Monday, October 31, 2011

Weber State 19th in Mid-Major Top 25

Collegeinsider's Mid-Major Top 25 came out on Monday, and Weber State came in 19th. Big Sky member Montana received votes in the poll as well.

The poll is made up of the following conferences: America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Great West, Horizon, Independents, Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern, Summit, Sun Belt, West Coast.

Two Big Sky coaches are part of the poll - Tyler Geving of Portland State and BJ Hill of Northern Colorado. Hopefully we can get a couple more Big Sky teams in the poll by season end!

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A Look At Gelaun Wheelwright

Weber State is the conference favorite and has a very veteran team, but one freshman who could get some playing time is guard Gelaun Wheelwright (of course, there is also a chance he could redshirt, in which case forget this post ever happened).

Wheelwright is an athletic combo guard that has the talent to be a big time player in the Big Sky. He originally committed to USC before eventually deciding to come to Weber State.

He can score with a solid outside shot or with his quickness getting to the rim, and he averaged 18.7 PPG and 4.3 RPG last season as a senior. For what it's worth, he started in the Purple-White scrimmage, though he didn't have a big impact [PDF].

ESPN (insider required) called him the incoming sleeper among recruits entering the Big Sky Conference.

Randy Rahe struck gold a few recruiting seasons back when he lured the vastly underrated Damian Lillard (Oakland, Calif./Oakland) to Ogden, Utah. Wheelwright could be another gem if he is willing to make adjustments in his game. He has been somewhat of an enigma out west throughout his high school campaign. He has all the physical tools (speed, strength, and bounce) to play both guard positions at the next level. He can knock down the 3-point shot or burst in transition to get to the rim. With Wheelwright it has always been about consistency. If he can learn to play with pace and improve his decision making (has a flair for the spectacular), he has the necessary talent to be an impact player from the moment he steps on campus.
What do you guys think? Can Wheelwright have an impact as a freshman? What is his ceiling?

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National Hoops Report Has Damian Lillard As Nation's 43rd Best Player

The preseason hype for Damian Lillard continues. National Hoops Report ranks him as the nation's 43rd best player.

Also, NBC's blog Beyond the Arc has him as a first team Mid-Major All-American. They have Will Cherry listed as an alternate.

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Happy Halloween!

Stay safe!!

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Look at North Dakota had a good little preview article on the men's hoops team, so let's take a look at it. The Fighting Sioux will be in their final season in the Great West Conference, and will be joining the Big Sky next year (if you did not already know).

Head coach Brian Jones has all five starters back from his 2011 Great West Conference Tournament championship team. The squad posted a 19-15 record and earned an automatic berth to the Tournament. The sixth-year head coach only lost 9.4 percent of his team's scoring as senior captains Derek Benter (4.0 ppg) and Chris Clausen (3.1 ppg) were the only departures.
This is why everyone around the program is excited about this team now and in the future. They have an excellent five-man class that will all be sophomores, which means that they should have a two solid years together in the Big Sky. If they can improve this year, they will be very interesting entering the Big Sky and ready to possibly compete right away.

Huff earned second team All-Great West honors after leading the team with a 13.3 ppg average. His 452 points also broke the UND freshman scoring record held by Scott Guldseth (418, 1989-90). He finished the season with five 20-plus scoring efforts, including a career high 31-point outing in a road win at Houston Baptist.
Huff is the potential player of the year in the Great West, and will be one of the most talented guys in the Conference the minute UND enters the Big Sky. A lot of the Sioux's hopes rest with Huff, who will need to be a star for UND to take the next step.

Huff, Schuler and Webb teamed with fellow freshmen Brandon Brekke and Aaron Anderson to be the highest-producing rookie class in Division I basketball last season. The freshmen quintet accounted for 65.4 percent of UND's scoring a season ago (1,517 points). The freshmen at Memphis finished second, scoring 63.9 percent (1,615 of 2,524 points) of the Tigers' buckets and the rookies at Kentucky were third, producing 60.5 percent (1,721 of 2,845 points) of the Wildcats' scores.
See above. The hopes of the program rest with these five guys.

Juniors Spencer Goodman and Mitch Wilmer will return to the playing rotation after having their seasons prematurely cut short with injuries. Goodman started all 11 games he appeared in before suffering an injury in the opening minute of play at UMKC (Dec. 18). Wilmer appeared in nine games off the bench, but was lost for the season after suffering an injury in the second half of the North Dakota State tilt (Dec. 11).
The biggest weakness for UND is their size and depth up front, and hopefully the return of these guys will help. They have a lot of talent in the backcourt, but they were often undersized last year. If this can be helped by players such as Goodman and Wilmer, and stressed in recruiting, that will help immensely.\

They should be fun to watch play this year, and perhaps the best team that UND has seen in quite some time.

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Blue Ribbon Preview of Northern Arizona

ESPN sometimes posts free Blue Ribbon previews of teams, and one of them they have posted is on Northern Arizona.

In any other season, Northern Arizona would be another year away from serious contention. Jones is the Lumberjacks' only returnee who averaged more than five points game. Everyone else on the team is either brand-new, or being called upon to assume a much greater role.

The good news for the Lumberjacks is that, aside from Weber State and Montana, every other Big Sky squad faces major question marks as well. So if things come together ahead of schedule, NAU could make a run in the league standings.

One plus? Continuing renovations at the J. Lawrence Walkup have the Lumberjacks expecting to play home games once again at intimate J.C. Rolle Activity Center, where they went 12-1 last season.

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Montana's Maroon-Silver Scrimmage Rundown

Griz Basketball has a very nice rundown on the Maroon-Silver scrimmage for Montana basketball, which happened on Thursday the 27th. He touched on (or had quotes about) the biggest issue facing the Grizzlies entering the season - frontcourt talent and depth.

One of the big questions entering the season will be how the Griz fill the shoes of Brian Qvale, the Big Sky Conference’s leading shot blocker who is now playing professionally in Turkey.

Selvig, junior Mathias Ward, sophomore Eric Hutchison and redshirt freshman Billy Reader all played well in the scrimmage.

