the team. The goal now for himself and the Owls is to keep that trend going and continue to perform at a high level to maintain his statline against tougher competition.

Having Alex Gil-Fernandez performing at such at an explosive level should be a game-changer in terms of how McAndrews is guarded, as it is a lot harder to defend him as a ball handler when there is another elite player in the midst.  Gil-Fernandez’ recent performance means McAndrews can shine even more himself.  

3) Defense First

There are an abundance of factors determine that may determine the outcome of a basketball match — with considerably more for a playoff game — but defense should be considered a top priority for the Foothill team. The Owls’ defense has been considered average at best during the regular season, and needs to improve for playoffs.

In all of their wins during the season, seven were decided by 10 points or less due to their defense failing to hold on to substantial leads, and a majority of their losses were due to their defense failing to live up to expectations.

There will need to be a full-team approach to defend the Butte Roadrunners and their offensive capabilities. The Owls’ defense will have their hands full when they face a team that features three players shooting north of 50% from the field, two players shooting north of 50% from the 3-point line, and two players shooting in double digit points.

4) X-factor: Chris Russell and Joe Pitocchi

Although Russell and Pitocchi do not have the stats that signify an elite player, their presence is felt in other ways. Just the notion of Russell and Pitocchi being able to put up eye catching offensive numbers forces teams to guard and keep an eye on them. The pressure they demand even when not hot keeps the court open for the rest of the team. Not only that, but both Russell and Pitocchi can be dedicated and capable on the defensive side of the ball, which can alleviate some of the pressure from the Roadrunners.