Checking in on… the Big Sky

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2010

Jason Spencer is the RTC correspondent for the Big Sky. In addition to his tireless contributions for RTC, Jason is a screenwriter whose pursuits can be followed at the home of Blindly Driven Entertainment.  [ed. note: this post was written prior to the Nov. 26-28 games]

A Look Back

  • This just in, Damian Lillard is a “BEAST!”  Of course, if you follow the conference, you knew that already.  Lillard has shown thus far in this young season that the MVP award is his to lose.  In the first four games he is averaging 23 points per game.  We will just let that sink in for all upcoming Weber State opponents.
  • Are they for real?  Montana State has rattled off five straight wins, but the question remains, is it a fluke?  Well, they will get their chance to prove it right away.  They have upcoming games against Iowa State, Illinois State, UCLA, and they kick off the conference season vs. Weber State.  By Christmas we will know whether Bobcat fans are getting something nice or coal in their stockings.
  • Defense wins championships.  If that saying holds true, then Montana should feel good about their team.  On 11/22 the Grizzlies held Idaho to 12% shooting.  Yes that’s right; the Vandals shot 6-50 from the field.  Somewhere, coach Wayne Tinkle is smiling.

Power Rankings

1. Weber State: (2-2)

Recent Games:  77-65 Loss at Utah State 11/13, 97-72 Win vs. Colorado Christian 11/16, 90-75 Loss at Utah 11/20, 86-54 Win at Alaska Anchorage 11/25

Upcoming Games:  Great Alaska Shootout second and third rounds 11/26 and 11/27, vs. Seattle 12/4

The Wildcats debut at the top spot despite going 2-2 in their first four games.  It’s hard to argue with having the two-time defending regular season champs and a team returning the reigning league MVP as the top team here.  Last week they kept it respectable on the road against Utah and really should have beaten Utah State on the road.  But down the stretch the crazy Aggie fans got the best of their in-state rival.  Damian Lillard picked up where he left off last year averaging 23 points per game through the first four games.  NBA scouts have already started to salivate at the thought of Lillard in an NBA uniform.  NBADraft.net has him as a late first round pick in the 2012 Draft.  Look for Lillard and the Wildcats to make some noise in the Great Alaska Shootout on Thanksgiving weekend.

2. Northern Arizona: (3-2)

Recent Games:  78-64 Loss at Iowa State 11/12, 74-70 Loss at Creighton 11/14, 74-46 Win vs. Alabama State 11/16, 97-47 vs. Southwestern Arizona 11/19, 74-66 Win at Kennesaw State 11/22

Upcoming Games:  at Pepperdine 11/28, at Cal State Bakersfield 11/30, vs. Bethany 12/4, vs. Texas-Pan American 12/8

If there was a 1a and a 1b in the Power Rankings then the Lumberjacks would be that 1b.  This team is loaded with experience.  Head coach Mike Adras brings back four starters from last year’s 14-14 squad.  They nearly took down Creighton on the road, which is no easy feat by the way.  Then they took care of business their last three, topped off with a big road win at Kennesaw State.  With all the returning experience and the past coaching success of coach Adras, the Lumberjacks will be nipping at Weber State’s heels all year long.

3. Northern Colorado: (2-2)

Recent Games:  93-52 Wins vs. Tabor 11/12, 67-53 Win vs. Wyoming 11/16, 93-70 Loss at Arizona 11/21, 87-84 Loss at Santa Clara 11/23

Upcoming Games:  Las Vegas Invitational 11/26 and 11/27, vs. Black Hills State 12/4

With the best season in school history in the rearview mirror, the Bears are looking to capitalize on their program’s momentum.  First-year coach B.J. Hill takes over for the departed Tad Boyle who left for Colorado.  Don’t look for this team to miss a beat since Hill served for four years under Boyle before taking over this year.  However this team lives and dies by Devin Beitzel.  He had a solid 20 points in a close loss at Santa Clara but overall is shooting 20.8% from three point range.  For the Bears to challenge for a conference title, Beitzel has got to find his stroke.

4. Montana State: (5-1)

Recent Games:  77-59 Loss at Hawaii 11/13, 65-58 Win vs. Central Michigan 11/14, 80-76 Win vs. Cal State Fullerton 11/15, 92-67 Win vs. Minot State 11/19, 73-57 Win vs. Cal Poly 11/21, 76-59 Win vs. San Francisco 11/24

Upcoming Games:  at Iowa State 11/27, at Seattle 11/29, at Illinois State 12/4, vs. Johnson and Wales 12/10

If coach Brad Huse is reading these Power Rankings, feel free to use it as bulletin board material.  The “no respect” card should be played after the Bobcats rattled off five wins in a row.  Yet this team is still ranked fourth.  For them to climb up the rankings they must show they are for real.  Beating Big 12 member Iowa State on 11/27 would be a start.  The one-two punch of Bobby Howard and Erik Rush is going to be something the rest of the league better take notice of come conference play.

