Checking in on… the Big Sky

Posted by jstevrtc on February 13th, 2010

Glenn Junkert of Grizzly Journal is the RTC correspondent for the Big Sky Conference.

BIG SKY CONFERENCE (Records are CONF/ALL/STREAK):

  1. Weber State (9-2/15-8/W1) Wildcats have clinched a playoff berth and — with three of their last five games at home — are in the catbird’s seat.
  2. Northern Colorado (8-3/19-5/W2) Bears match up well with Weber State, and, with Saturday’s clash against the Cats at Ogden, can move into a tie for first.
  3. Montana (8-4/17-7/W4) Led by senior MVP candidate Anthony Johnson, Montana is getting balanced scoring AND solid play from five underclass subs on the deepest bench in the conference.
  4. Montana State (7-5/12-11/L1) Home-court loss to Weber State last week hurt Bobcats’ hopes of earning post-season tourney bye.
  5. Portland State (5-5/10-13/L1) The Vikings lost Phil Nelson — the fourth-best three-point shooter in the Big Sky — to a broken foot at the end of a three-game slide. Expect the Vikes, who play four of their final six at home, to move up in the standings…and to play the spoiler in the fight for tourney seeding.
  6. Northern Arizona (5-6/11-11/L2) Lumberjacks look to avenge season-worst 25-point home-court loss to Weber State Friday. Junior Cameron Jones is Jacks’ all-everything MVP-contender.
  7. Idaho State (3-8/6-17/L3) Home court loss to Sacramento State and ankle injury to scoring leader Amorrow Morgan deals Bengals’ post-conference hopes a blow.
  8. Sacramento State (3-9/9-16/W1) Hornets snap four-year, 27-game Big Sky losing streak with 72-55 win at ISU.
  9. Eastern Washington (2-8/6-18/L7) Eagles play four of final six games at home in battle to qualify for conference playoffs.

RPI BOOSTERS — Despite a home-court loss to Montana, Northern Colorado maintained its lock on second place in the Big Sky with the league’s best overall record (19-5), good enough for a 10th place rank (441 points) in the College Insider’s Mid Major Poll. League leader Weber State broke into the top 25 (at 25th) with 120 points, while Montana’s 11 points equals a rank of 34th. USA Today’s Sagarin Rankings have the three teams bunched at 98 (Montana), 99 (Northern Colorado), and 100 (Weber State).

MVPs — Montana’s senior guard Anthony Johnson and Weber State’s sophomore guard Damian Lilliard have emerged as leading candidates for Big Sky MVP. Lilliard, twice recognized for POTW recognition, leads the conference in scoring (20.2 PPG) as league leader Weber State’s anchor.  Johnson — who has been named POTW eight times in two years (four this season, most recently on Feb. 7), has been the keystone of Montana’s resurgence after freshman Will Cherry stepped up as Griz point guard…freeing Johnson to play the open-court, ball-possession offense he does best.

HOT & NOT

HOT — After starting Big Sky play at 0-3, Montana has won 7-of-8 games, including a sweep at the two Northerns (Arizona & Colorado). Included in the run were convincing victories over league leader Weber State (75-61) and Idaho State (91-68), good enough for third place. The deep Grizzlies — shooting 60% from the field and 58% from three point range over the past four games —  can brand themselves as legit contenders with road wins at Portland State and Eastern Washington this weekend.

NOT — After a clutch win at Montana State — and being touted here as a potential Big Sky Spoiler — the Eastern Washington Eagles lost seven straight games. EWU finishes its season with 4-of-6 in Cheney. They’ll probably have to win all four if they hope to qualify for post-season Big Sky tourney seeding.

STAT CHECK:

  • Scoring: Damian Lilliard (WSU) 20.2 PPG; Cameron Jones (NAU) 18.5; Dominic Waters (PSU) 18.1; Anthony Johnson (UM) 17.9; Amorrow Morgan (ISU) 17.5.
  • Rebounding: Jamie Jones (PSU) 7.5 RPG; Brandon Moore (EWU) 7.4; Demetrius Monroe (ISU) 7.0; Brian Qvale (UM) 6.7.
  • Steals: Will Bynum  (MSU) 2.1 SPG; Devon Beitzel (UNC) 2.0; Broderick Gilchrest (ISU) 2.0.
  • Blocked shots: Jamie Jones (PSU) 2.2 BPG; Brian Qvale (UM) 1.9.
  • Assists: Dominic Waters (PSU) 4.7 APG; Julian Olubuyi (NAU) 4.0; Glen Dean (EWU) 4.3.
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Checking in on… the Big Sky

Posted by rtmsf on January 22nd, 2010

Glenn Junkert of Grizzly Journal is the RTC correspondent for the Big Sky Conference.

