Rushed Reactions: Oregon State 79, Portland State 74

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 13th, 2012

Connor Pelton is an RTC correspondent and Pac-12 microsite writer. He filed this report from tonight’s Oregon State-Portland State game in Portland.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. 100 Wins. Tonight’s win was Craig Robinson’s 100th victory in his career, just seven seasons in. While there have certainly been some struggles along the way (an 11-18 year at Brown and a 10-19 campaign with the Beavers in 2010-11), it is becoming more and more evident from the finish to last season and the start of this year that Robinson will be in Corvallis for a long time. And that’s a good thing for Beaver fans. What plagued him and Oregon State early on in his career were three things; halftime adjustments, correctly picking a defense to match up with the opponent’s strengths, and getting the team up for games against lesser opponents. It was fitting Robinson did all three of these things correctly in his milestone win. The Vikings quickly built up a 16-7 lead against the Beavers, and recognizing a need for energy and disruption, OSU went to its signature 1-3-1 trap. That forced three consecutive PSU turnovers, and in a matter of minutes the Beavers went on a 18-8 run to gain the lead for the first time.
  2. The Emergence of Joe Burton. As Joe Burton goes, so do the Beavers? That would have been a crazy statement to make at the beginning of the season, but ever since the season-ending injury to fellow center Angus Brandt, we’ve seen a new and more confident Burton. That was especially true tonight, as the big man led all starters with 20 points. Big Joe is now looking to shoot more instead of instantly going into pass-first mode, and tonight he rolled off four straight buckets after missing the first three he took. If Burton can continue this type of production, the sting of losing Brandt will be lessened significantly.
  3. Stopping Starks. Oregon State’s leading scorer only put up four shots from the field on Wednesday night, and missed every single one of them. Normally the junior point guard gets his pull-up threes off of screens on the perimeter, but instead of switching on those screens, the Vikings did a terrific job of fighting through them and doubling Starks before the screen even came. This worked for the first ten minutes, while the Beaver bigs couldn’t put anything away inside the paint, but eventually the shots would fall and Portland State was killed in the paint. Regardless, the strategy more or less worked. Anytime a team that hasn’t beaten a Division I opponent all season can hold one of the Pac-12′s top scorer to only four points, you’re doing something right.
Despite A Terrific Defensive Effort Against Ahmad Starks, The Beavers Pulled Out A 79-74 Road Victory. (Photo by Connor Pelton)

Despite A Terrific Defensive Effort Against Ahmad Starks, The Beavers Pulled Out A 79-74 Road Victory. (This photo, apparently found in the LOST hatch, is from  Connor Pelton)

Star of the Game. Devon Collier. We’ve already discussed Burton’s exploits, and he’d make a great pick as well, but Collier’s buckets came at the biggest times. The junior would go on mini-runs all by himself, salvaging the Beavers from offensive droughts and igniting not only the team, but large contingent of Beaver fans in attendance. His post moves were spectacular, consistently putting down shots and drawing contact in the process. The big man finished with a team-leading 23 points, and came up huge on the offensive glass as well.

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Four

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 11th, 2012

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

  1. Arizona, 7-0 (-): Another week, another spotless slate for Arizona. The easier game of the week actually proved to be a road victory at Clemson on Saturday night. The Tigers hung tough for most of the night, but the Wildcats rode a 25-7 run that stretched from around the 11-minute mark in the second half to just under the two-minute point to put down any hopes of an upset. The Wildcats weren’t able to do the same four nights earlier in Tucson against a tough Southern Miss team, as the Golden Eagles hung around and hung around until UA sealed it with some free throws in the closing minutes. Turnovers again plagued Mark Lyons and the rest of the Wildcats in general, as USM forced an astounding 27 miscues in the near-shocker at McKale. Regardless, Arizona is the only team still perfect in the Pac-12, making them the unanimous pick up at the top. Despite their problem with turnovers, I’ve bought into Sean Miller’s club after a full month of play. For the ones that still haven’t, games against Florida, and possibly Miami (FL) and San Diego State in the coming weeks, will give us a good gauge of just how dangerous this team is. Up Next: 12/15 vs. Florida.
  2. Oregon, 8-1 (-): Oregon’s only game of the week was an absolute massacre, a 87-35 thrashing of Idaho State in Eugene. Freshman guard Damyean Dotson continued his strong play for the Ducks, leading all scorers with 12 points in just 16 minutes of action. Up Next: 12/15 vs. Nebraska.

