Conference Tournament Primer: Big Sky Conference

Posted by Adam Stillman on March 13th, 2014

Championship Fortnight continues with the last five conference tourneys tipping off today, so what better way to get you through the final push of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s postseason events. Today, the O26 tourneys starting are the Big Sky, Big West, Sun Belt and WAC.

Dates: March 13-15
Site: At regular-season champion (Weber State)

2014 big sky bracket

What to expect: About half the league could win the Big Sky’s automatic bid this year. Every team in the conference suffered at least six losses, led by regular season champion Weber State at 14-6. In an odd twist, only seven of the league’s 11 teams participate in the conference tournament. Montana, last year’s representative in the NCAA Tournament, along with Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado pose the biggest threats. But don’t expect too much from the Big Sky’s team in the Big Dance. The First Four in Dayton and an early exit seem in order.

Favorite: Weber State. Yes, I’m still making the Wildcats the favorite despite stumbling down the stretch. They lost two of their last three games, and four of their last seven. Yikes. But with the parity in this conference — every other team had at least eight league losses — the home court advantage here makes Weber State the favorite. The Wildcats lost just one home game in league play.

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Pac-12 M5: 12.23.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on December 23rd, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. Sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski will likely miss his second straight game tonight when Arizona meets in-state foe Northern Arizona on the Pac-12 Networks. Tarczewski is sidelined with a sprained right ankle after landing on a Michigan player’s foot nine days ago in Ann Arbor. “We’re going to take it slow. We want to make sure he’s at his best for the Pac-12,” head coach Sean Miller said about the situation. As was the case against Southern University on Thursday, the top-ranked Wildcats had no problem without the sophomore’s services, and things are likely to be the same against the 3-7 Lumberjacks. Tarczewski is currently averaging 10.1 PPG, and with conference play beginning in 10 days, taking tonight off seems like a good call.
  2. Coming into Sunday afternoon’s meeting with #10 Connecticut, Washington was looking for its third consecutive victory, which would have been a season high. And for the first 14 minutes of the game, it looked as if the Huskies might just pull off the upset, which would have been UConn’s second straight loss to a Pac-12 opponent. Washington jumped out to a 33-22 advantage in front of a small but loud gathering at Hec Ed, but the top 10 AAC team showed why they were just that, going on a 27-6 binge to take a lead it would never relinquish. Washington dropped to 6-5 with the loss and will need to at least split its final two non-conference games in order to enter Pac-12 play above the .500 mark.
  3. Former UCLA head coach Ben Howland, who led the Bruins to three Final Fours during a decade in Westwood, was featured in the LA Times over the weekend. Howland is still keeping an eye on his former program, rooting on his players and agreeing that his successor, Steve Alford, has done a good job so far. What is he doing with his time off? A whole lot of fly-fishing, bike riding, and hoops watching. And while he’s enjoying those things immensely, the 56-year old is itching to get back onto the sideline. He’ll land somewhere, likely sometime this spring, because as Dick Vitale said during the UCLA-Duke game last week, Howland would be a great fit at a lot of schools around the country.
  4. Late last week, the guys over at California Golden Blogs met in roundtable form and discussed whether California had a shot at competing for the Pac-12 championship. That’s looking a lot less likely after yesterday’s result in Omaha, when the Golden Bears were dominated on both ends of the court in a 68-54 loss to #16 Creighton.
  5. These stories never get old. This video is from last week, so you may have already seen it, but even if so, it’s worth another view. Air Force Master Sergeant Chris Campbell was reunited with his family at the midway point during the first half of Thursday’s Arizona-Southern game, bringing smiles and some tears to everyone on hand. Each time the Pac-12 Network cameras showed Campbell the rest of the night, he was surrounded by and being thanked by the Wildcats’ fans in attendance. Commentators Roxy Bernstein and Matt Muehlebach joked that, while they were sure he appreciated it, Campbell didn’t get to take in nearly enough of the game as he probably liked. Happy holidays to everyone and to the Campbell family, especially.
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Morning Five: 11.07.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 7th, 2013

