Checking In On… the Big Sky Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2011

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 Week That Was:

  • Weber State off with injury problemsKyle Bullinger dislocated his elbow last weekend, and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Frank Otis got injured in the loss to BYU, and it is not sure how long he will be out. That is two front court starters down, and I’m not sure Weber State has the horses up front to really absorb injuries that easily. The Wildcats will struggle scoring down low, and need Byron Fulton to give them some quality minutes. In the backcourt, the Weber State coaching staff decided to pull the redshirt on Gelaun Wheelwright to give them more depth. There is obviously a lot of season left, but December is not going as planned.
  • Damian Lillard as a national player – After scoring 36 points in a road loss to St. Mary’s, Lillard (26.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG) became the nation’s leading scorer and national pundits began to take notice. In the next game, the Oakland native really broke out, scoring 41 points and hitting the game-winner against San Jose State, before facing a BYU defense on Wednesday that locked him up somewhat (15 points). Lillard became the Big Sky Player of the Week and received an article on ESPN, almost immediately becoming one of the more well-known players among the mid-majors. Lillard is lightning quick with a solid (though not spectacular) outside shot. Lillard’s play this season is proving more and more why some people say he is a legitimate NBA prospect.

Damian Lillard Has Broken Out In a Big Way This Year

  • Will the real contenders please stand up? – It has been a bit of a wacky, up-and-down start for the Big Sky, with teams missing out on big chances to assert themselves. Thus far, it seems like the clear top-5 are as below in the power rankings, but the order is very fluid right now. On some nights, it seems like any of them can win the league, and on other nights, it looks like they will struggle to make the conference tournament. There is work to do up top.

Power Rankings

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on… the Big Sky

Posted by rtmsf on December 26th, 2010

Jason Spencer is the RTC correspondent for the Big Sky Conference.

First off Merry Christmas to all the Big Sky Conference fans out there!  After we all get done opening presents, we get to open up the conference season.  It should be one of the most competitive in years.

A Look Back

  • One of the most bizarre free throw shots ever captured on video was from Idaho State’s own Kamil Gawrzydek.  The ball seemed to just sit down right on the rim after bouncing high into the air.  What was it waiting for?  Forget everything that you think you know about physics and take a look for yourself.

  • Northern Arizona is becoming a force not only within the Big Sky Conference, but is scaring the heck out of the big boys.  In back to back games on the road against USC and Arizona, the Lumberjacks came within single digits of both of these behemoths.  Northern Arizona is looking more and more the team to beat in the Big Sky Conference.
  • The term “Road Warriors” is usually a positive statement made about a team that racks up “Ws” on the road.  Northern Colorado fans cringe when they hear that term.  The Bears have only played one game at home since November 16!  It is safe to say they will be looking forward to playing in their home gym.  Only problem is that they still have to wait until January 6!

Power Rankings

1. Northern Arizona: (8-4)

    Recent Games:  60-52 Loss at USC 12/11, 63-58 Loss at Arizona 12/16, 74-63 Win vs. Air Force 12/22

    Upcoming Games:  at Montana 12/29, at Montana State 12/31, vs. Idaho State 1/6

    2. Weber State: (6-5)

      Recent Games:  77-71 Win at Southern Utah 12/11, 81-79 Loss at Tulsa 12/16, 94-54 Win vs. Southwest 12/18, 72-66 Loss vs. BYU 12/21

      Upcoming Games:  at Montana State 12/29, at Montana 12/31, at Northern Arizona 1/8

      3. Montana: (8-4)

        Recent Games:  50-48 Loss at San Francisco 12/12, 71-66 Win vs. Oregon State 12/15, 64-63 Win at Idaho 12/18, 71-57 Win at Cal State Fullerton 12/22

        Upcoming Games:  vs. Northern Arizona 12/29, vs. Weber State 12/31, at Northern Colorado 1/6, at Sacramento State 1/8

        4. Portland State: (6-5)

          Recent Games:  93-89 Win vs. Cal State Fullerton 12/12, 92-77 Loss at Cal State Bakersfield 12/15, 78-67 Loss vs. Portland 12/18, 79-73 Loss at Nevada 12/20, 73-53 Win vs. Utah Valley 12/23

          Upcoming Games:  vs. Northern Colorado 12/29, at Idaho State 1/2, vs. Eastern Washington 1/8