    Damyean Dotson Is Averaging 11.3 PPG In His Inaugural Season With The Ducks (credit: NW Sports Beat)

  3. California, 6-2 (^1): Despite dropping its only game of the week, California rises a spot in this week’s rankings. That’s mostly thanks to a strong, albeit frustrating, showing on Sunday afternoon against UNLV, but it also helped the Bears that the teams around them either faced poor competition or got blown out last week. The Golden Bears need to break this current losing streak on Saturday against yet another tough opponent. Up Next: 12/15 vs. Creighton.
  4. Oregon State, 5-2 (^2): I’m still not completely sold on this Oregon State team, but it appears that the fact its two losses have come by a combined nine points, both against teams that will likely be dancing come March, has had an effect on the rest of the panel. The Beavers took the week off for finals before hosting an awful Grambling State team on Saturday afternoon. The result was an 85-54 win, a margin that would have been much bigger if not for a 24-4 Tiger run late in the second half. Junior guard Roberto Nelson led the way for OSU, going 5-of-6 from three-point land en route to a 26-point performance. Up Next: 12/12 @ Portland State. Read the rest of this entry »
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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Big Sky Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 18th, 2012

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

Top Storylines

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

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

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

Reader’s Take

 

Predicted Order of Finish

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

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Washington State Week’s Burning Question: How Long Is The Road Back To National Prominence?

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 6th, 2012

It’s that time again, as Adam Butler of Pachoops.com joins us once more with our Burning Question for the Washington State program, concerning the road back to national relevancy for the Cougars and whether Ken Bone is the man to lead them there.

Not too long ago, the Cougars enjoyed the most successful era in the history of their basketball program. But Tony Bennett left for Virginia, Ken Bone came in from Portland State, and Washington State hasn’t gone dancing since they did it back-to-back in 2006-07 and 2007-08. What do the Cougs need to do to not only get back to the NCAAs, but national prominence as well, and is Bone the man to lead them there?

Ken Bone Enjoyed Much success While At Portland State, But So Far It Has Not Translated To The Court In Pullman (credit: Don Ryan)

Adam Butler: Find their identity. The Bone era hasn’t been devoid of talent, but it has been missing consistency. I think I like their style – it’s generally up-tempo – but there’s been an inability to consistently perform and execute what I imagine is Bone-ball. Maybe that’s a result of being an uptempo-ish team in this recent trend (started by Bennett in Pullman) of Pac-12 school’s to slow things down and play deliberately. Nonetheless, if it’s unclear what you’re doing, odds are you’re not going to be particularly successful. The same concept applies to a lot of things, just ask your first girlfriend. But there are a lot of things going for the Cougars, too. I think Reggie Moore could be poised to break out of this two-year funk as senior seasons tend to help people do, and Brock Motum is a Player of the Year front-runner. Am I sold on Ken Bone building a Top 10 team? Not today. But I think it’d be a step in the right direction if there was an identity to what a Cougar game was like as opposed to hoping talent prevails.

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Big Sky Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2012

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

Tournament Preview

Tournament Glance

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

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

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

Reader’s Take

 

Big Sky Awards

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

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

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

Power Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by rtmsf on February 3rd, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Past Couple Weeks:

  • Weber State and Montana tied again – These are the two teams that have been at the top of the conference from the beginning, so it is not surprise that they are both at the top of the conference now. As of this writing, they both stand at 8-1, and don’t appear to have any serious contenders. This will be one of the best conference races in the country.

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

  • Idaho State becomes a conference tournament contender – All along this season, Idaho State was seen as a team that would probably finish last in the Big Sky, and nothing through the first two months of the year changed that perception. However, they have all of sudden won three straight games, including handing Weber State their only loss. They are brimming with confidence, and a team that nobody else wants to face, which would have been shocking to say one month ago.
  • Former NAU coach Mike Adras under fire – In December, long-time Northern Arizona head coach Mike Adras abruptly resigned, and there was not a lot said about it officially. There were rumors that he may not have treated his players the best, but I never expected what was put out in the AZ Daily Sun last week. He is accused of breaking multiple NCAA rules, including making his practices too long, and making his players lie about it. Suffice to say, the NAU program is reeling a bit right now.

