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 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 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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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Mountain Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 27th, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic South, Deep South, Mid-South, Lower Midwest and Upper Midwest) are located here.

It’s time for the eighth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of somewhat forgotten states that have lots of land but relatively few players that we’re calling the Mountain Region.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Mountain Region (CO, UT, WY, MT, ID)

mountainimpact

(ed. note:  since this region has a scarcity of BCS schools, we’re grouping all of its schools into the same pool)

  • Jimmer Fredette – G, Jr – BYU. Blessed with the one of the most memorable first names in college basketball, Jimmer Fredette emerged as one of the steadiest and most productive point guards in the nation during a breakout sophomore campaign at BYU. Fredette’s scoring average jumped 9.2 PPG from 2007-08, finishing second on the team in scoring (16.2) three-point percentage (.382) and free throw percentage (.847) while leading the Cougars in APG (4.1) and steals (50). His ranks in the Mountain West are equally impressive: fifth in scoring, third in assists, second in free throw percentage and steals while finishing fourth in minutes played. Along with multi-dimensional wing Jonathan Tavernari (below), it’ll be Fredette taking the reins of a BYU team poised to win another regular season MWC title under head coach Dave Rose. With several teams on their heels, the consistent and reliable point guard play of Fredette could prove the difference, especially in important non-conference tests vs. Utah State, Arizona State, Arizona and Nevada and the always-competitive MWC slate. Fredette managed to earn himself a spot on both the all-MWC first team and the MWC all-tournament team, and it wouldn’t shock us one bit if Fredette makes both lists in 2009-10 as well. This tough, hard-nosed competitor is one of the top point guards not only west of the Mississippi, but in the entire landscape of college basketball and should only improve in an anticipated junior season manning the Cougar ship.
  • Cory Higgins – G, Jr – Colorado. Frankly, the only bright spot on a depressing 2008-09 Colorado Buffaloes team was Cory Higgins. The 9-22 (1-15)  rebuilding project in Boulder is embarrassing and downright inexcusable for a school with their resources and attractive campus (football isn’t exactly a prettier situation). Give Higgins credit for remaining loyal to the Colorado program when he easily could have bolted for better situations. The 6’5 California native whose father, Rod Higgins, is a longtime NBA veteran, does everything for Colorado, finishing his tremendous sophomore season at 17.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.9 SPG, 47% FG, 83% FT and 36% 3pt. With Higgins mired in obscurity at the bottom of the Big 12, many casual fans have no clue that his all-around game matches just about anyone in the conference. Rick Barnes knows – Higgins scored 34 points on 11/20 FG in Boulder last February in a 9-point loss to Texas. Mark Turgeon knows – Higgins went for 27 points on 10/18 FG at home in early March in a 6-point loss to Texas A&M. The all-Big 12 third team selection was one of 13 players in the nation ranked first or second on their team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks and the only sophomore to make that illustrious list. Sure, Colorado doesn’t provide much help in the way of talent for Higgins, but that’s not his fault. Higgins may be able to score 20-per-contest this season in Colorado. He hopes those epic performances also include a tally in the win column more often than nine times this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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2009-10 Conference Primers: #22 – Big Sky

Posted by rtmsf on October 14th, 2009

seasonpreview

Glenn Junkert of GrizzlyJournal.com is the RTC correspondent for the Big Sky Conference. Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Weber State (22-9, 12-4)
  2. Montana (20-8, 11-5)
  3. Montana State (16-12, 11-5)
  4. Idaho State (13-16, 10-6)
  5. Portland State (14-15, 9-7)
  6. Northern Arizona (11-17, 8-8)
  7. Northern Colorado (12-18, 5-11)
  8. Eastern Washington (8-21, 3-13)
  9. Sacramento State (7-22, 3-13)

All-Conference First Team:

  • Anthony Johnson, Montana
  • Damian Lilliard, Weber State
  • Steve Panos, Weber State
  • Phil Nelson, Portland State
  • Bobby Howard, Montana State

All-Conference Second Team:

  • Amorrow Morgan, Idaho State
  • Will Bynum, Montana State
  • Dominic Waters, Portland State
  • Brandon Moore, Eastern Washington
  • Shane Johannssen, Northern Arizona

MVP: Anthony Johnson, Montana

Impact Newcomers:

  • Franklin Session, Weber State
  • Eric Platt, Northern Arizona
  • Raason Young, Montana

big sky logo

What You Need to Know.  Last year Weber State senior point guard Kellen McCoy earned his Big Sky MVP medal by shaping his young teammates into a cohesive unit early. The Wildcats shrugged off a home court loss to Montana State and promptly forged a commanding conference lead with a league-wide road sweep, a rare feat in the Big Sky, though three other stellar guards — Montana’s Anthony Johnson, Montana State’s Will Bynum, and McCoy’s teammate, frosh Damian Lilliard — had second-half performances equal to McCoy’s, the Wildcat senior was a shoo-in for directing his cats to a rare 15-1 record in league play.

Predicted ChampionWeber State (NCAA Seed: #14). Weber State basketball IS coach Randy Rahe, and what Rahe has done best in four years at WSU is: 1) Recruit a balanced combo of quality junior college and freshman talent; and, 2) Demand the utmost in ensemble discipline and teamwork from his players on the court. The result? Deuces wild: two league titles and two “coach of the year” awards in his four years at WSU. The Wildcats graduated seniors Kellen McCoy and Daivin Davis, but Rahe will rely on the leadership of sophomore guard Lilliard, who’s expected to get support from highly regarded JC transfer Franklin Session. Otherwise, Rahe’s stellar coaching should be enough to earn the Cats a second straight league title.

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