5. Montana: (2-2)

Recent Games:  81-66 Loss at Nevada 11/13, 80-71 Loss at Utah 11/17, 78-51 Win vs. Montana Tech 11/19, 75-33 Win vs. Idaho 11/22

Upcoming Games:  vs. Cal State Fullerton 11/30, vs. Portland 12/3, at UCLA 12/5, vs. Great Falls 12/9

The Grizzlies are trying to capitalize on their amazing run through the Big Sky Conference Tournament last year.  They of course are also trying to replace Anthony Johnson, the catalyst of their past success.  So far, center Brian Qvale has been everything they thought he would be as a senior.  With Will Cherry showing his freshman campaign was no fluke, this team will once again have something to say come conference tournament time.

6. Portland State: (3-1)

Recent Games:  83-81 Win vs. Pepperdine 11/12, 69-53 Loss at SMU 11/19, 102-98 Win vs. Lamar 11/20, 69-58 Win vs. UC Riverside 11/21

Upcoming Games:  vs. Seattle 12/1, at Oregon 12/5, vs. George Fox 12/9

Don’t tell these guys that they got nothing to play for.  Head coach Tyler Geving has his team playing with a chip on their shoulder this year.  The Vikings are not eligible for the postseason, including the Big Sky Conference Tournament.  This year they will have to play the role as spoiler, and it’s beginning to look like that might happen more often than others want.  The Vikings have a balanced attack with four players averaging in double figures with a fifth close to ten points per game.  The trouble for upcoming opponents will be who do they guard?

7. Eastern Washington: (1-3)

Recent Games:  67-60 Loss vs. San Jose State 11/12, 98-72 Loss at Washington 11/16, 96-87 Win vs. Northwest Washington 11/18, 83-54 Loss at Boise State 11/24

Upcoming Games:  vs. Idaho 11/27, at Gonzaga 11/30, vs. New Hope Christian 12/4

Head coach Kirk Earlywine has the youngest team in the conference this year.  Not one senior is on this year’s roster.  This has not stopped the young Eagles from showing lots of promise.  The question is will this be the year that the youngsters grow up?  Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year Glen Dean has been sidelined thus far with a stress fracture and remains day-to-day.  Having Dean back in the lineup is most certainly the key to the Eagles season.

8. Idaho State: (1-3)

Recent Games:  88-80 Loss at Colorado 11/12, 90-42 Loss at Arizona 11/14, 78-68 Win vs. Great Falls 11/19, 79-47 Loss at South Dakota State 11/23

Upcoming Games:  vs. Montana Tech 11/29, at Iowa 12/4, at Cal State Bakersfield 12/7

The first question that comes to mind if you are an opposing coach of Idaho State would be where is Broderick Gilchrest?  The man went unconscious at Colorado for a career high 39 points.  The following game he was held to four points on one-of-nine shooting from the field at Arizona.  As the conference season gets underway, coach Joe O’Brien will have to find a way to get Gilchrest open looks.  As for the schedule, it doesn’t get any easier.  Six of their next eight games are on the road.

9. Sacramento State: (1-3)

Recent Games:  80-78 Loss vs. Cal State Bakersfield 11/14, 84-55 Win vs. Bethany 11/16, 64-60 Loss at North Dakota 11/19, 61-54 Loss vs. UC Davis 11/23

Upcoming Games:  vs. Cal Poly 11/27, at Washington State 11/30, at Utah Valley 12/4, at Loyola Marymount 12/7, vs. William Jessup 12/10

This has to be the most encouraging last place conference team in the nation.  Brian Katz knew what he was getting into when he took over the Hornets coaching job.  In the last three seasons this team has won a total of fifteen games, with last year contributing nine of those.  Katz has only three players returning from last year that contributed.  But as with any rebuilding project, to get over the hump, you’ve got to learn how to win close games.  In their three losses, they have lost by a total of thirteen points.  Once this team learns how to win the close ones, they could surprise some people.

A Look Ahead

  • Northern Colorado is going to Vegas, baby!  The Las Vegas Invitational to be exact.  The Bears will take on Valparaiso on 11/26 and either Bethune-Cookman or Texas A&M Corpus Christi on 11/27.  This tournament includes such national powers such as Kansas and Arizona.  It should be a great experience and atmosphere for B.J. Hill’s club.
  • Expansion talk!  The Big Sky is not waiting on the big boys to make a move.  Being proactive, earlier this month the league added North Dakota and Southern Utah as full members.  The move puts the league at eleven teams in basketball.  Who will be the twelfth?  Rumor has it South Dakota is interested.
  • BracketBusters will feature all nine members of the Big Sky Conference.  Fans can watch their favorite Big Sky team on one of the ESPN family of networks 2/18-2/20.  This is the first time that all members of the conference will participate in a given year.

