Less than a month ago, Chapman College basketball Coach Rich Prospero said it would be a successful season if the Panthers qualified for the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. playoffs.
Well, it has been a successful season.
"I told our guys they've had a great season and they did much better than anyone expected," Prospero said. "Now, we've set new goals."
Those goals include a victory over second-place Cal State Dominguez Hills in the first round of the conference playoffs. The Panthers play the Toros at 6 tonight at Riverside Community College.
"I feel very comfortable with playing Dominguez Hills," Prospero said. "We're playing really good ball right now. And although Dominguez is good, they have not been playing at their best recently."
Chapman (16-11) is indeed hot, having won five of its past six games to finish tied for third place with Cal State Bakersfield. Both teams had 9-5 conference records.
Because Chapman beat Bakersfield twice, it is the third-seeded team in the four-team playoff.
Thus, the Panthers get to play the Toros on a neutral court, rather than facing first-place UC Riverside in front of a partisan crowd. Bakersfield and Riverside play in the 8 p.m. game.
Of course, the Panthers couldn't even beat Dominguez Hills at Chapman this season, so the neutral court theory might not mean much.
"It's still better than playing Riverside in front of their people," Prospero said.
Prospero said the Panthers need two things in order to upset Dominguez Hills (19-8).
--A good game from Bryan Richetto, Chapman's point guard.
--A bad game from Anthony Blackmon, the Toros' 6-foot-7 center.
The Blackmon problem might be out of the Panthers' hands. He leads the conference in scoring (19.3 points per game) and rebounding (9.9 per game).
Blackmon is supported well by guard Robert Barksdale, who averages 13 points a game.
"I thought we did a pretty good job on Blackmon the last time we played them," Prospero said. "Barksdale killed us."
The Richetto matter might be more crucial. When he plays well, the Panthers usually win, or at least they stay close.
A 6-foot-4 sophomore point guard, Richetto was second in the conference in assists, averaging 5.6 a game. He also is a good outside shooter, plays tough defense and runs the transition game well.
Trouble is, there are nights when he does none of that.
Against Bakersfield on Saturday, Richetto so infuriated Prospero that he was benched for nearly 5 minutes in the second half.
"If the Bryan Richetto of that night shows up, we're in trouble," Prospero said. "If the Bryan Richetto who played against (Cal Poly) San Luis Obispo or (Cal State) Northridge is there, we'll be all right.
"Everyone else is playing real well right now. We just have to wait and see which Bryan shows up."
In the second game, Riverside (23-6) could have problems against Bakersfield (20-7).
Although Riverside was ranked No. 1 in the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. Division II poll most of the season, the Highlanders lost two of their final five games--including one to Bakersfield two weeks ago.