morning5

  1. We are used to successful players transferring, but the timing of Dewayne Russell‘s announcement that he was transferring from Northern Arizona just before the start of the season seems very strange to us. Last season, as a freshman, Russell averaged 14.4 points, 3.2 assists, and 1.5 steals per game so we would expect that he will be transferring to a power conference school. Russell’s departure is obviously a big blow to Northern Arizona with its season starting on Saturday, but given the timing we have a feeling that there is more to this story than just Russell having a change of heart.
  2. The start of the season is on Friday, but we are going to go ahead and assume that Providence coach Ed Cooley just wishes this week would end. After potentially losing Kris Dunn to another shoulder injury early in the week, Cooley suspended freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock indefinitely for “not upholding their responsibilities as student-athletes.” The loss of Austin will be particularly significant as he was a top-50 recruit coming out of high school last year and had the potential to help ease the load on Bryce Cotton while Dunn recovers. We have not heard a good explanation of why the two have been suspended, but for Providence’s sake we hope it isn’t for very long as they have a fairly challenging schedule early in the season.
  3. Most of the eyes of casual fans watching college basketball this season will be fixed on Andrew Wiggins, but many of the more hardcore fans will be directing their attention to Lexington and the impressive collection of talent that Kentucky has put together yet again. Most people will point to John Calipari as the architect, but as Tim Keown notes Orlando Antigua should certainly be recognized for his contribution. Antigua’s influence and his fascinating story stretch well beyond whatever the Wildcats manage to do this season. With the way that Antigua’s teams have performed and how successfully he has recruited we would not be surprised to see Antigua putting together his own college team in the near-future.
  4. After almost seven months of silence, Mike Rice finally decided to give an interview to Jonathan Mahler of The New York Times as part of a piece that serves to explain some of the reason for why Rice is the way he is, what he has learned from his public shaming, and what he still need to learn. We will give Rice credit for being willing to discuss his troubled past with a reporter particularly one who wouldn’t produce a PR fluff piece for him that many individuals who are publicly shamed want. Our guess is that Rice will eventually get back into coaching, but his best bet is as an assistant coach with his best-case scenario probably being a NBA assistant unless some small school is willing to take a chance on him (and he is willing to go to a non-power conference school).
  5. In August, the NCAA found a case–that of former Marine Steven Rhodes–in which their ruling was so ridiculous that the public sentiment against them was so strong that they actually reversed an awful ruling. The case of Nathan Harries might not generate the same level of controversy that Rhodes’ did, but it might come close. Harris, who spent two years after high school working on a Mormon mission, received a scholarship from Colgate, but will have to sit out this season after he admitted to the NCAA that he played in three church league games. The ridiculousness of the ruling will most likely lead to enough criticism that the NCAA will take a longer look at the ruling (instead of just rubber-stamping the denial) and we suspect that Harries should be eligible in the very near-future.
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2013-14 RTC Class Schedule: Arizona Wildcats

Posted by BHayes on September 26th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler. Periodically throughout the preseason, RTC will take an in-depth look at the schedules of some of the more prominent teams in college basketball.

Sean Miller’s fifth season in Tuscon could easily turn out to be his best. Despite the graduation of key seniors Solomon Hill (a first round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft), Mark Lyons, and Kevin Parrom – in addition to the surprising departure of freshman Grant Jerrett to the professional ranks, Miller has assembled the most talented roster that Arizona has seen in quite some time. A solid Pac-12 conference and challenging non-conference schedule will challenge the Cats’, but a nice blend of returnees and newcomers should give the man at the helm ample leeway to steer this storied program deep into March.