Power Rankings:

  1. Weber State (16-4, 8-1) – I gave a lot of thought to putting Montana first, but it was not long ago that Weber State soundly beat them. Damian Lillard is still leading the country in scoring, but his lead is growing more tenuous. They are still battling injury problems, as starting forward Frank Otis is out for the year. It is a bit easy to nitpick, but they are still 8-1 and the favorite. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Big Sky Conference

Posted by rtmsf on January 21st, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Past Couple Weeks

  • Weber State gets some players back: Kyle Bullinger was a first-team all conference player last year, and Frank Otis was a starter after transferring from SMU. However, both players got hurt a few weeks ago, and missed significant time. For the most part, the Wildcats were still fine, mostly thanks to the play of “Fly Guy” Damian Lillard. However, these two returned to action last week, and that makes WSU even more dangerous.
  • Round One of Weber State/Montana goes to Wildcats: These are the two best teams in the Big Sky this year, which means there is a good chance they will meet three times. In the first matchup, Weber State took control of the game and control of the conference, beating Montana by 16. It was really a fantastic win, and clearly puts Weber State a head above everyone else in the conference right now.
  • The best comeback of the year: With 11:21 to play on 1/14, Idaho State trailed Sacramento State, 54-32. With two minutes to play, they were down by 10. With 12 seconds to play, they were down by three. But then, after a Kenny McGowen four-point play, they miraculously won the game on the road. For a team that has been struggling for a few years, this is a win for them to savor. For Sacramento State, I’m not sure they can recover from that and still have a realistic shot at the Big Sky tournament.

Who's The Best Team In The Big Sky? Damian Lillard (ball) and Weber State Answered That Question After Its Impressive Win Over Montana

Power Rankings

  1. Weber State (15-3, 7-0) – There are two good signs for the Wildcats and bad signs for the rest of the conference. One, WSU has been impossible to beat at home this year, as they possess an 11-0 home mark. Two, the winner of the Big Sky regular season hosts the conference tournament. As of now, it would be foolish to predict that that team will be anyone other than the Wildcats. They are the best team in the Big Sky right now without question. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Big Sky Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 24th, 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 Past Couple Weeks

  • Northern Arizona Head Coach Mike Adras Resigns – This was a bit of a shocker when it happened, as Adras seemed to be well regarded by the fans and has a long, solid track record for the Lumberjacks. But all of a sudden, in his 13th year as head coach, he was out. The school’s press release said he left to “pursue other opportunities,” while many rumblings said it was more of a forced resignation. As is often the case, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, but it is not something we will likely know.
  • Idaho State Head Coach Joe O’Brien Resigns – This one you could see coming, though it was still a bit of a shock to have a second Big Sky coach resign in the middle of the year. O’Brien was in the final year of his contract, and it seemed clear that he needed to win or he might have been looking for other employment at the end of the year. With the Bengals sitting at 2-8, he decided to resign now, and give someone else (assistant coach Deane Martin) a chance to be the head man. From all accounts O’Brien was a very nice guy, he just was not able to get the job done in Pocatello. Here’s hoping he lands on his feet.
  • Weber State Misses Opportunities – Early in the season, especially after the Wildcats beat Utah State, there was talk that they might have a small chance at an at-large bid if they were not able to win the Big Sky. Unfortunately, that is no longer on the table, as losses to St. Mary’s, BYU, and Cal (the latter two being blowouts) have blown any chance of that. The last bracketology by Joe Lunardi projected Weber State as a No. 16 seed, as they were not able to secure the key non-conference victories they would have liked (in their defense, they are battling injury problems). So once again, the Big Sky will certainly be a one-bid league.

What Team Is The Top Challenger for Weber State? It Could Very Well Be Will Cherry and Montana. (AP)

Power Rankings

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Five

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 12th, 2011

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew and I have compiled after the fifth week of Pac-12 games. Here we go!