Standings (records are CONF/ALL/STREAK)

  1. Weber State (5-1/11-7/W2). A quintessential coaches’ team, the Cats get it done with blue-collar attention to all the X’s and O’s.
  2. Northern Colorado (5-2/16-4/W1). Bears rebound from a setback at Portland with a three-point come from behind win at Eastern Washington.
  3. Montana State (5-2/10-8/L1). Well-coached, overachieving Bobcats get solid leadership from senior point guard Will Bynum.
  4. Montana (4-3/13-6/W3). Grizzlies search for production from wings to counter opponents’ collapsing zone defense.
  5. Portland State (3-3/8-10/W2). Vikings are the best on offense (78.4), but the worst on defense (81.3 allowed).
  6. Northern Arizona (3-4/9-9/W2). Behind stellar play from guard Cameron Jones, Lumberjacks revive tourney hopes with road wins at PSU, EWU. Jacks are shaping into a late-season wild card.
  7. Eastern Washington (2-4/6-13/L2). Eagles turn to freshmen Glen Dean and Jeffrey Forbes in hopes of reviving season.
  8. Sacramento State (1-5/7-12/L2). Bridesmaid Hornets are looking more and more like… bridesmaids.
  9. Idaho State (1-5/4-14/L4). Amorrow Morgan’s 23 points per game in conference play still not enough for scoring-challenged Bengals.

RPI BOOSTERS

Despite a league setback at Portland State, the Northern Colorado Bears moved up to 12th in this week’s College Insider Mid Major top 25 poll with 386 votes. Fourth place Montana, winners of three straight, received seven votes.

NO, YOU TAKE IT! The game of the year so far in Big Sky action was last Sunday’s 95-93 triple overtime Weber State win at Idaho State, finally won when Wildcat guard Damian Lilliard hit a driving layup with a second remaining in the final OT. Despite the exciting finish, the game was characterized more by miscues than makes. Weber State — which led by as many as 13 points — blew several point-blank shots in the final 30 seconds of regulation. Worse: ISU guards Broderick Gilchrest and Amorrow Morgan missed free throws in the final SECOND of the first two overtimes, both of which would have won the game. Lilliard led the Wildcats with 28 points, Amorrow Morgan scored 32 for the Bengals.

KEEP AN EYE ON: the Eastern Washington Eagles. After the Eagles’ mostly-down preseason and a horrid start in Big Sky action, coach Kirk Earlywine turned the keys to the ignition over to true frosh 5-10 guards Glen Dean and Jeffrey Forbes, who have given the Eagles some scoring punch. Look for the Eagles to be spoilers.

HOT & NOT

HOT —

  • For the third time in four seasons, Randy Rahe’s Weber State Wildcats – bouyed by road wins at Northern Arizona and Idaho State – have once again put themselves into the driver’s seat in the Big Sky. It’s early, but the Cats – led by super-soph Lilliard – are in control and they know it.
  • After consecutive last-second road losses to start conference play, the Montana Grizzlies rebounded quickly with three straight. If the Griz (4-3/13-6) expect to contend, they’ll need better perimeter shooting… and they’ll have to recoup one or two of those early setbacks in the next 10 days in a brutal stretch at Montana State (Saturday), Northern Arizona, and Northern Colorado.

NOT —

  • The Idaho State Bengals (1-5/4-14) – a consensus preseason pick to contend in the Big Sky – have lost four straight, including two at Holt Arena. The Bengals must turn things around starting tonight with the first of three straight home-court tilts against teams also scrambling to get out of the cellar (EWU, PSU, SAC).
  • There was hope at Sacramento State this year that the Hornets, under second-year coach Brian Katz, might be good enough to at least qualify for one of six conference tournament seeds. But the Hornets (1-5/7-12) are winless on the road and have already lost three of four at home. Things get tougher from here.

STAT CHECK

Scoring: Damian Lilliard (WSU) 19.4; Dominic Waters (PSU) 18.9; Amorrow Morgan (ISU) 18.2; Cameron Jones (NAU) 17.7; Anthony Johnson (UM) 17.2.

Rebounding: Demetrius Monroe (ISU) 8.3; Brandon Moore (EWU) 7.6; Brian Qvale (UM) 7.2; Franklin Session (WSU) 6.9; Jamie Jones (PSU) 6.9

Steals: Will Bynum (MSU) 2.4

Blocked shots: Brian Qvale (UM) 2.1.

Assists: Dominic Waters (PSU) 4.7; Julian Olubuyi (NAU) 4.0; Glen Dean (EWU) 3.8; Damian Lilliard (WSU) 3.6; Mike Marcial (SAC) 3.5.

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