Nick Johnson will be asked to do more -- both on and off the court -- for this young but talented Wildcat team

Nick Johnson will be asked to do more — both on and off the court — for this young but talented Wildcat team

  • Team Outlook: This will be a new-look Arizona team, as last year’s squad was built around departed seniors Lyons and Hill. Some familiar faces will be back and poised to fill leadership roles this time around, with junior Nick Johnson (11.5 PPG, 3.2 APG, 1.9 SPG) most prominent among them. The athletic two-guard shot the ball better from three-point range as a sophomore (39% after 32% as a freshman), and should also serve as the Cats’ best perimeter defender in 2013-14. Sophomores Kaleb Tarczewski (6.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 22.2 MPG) and Brandon Ashley (7.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 20.5 MPG) return to anchor the frontcourt, with each likely seeing a slight minutes increase, despite the arrival of a duo of freshman studs in the same frontcourt. Both Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson were McDonald’s All-Americans last spring, and immense immediate contributions from both freshmen would surprise no one. Gordon especially shapes up as a good candidate for a jump to the NBA after a season of stardom in Tuscon, as he is currently projected as a Top-20 pick in the 2014 draft on NBADraft.net. Gordon’s production will be one of the keys to this Wildcat season, but he may not be Sean Miller’s most important player. Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell (11.4 PPG, 5.5 APG, 2.8 SPG in 2011-12) will be filling Lyons’ shoes and running the show in Tucson this season. McConnell was an efficient lead guard in the Atlantic-10 and should quickly acclimate to the Pac-12, but the absence of proven ball-handlers elsewhere on the roster means his transition has to be a smooth one for Arizona to be successful. He will be a welcomed change-of-pace for teammates used to the shoot-first Lyons dominating the ball, and his steal % of 4.7 (12th best in the nation in 2012) is ample indication of a dedication to both ends. The talented youngsters around him will keep expectations low for McConnell individually, but don’t be shocked if he emerges as the leader of this club. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Five

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 18th, 2012

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew, Parker, Adam, and I have compiled after the fifth week of Pac-12 games (delta in parentheses):

  1. Arizona, 8-0 (-): Arizona continued to carry the Pac-12 flag in week five, outlasting fifth ranked Florida in a Saturday night thriller. Thanks to never giving up and some key Gator miscues down the stretch, Arizona erased a six-point deficit in the final minute to pull out a 65-64 win. For a team that gained preseason hype via its recruiting class, Zona relied on its seniors to get the signature victory. While the three true freshmen only averaged three points a piece on the night, guys like Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom, and Mark Lyons combined for an average of 13 a piece. Who can forget about sophomore Nick Johnson, either? Not letting the underclassmen be completely outdone, the sophomore went for 15 points and four huge steals. For anyone that was waiting to say so, it’s safe to say now that this Wildcat team is legit. Time and time again they have made late runs in the final eight or so minutes of games to keep their clean record alive. Now the question is; where does it end? Up Next: 12/18 vs. Oral Roberts.
  2. Oregon, 9-1 (-): A terrific defensive performance from Oregon offset its second-to-worst offensive output of the season on Saturday. The stingy Duck defense forced 16 Nebraska turnovers in the 60-38 victory, improving Dana Altman‘s squad to 9-1 as they enter Wednesday’s road test at UTEP. Up Next: 12/19 @ UTEP.

    Senior Forward Arsalan Kazemi Was The Star Of Oregon's Defense On Saturday, Recording Four Steals And 17 Rebounds. (credit: Chris Pietsch)

    Senior Forward Arsalan Kazemi Was The Star Of Oregon’s Defense On Saturday, Recording Four Steals And 17 Rebounds. (credit: Chris Pietsch)

  3. Colorado, 8-2 (^2): The Buffaloes jump up two spots after obtaining a solid road win at Fresno State. Junior Andre Roberson led all scorers with 17 points in the victory. With games against Northern Arizona and Hartford left on the non-conference slate, it looks as if Colorado will enter Pac-12 play with a 10-2 record. Up Next: 12/21 vs. Northern Arizona.
  4. Oregon State, 7-2 (-): Oregon State held steady, but lost a couple of points in this week’s rankings despite going 2-0 and picking up its first road win of the season. Perhaps the panel decided to drop the Beavers due to the closeness of the two outcomes. They were barely able to outlast a Portland State team that hasn’t beaten a division one team so far this season, and sloppy play against 3-9 Chicago State resulted in only a 87-77 win. Up Next: 12/19 vs. Howard Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Two

