Monday, November 7, 2011

The Most Comprehensive Big Sky Preview You'll Ever Read

Everything you wanted to know about the Big Sky heading into the 2011-12 season. If you have any questions, put them in the comments or send me an email – bigskybball AT . If you want to follow me on Twitter, @bigskybball . Enjoy your increased knowledge on all things Big Sky.

This looks a bit different than it would have looked a couple weeks or a month ago, but here is my final predicted order for the Big Sky.

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



(* denotes Player of the Year)
- G Damian Lillard (Weber State)* – 17.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.4 SPG – Lillard is the most explosive player in the Conference when healthy, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take home some hardware. Plus, the Wildcats have a lot of options – opponents won’t be able to simply key in on Lillard, which should open things up for him. I have him as the Player of the Year in the Big Sky, which would be the second time he has won the award. Simply put, he is the most talented guy in the Big Sky.
- G Will Cherry (Montana) – 14.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.3 APG, 2.6 SPG – Cherry is regarded in many circles to be the best defensive player in the Big Sky, as his steal rates are up near the top in the country. If his jumper is more consistent, he could take the crown from Lillard as the best player in the Big Sky.
- G Charles Odum (Portland State) – 14.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.8 APG – Odum had a nice debut in Portland last season, but more will be expected with increased expectations. If he becomes the leader, the Vikings are a darkhorse in the Big Sky. He is an efficient scorer and a solid distributor, and should be helped by the addition of JUCO transfer Lateef McMullan.
- F Chehales Tapscott (Portland State) – 11.8 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.9 APG – Tapscott might be the best post man in the Big Sky and he is certainly the most versatile. He is a bit undersized, but is an excellent Mid-Major rebounder, complemented by his skilled offensive game and defensive timing.
- F Kyle Bullinger (Weber State) – 11.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG – Bullinger took up a lot of the load with Lillard’s injury last year, as he shot 42.9% from beyond the stripe. He also had a 21.2 DR%, one of the best in the Big Sky. It is not a one-man show in Ogden. Bullinger does all the little things right for the Wildcats.

- G Scott Bamforth (Weber State) – Bamforth was unreal as a shooter last year, shooting over 50% from downtown in Big Sky play (even though Coach Randy Rahe said that at times his injured shoulder would get so numb in the second half of games that they would exclude him from the offense). The combo of Bamforth-Lillard gives Weber State the best backcourt in the Conference.
- G Kareem Jamar (Montana) – Jamar was very good as a freshman last year, providing an all-around game that was beyond his years. He was a solid scorer (though he needs to improve at the stripe), takes care of the basketball, and is a good help rebounding (which will be key after the loss of Brian Qvale). He missed some games last year with a broken finger, but he should be dynamic this year. I would take Weber State’s backcourt as the best in Conference, but an argument could be made for Montana.
- F Collin Chiverton (Eastern Washington) – The best incoming player in the Big Sky, he will be instrumental in Jim Hayford’s first season, especially after the transfer of first-teamer Glen Dean to Utah (Hayford said if trades could be made in college basketball, he would have traded Dean for Chiverton). He will instantly became one of the most athletic players in the BSC, and has a nice outside shot to go along with it. He will see big minutes in his first year in Cheney.
- F Tremayne Johnson (Eastern Washington) – He doesn’t get a lot of publicity, but I think he is the X Factor for Eastern Washington this year. He should stop shooting from the outside (30%) but he is a good athlete, solid scorer and rebounder, and one of the best shot blockers in the Big Sky (5.4 Block%, best among returning players). He was battling a thumb injury last season, and if he is healthy he will be a pleasant surprise.
- F Derek Selvig (Montana) – At first glance, it seems that Selvig would replace Brian Qvale down low, but they have vastly different games. While Qvale was a traditional big, Selvig is a guard trapped in a 7-footer’s body. He is a good outside shooter that made 39% of threes last year, and had an impressive 19.8% ARate. They need him to be a little better rebounding and being a defensive presence, but he is one of the most talented guys in the League.