“(Reader) and Hutch have come a long, long ways,” Selvig said. “Filling Brian’s shoes is going to take all four of us, me Mathias, Billy and Hutch.”

Montana coach Wayne Tinkle said Ward probably has the edge right now to start alongside Selvig in the low post.
Replacing Brian Qvale is a tall task (pun intended), and Montana doesn't have the personnel for a seamless transition. Derek Selvig is the only surefire starter, but he is not a traditional big man.

As Coach Wayne Tinkle said, Mathias Ward has the edge right now. He does some things well, but does not have the rebounding or defensive ability that you would want from a big, especially playing alongside Selvig. My guess is that by the end of the year Billy Reader is going to be the guy alongside Selvig. If they can get solid play from the 5 spot, it will be a great battle with them and Weber State.

The Missoulian also had a nice article on the scrimmage, with a lot of info on the post play, as well as a box score.

Who do you think will end up getting the most minutes down low for the Grizzlies?

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Weber State's Purple and White Scrimmage

As many other teams are having, Weber State had their intrasquad scrimmage on Wednesday. It was a 20 minute scrimmage, with two 10 minute halves.

Junior guard Scott Bamforth led the team with 20 points shooting 6-10 from the field, including knocking down three three-pointers.

In his first game action since breaking his foot last December junior guard Damian Lillard finished with 14 points on 6-11 shooting from the field.
Check out the article for a little more detailed writeup as well as a link to the box score.

The Standard also had a nice article on the scrimmage, including some positive Damian Lillard information.

With 9.6 seconds to go, the 2009-10 Big Sky MVP slashed down the lane to throw down a slam dunk, drawing the loudest cheer of the night from several hundred fans Wednesday at the Dee Events Center.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

ESPN Article on Jim Hayford

This was posted while I was in the middle of my honeymoon, which is why I missed it. Oops! Anyway, nice article by Diamond Leung on new Eastern Washington coach Jim Hayford.

Hayford played the percentages and won. In fact, he’s never gone through a single losing season in 12 seasons as a head coach. Before Eastern Washington looked no farther than nearby Whitworth University in Spokane to find its new coach, Hayford’s tactics had enabled the Presbyterian school to methodically emerge as a Division III powerhouse and make an Elite Eight appearance last season.
It's a very nice article overall, including interesting stuff about how his daughter has twice beaten leukemia. It is a very good, well-written article. Hopefully we will see more and more on Hayford throughout the years, because that will mean good things are happening for Eastern Washington.

I think Hayford is going to be a success for EWU, and I am excited to see his teams play. The season begins in a couple short weeks.

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Montana State Interviews with Marcus Colbert and Brad Huse

Gidal Kaiser at Blue & Gold has a couple good interviews, one with new recruit Marcus Colbert, another with head coach Brad Huse.

Good nuggets, including Marcus Colbert saying the presence of Shaun Reid being in Bozeman helped him. Also, interesting to note also that he said there was interest from Idaho State and Montana.

Brad Huse talked about instilling an expectation for the team, starting with getting into good practice habits. Huse also notes he likes his talent base a lot and the camaraderie of the team.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chehales Tapscott on the All-Name List

Over at Ballin' Is A Habit.

The man might be the best post man in the Big Sky, and now he is getting some respect for his name. Hey, any respect is good respect.

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Interview With Vishal Banipal

If you remember, Idaho State got a late recruit with Vishal Banipal.

The Bengals website had an interesting interview with him on their site.

How did you choose Idaho State?
“Well when I came here on my visit it was really good and everyone is basically like a family here and they welcomed me.”

What are your expectations/goals for the season?
“Our expectations are to get to the conference tournament and do well. As far as personal goals, I just want to do well and hopefully get Big Sky freshman of the year.”
If he could accomplish anything like that it would certainly be a great, late season coup for Joe O'Brien. Check out the rest of the article to learn a little bit more about the newest member of Idaho State.

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Lots of New Faces At Eastern Washington

From SWX Right Now:

"I like to set a high bar but my biggest expectation is are we better today than we were yesterday?" said Hayford. "That's not just coaches speak. That's the way I've always coached."

"We all just want to come out and play hard - you know, making it different and turning it around and focusing on the team," added junior guard Jeffrey Forbes, one of the returners from last season. "I think overall we're going to be a pretty good team."
It's a short article but check it out if you are starving for EWU hoops (or even if your stomach is just rumbling a little).

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Quick Look at Sacramento State

Like other teams have had, Sacramento State's website released a nice article on the start of practice. Let's take a look at some of the most interesting nuggets from their news release.

Sacramento State finished with a 7-21 record last season, but that mark could have easily been better. The Hornets went 3-9 in games that were decided by six points or less, or that went into overtime. Making things even more grueling is the Hornets had late leads in five of those nine losses. The team’s four overtime losses were a single-season program record.
There are two schools of thought on this - One, that this is a stat that shows they are not "clutch" and that they do not know how to win close games. Two, that they got unlucky, and those things tend to balance out. I subscribe to the second theory. If they can turn a couple of those close games around, then they begin to inch closer to the .500 mark, and that would be a nice goal for them this year.

Sacramento State’s four conference wins last season marked the third straight year the team has increased its league win total.
Considering that 4 wins was just good enough to tie for last place, this seems to be an unwitting case of "damning with faint praise." I like their optimism though!

Sacramento State finished the season with a positive rebounding margin (993-969), snapping a streak of 23 consecutive years the team had finished with less rebounds than the opposition.
That stat is hard to imagine... 23 straight years of being outrebounded! Kudos to Brian Katz and last year's team for breaking the streak, that is definitely a good sign. It will be tough to repeat that this year after the loss of Alpha N'Diaye.

Of the 12 Hornets to expire their eligibility under head coach Brian Katz, 10 have graduated and the other players (Sultan Toles-Bey and Duro Bjegovic) are on pace to graduate this fall.
Schools rarely get recognition for this type of thing so kudos to Brian Katz for this. This is the ultimate goal, and so it is good to see guys graduate.