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 27th, 2012

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew, Parker, Adam, and I have compiled after the second week of Pac-12 games (delta in parentheses):

  1. Colorado, 5-0 (-): After a 4-0 opening week that got Colorado into the national Top 25 rankings, the Buffaloes only played one game in week two. It wasn’t always easy on Sunday night against Air Force, but Tad Boyle’s squad went on a 13-3 run halfway through the second half to put away the Falcons and cruise to a 15-point victory. Freshman forward Josh Scott led the way with 20 points for Colorado. This was a nearly unanimous pick, with only Drew not picking the Buffs at number one. They now have a warm-up game against Texas Southern before traveling to play a good Wyoming squad on Saturday. Up Next: 11/27 vs. Texas Southern.
  2. Arizona, 3-0 (-): Just like Colorado, it was a one-game week for Arizona, who has only played three games since the nationwide opening night back on November 9. But the Wildcats continued their winning ways, throttling a Long Beach State team that hung with North Carolina for 30 minutes. An 18-3 run late in the first half erased any doubt about the outcome, and UA cruised to a dominating 94-72 win. The Cats easily managed their way through their first three mini-tests, dispatching Charleston Southern and UTEP before the 49ers. The 3-0 start has been good enough to boost them to ninth in the nation in the AP/Coaches polls. Zona now gets a small reprieve against in-state rival Northern Arizona before going into a rough four-game stretch through early December. Up Next: 11/28 vs. Northern Arizona.

    Freshman Forward Brandon Ashley Leads The Ninth Ranked Wildcats With 13.7 PPG (credit: John Miller)

  3. California, 6-0 (^1): The team that has won the most games so far in 2012-13 comes in at number three after two weeks of play. All three of California’s week two wins came in the DirecTV Classic, where it got two less-than-impressive wins before dominating a solid Pacific team in the classic final. Justin Cobbs was undoubtedly the player of the week in the conference, averaging 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game in Anaheim. The Golden Bears’ perfect record will be put to the test in their next three games, when they go to Wisconsin and host UNLV and Creighton in Berkeley. Up Next: 12/2 @ Wisconsin.
  4. Oregon, 5-1 (^1): Oregon got maybe the conference’s biggest non-conference road win in what, two or three years, on Friday? The Ducks went into one of the most hostile environments in the country and pulled out a 83-79 win against UNLV, building their record to 5-0 on the season. They’d eventually lose a hard-fought battle with Cincinnati the next night, but the fact that they were a couple bounces away from knocking off back-to-back ranked opponents in the same weekend was enough to boost them up a notch in this week’s rankings. Freshman guard Damyean Dotson was the surprise of the weekend, averaging 14 PPG. If he can continue that kind of production in the coming weeks, Oregon’s schedule sets up so it can escape non-conference play with only one loss. Up Next: 11/29 vs. UTSA.
  5. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 M5: 11.27.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 27th, 2012