- G Gabe Rogers (Northern Arizona) – Rogers would merit first or second team Big Sky honors, but he got injured and will miss a good portion of the season. When healthy, it is a race between Rogers and Bamforth for honors of being the best shooter in the Conference. He is one of the few veteran holdovers for the Lumberjacks, so they need him back healthy ASAP. He is the leader of the team and capable of leading the Conference in scoring.
- G Elliott Lloyd (Northern Colorado) – Lloyd is the only returning starter from last year’s conference champions, and his steadiness will go a long way in determining how far UNC drops this year. He shooters much better on 3s (42%) than 2s (35%), but needs to get a little more efficient inside the arc. He is a solid distributor, but will have to work extra hard on that this season, as Devon Beitzel is not going to be on the receiving end of his passes this time around.
- G Dylan Garrity (Sacramento State) – Garrity is a man that will be relied on heavily in his freshman year for the Hornets, as they look to climb into respectability. He is probably the best recruit Brian Katz has had in Sacramento, and brings a solid resume to the Big Sky. Look for him to get major minutes at the guard spot immediately. If Sacramento State is going to make the Big Sky tournament, Garrity is going to have a big part of it.
- F Xavier Johnson-Blount (Montana State) - Johnson-Blount is a JUCO All-American with a lot of talent on the wing. He averaged 22 and 5 last year in the JUCO ranks, and is a good athlete with a versatile offensive repertoire. He will have some competition to start (more on that later), but he figures to make an impact sooner rather than later.
- F John Dickson (Sacramento State) – Dickson is the most experienced player returning for the Hornets, and he will be counted on to provide offense. If he sticks to his game (and doesn’t shoot 3s, as he was 5/39 from there last year), he will be a solid all-around player. Coach Katz said he is stronger, more versatile, and just better heading into this season.

- G Melvin Morgan (Idaho State) – He has been receiving high praise since he signed with the team, and he will be the key cog for the Bengals this year. Coach O’Brien says he is the best passing PG that he has had at Idaho State, and has helped to change the chemistry of the ballclub for the better. They are going to need him to do all that and more.
- G Danny Cheek (Northern Arizona) – He is perhaps the highest ranked recruit entering the Big Sky, and he should have plenty of chance for playing time if he goes and grabs it. All-time leading scorer Cameron Jones is graduated, and top returning scorer Gabe Rogers could miss most of the year. That opens the door for a guy like Cheek, an athletic off guard that can bring it on both ends.
- G Paul Garnica (Northern Colorado) – Garnica will be part of the committee that looks to replace Devon Beitzel, but he has a unique game. He was not a great scorer last year but he did a lot of other things well. He had a good assist rate (though turned it over too much) and has the potential to be one of the most disruptive defenders in the Big Sky. He needs to play well to distinguish himself from a crowded backcourt in Greeley.
- F Frank Otis (Weber State) – Otis is a transfer from SMU that should have a nice role in the frontcourt rotation. He is an athletic guy that is skilled offensively, and that should bode well for him in a Weber State offense that has a lot of offensive weapons. He will be another guy that defenses have to worry about.
- F Mike Proctor (Northern Colorado) – Proctor is their most experienced big man returning, and he will be asked to do a lot. He led the team in scoring and rebounding during their exhibition game, which was a good sign. He is a solid rebounder, but needs to be more efficient offensively.

- G Rod Singleton (Montana State) – On a roster depleted of experience by graduation, Singleton is a stabilizing force. He distributes the ball well, and scores enough to keep defenses honest. He needs to play well to keep his minutes, because freshman Mike Dison has looked strong in the preseason.
- G Cliff Colimon (Eastern Washington) – In a crowded EWU backcourt (they have three guys returning under 6’ that played big minutes last year), Colimon should be the senior leader of the group. He came on strong at the end of last season, and Jim Hayford has been singing his praises. Plus, he knows he has to bring it every night, because they have a lot of depth back there.
- G Jamie Stewart (Montana State) – One of the transfers that makes Brad Huse think this year’s Bobcats squad will be more dynamic and versatile this year. He is a JUCO All-American, and a guy that does a little bit of everything. Between him, Johnson-Blount, and returning Shawn Reid, MSU can hurt you a lot of different ways on the wings.
- F Jakub Kusmeriak (Idaho State) – At 7’4’’, he is the tallest guy in the Big Sky, but there are still a lot of unknowns about his game. What will he contribute offensively? Is he in good enough shape to play 25 minutes a game? Can he stay out of foul trouble? One thing is for sure – he should be a disruptive force on the defensive end with his size.
- F Byron Fulton (Weber State) – Last year’s freshman of the year in the Big Sky, he is another guy that brings an outside shooting presence to Weber State. He shot 48% from threes last year, and also chips in with strong defensive rebounding. The fact that Fulton is maybe the fifth best offensive weapon for Weber State tells you all you need to know about how good they are.