#32 John Dickson - F, 6-6, 195, Jr., San Francisco, Calif.
An honorable mention all-Big Sky Conference selection...appeared in all 28 games, including 25 starts as a true sophomore…averaged 10.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.6 blocked shots per game…shot 42.2 percent (97-230) from the field and 76.3 percent (106-139) from the free throw line…was the team’s second-leading scorer and fourth-leading rebounder…led the team in both free throws made and attempted…the 106 free throws made tied for the fourth best mark in the Big Sky Conference…in league play, he increased his numbers to a team-best 12.6 points per game to go along with 4.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocked shots per game…scored in double figures in 12 of the team’s 16 league games.
Dickson is their best returnee in my opinion, and could have a shot at getting some postseason awards in the Big Sky. He is a solid scorer (as long as he stays away from taking 3s) and a decent rebounder for his size. He will be counted on to be a rock for them.

#5 Dylan Garrity - G, 6-2, 170, Fr., Huntington Beach, Calif.
A 2011 graduate of Edison High School in Huntington Beach, Calif…played four years of varsity basketball for the Chargers…a two-time all-state, two-time Sunset League MVP, three-time first team all-section, three-time first team all-league, three-time all-county and three-year team captain…became the first player to have his jersey retired in the 42-year history of the Edison High School boys basketball program…finished as the school’s all-time leader in games (114), points (1,729) and assists (438)…averaged at least 17 points a game each of his final three seasons…finished with career averages of 15.2 points, 3.9 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 48.8 percent (556-1139) from the field, 44.0 percent (211-480) from the three-point line and 84.1 percent (406-483) from the free throw line.
I have already written quite a bit about Dylan Garrity, but he has a chance to be one of the best freshmen entering the Big Sky this year, and he could have a nice impact for them. If he can develop into a big-time player, that is probably the Hornets best chances of becoming a factor in the Big Sky. Maybe not this year, but sometime in the next couple of years.

What are your all thoughts on Sacramento State?

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Montana State Intrasquad Scrimmage

Montana State had an intrasquad scrimmage last night, which I am sure was very interesting. For good information on it, the best I can find are from the Twitter accounts of Mslacat, Gidal Kaiser, and Jeff Lasky.

Hopefully Gidal or Jeff (who I believe are at the scrimmage) will have a more detailed report on how things went (hint hint to those guys??)

Early word is that Mike Dison looked good. Dison is a sub 6-foot PG with good scoring skills. If he make an impact, that would definitely soften the blow of losing Antonio Biglow for at least the first semester.

EDIT: And lots of great info from Gidal.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gidal's Look at the Big Sky Polls

Excellent Bozeman writer Gidal Kaiser took a look at the Big Sky polls, both men and women over at Blue & Gold.

It is definitely worth a read, as he is a great source of Montana State info normally and a voter in the media poll. He has some changes to what how he would rank if he did it over again, but the beauty of the Big Sky (and college basketball) is that the [preseason polls are meaningless. It will retain its importance and value up to the first game of the year, at which point it will be meaningless.

Eastern moves to third, NAU is fourth, PSU is fifth and MSU is sixth. Maybe. Maybe PSU moves up, as does MSu and NAU drops to sixth. I just don’t get why everyone is so bullish on PSU, NAU and UNC. The group (MSU, NAU, UNC, PSU) all lost a considerable amount of production, and I’d rank UNC’s as the greatest loss, then MSU’s, then NAU. Tapscott and Odum were two of the Vikings’ better players and they lost their 3-point marksman (Melvin Jones), but they underachieved season. So will four transfers make that much difference? (The argument could be made for MSU as well in that vein). NAU’s Rogers will miss the entire first semester, but theoretically be back in time for conference play. If he’s not, NAU might nosedive. It might not, though as the only thing anyone is sure of are the top two and bottom two.
Just a quick response to Gidal about Portland State, as he wondered why they were rated so high in the polls (fifth) whereas I have them all the way up to three. He mentions Odum and Tapscott, but the biggest reasons I think they could finish as high as third is they will be getting key contributors from JUCO transfers, Division I transfers, and redshirts. In particular, I am excited to see Lateef McMullan, Michael Harthun, and Brandon Cataldo play. Those are three guys that not a lot of Big Sky fans know about yet, but I think that could change by the end of the year.

Less than 3 weeks to the start of the season.

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College Sports Madness Mid-Major Teams

A while ago a website called College Sports Madness posted their Mid-Major All-American teams, which featured a couple of Big Sky players.

They have Damian Lillard of Weber State on their second team, and Will Cherry of Montana on their third team. Cool stuff, and hopefully these guys will continue to get some national recognition.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

A Look at Portland State

Portland State's website had a great preview article, so let's take a look at it. If you are interested in learning about the Vikings I encourage you to read it all, it is nice and thorough.

Odum, a 6-foot guard, averaged a team-high 14.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting .524 from the field. Those numbers improved to 15.3, 3.7, 2.9 and .565 in league games, earning him second team All-Big Sky Conference.
Odum is the star of the backcourt, and he could be a first team Conference player this season. He was a very efficient scorer and solid distributor in his first year for the Vikings. If he can improve his ballhandling and outside shoot a bit, we will be talking about him with Damian Lillard and Will Cherry as the top guards in the Big Sky.

Tapscott is a good shooter inside and out and also gets to the free throw line with regularity.

“Chehales has a chance to be All-Conference this year. We went 1-5 without him (while injured), so you could make a case that he was our best player last season,” said Geving.
I have written quite a bit about Chehales Tapscott on this site, and think he could be the best post man in the Conference, even if he is not really a true post (at 6'5''). He is the leading rebounder in the Conference, and I think he will be first-team Big Sky. Look for him to become a household name, as he can score in a variety of ways.

Harthun is a 6-3 transfer from Washington State who will ably step into a perimeter shooter role. Although he never got his career going at WSU, Harthun is a proven scorer and winner. As a senior at South Medford (OR) High School, he averaged 21.0 points and six assists per game. He was a three-time All-Conference and All-State performer, scoring 1,949 points as a four-year starter, which ranks second in school history behind former teammate Kyle Singler, who is now in the NBA. Harthun will be particularly valuable due to the graduation of shooters Melvin Jones and Phil Nelson.
Michael Harthun has a lot of talent but didn't produce much in his last stop. He's got the ability to be a difference maker for the Vikings if he used the redshirt year to his advantage. His development will be a key factor for them.