  1. With a 10-day break between games for Arizona, head coach Sean Miller is currently in the process of deciding which of the four frontcourt players will get the start for the Wildcats going forward. Brandon Ashley, one of the top surprises so far this season throughout the league, was called on last Monday to start in favor of fellow freshman Grant Jerrett, and he responded by posting Arizona’s first double-double of the season. The three spot is of course occupied by Solomon Hill, with a terrific backup in Kevin Parrom behind him. Freshman Kaleb Tarczewski has been getting the call at center, and has responded by averaging 6.3 PPG and 5.0 RPG thus far. The decision of who starts at power forward isn’t as pressing against Northern Arizona as it will be on Saturday at Texas Tech, so Wednesday’s meeting with the Lumberjacks can be used to mix and match lineups and get all of the kinks worked out. The Cats are desperately in need of a sixth man when Parrom is having an off night, so the decision is critical both for the starting unit and bench rotation.
  2. With the beginning of a new week comes, of course, the new polls. The Pac-12 got some recognition in the AP as Arizona broke into the Top 10 with its 3-0 record. Colorado rose four spots after dispatching Air Force on Sunday night, and Oregon received votes at #31 after its big upset at UNLV on Friday. California’s 6-0 start got them recognized, but they still have a ways to go at #36. Right ahead of the Golden Bears is Wisconsin, a team they’ll meet on Sunday in Madison. As expected, UCLA’s awful loss to Cal Poly dropped them out of the Top 25 completely and down to #29 in the Others Receiving Votes category.
  3. The Portland Tribune’s Kerry Eggers says that the NIT is a realistic goal for this year’s Oregon State team, even with the loss of center Angus Brandt. Sitting at 4-1, Craig Robinson and company have an excellent shot at entering Pac-12 play with an 11-2 overall record. If the Beavers manage a .500 record there (certainly manageable with only one game each against Arizona and UCLA), and can pick up a win in the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, Eggers should be correct in that assumption.
  4. Anytime you add 10 different transfers to a roster, there’s going to be some ups and downs early. USC coach Kevin O’Neill has experienced that firsthand this season through just 17 days of game action. So far, the Trojans have dominated a solid Long Beach State team, defeated Texas, hung with a pair of good teams in Marquette and San Diego State, and got embarrassed against Illinois. And that’s just the first two weeks. As Rich Hammond points out, if SC wants more ups than downs then they need to find someone to pull out these close games; someone willing to take the big shot down the stretch.
  5. We close with a great feature on Arizona graduate manager JayDee Luster, via Bruce Pascoe. Luster is a well-known name for us Mountain West followers out here on the left coast, but he also drew some national attention when his Wyoming Cowboys upset UNLV last February in Laramie. Luster’s fresh credibility gives him instant recognition among the Wildcat roster, and as a former defensive star, he certainly has something to bring to the table during practices and workouts. And who knows — maybe this will be the beginning of a long and illustrious coaching career for Luster.
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Oregon Basketball and the Season of New: A Cold Start

Posted by Rockne Roll on November 16th, 2012

The weather in Oregon can do strange things. In the week leading up to the Ducks’ home opener against Northern Arizona, the weather shifted from cool and rainy to downright cold, and it was frequently the topic of conversation across the western half of the state. In the span of a day, high temperatures dropped from the mid-50s to the low 40s in what would turn out to be a bit of an omen for the Ducks as they faced Northern Arizona Saturday night.

Willie Moore loses control of his dribble as the Ducks take on Northern Arizona in their home opener.

The weather has been weird throughout the country, with two scheduled carrier games amounting to one half of actual basketball between them (Ohio State vs. Marquette was cancelled before its scheduled tip aboard USS Yorktown, while Florida vs. Georgetown was cancelled just before the start of the second half due to unmanageable condensation aboard USS Bataan), not to mention Hurricane Sandy. But many of the top teams in the country seemed to open up their seasons with some cold moments, even if it was not reflected in the thermometer.

It took a late first half rally and a close second half for No. 15 Missouri to beat Southern Illinois–Edwardsville by 14. Yale dominated the first half of their match against Sacred Heart, taking a 44-28 lead to the break, but went on to lose 85-82 after the Pioneers mounted a monumental comeback. And Arizona struggled to put away Charleston Southern until late, eventually winning 82-73. In early-season games like these, the scene is frequently set the same way: A team playing its home opener against a team it underestimates doesn’t play as hard as they might have against a big-name team. They’ll either come out soft, or build a lead and leave it to take care of itself, slacking off late and not just leaving the door open to a comeback, but propping it wide with a doorstop and hanging a welcome sign over it. On the other side of the coin, opponents come into the big-time arenas ready to go, eager to show their stuff and pushing every possible advantage.