TOUGHEST OMISSIONS – G Lateef McMullan (Portland State), F Cliff Ederaine (Eastern Washington), G Willie Hankins (Eastern Washington), F Abner Moreira (Idaho State), F Art Steward (Montana), G Stallon Saldivar (Northern Arizona), F Emmanuel Addo (Northern Colorado)

Player of the Year: Damian Lillard (Weber State)
Defensive Player of the Year: Will Cherry (Montana)
Newcomer of the Year: Collin Chiverton (Eastern Washington)
Freshman of the Year: Dylan Garrity (Sacramento State)


EASTERN WASHINGTON Jim Hayford is preaching “possession and percentage” basketball, and he has Eastern Washington fans very excited for this year and beyond. Kirk Earlywine left the cupboard well stocked, and they have the talent to be in the top half of the Conference. Their backcourt is deep with a variety of skill sets, so the key will be coaxing production out of the frontcourt. One help will be if Tremayne Johnson stays healthy, I think he could be one of the more underrated players in the Big Sky. I think Hayford lays the foundation here with a top 4 finish and an eye on even bigger things next season, where he has a couple former DI transfers becoming eligible. The future is bright in Cheney (shades optional).

IDAHO STATE – If you ask Bengals fans, they are already looking for the next head coach, as O’Brien could be a dead man walking unless Idaho State surprises. On paper, they don’t have the horses to compete with the rest of the Conference, and there is a reason that they are picked 9th by both the coaches and media. A lot of their hopes rest on two guys – Melvin Morgan at PG and Jakub Kusmieruk at C. Both guys have the potential to be difference-makers if everything goes right. But I don’t see enough talent on the roster to reasonably expect anything but a best-case scenario of eighth place in the Big Sky.

MONTANA – They return everyone except Brian Qvale from a team that went to their second straight Big Sky title game, and expectations are high. The biggest reason for that is Will Cherry, who is very good offensively in addition to being my pick for the defensive player of the year. He is flanked by athletic wing men, including starters Kareem Jamar and Art Stewart, and some athletic freshman that could play early. They question mark definitely is down low, where they are still figuring out how to replace Qvale, the best defensive player in the Conference and their leading scorer. Derek Selvig is the guy that will be relied on most, but he has not been a true post player for his whole career. They will go as far as guys like Mathias Ward and Billy Reader will allow them to go.

MONTANA STATE – The Bobcats are like a new team this year, having lost of a lot of their production to graduation. However, that may not be a bad thing, as they finished 13-18 and may have needed some changes. Insert a ton of new junior college players, and Brad Huse is excited about how versatile and balanced this group will be. They appear to have talent offensively, so the key will be how well they mesh defensively. I see them struggling early but things clicking by the end of the year, making them a team nobody will want to play. If they don’t have a lot of attrition they could be very good next season.

NORTHERN ARIZONA – It will be an interesting year in Flagstaff. They lost 2 of their top 3 players last year to graduation, and the other one (Gabe Rogers) has a torn labrum and could be back in January or late February, depending on who you believe. Their roster configuration consists of 5 guards and 10 forwards, and Coach Adras sounds a little frustrated by their lack of consistency in the preseason. It is a young group, but Adras always seems to get the best out of his players, especially when they are a bit overlooked. It will take them awhile to find their stride and their rotation (Adras said there is only one position he is comfortable with right now – PG with Stallon Saldivar and James Douglas), but if they do they will be an interesting team because of the style of play they will have to have. I see them somewhere in the 5-7 range, with a lot of guys getting valuable experience.