The third returning redshirt is 6-10 center Brandon Cataldo. After missing his senior season of high school with a broken leg, Cataldo needed a year to recover and improve his conditioning. However, in that redshirt year he proved to be a very skilled big man, with good footwork, good hands, passing and shooting ability. If he continues to progress and improve his conditioning, Cataldo will form an excellent big-man tandem with Lozeau.
I think Cataldo could be a big-time talent for Portland State, and a guy not many fans knowing going into the season. He is very skilled and polished as the article says, and if he can stay in shape and stay healthy he could be huge for the Vikings. Watch for Cataldo this year.

First and foremost, Geving cited the need for a pure point guard, and believes he got his man with junior transfer Lateef McMullan. “I feel really good about the point guard spot. We got a real competitor. A tough kid who is a winner. He's also played Division I basketball before.
I have been hearing lots of raving about McMullan, who averaged about 16 PPG and 4 APG last season. He also has Divison I experience, as he played his freshman year at UC Riverside.

There is a lot more good info on incoming recruits in the article, and more on all of the players, including a lot of good quotes from Coach Tyler Geving. I have picked them third in the Big Sky this year, because I think the nucleus of Odum and Tapscott will be complemented well by guys like Harthun, Cataldo, and McMullan. If nothing else, Portland State should be fun to watch, because they will probably again lead the Big Sky in scoring.

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Monday Inspiration

Apropos of nothing:

"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Northern Colorado's Championship Rings

Pretty cool... Northern Colorado's championship rings from last season. These were out a while ago but still fun to see what everyone is striving for.

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An Article on Andy Martin

The Missoulian had an article on C Andy Martin, who committed to Montana last week.

Martin, who is an even 7-feet and 225 pounds, averaged 9 points, 6 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots per game in his senior season at Casper Natrona. He is currently attending St. John's Northwestern Military Academy in Delafield, Wis.

Martin said he had received scholarship offers from Cal Poly and UC Davis. Nevada and Cleveland State also showed interest.
Check out the rest of the article for a couple quotes from Martin.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fighting Sioux Nickname Debate Not Yet Dead

It's the story that never goes away. Now the Spirit Lake Tribe is getting into things, not-so-subtly threatening UND.

In a statement released by the Committee for Understanding and Respect, which has been authorized by the Spirit Lake Tribal Council to speak for the tribe on the nickname issue, the committee warned UND, the state board, the NCAA and the Big Sky Conference to stop acting “against our honorable name as given to UND by our ancestors.”


The committee challenged Big Sky Conference commissioner Doug Fullerton, who has declined to become involved in the dispute over the nickname beyond warning that it could jeopardize UND’s entry into the conference next year if it remains unresolved. Fullerton has not responded to two recent letters from the Spirit Lake committee.
Hopefully this story will go away soon. My guess is that is just wishful thinking.

Athlon & Lindy's Previews Are Out

Information from Weber Hoops, which has diligently reported on what the magazines are saying.

The most interesting part is their predicted order of finish, which I am not getting format well, so check it out over at their site. Two things that stand out as strange to me are Northern Colorado being ranked as high as three on one (not sure you would find many Big Sky insiders thinking that right now), and Eastern Washington as low as seven (I am seeing a lot of people with them as high as three).

It is also interesting how quickly things can get outdated. Two examples... one is the injury to Gabe Rogers, and what that does to NAU and to his spot on conference teams. Another is that Antonio Biglow is out for at least the first semester. One magazine picked him as the newcomer of the year in the Conference.

For a lot of fans, these magazines might provide the only information they know about the Big Sky, so it is interesting to see what they are saying.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Montana Signs Andy Martin

This news is a bit old, but Montana snagged a nice recruitment with 7-footer Andy Martin last week. He played his senior year at Natron High School in Wyoming.

Per Mslacat, he will take a year at a prep school, and then join the team for the 2012-13 season.

It was tough to find too much information about him, so most of what I know is based on the highlight video below. Based on my observations there, he is a bit thin (so the year at prep school will help bulk up hopefully), an average athlete, and not the most fluid player. But he showed good touch around the basket and a couple solid post moves. Obviously it is hard to draw any conclusions from a 5 minute highlight video.

It is not always easy for Big Sky teams to get legitimate big men, so this is a nice get for Coach Wayne Tinkle. Martin is a legit 7-footer, and there aren't a lot of those around that are at least average athletes and have a decent skill set available. He certainly has the look of being an above average player in the Big Sky.

Anyone else know much about him?

Damian Lillard is the 84th Best Player in America

According to CBS Sports:

84. Damian Lillard (senior guard, Weber State). Quintessential small-league guy who can run roughshod over said league. Lillard's going to make it rain -- nay, I say storm -- in the Big Sky this season. — M.N.
Didn't quite do their full homework, as Lillard is a junior, but he will be a force in the Big Sky.

He will be fun to watch, and I think more fans than just Big Sky fans will know that by the end of the season.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Great Article on Bob Stoops

Not Big Sky related in any way, but we should always try to read things that inspire us to become a better person, and this article fits the bill.

Stoops was about to board the team bus to Dallas for the Texas game, a trip of some significance in Soonerville, but he dialed Tishomingo anyway, thanking Stevy for the support.

Eight days later, Stoops dialed the number again, returning a call. This time, there was no revelry. No Bevo bashing. Stevy's family had called to let him know she had passed. Dead of cancer at the age of 16.

Interview With Sacramento State Coach Brian Katz

Sac State Sports had a good interview last week with the head coach of the Hornets, Brian Katz. Here are some of the most interesting points from the interview.

Q: What makes this year’s team different from last year?

A: One, experience. We have nine guys back, we’ve never had a team this experienced at Sac State. When you get really good at the mid-major level it’s all about experience. We finally have some three-year guys. Our players are better. Our chemistry and our leadership have improved and last is our schedule.
The team is experienced in Katz system, but not necessarily all that experienced out on the court. They lost a lot of guys to graduation, transfer, or just otherwise leaving the program, and it does not leave them with a ton of guys with valuable game experience.