The “Human Highlight Film” Award

Weber State’s Damian Lillard, (1) drives through the defense of Alaska Anchorage’s Casey Robinson (44) and Brandon Walker (22) during their Great Alaska Shootout NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Nov 25, 2010, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)

Is there anyone else in the league that we should give this to?  We didn’t think so either.  Damian Lillard, let the love fest begin!  A man among boys, this 6’2 junior guard from Oakland, California has started off the season with a flurry.  The reigning Big Sky Conference MVP is up to his old tricks again averaging 23 points per game through four.  If it pleases the court, I would like to enter into evidence “Exhibit A” (below). After a heavy helping of threes to the face, Damian decides to take it to the hoop “nasty style” at the 1:28 mark.  Is there any doubt why he wears number 1?

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Plains/Mountains Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2010

For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

Plains/Mountains Region (KS, CO, WY, OK, TX)

  • LaceDarius Dunn* – Sr, G – Baylor. Let’s get this out of the way right at the beginning: there’s no news. We know that in order for him to be an Impact Player for this region and to indeed fulfill the promise that’s implied when your name pops up on all sorts of pre-season All-America teams, LaceDarius Dunn has to actually see the floor, and as of right now he’s still suspended from competition. He’s practicing, he’s attending classes, but that suspension from games of any kind is indefinite, so what Dunn is doing most is waiting. So are we, because we want to see the guy play some more, and soon. We’ve backed LaceDarius since his first moments on the Baylor campus and we’ve enjoyed watching him grow as a basketball player during his time there. Dunn was a factor right from the start in Waco, averaging 13.6 PPG and 4.1 RPG in 22 MPG as a freshman, and he’s only gotten more impressive each season. You could see his confidence grow by the game through his sophomore year as he tacked a couple of points onto that scoring average (15.7 PPG) and took on more responsibility. Last season was probably the school’s best since 1950 and earned the Bears their best year-end ranking ever (#10), and Dunn was the centerpiece along with Ekpe Udoh. The unquestioned team leader, Dunn put his scoring gift on full display, contributing 19.6 PPG (33rd in the nation) in just over 32 MPG. Because of his quickness and his deep shooting range, he represents the ultimate defensive conundrum. If you play up on him, he’s by you. If you give him a cushion — and he doesn’t need much space at all — he’ll drill you from range. If you get physical, not only will he match you (Dunn is a disturbingly solid 6’4, 205), but he’ll be more than happy to repair to the free throw line (85.7% last season) and bleed you to death with paper cuts. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about his game is that shooting accuracy. If Dunn can see the rim, he’s in range, and he has no qualms about letting it sail. He nailed 116 threes last season, a single-season record for the school. His next trey will be his 300th, and he’s already hit more of them than any other Baylor player. Those 299 threes put him 91 bombs away from breaking the Big 12 record of 389 held by Texas’ A.J Abrams, and seeing as how Dunn has had no problem breaking 100 the past two seasons, we think he’ll get there. Considering all that, his overall shooting percentage becomes that much more impressive. He shot 45.2% last year and has posted a 44.9% mark for his Baylor career. This brings up the question, again: how do you guard this man? It’ll be fun to watch Big 12 opponents make a go of it this season, that’s for sure — we just have to get the guy on the floor and past this current situation regarding the alleged assault. Because of the strange, conflicting stories from some of the people involved and the paucity of other details that have emerged about this matter, we’re not sure where the truth lies or what outcome would constitute justice. We just hope it’s one that results in LaceDarius Dunn playing basketball as soon and as much as possible.

If Dunn Keeps His Head, He Could Be Baylor's first AP All-American First Teamer

  • Jacob Pullen – Sr, G – Kansas State. Expectations, much?  The last time Jacob Pullen’s Kansas State Wildcats were ranked as high as they are in the Preseason Coaches Poll (#3), John F. Kennedy was a relatively unknown senator from Massachusetts.  The year was 1959, and the Wildcats were ranked #1 in the final AP poll heading into the NCAA Tournament (regrettably, the Cats lost to Oscar Robertson’s Cincinnati in the regional finals).  In large part due to the big-shot making abilities of the six-foot guard who has a great chance to re-write the K-State record books this season, Frank Martin’s KSU squad is poised to make a run at its first Final Four since the 60s and its first Big 8/12 conference title since the 70s.  Pullen, the Big 12 Preseason POY as voted on by the coaches, is expected to run more of the point now that last year’s starter at that position Denis Clemente has graduated, but his ability to successfully play either the one or the two position is well-documented by league opponents.  Let’s be honest, though; with Pullen mimicking the scorer’s mentality of other height-challenged combo guards that have come before him, it doesn’t matter what “position” head coach Frank Martin puts him in.  The Beard (which is rounding into form for the season, incidentally) will have the ball in his hands when it’s crunch time, just as he did in a 34-point explosion against Jimmer Fredette and BYU in the NCAA second round last season and in multiple overtimes in another win (and 28-point performance) against Xavier in the Sweet Sixteen.  It’s not very easy to stop a player who can routinely go for 20+ against some of the best defensive coaches in the country (16 times last year), but the one thing you do not want to do against Pullen is leave him open from behind the arc.  Make him put the ball on the floor and try to get to the rim.  He’s not a traditional dead-eye shooter by any stretch, but he can torch it from outside when he finds a groove — seven threes against UNLV and BYU; six against Alabama, Xavier, Baylor and South Dakota.  Last year he tied Askia Jones’ school-record of 110 threes in a season because he’s learned how to pick his spots appropriately, exhibited by the nearly 40% conversion rate he enjoyed (a significant improvement from his 30% and 34% he shot from deep in his first two years in Manhattan).  Perhaps reflecting the grit of his fiery head coach, Pullen is also an elite defender, having been selected as a member of the six-man Big 12 all-defensive team last year.  Put all of this together — the  scoring, the defense, the grit, the BEARD — and you’re faced with the simple fact that the K-State guard is on the short list of a dozen or so players who are in contention for 1st team All-American and national Player of the Year honors in 2010-11.  The better he plays, the more likely it is that the fortunes of Kansas State basketball is on its way to reclaiming some of its ancient glory and make comparisons with teams a half-century ago completely moot.