          5. Northern Colorado: (4-7)

            Recent Games:  86-76 Loss at Illinois 12/12, 71-68 Loss at Denver 12/18, 75-61 Loss at Colorado State 12/20, 78-75 Loss at Louisiana-Monroe 12/22

            Upcoming Games:  at Portland State 12/29, at Eastern Washington 12/31, vs. Montana 1/6, vs. Montana State 1/8

            6. Montana State: (6-6)

              Recent Games:  94-60 Win vs. Johnson and Wales 12/10, 78-67 Loss at UC Riverside 12/19, 75-59 Loss at UCLA 12/21

              Upcoming Games:  vs. Weber State 12/29, vs. Northern Arizona 12/31, at Sacramento State 1/6, at Northern Colorado 1/8

              7. Eastern Washington: (3-8)

                Recent Games:  70-69 Loss at San Jose State 12/12, 95-91 Win vs. Seattle 12/15, 72-42 Loss at Nebraska 12/18, 78-72 Loss at South Dakota 12/20

                Upcoming Games:  vs. Sacramento State 12/29, vs. Northern Colorado 12/31, at Seattle 1/6, at Portland State 1/8

                8. Idaho State: (4-8)

                  Recent Games:  78-57 Win vs. UMKC 12/11, 66-60 Loss at Creighton 12/18, 71-48 Loss at Utah State 12/21, 77-73 Win vs. Troy 12/22, 63-60 Loss vs. Western Michigan 12/23

                  Upcoming Games:  vs. Sacramento State 12/31, vs. Portland State 1/2, at Northern Arizona 1/6

                  9. Sacramento State: (3-8)

                    Recent Games:  65-54 Win vs. William Jessup 12/10, 65-63 Win at McNeese State 12/19, 66-53 Loss at Oklahoma 12/21

                    Upcoming Games:  at Eastern Washington 12/29, at Idaho State 12/31, vs. Montana State 1/6, vs. Montana 1/8

                    A Look Ahead to Conference Play

                    Predicted Conference Order of Finish

                    1. Northern Arizona
                    2. Weber State
                    3. Montana
                    4. Portland State
                    5. Northern Colorado
                    6. Montana State
                    7. Eastern Washington
                    8. Idaho State
                    9. Sacramento State

                    The conference season is going to be one of the most competitive in years.  However the returning fire power of Northern Arizona is going to be too much for this conference to handle.  However, as last year’s Big Sky Conference has shown, anybody can win the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.  This year’s Big Sky Conference representative will be…

                    • Weber State Wildcats

                    The Big Sky Conference tournament is going to be a showcase for NBA scouts as Damian Lillard will put his team on his back and into the NCAA tournament.  The question for Weber State fans is can something like this happen? I wonder what size slipper Lillard wears?  The most interesting development will be does the committee consider Northern Arizona as an at-large team?  They have been very competitive against the big boys and will have quite a good resume come March.

                    Share this story

                    In Their Words: Life at the Mid-Major Level (part seven)

                    Posted by rtmsf on November 2nd, 2010

                    Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor.

                    To read the entire In Their Words series, click here.

                    Part Seven: MARKETING

                    Over the summer, we’ve spent time hearing about some of the next big-name recruits on their way to college basketball: Jared Sullinger and Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis and Michael Gilchrist. We’ve heard the big-time schools announce their high profile games on their upcoming schedules: Kentucky going to the Maui Invitational and visiting North Carolina, Michigan State hosting Texas and going to Duke. But for the vast majority of Division I programs, they’ve been flying under the radar. There are at present 73 teams that participate in basketball in the six BCS conferences, but there are 347 total programs in Division I. Of those other 274 programs, there are certainly quite a few big-name programs: last year’s national runner-up Butler comes to mind immediately, as does Gonzaga, Memphis and a handful of other schools in conferences like the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West. But, we were also interested in how the other half (or really, how the other three-quarters) lives, so we spent some time talking to coaches, athletic directors and other people around the country affiliated with some of those other schools — those non-BCS schools, those “mid-majors” — and we asked them about how they recruit, how they create a schedule, how they market their programs, and quite a few other things. Over the next eight weeks, we’ll let them tell you their story, in their own words.

