Seattle Pacific Picked No. 1 by the Sporting News
David Downs is a pre-season Sporting News All-American selection.
David Downs is a pre-season Sporting News All-American selection.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. - Seattle Pacific drew the No. 1 spot in the Sporting News preseason rankings of NCAA Division II men’s basketball teams and Falcon senior David Downs is projected as a first-team All-American in the magazine that is currently available on newsstands.

The Falcons advanced to the West Regional championship game each of the last two seasons, but fell in Bellingham to Western Washington both times. The Vikings, who won the 2012 national championship, are a preseason No. 9 selection.

This is how The Sporting News opened its preview of SPU:

“Western Washington has strongly represented the Great Northwest Athletic Conference in recent years, with the national championship two years ago and a Final Four spot last season. Seattle Pacific wants to give WWU a breather this year and take over the leadership role.”

The Falcons return three starters, including Downs (6-2, Sr., Kirkland, WA - Bellevue Christian) who averaged 14.2 points and led all GNAC playmakers with 5.5 assists per game.

He was a first-team all-league honoree who received the 2013 GNAC Tournament MVP award after leading SPU to the title with a 72-70 victory over regular-season champion WWU.

Coach Ryan Looney’s Falcons registered a 27-4 record last year, equaling the school standard for single-season victories while establishing the best winning percentage (87.1%) in the 70-year history of the program. They finished the season ranked No. 2 nationally.

SPU participated in the last nine NCAA tournaments, the longest current playoff streak among Division II competitors. The Falcons advanced to the Final Four in 2000 and 2006, finishing third both times.

Western Washington, which is coming off a 31-3 season, will be looking to become the first team since 1994 to win three straight West Regional championships.

Two starters return for second-year coach Tony Dominguez, who was WWU’s top assistant the previous 17 seasons. They are 6-foot-3 guard Richard Woodworth (Sr., Bellevue, WA - Newport), who averaged 11.1 points and was named Most Outstanding Player at the West Regional, and 6-9 center Austin Bragg (Sr., Longview, WA - Mark Morris), who averaged 9.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and blocked 43 shots.

Another top returnee for the Vikings is 6-7 junior Anye Turner (Olympia, WA - Black Hills).

Last year’s national runner-up Metro State is ranked second by the Sporting News followed by Kentucky Wesleyan, Bellarmine, Minnesota State and West Liberty. Defending champion Drury is listed seventh, Midwestern State is No. 8 and New Haven is 10th.