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RTC Conference Primers: #18 – Big Sky Conference

Posted by jstevrtc on October 18th, 2010

Rush The Court is seeking a Big Sky Conference correspondent. If you are interested in covering this league, email us for more information at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Weber State (14-2)
  2. Montana (12-4)
  3. Northern Colorado (11-5)
  4. Northern Arizona (11-5)
  5. Montana State (10-6)
  6. Eastern Washington (8-8)
  7. Portland State (6-10)
  8. Sacramento State (5-11)
  9. Idaho State (3-13)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parenthesis)

  • Damian Lillard (G) – Weber State (19.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 85.3% FT)
  • Cameron Jones (G) – Northern Arizona (19.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 50.2% FG)
  • Devon Beitzel (G) – Northern Colorado (14.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.0 SPG)
  • Brian Qvale (C) – Montana (10.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 61.5% FG)
  • Bobby Howard (F) – Montana State (14.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 51.8% FG)

Sixth Man

  • Broderick Gilchrest (G) – Idaho State (15.5 PPG, 3.2 APG, 2.0 SPG)

Top Newcomer

  • Vaughn Autry, Montana

Lillard, Now Only A Junior, Is Your Reigning Big Sky MVP

What You Need To Know

  • In the mood to watch some Big Sky hoops? You’re in luck. The only thing standing between you and it is either a road trip to a game, or a visit to www.bigskytv.org, where the conference will live-stream every game played at any Big Sky gym — and it’s free!
  • The Big Sky Tournament is one seriously exclusive gathering, probably second only to that in the Garden of Eden. Only six teams get into the conference’s post-season bash — the bottom three regular season finishers can start studying for finals early.
  • It might be a small conference, but they don’t exactly grow ‘em small in Big Sky country. Montana will boast nice length along their front line, starting 6’11 Brian Qvale and 7’0 Derek Selvig (6.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG last year in 20.8 MPG). They’ll get their shots at the big time when they travel to Nevada, Utah, and UCLA early in the season and host Oregon State on December 15.

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Big Sky Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 6th, 2010

Glenn Junkert of GrizzlyJournal.com is the RTC correspondent for the Big Sky Conference.

A week of reckoning. The Big Sky post-season tourney tips off Saturday. Listed are the final standings with tourney seed and bracket beneath it. In parentheses is the Grizzly Journal pre-season pick, which appeared here before the season began.

FINAL BIG SKY STANDINGS for 2009-10

  1. Weber State (pre-season pick: 1st) 13-3/19-9/L1 – Tourney host; 1st round bye
  2. Northern Colorado (pre-season pick:7th) 12-4/24-6/W4 – Second seed; 1st round bye
  3. Montana State (pre-season pick: 3rd) 10-6/15-13/W1 – Third seed; Hosts Portland State in round 1
  4. Montana (pre-season pick: 2nd) 10-6/19-9/L1 – Fourth seed; hosts Northern Arizona in round 1
  5. Northern Arizona (pre-season pick: 6th) 8-8/14-13/W3 – Fifth seed; at Montana in round 1
  6. Portland State (pre-season pick: 5th) 7-9/12-18/L1 – Sixth seed; at Montana State in round 1
  7. Eastern Washington (pre-season pick: 8th) 5-11/9-21/W1 – Did not qualify for post-season tourney
  8. Idaho State (pre-season pick: 4th) 4-12/7-22/L4 – Did not qualify for post-season tourney
  9. Sacramento State (pre-season pick: 9th) 3-13//9-21/L5 – Did not qualify for post-season tourney

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Checking in on… the Big Sky

Posted by rtmsf on February 19th, 2010

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

Records (CONF/ALL/STREAK)