If you are an optimist, you read it as 9 guys back who have been in the system before. If you are a pessimist, you read it as 9 guys back, but most of them weren't good enough to crack the rotation before this. We will see.

Q: In order to have that kind of year that you want to have, what are the things that have to get done on a daily basis?

A: I think it’s taking pride in all the little things. Big things are made of little things. Anything, any detail left unchecked can become a big deal. If your screening starts to slip, then pretty soon guys can’t get open. If your transition defense starts to slip, then pretty soon you’re giving up baskets you shouldn’t be giving up. At this level all the players are good. You must be able to execute and you must be able to counter.
This is a lot of coach speak, but Sac State will need to excel in those areas to win a lot of ballgames. They don't quite have the firepower to match up with the top tier of the conference, but things could break their way if they can execute offensively and always give top defensive effort. The separation is not that large that they couldn't contend for a spot in the Big Sky Tournament if they can do those things.

Q: What does the conference look like this year?

A: I think there are two teams that are clearly 1-2. If you’re going to be objective, on paper it has to be Montana and Weber State 1 and 2, and then everyone else is fighting for 3-9. I couldn’t even begin to make a prediction on 3-9. But 1 and 2 are clearly better. Now, do they play better? The game’s not played on paper and it’s not a video game.
Agreed with him here. As I have been saying, I have Weber State and Montana 1 and 2, and then things are wide open. There is a lot of opportunity for everybody else to make a move up the ladder.

For Brian Katz entering his fourth year, this will be a big season. He has not had a lot of success in Sacramento, and he needs to show some progress this year or slowly the calls will start coming for his dismissal. We wish him the best of luck.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Big Sky Releases Preseason Coaches and Media Poll

The Big Sky released their preseason rankings of both the coaches and media, and no surprise as Weber State was ranked 1 in both polls.

The media and coaches both selected the Wildcats as an overwhelming favorite in the preseason polls, released on Wednesday. This is the fourth straight season Weber State has been selected by the coaches and media as the preseason favorite.
Four straight years of being the top, but Randy Rahe has not had a lot of postseason success during that time. The onus will be on him to deliver, because on paper they have the most talented team in the Big Sky. Here are the full rankings:

Media Preseason Poll
1. Weber State (19) 210
2. Montana (4) 193
3. Northern Colorado (1) 141
4. Northern Arizona 125
5. Portland State 112
6. Eastern Washington 109
7. Montana State 101
8. Sacramento State 45
9. Idaho State 41

Coaches’ Preseason Poll
1. Weber State (8) 64
2. Montana (1) 56
3. Eastern Washington 42
4. Northern Colorado 41
5. Portland State 38
6. Northern Arizona 35
7. Montana State 24
8. Sacramento State 16
9. Idaho State 9

A few notes from it:
- It is no surprise that Weber State and Montana are the clear 1 and 2. I have been saying all along that these two are the premier teams in the Conference and the two I have at the top.
- Northern Colorado at three, and getting a vote for #1 in the media poll is a head-scratcher, to be honest. Not to put them down, because they have talent, but I don't see how there is any objective way that they should get a vote for #1. I would love to hear a rationale for that from whoever made that vote.
- Likewise, seeing Eastern Washington down at 6 in the media poll seems low to me. I think the coaches have them pegged a bit more correctly.
- I would be curious if Northern Arizona's spot would change at all based on the injury to Gabe Rogers. I am guessing that would knock them down a bit in the media poll.
- Interesting to me that Montana State is ranked as 7 in both polls. That could be right, but I think they have some solid upside.

In the interest of full disclosure, I submitted my picks for the media poll, and here is the order I went with (and my projected standings):

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

Would love to hear feedback on what everyone thinks of the polls.

Follow me on Twitter @bigskybball

Notes On Eastern Washington

Time to take a little more in depth look at the preview posted on the Eastern Washington website, full of solid information on the Eagles.

Hayford knows what building a championship contender is like. Before he arrived at Whitworth, the school was 13-12. His first year at the helm the Pirates were 20-7, and his second season they were 23-4 and advanced to the NCAA Division III Tournament. In his final two seasons, Whitworth was 54-5 overall and 31-1 in league play, and advanced to the DIII Sweet 16 in 2010 and the Elite Eight in 2011.

“The beginning of each new season brings promise and opportunity,” he said. “This is a new beginning for Eastern Washington basketball and there is hope on the horizon. In between hope, promise and opportunity and realizing our goals, is just a bucket load of work. It’s time to go to work and that is our focus. We’re excited – we think we’ve added some players to our roster who will make us even more competitive.”
This is why most Eastern Washington fans are and should be excited for the Jim Hayford Era. The guy has proven he can coach and win. It was at the Division III level, which is a lot different than Division I, but you still have to be a good basketball teacher to win as much as he did. Those skills should carry over.

The biggest change for Hayford will be recruiting at the DI level, and I think he is off to a good start there. He got JUCO wing Collin Chiverton to stay aboard (who Rivals sees as a second team Big Sky player), and has a verbal from Danny Powell, a guy he coveted.

Three guards return who all averaged at least 24 minutes per game, including senior point guard Cliff Colimon and juniors Jeffrey Forbes and Kevin Winford. That trio combined to start 60 games last year and have 99 total starts in their careers.

“The most experienced part of our team is the backcourt,” said Hayford. “We have three guards who have been through Big Sky play and have performed in conference games at a high level. That is the most solid part of the foundation that we are building on.”
It is no secret that the guards will be the strength of this team, as they are very experienced. I have written a lot about them, and if EWU is going to cash in on some of the promise that many (myself included) think they have, they will need the guards to be one of the best units in the Conference. However, concerning the guards, I thought this was a very interesting nugget:

“Last year, those three players were frequently on the court together,” Hayford explained. “As we looked at video, that created match-up problems because they are all under 6 feet tall. We don’t plan to have all three of those guys on the court at the same time too much, which means we’ll have two guys with some experience but other spots with not as much experience. This is where we need to find out the right blend.”