                    To begin, let me introduce and thank this week’s cast of characters:

                    • Andrew Roberts, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information, Arkansas-Pine BluffRoberts runs a tight ship at UAPB as the sole full-time member of the Sports Information Department.
                    • Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State – Bartow is entering his eighth season as the Buccaneers head coach, after having previously succeeded his father Gene Bartow as the head coach at UAB. Bartow has posted a 118-72 record in his years at ETSU and has racked up 241 total wins and four NCAA appearances in his 13 seasons as a head coach.
                    • Eric Reveno, Head Coach, Portland – Reveno heads into his fifth season at Portland having turned around a program from a team that was 18-45 in his first two seasons to a team on the rise with a 40-24 record over the last two seasons. Reveno spent his previous nine seasons as an assistant at Stanford, his alma mater where he was a Pac-10 Conference All-Academic Team selection as a senior.
                    • Jessica Dickson, Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations, UMKC – Dickson has been in her current position, where she oversees marketing and promotions for UMKC, for just over three years.
                    • Todd Miles, Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations, Long Beach State – Miles starts his third year in Long Beach following a seven-year stretch at Boise State where he was the primary media relations contact for the basketball team.
                    • Gregg Bach, Assistant Athletics Director for Communications, Akron – Bach was named to his current position this past summer after having spent the previous eight years on the media relations staff in the Akron athletic department. His new job makes him the spokesperson of the athletic department.
                    • Kevin Keys, Associate Athletic Director for External Operations, Liberty – Keys is a ’77 Liberty graduate who enters his sixth year back on campus in charge of Liberty’s licensing, promotions and marketing.

                    Last time out we introduced you to the marketing side of mid-major basketball programs and its range of athletic budgets from the one-man Sports Information Department on up. This week, we’ll take a look at another big difference between mid-major programs: the size of the markets in which they play. When these schools compete in small college towns, they can be the talk of the town when things are going well, but for those schools in bigger markets, they are in danger of being overshadowed and potentially lost in the crowd no matter how well they’re playing at the moment.

                    With So Many Entertainment Options in Big Cities Like LA, Finding Fans Can Be Tough

                    Andrew Roberts, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information, Arkansas-Pine Bluff: I definitely think it is an advantage (to be in a smaller market), here in the state of Arkansas. I’m originally from Texas, the Houston area, and two schools in that area are in our conference: Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern. They have at times been lost in the shuffle of everything else that is going on, because you’ve got professional sports franchises and other colleges in the city of Houston and high school football and they have sometimes voiced concerns with the amount of coverage they have gotten. There is just so much going on in the city from a sports perspective. At times, it’s just hard for those programs to get ample amount of coverage because there is just so much going on. You’ve got a lot of competition for coverage among those other entities, where in Little Rock its UAPB, its UALR and then that’s really it in the Little Rock area. You’ve got the Arkansas Razorbacks, but there aren’t any professional sports in the state, so there is probably more ability for the news outlets to cover local colleges.

                    Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State: It can go both ways playing in a small community. Our fans are very much diehard fans. We’ve got very hardcore fans, which is great if you’re winning, and if you’re losing, they let you know about it. It can work both ways, but I’d much rather be in this situation. Let’s say you’re a mid-major program in a big city, it’s tough, because you can easily get swallowed up from a media standpoint and a PR standpoint. In the newspaper, you might be on the sixth or seventh page, if at all, whereas when we do something good or bad, it’s going to be the lead story in our paper. No question, if we play tonight the lead story in the paper tomorrow is going to be about ETSU basketball. If you’re a mid-major in a big city, you probably have to flip to the back pages to see anything about your program. That would be something you fight. So I like the situation we’re in, but if you’re not winning, then it can obviously work the other way.

                    Eric Reveno, Head Coach, Portland: When you look at Gonzaga, as far as the city of Spokane, they are the biggest show in Spokane, by far. Portland is not the case, we’ve got the Blazers, we’ve got Portland State, we’ve got minor league baseball, we’ve got more nightlife, we’ve got more going on, which is good. But from a standpoint of getting corporate sponsorship and getting fans, if you’re a company in Spokane and you want to wine and dine your clients, you take them to a Bulldogs game, because there’s nowhere else to take them.

                    Jessica Dickson, Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations, UMKC: We’re not a small market, so I actually think it is a little more challenging for a smaller school in a large market, as compared to some of our league opponents who are in smaller markets where there’s not as much competition for entertainment. I don’t necessarily think that we directly compete with the Kansas City Chiefs for fans. I think that we as a mid-major school compete with that dinner-and-a-movie crowd, that’s a little more comparable to what our price point is. But we do have to compete. There are so many entertainment options in Kansas City, from the art to the theater to the ballet to the movies to concerts at the Sprint center to football games to Royals games to Wizards games. There are so many options of things for people in KC to do, so we have to come up with creative ways to keep UMKC basketball at the top of their minds.

