Checking In On… the Big Sky ConferencePosted by rtmsf on February 3rd, 2012
The Past Couple Weeks:
- Weber State and Montana tied again – These are the two teams that have been at the top of the conference from the beginning, so it is not surprise that they are both at the top of the conference now. As of this writing, they both stand at 8-1, and don’t appear to have any serious contenders. This will be one of the best conference races in the country.
- Idaho State becomes a conference tournament contender – All along this season, Idaho State was seen as a team that would probably finish last in the Big Sky, and nothing through the first two months of the year changed that perception. However, they have all of sudden won three straight games, including handing Weber State their only loss. They are brimming with confidence, and a team that nobody else wants to face, which would have been shocking to say one month ago.
- Former NAU coach Mike Adras under fire – In December, long-time Northern Arizona head coach Mike Adras abruptly resigned, and there was not a lot said about it officially. There were rumors that he may not have treated his players the best, but I never expected what was put out in the AZ Daily Sun last week. He is accused of breaking multiple NCAA rules, including making his practices too long, and making his players lie about it. Suffice to say, the NAU program is reeling a bit right now.
- Weber State (16-4, 8-1) – I gave a lot of thought to putting Montana first, but it was not long ago that Weber State soundly beat them. Damian Lillard is still leading the country in scoring, but his lead is growing more tenuous. They are still battling injury problems, as starting forward Frank Otis is out for the year. It is a bit easy to nitpick, but they are still 8-1 and the favorite.
- Montana (15-6, 8-1) – They are playing excellent basketball right now, and really have things clicking. Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar may be the best guard duo in the conference, and that includes Lillard-Scott Bamforth for WSU. The Grizzlies don’t have a real inside scoring threat, but they space the floor very well and have five guys that can hit jumpers. That is tough to guard.
- Montana State (11-9, 6-3) – It is still yet to be seen if they are truly for real, but their road comeback win over Portland State showed that they can never be counted out of a game. To be frank, they are below average offensively and defensively, but they are still winning games. Can they continue to win these games or will they regress to the mean? I tend to believe in statistics, and they tell me that the Bobcats are due to slow down their winning.
- Idaho State (7-14, 5-4) – In the span of two days, they won a double OT thriller over Northern Colorado, and then won on a buzzer-beater over Weber State to complete the biggest upset in the Big Sky this year. It must have been one heck of a week to be a Bengals’ fan in Pocatello. The fans deserve it. They are very passionate but have not had much to cheer about the last few years.
- Eastern Washington (10-12, 4-5) – The first time the Eagles played Montana, they arguably looked like the better team before dropping a close road game. The second time, nobody could have mistaken EWU for the better team. Fortunately, they followed it up with a dominating defensive performance over Montana State, showing everyone what they are capable of doing. Can they do that every game? Probably not, but they still look like a top-4 team to me.
- Portland State (10-11, 4-5) – They had a big homestand against the Montana schools with a chance to really make a statement, and they couldn’t do it. Nate Lozeau started out the year looking like a potential all-conference player, but he has not been contributing a ton lately. They are still talented, but lack depth. If Charles Odum struggles, their whole team struggles.
- Northern Colorado (7-13, 4-5) – It has been a rough time on the road for the Bears, and they got bad news that Elliott Lloyd and Aaron Hawk-Harris have been suspended indefinitely. Lloyd was the team’s best perimeter defender and leader in the backcourt. The good news is the development of Tevin Svihovec (freshman) and Emmanuel Addo (sophomore). Both players look to be studs in the Big Sky for the next few years.
- Sacramento State (6-14, 1-8) – They finally got a conference win, and it came via a 34-point drubbing of Northern Arizona. I don’t think the Hornets can make the conference tourney, but I will say this – they are more than capable of beating anyone other than Weber State or Montana in the conference. Dylan Garrity continues to lead all freshmen in assists.
- Northern Arizona (5-17, 1-8) – There is not really much going right in Flagstaff. They have off-the-court issues as detailed, but they also have a lot of on-the-court issues. They look like the worst team in the conference, and they may not win three conference games. There is some hope for the future on the roster, but it is only a faint, glimmering hope.
- Saturday, 2/04 – Montana @ Montana State – The big in-state rivalry, and this one has extra meaning since both teams are in the top three in the Big Sky. Montana looks to me to be the superior team, but MSU will be entering the game thinking they should win. It should be a really fun game.
- Monday, 2/06 – Idaho State @ Montana – Can Idaho State continue their magical run? Going into Missoula and winning is a tall task, but Chase Grabau and the rest of the Bengals may be up to it. You get the sense that they believe they can beat anyone.
- Saturday, 2/11 – Eastern Washington @ Weber State – On paper, EWU is a team that matches up with Weber State, because they are so athletic. It would be a huge confidence booster for them, because they are still really looking for their first marquee win.
Bracket Busters Matchups – As expected, Weber State is the only game that will get national attention, as they will take on UT-Arlington on ESPN3 in what will be one of the highest scoring Bracket Buster games. Another one to watch is Hawaii traveling to take on Montana. The Warriors haven’t been great this year but it would still be a nice resume booster for the Grizzlies.