“As I’ve talked with other coaches in the Big Sky and reviewed video, over the course of the last five or six games of the conference season, Cliff played as good as any guard in the league,” praised Hayford. “Cliff is excited to be the undisputed leader of this team his senior season, and I expect him to be one of the standout guards in the Big Sky Conference.

The trio of returning players will be joined in the backcourt by some taller newcomers in Willie Hankins (6-3), Tyler Harvey (6-4) and Parker Kelly (6-4), in addition to St. Joseph’s transfer Justin Crosgile (5-11). Harvey and Crosgile will redshirt the 2011-12 season.
That means likely that either Jeffrey Forbes or Kevin Winford will see some minutes cut, and my guess is that Winford will see his playing time drop the most. He is a bit of a gunner that doesn't do as much as Forbes and Colimon. Hankins will get some run, reports have been good about his potential.

“I think Tremayne Johnson is going to have a great senior year,” said Hayford. “He’s maybe the biggest “X” factor on this team and needs to reach his potential. I’ve told him the worst word you want next to your name heading into your senior year is potential. I expect him to have a great year.”
Hayford does and should expect big things from Johnson, who I think will be the key for the Eagles this year. He's got the talent for a big year, and could receive some honors if he plays up to his ability.

Among Eastern’s newcomers is high-scoring junior college transfer Collin Chiverton. The 6-6, 200-pound junior averaged 19 points, five rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in leading City College of San Francisco to a 32-1 record and the 2010-11 California Community Colleges Athletic Association title. Most importantly, in the four seasons he has played since his junior year in high school, teams that Chiverton has played on have won 114 of 131 games for an 87 percent winning rate.

“Collin was a prolific junior college scorer and one of the top high school players on the West Coast,” said Hayford. “He can slide down and play the shooting guard position, which makes us bigger in the backcourt as well.”
Chiverton will immediately be a top athlete in the Big Sky, and he has the potential to be a star in Cheney. He is great on the break and has a solid outside shot as well. He can play the 2 or 3 and will allow the Eagles to go with a lot of different looks this year. Out of everyone in the Conference, he is on my short list of players I am most excited to watch.

The whole article is worth a read, it is very good and gives a good look into Jim Hayford and his program. The Eagles have one of the highest ceilings in the Conference... should things come together, they will be a darkhorse.

Montana State Has Some More Walk-Ons

From Mslacat, a couple extra guys that will be walking on at Montana State this year.

The first is Jeremiah Tardy:

Last June the Bobcat picked up a walk-on commitment for the 2011-12 school year from a very nice looking prospect form California.JeremiahTardyenrolled at MSU this quarter and is currently practicing with the Bobcat basketball team.Tardyis a 6-3 combo guard who played for the San Bernardino high school last season.
Second is Andrew Costello:

Costello is a 6-8 forward, although he did play some at center this year especially defense against the better big men they played. I have seen him listed at up to 6-10 in a few places but I am going to bet he is closer to 6-8. It sounds like he is in the mold of current Bobcat Jeff Budnich, as he is a very good jump shooter out past three point range. I could not find a lot of info on Costello but it appears he averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds a game. I have seen him listed as a small forward and power forward but not a center.
Check out the entirety of the two posts for a better, more full look at each player.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rivals Previews The Big Sky

I have already linked to my preview of the Big Sky over at RTC, and now it is time for another preview, this time from Rivals.

Certainly it is easy to tell it is a national site that probably pays attention to the Big Sky a couple times a year, as information is not extremely thorough. But always nice to see national coverage of the Big Sky.

1. Weber State
2. Montana
3. Northern Arizona
4. Eastern Washington
5. Portland State
6. Montana State
7. Northern Colorado
8. Sacramento State
9. Idaho State
Last, Gidal from Blue & Gold has told me his conference preview comes October 25th... I am looking forward to that, he is a great source of information on the Big Sky, and especially Montana sTATE.

On The Loss of Gabe Rogers

In case you missed it, Northern Arizona Guard Gabe Rogers will miss at least the first couple months of the season, and maybe more, as he has a torn labrum.

Junior guard Gabe Rogers, who averaged 13.1 points per game last season, had surgery Monday to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

"You never know when life's going to deal you a crooked hand and you're going to have to figure something out," NAU coach Mike Adras said. "It's unfortunate, but it'll make Gabe better. ... We're going to have to figure out what to do now, that's just the reality of where we're at -- somebody else will have to figure it out now and grow up a little quicker than expected."
Rogers is one of the best shooters in the Conference and in America, and I thought he could be a first team All Big Sky performer. He was going to be a huge part of what the Lumberjacks did, as he was the leading returning scorer after the graduation of Cameron Jones.

So, how does Mike Adras replace Rogers until he returns? (Rogers is shooting for a return at the beginning of the conference slate). Here are a few key things to watch for:

- James Douglas and Danny Cheek will have to grow up fast. I thought Cheek could get a lot of time and Douglas would play a more limited role as a freshman, but both could see a lot of minutes early. James Douglas has reportedly looked excellent so far this year, and Danny Cheek was very highly touted. If those two can gain valuable experience, NAU will be that much more explosive when Rogers returns.

- Stallon Saldivar could lead the Big Sky in assists. He posted one of the highest ARates in the country last year, and should handle the ball even more without Jones or Rogers to control the offense. He won't score much, but he creates a lot of opportunities for other guys..

- It will be a balanced attack. Northern Arizona's roster consists of 10 guards and 5 forwards, so they will be a run and gun attack one would assume. With no stars, a lot of guys should see time, and they will need different guys to step up and put points on the board.

Mike Adras is one of the best coaches in the Conference at plugging guys in, and he will need to do some masterful work early this season without Gabe Rogers. If he can weather the storm and get the young guys to grow up quickly, NAU will be dangerous down the stretch. At the very least, with their roster configuration, they should be a lot of fun to watch!

Damian Lillard's Rehab From A Foot Injury

If you are curious to see some of the drills a guy would go through rehabbing a foot injury, be curious no more. Weber State has posted a video of some of the rehab of Damian Lillard, and he definitely looks strong.