                    Todd Miles, Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations, Long Beach State: We’re obviously competing against UCLA, USC, everybody else in our league, the Lakers, the Dodgers… there’s so much to do here. Getting attention in a place like this is a lot harder here than it was at Boise State in terms of local media and stuff like that, but I would say it is probably an advantage in some areas too. You’re more apt to see North Carolina come and play us, or play UCSB like they did a couple of years ago than to see them visit, say some mid-major in a smaller market.

                    Gregg Bach, Assistant Athletics Director for Communications, Akron: I would say we compete for the professional sports fan in Cleveland, no question about that. That might change a little bit with what has happened with the Cavs and LeBron and all that this summer but certainly the last five or six years, that has been something that we definitely fight. It is not something where football overshadows basketball or basketball overshadows football within our department, I don’t know that we have that issue, but maybe fighting some of those outside things for what people are spending their entertainment dollars on. Even with Ohio State, we’re just two hours north of Columbus, but most of the state is into Ohio State and Ohio State football, so that’s something that we fight as well. I’m not saying someone is not going to come to an Akron game because they are necessarily going to an Ohio State game, but maybe they’re going to stay at home and watch the Ohio State game on TV or go to a sports bar, or something along those lines. So that’s something that we fight and that something we take into consideration a lot of times in terms of how you are going to schedule a game or how we are going to market a game.

                    Kevin Keys, Associate Athletic Director for External Operations, Liberty: There is no question that we compete with Virginia and Virginia Tech, as our town sits right in the middle between the two. Our philosophy has been for a long time, we’re not going to steal Tech fans or steal UVA fans, that would be a fruitless effort. But those fans don’t always have games at Tech or UVa on the nights that we are playing, whether that be football or basketball. We here are their hometown team and we reach out to them, that’s part of what I would say are our non-traditional fans, that we’ve really begun to grow our fan base with the success we’ve had. Those people are big sports fans and they come watch us. Does that mean they’re giving up wearing maroon and orange for Tech or blue and orange for UVA? No, it doesn’t mean that. But they become fans of ours. Ultimately, we’d love to think that some of them would become primarily Liberty fans, but that’s not our goal. Our goal is to put on a good show and maybe they’ll come to our games on a night when their team isn’t playing.

                    Putting on a good show is often a goal for these mid-majors, not only getting their fans to come to the games, but making sure they have a good time so that they are more likely to come back. And one of the big things is to create a game atmosphere that is not only fun for the fans and the student base, but also an environment that could aid the basketball team. The first step is getting the fans there.

                    Read the rest of this entry »

                    Share this story

                    Morning Five: 06.15.10 Edition

                    Posted by rtmsf on June 14th, 2010

                    1. In case you haven’t heard, the Big 12 is now a ten-team conference and Texas will earn more money than God for the woodshedding that it pulled on the rest of its conference peers on Monday.  Seriously, we’re a fan of keeping this conference together, but we don’t want to hear any whining from the Missouris and Kansas States of the world when they see the dollar differential that they’re receiving versus the Horns AND THEIR OWN PRIVATE TV NETWORK on an annual basis.  Our man on the matter Andrew Murawa once again puts it all into perspective for us in a coherent, logical fashion.
                    2. No news is good news for Michigan State on the Tom Izzo front, as he had nothing to say when questioned by a camper about his plans at his summer basketball camp on Monday.  If the report that Izzo and LeBron James have yet to speak is true, though, this might seem to indicate that James is noncommittal about his plans for next season and clarity on that front is unlikely to factor into Izzo’s final decision.
                    3. Speaking of Izzo, assuming he ultimately leaves Michigan State for the Cavs, how much revenue could that end up costing the university on an annual basis?  This article takes a shot at trying to piece that together.
                    4. We missed this news late last week as a result of the USC sanctions and the conference realignment madness, but it’s worth noting that Portland State was banned from 2011 postseason play because of a very poor APR (Academic Progress Rate) score.  Its 865 score from the academic years 2005-09 is far below the national average of 940 — is it coincidental that the Vikings’ two best seasons (Big Sky champs) were in 2007-08 and 2008-09?
                    5. Luke Winn visited CP3’s summer camp that features many top college stars, including UNC’s Harrison Barnes, Duke’s Seth Curry and Washington Isaiah Thomas.  The story about how Thomas and the other UW players were completely fooled by former recruit Terrence Jones’ decision to go to Kentucky over Washington at the last minute was very interesting — Thomas suggested that the Wildcats better watch out in November in Maui if the two teams face each other.
                    Share this story

                    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

                    Read the rest of this entry »

                    Share this story

                    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.
                    Share this story

                    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.