  1. Weber State (11-2/17-8/W3) The balanced Wildcats will clinch the host role for the Big Sky postseason tourney with their next win. WSU hosts the eighth-place Idaho State Bengals Saturday before finishing Big Sky play at Portland State and Eastern Washington.
  2. Northern Colorado (10-4/21-6/W1) Despite a major setback with the loss of shooting guard Devon Beitzel (broken foot), the Bears can claim a postseason tourney bye with wins over Portland State (Feb. 20) and at Sacramento State (Feb. 27).
  3. Montana (9-5-/18-8/L1) One-point, last-second loss at hot-shooting Eastern Washington (63% on 12-19 treys) dealalt a body blow to the Grizzlies’ shot at one of two Big Sky postseason tourney byes.
  4. Montana State (9-6/14-12/W2) The Bobcats’ 80-74 win Thursday over Sacramento State clinched a top-four seed – and a first-round host role – in the Big Sky postseason tourney. Saturday MSU hosts San Jose State of the WAC in a BracketBuster clash before prepping for the conference finale Feb. 27 at cross-state rival Montana.
  5. Northern Arizona (5-6/11-11/L2) In a fight for tourney seeding, all-everything Lumberacks’ guard Cameron Jones led NAU in Thursday’s thrilling 2-OT win over Portland State. A Saturday win over Eastern Washington will put the Jacks one-up over the Eagles and Vikings in battle for one of two final tourney seeds.
  6. Portland State (5-8/10-16/L4) Home court losses to Montana and Montana State, and a painful double-OT loss at Northern Arizona put Viks in sudden jeopardy of postseason tourney elimination.
  7. Eastern Washington (4-9/8-19/L1) Resurgent Eagles – bouyed by THREE freshman starters of late – have become the team nobody wants to play. The Eagles face must-win contests at Northern Arizona and (vs. Portland State and Weber State) in a bid for one of two final postseason tourney seeds.
  8. Idaho State (4-9/7-19/L1) Their backs against the wall, the Bengals face must-win road clashes (at Weber State, at Portland State and at Eastern Washington) to qualify for Big Sky postseason sixth seed. One loss ends what has been a disappointing season for this senior-laden team.
  9. Sacramento State (3-10/9-18/L2) The best the Hornets can hope for is to play the role of spoiler. Sac States winds up Big Sky play against teams vying for tourney seeding so the only thing a win at Montana or against Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado can do is affect the seeding of the Hornets’ opponents.

RPI BOOSTERS — By most measures of season-long team strength, Weber State, Northern Colorado and Montana have emerged as the ‘Best of the Big Sky’ in both the standings and RPI ratings against other Division 1 conferences. The Wildcats, with a solid season-long lock on first, passed the Bears in the College Insider Mid Major Top 25 for the first time this year, jumping 10 places from last week’s 25th to 15th, while the Bears slid six spots to 16th. Montana received 11 points. The three teams remain closely bunched in the USA Today Sagarin Rankings at 101 (WSU), 106 (UM), and 107 (NCU), respectively.

MVPS – Montana’s senior guard Anthony Johnson and Weber State’s sophomore guard Damian Lilliard remain leading candidates for Big Sky MVP. Lilliard, twice recognized for POTW recognition, leads the conference in scoring (20.2 per game) 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) — is the league’s third-leading scorer at 18.4.

The two leading candidates for Freshman of the Year appear to be Eastern Washington point guard Glen Dean and Montana point guard Will Cherry, both of whom wrested their starting positions from upperclassmen as league play began.

HOT & NOT

  • HOT — WEBER STATE: At 11-2 in the Big Sky, Randy Rahe’s Wildcats’ three straight wins do not signify a hot streak. They’re simply doing what they’ve done since the opening tip in Big Sky Conference play: prove on-court that they’re simply the best team in the conference for the second straight year. Nothing’s in the bag yet, but the Cats appear as sure bets to host the postseason conference tourney, the third time in four years for WSU.
  • NOT — PORTLAND STATE: The Vikings – preseason picks by many to challenge for the Big Sky Conference title – have lost four straight (two at home) and are now in a scramble with Northern Arizona and Eastern Washington to qualify for the final (sixth seed) slot in Big Sky postseason tourney. The Vikings, under first-year coach Tyler Geving, are a talented, potent offensive group still playing like a team in search of its identity.