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Honorary Pac-12 Members For 2012-13

Posted by AMurawa on October 29th, 2012

There are seven teams from other conferences across the country that will have three different Pac-12 teams on their schedule this year. While fans of Pac-12 schools will likely be rooting against these seven teams in those games against conference foes, whenever these schools face other teams from other conferences, it will be in the best interest of the league as a whole to have these seven teams win as much as possible. We all know the RPI may be a flawed metric, but it is a metric that the selection committee uses in one form or another to help select and slot teams in the bracket come March. And how the RPI is determined is quite simple: It takes into account your team’s winning percentage, the winning percentage of your opponents, and one step further, the winning percentage of your opponents’ opponents. In other words, even if your school isn’t playing one of these teams this season, since your team will be playing against three Pac-12 opponents of these schools, your RPI will get a boost if these teams win. So, without further ado, below we will list and give a brief rundown of the seven Division I teams with three Pac-12 teams on their schedule.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff (RPI: #302) – Last season, the Golden Lions started out by losing 19 of their first 21 games on their way to an 11-22 year. The sad thing is that was an improvement over 2010-11, when they lost their first 14 games and finished 7-24. There are some extenuating circumstances, however. For instance, two years ago their first 12 games – all non-conference games – were on the road, with seven games against teams from the top seven conferences in the nation. Last year was slightly better, with only nine games on their non-conference slate as true road games (the other four were neutral-site games). This year, though, head coach George Ivory is back to getting his team killed in the non-conference slate. Not only will UAPB play at Washington State, Arizona State and Oregon, but they’ll also make soul-crushing trips to San Diego State and Michigan State. But hey, give credit to Ivory for at least scheduling a trip to Hawai’i  to take part in the Rainbow Classic there. This team will have earned its preemptive vacation by the time its non-conference slate is done. The good news is that the Golden Lions have a pair of talented returning starters and a couple veterans coming back from medical redshirts. But let’s face facts. If UAPB comes out of its non-conference schedule with something like a 3-8 record, that will be an astoundingly good result. The Pac-12 will need this squad to clean up in the SWAC in order to get any benefit from having them on the schedule.

George Ivory, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

UAPB’s Head Coach George Ivory Is Not Adverse To Getting His Team Killed In the Non-Conference Schedule

Cal State Northridge (RPI: #324) – If anyone outside of the San Fernando Valley knows anything about the Matadors, it likely has to do with the fact that they were banned from NCAA Tournament eligibility last season due to poor academic performance. But, that’s in the past now, and CSUN used last year’s lost season to develop a bunch of youngsters. Between last year’s Big West freshman of the year, Stephen Hicks, classmate Stephen Maxwell, and sophomore point Josh Greene, the Matadors return the three most efficient high-use offensive players from last year’s squad. Throw in incoming freshmen Landon Drew (brother of UCLA point guard Larry Drew II) and Brandon Perry and this a young and talented squad. And, even better for Pac-12 schools, they have a manageable schedule. Their visits to UCLA, Arizona State and Utah comprise three of their four toughest games on the schedule and their non-conference slate is loaded with winnable games for them, including a trio of non-Division I opponents. But, the real test for CSUN will be how it can do in conference play this year, with the usual favorite, Long Beach State, being challenged by Cal State Fullerton and newcomer Hawai’i. But, if everything comes together, an upper-division finish in the Big West is not out of the question.

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Big Sky Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 18th, 2012

Jonathan Reed of Big Sky Basketball is the RTC Correspondent for the Big Sky Conference. You can find him on Twitter @bigskybball.