                    Share this story

                    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).
                    Share this story

                    ATB: Have You Met Omar Samhan Yet?

                    Posted by rtmsf on December 16th, 2009

                    atb

                    Samhan I Am. St. Mary’s 101, Portland State 80. Had St. Mary’s not lost to Vanderbilt by two points during Thanksgiving weekend, we’d probably be listing the Gaels as a ranked team and the name of Omar Samhan might be getting a little more publicity at this point.  With tonight’s 61% shooting evening leading to another blowout win, St. Mary’s is currently 8-1 with solid road wins at Utah State and Oregon, and even though fellow WCCers San Diego and Portland were getting the early-season hype, it might be SMC as the team most likely to challenge Gonzaga as tops in the league again this year.  The big reason is that Gonzaga has nobody like Omar Samhan, the 6’11 senior who dropped 31/17 tonight and is averaging 21/12/2 blks on 61% shooting for the year — his efficiency rating of 24.2 puts him in the neighborhood of some other players you may have heard of… namely Evan Turner, Luke Harangody, Aubrey Coleman, Quincy Pondexter and Manny Harris.  Freshman guard Matthew Dellavedova is another player to watch on this team, as he’s averaging 14/3/4 assts and has a healthy 2:1 A/TO ratio.  Don’t be alarmed with what we’re about to say, but those are actually better numbers than what Patty Mills put up as a rookie at St. Mary’s in 2008.  The Gaels are definitely a team to watch as we head into the WCC this year.

                    Best Player You Don't Know (photo: Tod Fiemer)

                    Best Player You Don't Know (photo: Tod Fiemer)

                    Floriani LiveRutgers 80, Rider 70 (OT). Ryan Thompson did not disappoint the nine or so NBA scouts in attendance. The Rider senior scored a game high 26 points while pulling down 8 rebounds. Rutgers adjusted and did a good job defending Thompson in the stretch and OT. “They (Rutgers) face guarded and denied him,” said Rider coach Tommy Dempsey. “Anytime he had the ball they had trouble staying in front of him.” Thompson shot 9 of 19 but forced only two of them and stayed within the framework of the offense.  Another significant note for Rutgers: Mike Rosario scored 18 but was 5-17 from the floor. James Beatty, a junior guard, stepped up leading Rutgers with 21 points. Beatty was 6 of 8 beyond the arc and played some nice defense on Thompson in the stretch. “We recruited Beatty as a point but we knew he had several games in junior college where he knocked down about five treys. Tonight he had the looks, buried them and needs to do that.” Especially when Big East play starts for Rutgers just after the New Year.

                    Read the rest of this entry »

                    Share this story

                    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.

                    Read the rest of this entry »

                    Share this story

                    ATB: Big Ten Victorious on Comeback Wednesday

                    Posted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2009

                    atb

                    Wisconsin: First RTC of the Season? If anyone knows of another one, let us know.  But this is the first one we’ve seen this year.  But c’mon Musberger, get it right!  RUSH.  THE.  COURT.  (Ed. note – apparently UNLV fans RTC’d on Saturday after defeating Louisville, which is about as unjustified of an RTC as we’ve ever heard of… goodness gracious, folks, it’s Vegas.  And beating an overrated Louisville team excites you?)

                    Story of the NightBig Ten Finally Gets Monkey Off Its Back.  It didn’t turn out the way we thought it would tonight, but it did end up as a 6-5 victory for the Big Ten schools over their ACC counterparts.  Two unexpected events conspired to make this possible — Illinois’ inspirational comeback win at Clemson after being down by as many as 23 points in the second half, and Wisconsin’s home victory over Duke in the type of game the Blue Devils always seem to win (because, well, they do — Duke was 10-0 in the ACC/B10 Challenge prior to tonight).  These two surprises combined with Ohio State’s expected win over Florida State at the end of the evening resulted in three straight victories at the end of the Challenge to put the midwesterners on top for the first time EVER.  So what does that mean?  Does it prove once and for all that the Big Ten is better than the ACC this year?  Well, not at all.  In fact, if anything, this year’s Challenge has shown us that the middle of the ACC might be a tad bit stronger than we thought it was (Wake, Miami, BC, Clemson).  Now… about our predictions for tonight.  Regression to the mean is the lesson here.  After a perfect 6-0 start over the first two evenings of play, it all crashed and burned with a 1-4 record tonight.  But yeah, at least we called it, baby!  That’s all that matters!  6-5 Big Ten over the ACC, just like we said!*

                    *note – our Caribbean friends disagree with this assessment.