I haven't heard one negative story about Lillard's recovery, and that is scary news for the Big Sky. Weber State could have three players on the first team Big Sky, and they will be the favorites to win the Conference.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Quick Rundown Of The Last Week

I am sure to miss some things... but here is a quick rundown of the biggest news of the past week while I was out on vacation. Please let me know if there is anything else that I missed, any comments or links are greatly appreciated!

Eastern Washington
- Don't remember if I posted this link or not... but another article on Eastern Washington recruit Danny Powell. Powell is a JUCO forward who it seems Jim Hayford and the staff are very excited about.
- Should have more to write about this in the near future, but a good article on the upcoming season off of the Eastern Washington website.
- It appears that EWU has picked up a big man near the end of summer, Justin Omugun. This is the first I have heard of him, so I will do my best to find out more.

Idaho State
- Bengals fans are already talking about possible head coaching candidates... Joe O'Brien's future does not look bright in Pocatello.
- Some videos from Idaho State Media Day.
- Many thanks to a commenter for pointing out this link, but a nice writeup by the Idaho State Journal Sports Blog on the beginning of practice for the Bengals.

- The Missoulian had a nice question and answer with G Keron DeShields. He is an 18 year old freshman but a very impressive young man. Give the article a read and you will come out with respect for DeShields.
- Montana's official website has a nice little preview on the upcoming season.
- Word is that Montana has signed 7-footer Andy Martin. Big men are always at a premium in the Big Sky, so have to like that.
- At least one projection likes Montana to win the Big Sky.

Montana State
- G Marcus Colbert verbally committed to the Bobcats. He visited a couple weekends ago, and committed after his visit. Last year the PG averaged about 16 PPG, 5 RPG, and 5 APG.

Northern Arizona
- This is a big deal... Gabe Rogers will miss at least the first two months of the season with a torn labrum. He was their leading returning scorer and could be a first teamer in the Big Sky. I'll definitely have more to say about how NAU replaces him. It won't be easy.
- Forwards Austin Smith and Ryan Schaefer are no longer listed on the NAU roster. No word yet on why but I will try to find out. That leaves them very guard heavy, and very inexperienced. It will be an interesting year in Flagstaff.
- The team opened practice on Friday.

Northern Colorado
- UNC is picked 3rd in one preseason magazine and sixth in another. Just one sign of all of the parity in the middle of the Big Sky this season.
- A picture of their championship ring from last season. Very cool and something they should rightfully be very proud of!
- Northern Colorado will appear three times in the Big Sky Game of the Week on Altitude TV.

Portland State
- I posted right before leaving about the Vikings signing big man Lamont Prosser. Here is another article on him as well.
- Very good preview article from the Vikings website.

Sacramento State
- Nice interview with Brian Katz.
- As with other teams, the team website has a nice preview article at the start of the season.

Weber State
- Luke Winn of SI has praise for Scott Bamforth, calling him one of the best shooters in America.
- The Standard has a few notes on Kyndahl Hill, a new recruit for next year.
- Both Lindy and Athlon have Weber State ranked 1 in the preseason poll. I voted in the media poll for the Big Sky and have the Wildcats ranked likewise. Wouldn't be a surprise to see them as the consensus #1 heading into the season.

Let me know what I have missed!! You can tell practices are starting and the season is getting closer, there is more and more news out there. It is a beautiful thing, the season is near.

My Big Sky Preview

In case you missed it... last week sometime I wrote up a preview for Rush The Court on the Big Sky.... check it out here!

Will post much of this eventually here, and expand on a lot of it as well, as I was constrained by space so some degree there, but have no such constraints in my own domain!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Back From Honeymoon!

Well, I up and got married and went on a honeymoon, and it was all glorious.

Will have more obviously this week on the Big Sky as I get caught up on what happened while I was gone, but safe to say that Maine and Acadia National Park in the fall is something that I would highly recommend!

So what did I miss while I was gone?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Some Thoughts on Lamont Prosser

Portland State recently got a commitment from Lamont Prosser, a 6'8'', 275 pound JUCO forward. He plays at Sheridan College in Sheridan, WY.

Last year as a freshman he averaged about 12 PPG and 7 RPG, shooting a solid 54% for the year. Solid numbers for a freshman anywhere, even a junior college in Wyoming.

He also put up good numbers at prep school, with about 17 PPG, 12 RPG, and over 2 blocks per game. As important, he appears to be a solid guy whose character has drawn the praise of his coaches.

From all accounts he has good footwork around the basket and soft hands, which (along with his strength) allows him to be an effective inside scorer. His height and weight suggest that he can take up some space down low, which is an effective asset as long as he stays in shape.

A Twitter profile called RecruitDirt had this to say about Prosser:

Lamont Prosser from Sheridan JC commits to Portland St 2 days ago...did anybody relay this to the world???...kid is a Top 5 juco player!...
All in all, Prosser seems to be a nice signing for the Vikings. He is a little bit under the radar, but space eaters down low that can score around the basket and rebound their share are quality assets in the Big Sky. With Chehales Tapscott exhausting his eligibility after this season, it was important for Coach Geving to get a big man, and Prosser appears likely to be able to step in and play right away.

Welcome To Rush The Court Readers

Sometime Thursday by Big Sky Primer will be posted over at Rush The Court, which will hopefully bring some new and exciting people to the site. If you are just visiting (or even if you come here often), here are a few things to help you find items that may interest you.

Posts relating to each team:
- Eastern Washington Posts
- Idaho State Posts
- Montana Posts
- Montana State Posts
- North Dakota Posts
- Northern Arizona Posts
- Northern Colorado Posts
- Portland State Posts
- Sacramento State Posts
- Southern Utah Posts
- Weber State Posts

A few other notable posts:
- Does the Big Sky have an attendance problem?
- A look at the coaches of the Big Sky
- A look at Big Sky efficiency numbers over the past few seasons
- Potential breakout sophomores in the Big Sky
- Who is the third best team in the Big Sky?

Please shoot me an email with any thoughts at all, bigskybball AT gmail dot com

Also please follow me on twitter @bigskybball

Hope that you like what you see!! Let me know of any thoughts or comments in the comments or in email. All thoughts are greatly appreciated.