STAT CHECK

  • Scoring: Damian Lilliard (WSU) 20.2; Cameron Jones (NAU) 19.2; Anthony Johnson (UM) 18.4; Dominic Waters (PSU) 18.4.
  • Rebounding: Jamie Jones (PSU) 8.0; Brandon Moore (EWU) 7.2; Demetrius Monroe (ISU) 7.2; Brian Qvale (UM) 6.7.
  • Steals: Will Bynum (MSU) 2.1; Devon Beitzel (UNC) 2.0; Broderick Gilchrest (ISU) 2.0; Franklin Session (WSU) 1.9; Will Cherry (UM) 1.8.
  • Blocked shots: Jamie Jones (PSU) 2.1; Brian Qvale (UM) 2.0.
  • Assists: Dominic Waters (PSU) 4.8; Glen Dean (EWU) 4.4; Julian Olubuyi (NAU) 4.1.
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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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Checking in on… the Big Sky

Posted by rtmsf on January 8th, 2010

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

Standings (records are CONF/ALL/STREAK)

  1. Portland State (2-0/7-7/W2)  Vikings lead the Big Sky in scoring offense at 79.4. Can any team in this defense-oriented league slow them down?   
  2. Northern Colorado (3-1/14-3/W4)   Senior guard Yahosh Bonner leading the Bears with iron-trap defense… usually against each opponent’s top scoring guard.    
  3. Montana State (3-1/8-6/W1)  The Cats are taking care of the ball on offense… and just winning.
  4. Weber State (3-1/9-7/W2)  Sophomore point guard Damian Lillard best in the Big Sky so far.
  5. Eastern Washington (1-1/5-10/W-1)  Speedy frosh guard Glen Dean stepping up as scorer and playmaker for Eagles.   
  6. Montana (1-3/10-6/L2)  Junior 6’11 post Brian Qvale starting to dominate key on both ends of floor (6.1 rebounds per game and 2.0 blocks per game average)   
  7. Northern Arizona (1-3/7-8/L1)  Junior guard Cameron Jones scores 26 in Jacks’ first Big Sky win.  
  8. Sacramento State (1-3/6-10/L3) Sac State junior guard Sultan Toles-Bey making strides at point for Hornets.   
  9. Idaho State (1-3/4-12/L1)  Amorrow Morgan leads conference in minutes played (35.1), carrying Bengals on offense (17.0 per game).

POLLING 

Northern Colorado Bears jumped to 16th in this week’s College Insider Mid Major top 25 poll with 249 votes, up from 23rd last week. The Bears are the lone Big Sky team to receive votes.

HOT & NOT

HOT — The Montana State Bobcats and the Northern Colorado Bears – at 3-1 and tied for second going into the third week of conference play – can move into a tie for first with home floor sweeps this weekend. The Bears and Bobcats have already notched important road wins and both are poised to build some early separation in the standings.

NOT — Already at 1-3 in conference play, the Idaho State Bengals and Montana Grizzlies – both pre-season picks to contend – have each suffered home-court losses and are mired in a four-team bottom-tier throng with Northern Arizona and Sacramento State. What’s worse for Montana: the Bengals’ lone win was a last-second stunner over the Grizzlies in Pocatello. Montana then traveled to Ogden and – after leading through much of the second half – lost in the final minute at Weber State.

STAT CHECK    

  • The Big Sky’s top scorers are all guards: Damian Lillard (WSU) 19.1; Dominic Waters (PSU) 18.7; Amorrow Morgan (ISU) 17.0; Cameron Jones (NAU) 16.7; Anthony Johnson (UM) 16.4; Will Figures (MSU) 15.9; Devon Beitzel (UNC) 15.4; and Broderick Gilchrest (ISU) 13.9.
  • Northern Colorado’s 136-341 three point field goals is the Big Sky’s best, slightly ahead of Portland State’s 128-309. The Viks shoot a better percentage though (.414 to .399).
  • Not only are the Portland State Vikings the most potent offensive team in the Big Sky, they’re the best shooting team. The Viks, who score at a per-game clip of 79.4, lead the league in three point field goal percentage (see above), field goal percentage (.490) and free throw percentage (.755).
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Checking in on… the Big Sky

Posted by jstevrtc on December 27th, 2009

Glenn Junkert of GrizzlyJournal.com is the RTC correspondent for the Big Sky Conference.

BIG SKY CONFERENCE

(Records are ALL/CONF/STREAK)

  1. Northern Colorado (10-3/1-1/W1)  Bears are for real, and will head into conference play as odds-on favorites.
  2. Montana (10-4/1-1/W4)  Frosh guard Will Cherry giving Griz a quickness charge at both ends of court.
  3. Montana State (7-5/2-0/L1)   Balanced scoring from four starters gives senior point guard Will Bynum offensive options.
  4. Weber State (7-6/1-0/L1)  Super soph Damian Lillard (19.1 PPG) has led Wildcats in scoring in nine of 13 games.
  5. Sacramento State (6-7/1-1/W2)  Hornets equal ’09 conference win total in first conference match, a 64-63 victory over Idaho State.
  6. Portland State (5-7/1-0/L3)  High octane Vikings scoring at 79-point per game clip… but giving up 81.7 PPG.
  7. Northern Arizona (4-7/0-2/L1)  Forget the record.  Coach Mike Adras appears to have Jacks ready for January conference play.
  8. Eastern Washington (4-9/0-1/L4)  In search starting-quint chemistry, coach Earlywine distributes ample playing time to 10 players.
  9. Idaho State (2-10/0-1/L6)  JC newcomer 6’0 Broderick Gilchrest providing Bengals much-needed scoring boost heading into conference play (14.8 PPG).

