Boys Basketball Preview: Far East

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Greater Oregon League – 

To make projections for the upcoming season in any league, the history of that league has to be looked at. No GOL team has made the state tournament since 2017-18 (Baker), and before that it had been 2013-14 (La Grande). The GOL has a complicated, often erratic history in boys basketball. 

Last season, only one team achieved an above .500 record (Baker), the highest ranked team ended up at #17, and neither of the two playoff qualifiers (La Grande and Baker) made considerable noise in the opening round. At first glance, there isn’t much hope for that to change coming into this postponed and rescheduled season, but upon further digging there might be a gem or two in waiting. Here’s what we see:

  • There are 14 upperclassmen (assuming all from the 2019-20 roster return) for Baker: 6 Seniors and 8 Juniors. There’s always a place for an upperclassman-heavy roster with a returning coaching staff in the list of potential playoff sleepers. La Grande, similarly, has the potential to bring back 12 upperclassmen of their own. This would suggest, if nothing else, there are ‘boom’ candidates in a league that across the board went bust last year.
  • If either ‘booms’, there could be for the first time in 3 seasons a top-10 team in the far east. For sports betting fanatics, these could be teams that consistently cover the spread early in the season as it takes the rest of the state time to catch up to their possibly dramatic improvement.

Greater Oregon League Projected Final Standings (Bold – Playoff Birth)

  1. Baker
  2. La Grande
  3. McLoughlin
  4. Ontario

Eastern Oregon League –

Some leagues are turbulent with different champions every year, a constant churning of who’s at the mountaintop. The EOL, however, can’t be accused of being one of those leagues. Nyssa and Umatilla, apart from the short-lived dominance of Irrigon, have consistently held the reins over the east. We see no real reason for that to change. Here’s why:

  • Nyssa was a better matchup away from Coos Bay last year; don’t be mistaken. The Bulldogs drove clear across the state only to catch Amity on what was undoubtedly their hottest shooting night of the season, if not longer—wrong place, wrong time. Even though the league player of the year, Pedro Chavez, isn’t playing for the Bulldogs this season, they remain a threat because of the returning pair of Nico Gomeza and Leo Barba. If they and the other potential returning seniors step up to the challenge, there’s no reason Nyssa can’t be right back in the thick of things.
  • We talk a lot about senior-heavy, or at least upperclassmen-heavy, teams when projecting a season before it happens. One of the teams that has potential to be particularly upperclassmen-heavy is Umatilla. Assuming all play and make the roster, Umatilla could boast a 6-man senior class backed up by 7 juniors. It’s a completely unscientific way of looking at things, but it nonetheless can give insight into a team’s ceiling and floor: Senior-heavy, or at least upperclassmen-heavy, rosters don’t always translate to higher ceilings, but they normally do have higher floors. Because of the returning talent, Umatilla can’t be written off.
  • There are rumblings something might be developing in Vale. Keeping with the theme of talent retention, Vale did in fact only lose two seniors, so there is potential for a Viking resurgence. Something to keep an eye on.

Eastern Oregon League Projected Final Standings (Bold – Playoff Berth)

  1. Umatilla
  2. Nyssa
  3. Vale
  4. Burns
  5. Riverside
  6. Irrigon

Blue Mountain Conference –

Bottom line in the BMC: there is a ton of talent coming back. There’s a genuine case to be made that multiple teams could come out of this conference and end up in Pendleton. There’s also a very real scenario where out of all the leagues in 2A, the BMC ends up being both the deepest and most competitive. It is by far the hardest out of the three eastern Oregon leagues to project, but here are our thoughts:

  • If the supporting cast at Union steps up … get out of the way. Jace Phillips, Cole McLean, and the other returning Bobcats have the chance to propel Union to their first state tournament appearance in well over a decade. Keegan Glenn is going to cook; whether he falls into a James Moore-at-Blanchet situation is yet to be seen. Union could be scary.
  • Pilot Rock has its talent more spread out, but goodness, do they have a high ceiling. Jimmy Jones paired with Tel Thacker promises to be one of the premier duos at the 2A level this year. Backed by four other potential seniors and five juniors, there’s real depth here. Pilot Rock’s floor is raised by their lack of overall roster turnover. 
  • Devon Stokes and Jordan Hall return for Grant Union, and that alone should make them competitive in the BMC. The front court height has been decimated, but the backcourt depth from last season remains mostly intact. Grant Union might have a hard time winning the BMC but should have no trouble grabbing an at-large playoff bid should it be available.

Blue Mountain Conference Projected Final Standings (Bold – Playoff Birth)

  1. Union 
  2. Pilot Rock 
  3. Grant Union 
  4. Heppner
  5. Stanfield
  6. Weston-McEwen
  7. Enterprise

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