Riveting Roundball Returns to the Key

Seattle U.’s making a case for its upstart basketball program.

When former UW assistant and UCLA point guard Cameron Dollar decided to take the head-coaching gig at Seattle University this past off-season, more than a few folks were perplexed. Dollar was the top assistant to a head coach (Lorenzo Romar) of a program on the rise; had he bided his time for another year or two, surely he'd have landed the top gig at a scrappy mid-major with even odds of making the NCAA tourney each year.Instead, Dollar chose to take the reins of a once-great, then dormant, now-fledgling team without a conference, TV deal, or a means to make the postseason, per the NCAA's rather punitive regulations for new programs. In so doing, he was handed the basketball equivalent of the keys to a nice old Mustang that hadn't had its ignition turned in 25 years.The flip side is the job comes with very little pressure. Don't tell that to Dollar, though, whose team is playing as though its rookie coach's job is on the line. Last week, the Redhawks upset the University of Utah on the road—the same University of Utah that's produced NBA first-rounders like Andrew Bogut, Andre Miller, and Keith Van Horn and was once coached by the mighty Rick Majerus. The win marked three in a row for Seattle U., which started its streak with an impressive victory over Fresno State in front of former Chieftain (SU's former politically incorrect nickname) and NBA great Elgin Baylor on the KeyArena court now named in his honor.It may be awhile before the Redhawks sell out the Key, but in the meantime their insanely cheap ticket prices make taking them in a fairly risk-free bargain. (Season tickets behind the basket cost $40, less than the worst upper-bowl seat at a single Sonic game did.) Harvard's visiting on Jan. 2, and further down the schedule the Redhawks have road games against UW (wouldn't it be nice if Seattle had a legit crosstown rivalry?) and Oregon State, but the team's most important tilt will be a Dec. 30 visit to Loyola Marymount.Loyola, you see, is one of the lesser teams in the WCC, the conference Gonzaga and a slew of Jesuit colleges play in. It'd be a perfect fit for Seattle U., and yet the conference has expressed wariness over adding an upstart program that could adversely impact its power ranking, a critical figure when it comes time to determine at-large bids to the NCAA tourney. But Seattle U. beat Loyola last year at home, and if it can pull a repeat on the road, the arguments for keeping Dollar's program out get all the more hollow.

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