Top Storylines

  • The Injury to Will Cherry – Cherry was the runaway favorite for Big Sky Conference Player of the Year, and one of the best perimeter defensive players in the country. However, he will miss the start of the year with a broken foot. The most likely scenario is that he misses the non-conference portion of the schedule and returns for conference play. However, nobody is sure if he will be 100%, and there has even been a little talk that he could redshirt if he can’t come back fully healthy this year. With Cherry, Montana is the favorite. Without him, the conference race is wide open.
  • Change is Everywhere – There are two new teams in the Big Sky, as North Dakota and Southern Utah join the fray. This brings the total number of teams to 11, and with each team playing everyone else twice, everyone will be playing 20 conference games. There will also be an increase from six teams in the Big Sky Tournament to seven teams this season. Three new coaches enter the league. Changes are all around (and more on them later).

Kareem Jamar Will Have To Step In As Will Cherry Recovers From Injury. (AP Photo/Jake Schoellkopf)

  • Life Without Damian Lillard – Lillard was the best player to come out of the conference in a long-time, as he was the sixth pick in the NBA Draft and arguably the best college point guard in America last season. Now, Weber State must move on. Either Jordan Richardson or Gelaun Wheelwright will step into the starting lineup, and they have big shoes to fill. They will need multiple people to step up and perform, and they will have the personnel to do it.
  • Weber State and Montana Reign Again – Heading into last year, these two teams were the media and coaches top two choices. Heading into this season, it will be more of the same. Simply put, they are the most talented and deepest teams in the conference, and they have continuity on the coaching staff. With the way they are recruiting, it won’t be a surprise if the two teams stay in the top two for a long while to come.

Reader’s Take

 

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Weber State (17-3)
  2. Montana (16-4)
  3. Northern Colorado (13-7)
  4. Sacramento State (12-8)
  5. North Dakota (11-9)
  6. Montana State (10-10)
  7. Eastern Washington (9-11)
  8. Portland State (8-12)
  9. Northern Arizona (5-15)
  10. Southern Utah (5-15)
  11. Idaho State (4-16)

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Big Sky Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2012

Jonathan Reed of Big Sky Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Sky conference. You can find him on Twitter at @bigskybball.

Tournament Preview

Tournament Glance

Everybody is assuming that Weber State and Montana will have a rematch in the conference championship game, but don’t be so sure about that. Portland State has the offensive talent to hang with the Wildcats on a neutral court, and Eastern Washington has given Montana some competitive games (those two teams are the favorites to advance past the quarterfinals).

That said, it would be a surprise if it is not Weber State and Montana in a rematch on Wednesday night. They have been the two best teams in the Big Sky all season, have the two best players in the conference, and have the best talent. It would be a great rematch, as each has won convincingly on their home court.

However, I think Weber State will reverse what happened last week, when Montana beat them to clinch the regular season championship. Nobody talked about this, but Weber State played their worst game of the season, and they were within five points late in the second half. They can’t shoot that poorly again, and I have to think that Damian Lillard will show why he has been the best player in the conference all year long. Look for a classic title game, with Weber State coming in and shocking the faithful at Dahlberg Arena to clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Reader’s Take

 

Big Sky Awards

  • Player of the Year: Damian Lillard (Weber State) – There is some talk that Cherry should get the award, or that they should split it, but I still like Lillard as the best player in the conference all season. He carried them early on in the year and has been outstanding all year. He is the best PG in America, and has had the best all-around season.

Simply Put, Weber State's Damian Lillard Has Been One Of The Country's Best This Season (AP)

  • Defensive Player of the Year: Will Cherry (Montana) – This is an easy choice, as Cherry is sixth in the nation in steals and already fifth in Big Sky history in that category (he has one season of eligibility left). He is one of the best perimeter defenders in the country, and the one guy in the conference as likely to change the game on the defensive end as he is on the offensive end.
  • Newcomer of the Year: Dylan Garrity (Sacramento State) – He has some work to do on his game (namely that he needs to shoot the ball better), but he has been everything Brian Katz could have hoped for and then some.
  • Freshman of the Year: Dylan Garrity (Sacramento State) – There are arguments to be made for James Douglas of Northern Arizona or Tevin Svihovec of UNC, but I think Garrity is the guy here. He has stepped in and been the primary ballhandler and facilitator from day one for the Hornets. He could lead the Big Sky in assists every year of his career.
  • Coach of the Year: Wayne Tinkle (Montana) – There could certainly be an argument made for Deane Martin, who changed the culture around at ISU this year, but I would give the award to Tinkle. This is a team that lost the best defensive player in the conference, and came back to be even better defensively. He had a relatively young team, and surpassed already high expectations.