1. Stanford, 8-1: The Cardinal hold steady at number one despite taking the week off to study for finals. Why then, you might be wondering, do they get all of THIS week off as well? Those brainiacs on the bay needed a full week just to study, and they will take the actual exams this week. Up Next: 12.17 vs. San Diego

Aaron Bright leads the Cardinal with 12.2 PPG. (credit: Patrick McDermott)

2. California, 8-2: The Golden Bears move up two spots after picking up a pair of blowout victories. The first came Wednesday night, an 81-36 beat down of in-state rival San Jose State. And yesterday, it was Jackson State who was the unlucky recipient of a 73-46 loss. Up Next: 12.16 vs. Weber State

3, Oregon State, 6-2: The Beavers suffered their first setback of the season (it was bound to happen sometime) on Friday as Idaho came into Corvallis and stole a 74-60 win. The game did come just 48 hours after the death of Fred Thompson, another student athlete at Oregon State. Still, the Beavers have to do a better job of recognizing and then fighting through screens against good three-point shooting teams. Up Next: 12.13 vs. Illinois-Chicago

4. Arizona, 7-3: It wasn’t a terrible week for Arizona, but it could have been a lot better. The Wildcats opened up the week on Tuesday in Gainesville, where they fell to 12th-ranked Florida by six in overtime. The Cats did bounce back in fine fashion, beating a solid Clemson team by 16 on Saturday. Up Next: 12.17 vs. Gonzaga in Seattle

5. Oregon, 5-2: The Ducks kept up their tradition Saturday of beating bad teams in the ugliest way possible. This time it was Fresno State, who came into Eugene with a 4-5 record. The Bulldogs hung with Oregon all night long, but lack of execution down the stretch resulted in a 74-70 loss. Up Next: 12.12 vs. Portland State

6. Washington, 4-4: An 0-2 week is never good, but Washington has to feel better than they did last week. The Huskies hung with #11 Marquette and #5 Duke (both in New York City) before poor finishes doomed them. Up Next: 12.16 vs. UC Santa Barbara Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking In On… the Big Sky Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 22nd, 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 Starts Hot– Weber State was projected as the team to beat before the season, and they have done nothing to change that perception. The biggest win was a home victory over in-state rival Utah State, which is a start to get them on the map nationally (more on that later). Star player Damian Lillard has quelled any concerns that his injury last year might longer, as he has looked as explosive as ever. The Wildcats are getting great guard play, but they need some more contributions from the frontcourt.

Weber State and Lillard Might Have an Outside Shot at a Bid.

  • The League of Moral Victories – The Big Sky has played a lot of good teams well this year, but has come up short of any signature victories. Consider the following losses – Eastern Washington lost at Gonzaga and Oregon (and led in the second half in both games), Montana State lost by six at Arizona State (though they did beat Utah), Idaho State lost by four at Oklahoma, and Sacramento State lost by 11 at Washington State (but led much of the second half). Unfortunately, national respect is earned by real victories; moral victories need not apply.
  • Northern Colorado Struggles On The Road: Perhaps no team in the Big Sky has had a tougher schedule to begin the year, and it has showed. The Bears started the year with a tight home loss to New Mexico State, got blown out on at Wyoming, and lost to Northern Iowa. (At the time of this being written, the game against Iowa State had not been played). They are clearly talented, but they are very young. Some Bears fans thought the momentum from last season would carry over to a top three finish, but that seems unlikely.

Power Rankings (records as of Tuesday, November 22)

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RTC Conference Primers: #27 – Big Sky Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 7th, 2011

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

Readers’ Take

Top Storylines

  • The Return of Damian Lillard – Three years ago, Lillard was the Big Sky Freshman of the Year. Two years ago, he was the Big Sky Player of the Year. Last year, he was the Preseason Player of the Year and his team, Weber State, was the pick to win the Conference. Then, he broke his foot in the ninth game of the year, and the Wildcats finished third. Due to some smart scheduling tactics, Lillard was granted a medical redshirt and will be a junior this season. He says he is one hundred percent healthy, and if that is true, Weber State is the easy favorite to win the Big Sky.