RPI BOOSTERS

Northern Colorado and Montana remain the only Big Sky teams to earn Mid Major Poll recognition this season.  The Bears slipped one notch from last week to 23rd (87 points), while Montana nearly tripled its vote total (22), still not enough for an actual top 25 ranking.  Of more significance, perhaps, is the Big Sky Conference’s improved record against Division 1 opponents. Facing a tough composite pre-season schedule against D1 competition, the Big Sky has fared well, subsequently boosting its rating against comparable mid-major conferences, and recently stepping ahead of the Big West to 17th in the USA Today Sagarin conference ratings.

HOT & NOT

HOT — The Montana State Bobcats — a pre-season pick as one of the favorites in the Big Sky — turned a 2-3 November record topsy turvy with a workmanlike 5-2 December record that included two homecourt wins in early league play and a creditable last-second 58-56 loss to Boise State in Boise.  The Cats are getting remarkable balance from starters Bobby Howard (13.3 PPG), Marquis Navarre (11.6 PPG), Erik Rush (13 PPG), and Branden Johnson (10.3 PPG), while limiting opponents to 66 PPG.

NOT — The Eastern Washington Eagles (4-9) — losers of four-straight games heading into conference play — are showing signs as potential dubious owners of the Big Sky’s cellar door key.  Kirk Earlywine’s Eagles lost a last-shot nail-biter to a tough 8-5 Nevada Wolfpack squad (73-30) before absorbing a 91-34 lashing from BYU that apparently damaged morale, as the Eagles’ promptly lost games against two sub-.500 opponents, Chicago State (4-7) and previously winless Jackson State (1-10).  After the demoralizing loss to BYU, Earlywine said, “For the life of me, I can’t figure out what happened to our team.”

SETBACK

We’ve mentioned Idaho State’s brutal non-conference schedule earlier in this report, but it bears repeating in light of the Bengals’ 2-10 record with one non-conference game left before conference play resumes.  At what point does a challenging pre-season schedule become demoralizing for players? And how does the endless road schedule affect their fans?  The Bengals spent most of December on the road (10 games), eking out a lone road win against UMKC (68-65).  One of those losses was their only conference match, a 64-63 setback at Sacramento State, while their only home game against a major college foe resulted in a 79-67 loss to Boise State.  But the Bengals played tough through most of those losses.  It’ll be interesting to see if the schedule makes the Bengals improved enough to be the Big Sky contender several pre-season publications predicted.

STAT CHECK

  • Northern Colorado’s plus-3.23 TPG turnover margin is the best Big Sky mark by a significant margin, far better than second place Montana’s plus-1.29 margin.
  • Montana’s limiting all opponents to an impressive 57.6 PPG, an impressive 10 PPG better than second place Northern Colorado. The Grizzlies back up that mark with a league best defensive field goal percentage average of .401.
  • Weber State soph guard Damian Lilliard’s 19.1 PPG average is a Big Sky best, while ISU guard-forward Demetrius Moore’s 8.3 per game rebounding mark leads the league.  Portland State’s Dominic Waters’ 5.0 per game assist average is a full assist per game better than second place.
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Checking in on… the Big Sky

Posted by rtmsf on December 11th, 2009

checkinginon

Glenn Junkert of GrizzlyJournal.com is the RTC correspondent for the Big Sky Conference.

BIG SKY CONFERENCE STANDINGS (ALL,  CONF) STREAK

  1. Northern Colorado (8-1, 1-1) W1.   Assuming role of conference favorite.
  2. Montana (6-3 1-1) W1.   Tough homecourt loss in conference play.
  3. Montana State (4-4 2-0) L1.   Leads conference standings with two home wins.
  4. Portland State (4-4 1-0) W3.   Leads conference in most offensive categories.
  5. Weber State (4-4 1-0) W3.   Soph point guard Damian Lillard assuming leadership role for Cats.
  6. Sacramento State (4-6 0-1) L2.   Lose last 4-of-5 after hot start.
  7. Eastern Washington (3-5 0-1) L1.   Eagles hit road on tough 2-week, five-game swing.
  8. Northern Arizona (2-5 0-2) L3.   Jacks face brutal 4-game road swing through hollidays.
  9. Idaho State (2-7 0-0) L3.   Injuries, suspensions affect Bengals front-court.

RPI BOOSTERS

Northern Colorado – Earned a Mid Major Poll rank of 22nd (153 points) with a road breakthrough at 2nd place Montana, the only other Big Sky team with Mid-Major votes (8).

HOT & NOT

  • Portland State Vikings – after starting the season at 0-3 under first year head coach Tyler Geving – the Vikings have gone 4-1 since, a tear that includes an 86-82 win at Mid-Major 10th ranked Portland and a 23-point, 98-75 conference opener over Eastern Washington. 
  • The road has been long and winding for the 2-7 Idaho State Bengals, who have played seven of nine pre-season games on the road. The Bengals notched one of their two wins on the road, edging UMKC 68-65, but dropped a 79-67 verdict to in-state rival Boise State in Pocatello.