Also, I am getting married on Saturday (wooo!) and taking a honeymoon the week after... meaning this site will not really see updates for a week or so! Just an fyi for everyone that comes to the site and then thinks I never update it :)

Montana State Shows Interest in G Tyler Ptacek

Via Michael Duncan:

6'3 2013 sharp shooter Tyler Ptacek Parma (Padua) OH, is receiving interest from A10 Duquesne, Montana St n Lehigh !

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In Honor Of Steve Jobs

Should be required listening for everyone, one of the best speeches I have ever listened to.

‎"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart." -- Steve Jobs, June 12th, 2005

Montana and Montana State Visitors Last Weekend

From the Twitter feed of mslacat:

Visitors this past weekend: @msubobcats MBB 5-11 Marcus Colbert (ID) & 6-8 Ty Egbert (WA) @UMGRIZZLIES_BB 7-0 Andy Martin (WY)
It was previously reported that Montana State has offered Colbert a scholarship. The Egbert visited was initially reported by Sea Town Sports a couple weeks ago.

Former Weber State Player Brad Barton Dead

From the Standard-Examiner:

PRICE -- Former Weber State basketball player Brad Barton was found dead in Price on Tuesday. The cause of death is still undetermined.

Barton, 31, who became the head basketball coach at USU Eastern (formerly the College of Eastern Utah) in June.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Barton and his loved ones.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Southern Utah Will Also Participate in Bracket Busters

We already know that all of the Big Sky teams will be taking part in Bracket busters this year, and we know also that future Big Sky team Southern Utah will be a part of the event with a road game.

Along with the Coyotes, UMKC, North Dakota State, Oral Roberts and South Dakota State all received home games for this year. IPFW, IUPUI, Oakland, Southern Utah and Western Illinois all are on the road.
It should be very fun as always, with teams taking on other teams that they might not normally play.

Monday, October 3, 2011

MEAC Conference Primer

Over at Rush The Court.

Not Big Sky related at all except to say that you can see a Big Sky primer from this guy coming up sometime this month.

A Few Thoughts on Danny Powell

I said a few days ago that F Danny Powell committed to Eastern Washington, but let's take a little bit of a closer look at him.

He is a 6'6'' forward out of Arizona, and averaged a stellar 22 PPG and 10 RPG last season as a junior. His high school coach thinks Powell could have gone to bigger schools, but believe Eastern Washington was the right choice because of the fervor of the coaches recruitment.

"(Eastern Washington coaches) were amazed he's not going to a bigger school," Williams said. "I told him I wouldn't go to Butler or any of those schools. Go where you're really wanted."
Powellwanted to play early, and could definitely have a chance to do that in Cheney, as the Eagles on long on guard and short on big men (and yes, I phrased it that way just to confuse you. The best scouting report on him comes from Rivals:

Powell had a major impact as a freshman and sophomore at the varsity level, and has a bright future ahead of him. He has tremendous size for his young age, resembling that of former Mesa Mountain View HS standout Harper Kamp. What makes Powell so impressive though is that rather than just be a bigger post player that roams around the painted area, Powell is highly skilled and likes to create scoring opportunities for himself and others off the dribble - a very impressive skill for a player his size, and at such a young age. While it is still unclear as to just how much Powell will continue to grow, he is very well developed now. Powell's mother stands 5-foot-8 in heigth, while his father is 6-foot-5, so the bloodlines are definitely there. Powell is a gym rat, a highly desired trait sought after by most college programs today. Already a very good ballhandler for his size, he is also a very good shooter with nice range on his shot. He is also a very good finisher to the basket when attacking off the dribble, where he often draws fouls and gets himself to the charity stripe. Powell also has an intangible with him that is most important of all - toughness. He is a gritty performer that takes challenges and loves to compete.
It sounds like Powell is a guy that Jim Hayford went after hard... From the reports, it seems as though Powell has a chance to be a very nice contributor at the Big Sky level.

Lamont Prosser Commits to Portland State

According to Oregon Preps.

Should have more on Prosser in the next couple days.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Couple Big Sky Targets Take Their Talents Elsewhere

With the fall recruiting season in full gear, a couple of target for Big Sky schools are instead heading to UC Santa Barbara.

One of them is Mitch Brewe, a 6'10'' big man committed, according to Sea Town Sports. Montana was also recruiting him and had shown strong interest.

The other guy was guard Dalante Dunklin out of California, who was being pursued by Portland State and even made an official visit. He announced he would attend UCSB via Twitter:

I have committed to ucsb. I want to thank my mom, my siblings, dad, close friends, play moms and everybody that helped me n this journey!
Best of luck to both players, as they both have a chance to be solid players for the Gauchos.

40 Days To The Start Of The Season

The regular season for most Big Sky schools start on November 11th... which means (by my count), that we are exactly 40 days from the beginning of real basketball.

Got to love it!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

All Big Sky Teams Will Be Involved in Bracket Busters

A confirmation from the Big Sky that all 9 teams will be involved in Bracket Busters this year.

This marks the second straight season that all nine Big Sky teams are in the pool. Montana, Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado, Sacramento State and Weber State will play home games, while Eastern Washington, Idaho State, Montana State and Portland State will play road games.
In case you are not familiar with Bracket Busters, it is essentially a matchup of mid-major teams, with 13 of the games being televised on the ESPN family of networks. It is a nice way for these teams to potentially get some TV time (and maybe even a quality win) late in the season when they otherwise might be forgotten about by mainstream America.

It is nice that all 9 teams will be involved, as it is a good way to get a solid game against a D1 opponent out of the conference.

The Hilltop Challenge Features Northern Arizona

Sun Belt Basketball has a fantastic writeup on The Hilltop Challenge, a November tournament that features Big Sky Member Northern Arizona.


Sun Belt Participant: Louisiana

Date/Time: Nov. 11-13

Location: War Memorial Gym (University of San Francisco)

The Field: Louisiana, North Dakota State, Northern Arizona, San Francisco
Check out the article for a look at NAU and the rest of the teams in the Tournament. NAU could have a chance to steal a couple of solid non-conference victories.