Power Rankings

  1. Montana (23-6, 15-1) – They earned this spot, having won 12 straight games and 18 of 19. After playing second fiddle in people’s minds all season long, they enter the conference tournament as the favorite, by virtue of their win over Weber State on Tuesday night. They are one of Wayne Tinkle’s best offensive teams, and they have a multitude of guys that can step up and hurt you offensively. Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar looked like the best guard duo in the Big Sky to close the regular season.

    Montana Point Guard Will Cherry and Coach Wayne Tinkle Has Been A Winning Combo This Season

  2. Weber State (23-5, 14-2) – They spent almost the entire season at the top of everyone’s radar, but they came up short in the biggest game of the year. Damian Lillard is an excellent player, but he has struggled in some of their biggest games this season. Look for them to come out strong in the conference tournament, because they know they have some unfinished business. In most years, 14-2 would win you the Big Sky, but this was not most years.
  3. Portland State (16-13, 10-6) – Quietly they are playing very good basketball, having won six straight conference games. Charles Odum is playing at a very high level, and is matched only by Lillard in his scoring prowess. He gets to the line often, and shoots a very high percentage. He forms a nice duo with Chehales Tapscott, the best rebounder in the conference and perhaps the most versatile player. They are going to be a tough out.
  4. Eastern Washington (14-16, 8-8) – They have had an up and down season, but end the year about where everyone predicted, in fourth place in the conference. On paper, they have the talent to give someone an interesting game in the tournament, but it is just a matter of not making mental mistakes. Cliff Colimon has ended the year strong, and has shown himself to be one of the best PGs in the conference.
  5. Idaho State (9-20, 7-9) – They are the surprise of the conference, as they are a team that everyone predicted to finish in the Big Sky cellar, yet they are in fifth place and almost hosted a conference tournament game. Deane Martin should get consideration for Coach of the Year, and should have already had his interim tag removed. It will be an upset if they win a conference tournament game, but they have already surpassed expectations.
  6. Northern Colorado (9-19, 5-11) –They didn’t get as many wins as they would have liked, but they showed flashes of the potential that should make them a top 4 team next season. They lost one senior this year, and they will have no seniors next season. They are balanced and have a lot of different players that should make the leap. They will be fine.

    If There Is One Team To Crash The Anticipated Rematch, Charles Odum and Portland State Might Be It (AP)

  7. Sacramento State (10-18, 5-11) – They didn’t get to their goal of .500, but they made baby steps toward becoming a solid Big Sky team. They return almost everyone next year, and should have one of the best PGs in the league in Dylan Garrity. At the very least, next year should be Sac State’s best year in a while.
  8. Montana State (12-16, 7-9) – It is hard to classify this year as anything but disappointing. They started the conference season at 6-2, and had the look of a top 3 tournament team. Next thing you know, they lose eight straight games and sneak into the tournament as the six seed. They dealt with a lot of off-the-court issues, including the off-court injury to Xavier Blount, which did a lot to derail their season.
  9. Northern Arizona (5-24, 1-15) – Yikes.
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Checking In On… the Big Sky Conference

Posted by rtmsf on February 3rd, 2012

Jonathan Reed of Big Sky Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Sky conference. You can find him on Twitter at @bigskybball.

Reader’s Take

 

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.

Damian Lillard (1) and Weber State Are Still The Favorites, But Will Cherry (5) and Montana Are Closing In Fast (AP)

  • 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.

Power Rankings:

  1. 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. Read the rest of this entry »
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