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Checking in on… the Big Sky

Posted by rtmsf on November 27th, 2009

checkinginon

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

BIG SKY CONFERENCE REPORT

  1. Northern Colorado 5-0 W5
  2. Montana 4-1 W1
  3. Sacramento State 3-3 L1
  4. Eastern Washington 2-3 L1
  5. Montana State 2-2 L1
  6. Northern Arizona 2-2 L2
  7. Portland State 1-3 W1
  8. Weber State 1-3 W1
  9. Idaho State 1-4 L1

RPI BOOSTERS

  • Northern Colorado – Earned a Mid Major Poll rank of 25th with championships in both the Rainbow Classic and the Reggie Minton Air Force Classic and are currently ranked 69th in the USA Today Sagarin Ratings.
  • Sacramento State – Defeated Oregon State 65-63 in Corvallis.
  • Montana – Defeated Oregon 68-55 in Portland.

EYE-OPENERS

Early results in the Big Sky indicate a return to parity after several seasons of distinct “upper-lower division split.” PROOF: perennial bottom-feeder CSU Sacramento, under the reins of second-year coach (and Sac State alum) Brian Katz, is 3-3 with an impressive 65-63 win at Oregon State and a decent showing at Idaho. Katz’ rebuilding project of a decimated Hornet program appears decidedly ahead of schedule.

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BGTD: ESPN’s 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon

Posted by rtmsf on November 16th, 2009

 boomdynamite

Good day, friends. John Stevens, here, one of your faithful RTC contributors, with a quick reminder. ESPN’s 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon begins tonight at midnight on Monday night/Tuesday morning, and I’ll be live-blogging the whole thing in our famed Boom Goes the Dynamite format. I did this last year during the same event, and once again I’ll be happily disregarding the recommendations — nay, the very pleas — of my family, friends, and internist, and staying up the whole 24 hours, all the while absorbing those tasty rays from my TV and computer screens. I hope you’ll stop by and hit the refresh button a few times, and even lend a comment or two.

Here are the games ESPN is showing:

  • 12:05 am Cal State Fullerton at UCLA
  • 2:00 am San Diego State at Saint Mary’s – RTC Live Simulcast
  • 4:00 am Northern Colorado at Hawaii
  • 6:00 am Monmouth at St. Peter’s
  • 8:00 am Drexel at Niagara
  • 10:00 am Clemson at Liberty
  • 12:00 pm Northeastern at Siena
  • 2:00 pm Arkansas-Little Rock at Tulsa
  • 4:00 pm Temple at Georgetown
  • 5:30 pm Binghamton at Pittsburgh (ESPN2)
  • 6:00 pm Charlotte at Duke (ESPN)
  • 7:30 pm Arkansas at Louisville (ESPN2) – RTC Live Simulcast
  • 8:00 pm Gonzaga at Michigan State
  • 9:00 pm Duquesne at Iowa (ESPNU)
  • 10:00 pm Memphis at Kansas – RTC Live Simulcast

Last year, if I recall correctly — and there’s a good chance that I don’t! — because I had worked a full day beforehand and gotten almost no sleep the previous night, I started hallucinating about 18 hours into this. I look to be a little better rested going in this time, so I anticipate it’ll be a total cake walk. Yeah, we’ll see. The executives here at RTC obviously think so, too, since my written requests for a short-term insurance policy were denied (read: returned to me in paper-doll-chain form). Alas.

Anyway, I hope you’ll join me for as much of it as you can endure.  The updates will begin below promptly at midnight tonight.  See you there!

——————————————————————————————————————————————————-

11:53pm (11/16): And so here we find ourselves, again, my friends.  Welcome to the RTC 24-hour live blog for ESPN’s 24-hour Hoops Marathon.  This will be done in our Boom Goes The Dynamite format, meaning this post will update every so often, so keep hitting that refresh button during the time that you’re joining us.  When three of us do this during a day’s games during the regular season, sometimes it’ll start with NVR, then I’ll take the baton, and rtmsf will finish the night with the late games.  When that happens, I use an old basketball term and call it…the three man weave.  I’m the only one who finds that clever, though.  But I”ll say it…what we have here is a one man weave.  I’ll have help from rtmsf as he goes all RTC Live on us from the San Diego State at St. Mary’s game at 2 am ET, and then again from St. Louis with the Arkansas-Louisville and Memphis-Kansas games later on Tuesday night.  But I’m flyin’ solo without a net and I’m going caffeine-free, baby!  That’s my pledge to you tonight.  I, John Stevens, will be kept awake merely by my love for college hoops.  I promise.  We’ll get it goin’ with Cal State-Fullerton at UCLA in just a bit.  Welcome!!

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