Weber State's Damian Lillard Is The Toast of the Big Sky. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)

  • Beginning of the Jim Hayford Era For Eastern Washington – Out is Kirk Earlywine, who put together four bad seasons in Cheney, finishing with a 42-78 record. In is Jim Hayford, who had been extremely successful at Division III Whitworth University, where he had a 217-57 record. Earlywine did not leave the cupboard bare (even with would-be top returner Glen Dean transferring to Utah), and a top three finish is possible for the Eagles. Hayford has also showed early recruiting prowess, getting Collin Chiverton to keep his commitment to EWU.
  • How Does Northern Colorado Build on Momentum? – 2007 was Northern Colorado’s first season in the Big Sky, and they finished a sparkling 4-24 (with a 2-14 conference record). Last season, BJ Hill continued the impressive turnaround begun by previous head coach Tad Boyle (now with Colorado), leading the Bears to their first ever NCAA Tournament berth, where they lost to San Diego State. However, nobody in the conference was hit harder than UNC by graduation, most notably losing Player of the Year Devon Beitzel. Hill brought in a solid recruiting class, and he will need guys to step up early.  The Bears could be picked as low as seventh in the conference this year, but anything in the top five would keep the program’s momentum going strong.
  • Wide Open Race in the MiddleWeber State and Montana are the prohibitive favorites to win the Conference, but the race really opens up after those two. If you ask five different people who will finish third in the Big Sky, you will get five different answers. That will add up to a lot of competitive ballgames, as the balance in the conference is strong. Anyone is capable of beating anyone else on a given night.

Predicted Order of Finish

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Morning Five: 07.19.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on July 19th, 2011

  1. He has virtually no profile on Scout or Rivals. Just a few days ago, he had a few scholarship offers from small- and mid-major D1 schools. Then came the summer’s first ten-day recruiting period and the Adidas Invitational in Indianapolis. Now Dillon Graham has offers from some of the biggest programs in the game. How does something like this happen? CBS’ Gary Parrish explains how and why Graham is now ascending the recruiting rankings for the 2012 class.
  2. Barclays Center will be the Brooklyn-based home of the New Jersey Nets  — or the Moscow Beyonces, or whatever they’ll be called by that time — when it officially opens in September of 2012. The site’s dance card is filling up pretty quickly, and the word on the street is that the first college basketball game to be played there will be a matchup between Maryland and Kentucky. It’s probably no coincidence that the announcement of the involvement of these teams is getting out there right now – that is, right in the middle of a hot recruiting period. Mark Turgeon and John Calipari are certainly cognizant of the cool factor perceived by young prospects that would come from playing the first college game in the massive Brooklyn arena serving as the home of Jay-Z’s team.
  3. Last year, the attendance leader (by percentage of seats filled on an average night) in the Big Sky Conference was…wait for it…Northern Colorado. On an average game night at the 2,734-seat Butler-Hancock Athletic Center, 2,261 fans were there, yielding a rate of 83%. Second place went to Portland State, but the attendance dips all the way down to 64%. The worst average attendance by percentage in the league belonged to the Eastern Washington Fighting Colin Cowherds, whose 6,000-seat Reese Court welcomed just 1,100 basketball fans (18%!!!). Is the sky falling in the Big Sky, or is this just life in a small conference? What can be done to improve hometown (or even on-campus) attendance in a conference that actually produces some pretty darn good hoops? BigSkyBBall.com examines the issue.
  4. You know the guy who arrives at a party and owns it from the very first moment? The guy who walks in like Dangerfield or Rickles and just starts cutting the room to pieces from the word go, gaining both the attention and admiration of everyone there? That’s Jay Bilas on Twitter. Since he arrived last year, he has combined college basketball insights, both self-aggrandizement and self-deprecation, social commentary, and Young Jeezy lyrics (not a typo) into a 140-character-at-a-time tour de force. When Bilas tweets Young Jeezy lyrics, it makes news.
  5. If you take the name “Krzyzewski” and translate it into Chinese characters, it turns out to be something like four letters. The website at China Daily tells us so, as it does with every word on which you freeze your cursor. They’re talking about Coach K there because he’s about to take his 2011-12 Duke team to China in late August. Our favorite quote from the write-up: “According to Coach K, playing in an Olympic venue will help nurture his student athletes’ sense of honor.” Hmm. Well, maybe so. At the very least, we can reasonably assume that playing in such a venue will make playing in, say, Chapel Hill a little less intimidating. And hey, Grant Hill’s going, too!
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