                    Game of the Night #1. Wisconsin 73, #5 Duke 69. Duke took its first ever loss in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge tonight for two reasons as we saw them.  First, their big men other than Kyle Singler (28/6/3 assts) were virtually nonexistent.  Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek and the Plumlee brothers combined for just six points and fourteen rebounds.  Compare that with 16/27 against UConn last week, and you’ll see that almost all of the scoring burden fell onto the Duke backcourt + Singler.  Second, Wisconsin’s Trevon Hughes was spectacular tonight.  The senior guard shredded the Duke defense for a career-high 26 pts, using an assortment of drives to the basket to go along with a solid outside stroke (4-7 threes).  After taking an 11-pt lead with five minutes to go, though, Duke guard Andre Dawkins nearly brought the Devils back all by himself, hitting three straight triples to cut the lead down to 2 with two minutes left.  It appeared that this was going to be one of those epic Duke comeback wins, but UW ran clock down the stretch (surprise) and when Singler missed a wild layup attempt off the bottom of the backboard with under thirty seconds left, it was clear the Badgers were going to take the win tonight.  One odd situation occurred in the very last few plays, when color commentator Bob Knight seemed to lose his mind for a moment as he stated that Wisconsin was “for sure” at worst going to overtime after only going up two with 4.9 seconds left (he clearly thought they were up three), and then contemplated whether Trevon Hughes should intentionally miss his second FT (again, thinking up three).  What’s that phrase coaches like to use?  Time and score? Can you imagine if one of Knight’s players had made a similar mistake at such a key juncture?  Maybe now we know why Texas Tech wasn’t nearly as good as Knight’s Indiana teams — he wasn’t paying attention!

                    Game of the Night #2Illinois 76, #19 Clemson 74. What can you say about Bruce Weber’s young backcourt of Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson tonight other than we’re extremely impressed.  There is absolutely no way that Clemson should have lost this game.  The Tigers ran out to a 20-pt halftime lead, pushed it up to 23 early in the second half, and had Littlejohn rocking.  But Weber’s kids dug deep, showed the kind of composure that belies their age, and dropped a combined five threes in the next ten minutes of a 35-10 run that got the Illini back into the game and ultimately allowed them an opportunity to steal this one away from Clemson and the ACC.  The Clemson players suggested that they relaxed after getting such a big lead, and from our viewpoint, there’s probably something to that.  It certainly appeared that Illinois was the team with the drive and moxie throughout most of the second half, and when it came down to Demontez Stitt’s driving layup attempt at the buzzer, we just had a feeling that it wasn’t going down.  It didn’t, and Illinois has a rallying cry for the rest of this season no matter how badly they’re playing.  Mike Davis had 22/9 for the Illini, but as mentioned above, it was the youthful backcourt of Paul and Richardson (34/8/5 assts) that made tonight happen.

                    Game of the Night #3.  #21 UNLV 74, Arizona 72 (2OT).  The Runnin’ Rebels justified their shiny new Top 25 ranking by taking to the road for the first time this season, heading down to Arizona, and knocking off the Wildcats in double-overtime.  Despite poor overall shooting from both teams (UNLV 39.7%, UA 36.5%; both teams less than 20% from three!) this one was neck-and-neck from the tip, as neither team ever led by more than six points the whole way.  Arizona got up three in the second OT but UNLV’s Derrick Jasper (12/7/5/3 stls) hit one from deep to tie it at 70, and the Wildcats never led after that.  Tre’Von Willis continued to carve his name out on the national scene with 25/4 for the Rebs, and Arizona got a huge game from freshman forward Derrick Williams with 28/5 on 10-15 shooting.  This kind of win in such a difficult and hostile setting can only help Lon Kruger’s club, which has a few easy ones coming up except for a home game against Kansas State thrown in there on 12/12.  If they can get by those Wildcats, there’s a very good chance UNLV will be 12-0 going into a pair of tough road games in early January at BYU and at (currently undefeated) New Mexico. 

                    Read the rest of this entry »

                    Share this story

                    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.

                    Read the rest of this entry »

                    Share this story