Monday, August 29, 2011

Who Is The Third Best Team in the Big Sky?

From what I have seen, read, and know about the Big Sky, Weber State and Montana look like they will be ranked 1-2 in the conference this season, and in my mind, they look like the favorites. But the race is wide open for third. Ranking from (in my opinion and subject to change!) least likely to most likely:

- Sacramento State - It will be a tough season for Coach Katz. They were one of the worst offensive and defensive teams in the country last year, and I'm not sure there is a lot of reason to be more optimistic this season. Dylan Garrity looks solid, but there are simply not a lot of impact players on the Hornets roster.

- Idaho State - By all accounts Joe O'Brien is almost definitely on the way out after this season, so he will try to make it count. He shouldn't expect any miracles. He lost his two best players, and while there are some decent players back, the cupboard is not too well stocked right now. A lot of their hopes will rest on how quickly Melvin Morgan can become the leader of the team.

- Northern Arizona - In my opinion, spots 3-7 are all pretty close, and things could go any direction. I wouldn't want to bet against Mike Adras, but NAU did lose some good talent off a team that finished 4th in the conference. Gone is Cameron Jones and Shane Johannsen, with no clear replacements for either. Gabe Rogers will be called upon to be the star, and he does have the talent to the an All BigSky performer. Perhaps the biggest key will be the development of Danny Cheek, one of the top incoming recruits in the Big Sky. If he can be productive early, NAU will be very competitive.

- Northern Colorado - It is tough predict what UNC will do this season after losing 4 key contributors, notably Devon Beitzel and Neal Kingman. They have some talent and BJ Hill put together a nice recruiting class, but it is a team that relied heavily on Beitzel last year, so there will be an adjustment period. Who will step up and be the go-to guy for the Bears? I'm guessing even the coaches are wondering at this point.

- Eastern Washington - There are a lot of unknowns with a new coach, so it will be interesting to see how things play out for Jim Hayford (last year's first year coach in the Big Sky was BJ Hill, and that turned out ok). EWU has a lot of solid returning guards, and they have brought in a solid recruit in Collin Chiverton. If their frontcourt can produce, they will be dangerous.

- Montana State - The Bobcats will be very interesting, as they will be bringing in a ton of talented new guys, so they will be as good as the team can learn to play together and Brad Huse can find a consistent rotation. The word is that Antonio Biglow, one of their most highly rated newcomers, might not play until January (if he plays this year), which is definitely a blow. Still, JUCO wings Jamie Stewart and Xavier Johnson-Blount should be a nice duo. They have the talent to be one of the best teams in the Big Sky, but it is difficult to say how quickly Huse will be able to mold the talent.

- Portland State - Craw's Corner really opened my eyes that they could be the third best team in the Big Sky, and it seems like they now have the talent to do it. Two solid holdovers are Charles Odum and Chehales Tapscott, both seniors with a year of Big Sky experience under their belt. Lateef Mcmullan looks like he will be a nice contributor right away, Michael Harthun is ready to play after sitting out a year (after a transfer from Washington State), and Brandon Cataldo could be a big contributor if he is healthy. The Vikings are a bit of a darkhorse, but if they can find a way to improve the defense from last year, they will be dangerous.

Would love to hear thoughts on who everyone else thinks will be the third best team in the Big Sky. I also have a poll up, so please vote, and leave your reasoning in the comments. I think it could be a pretty fun debate.

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