NORTHERN COLORADO – More than anyone else, I have seen varying opinions of UNC this year. They are definitely still talented, but they lost a ton obviously, including 4 starters and the Conference POY. They have the talent to finish as high as third this year, but with their lack of experience and lack of a go-to player, I see them as struggling to make the Big Sky Tournament. They have some talent along the perimeter, and that should be the strength of their team. They still need to settle on a rotation there, but they have some talented players. The question is, who is going to step up on a nightly basis down low? Mike Proctor and Emmanuel Addo were solid role players a year ago, but can they make the step up to solid starters? Like a lot of the Big Sky, I see them improving a lot as the year goes on and carrying a lot of talent into next year. They could surprise, but I think there will be a few more growing pains than UNC fans seem to realize.

PORTLAND STATE – Portland State was ineligible for the Big Sky Tournament last season due to APR violations committed under Ken Bone, but Tyler Geving has cleaned things up a bit. Their APR is on the way up and they are eligible for postseason play (as well as getting a couple scholarships back). They bring back a team that is a darkhorse in the Conference, led by a couple potential first-teamers in Charles Odum and Chehales Tapscott. They have added a lot of new pieces as well, including some transfers (Michael Harthun and Renaldo Parker), redshirts (such as Brandon Cataldo), and a solid JUCO in Lateef McMullan. If the pieces click, don’t sleep on the Vikings.

SACRAMENTO STATEBrian Katz is losing confidence in his fan base after three seasons and 18 wins, so it is imperative that the Hornets experience some success this year. They have put together a relatively easy non-conference schedule, which should be a nice confidence booster and help them experience some winning right away. New players will be key for the Hornets, especially freshman Dylan Garrity and JUCO Joe Eberhard, who looks like the real deal after a solid showing in their exhibition. Anything approaching .500 would have to be seen as real progress this season. If Sacramento State goes through another single digit win season, the pressure on Katz is going to heat up.

WEBER STATE – They are the best and most talented team in the Conference, and you will hardly find anyone that disagrees with that notion. They are led by Damian Lillard, who seems bigger, stronger, and quicker than he was before he injured his foot last year (and all he did before that was be the reigning Player of the Year). They are stocked with shooters and balance, and any of a number of different guys can hurt you. They could place three guys on the first-team All-Conference, and that’s not even counting some talented post players that they have. Weber State is the Conference’s best hope for a high seed (read: 13) and a chance at a first round upset. The only thing making people leery is Randy Rahe’s less than stellar postseason tournament record.


Guys that I see having the biggest impact in the Big Sky this season. I have already talked about them at length in the All-Conference awards, but a brief blurb here.

- Collin Chiverton (Eastern Washington) – My pick for the Big Sky Newcomer of the Year. He is immediately one of the most athletic players in the Big Sky.
- Melvin Morgan (Idaho State) – On a team without a lot of offensive weapons, they need him to score and distribute very well.
- Xavier Johnson-Blount (Montana State) – JUCO All-American that will be a lot of fun to watch. Can put up 20 on any given night.
- Danny Cheek (Northern Arizona) – Extremely talented… He will have a big impact on NAU by the time he is done.
- Lateef McMullan (Portland State) – The true PG that Coach Geving was looking for, he should make everyone on a sneakily talented Vikings team a little bit better.
- Dylan Garrity (Sacramento State) - My pick for Freshman of the Year, I think he will have to carry a big load from the opening tip.


Here are ten games that the Big Sky could have a chance of winning which would provide a nice boost for the Conference. I would expect the teams to at least be competitive in all of these games, and have a good chance of winning at least half of these games.

- November 11 – Montana @ Colorado State – CSU loses their top two inside scorers, so this could be a battle of backcourts. If that is the case, Will Cherry will be the best player on the court, and he could help lead them to a nice non-conference win to begin the year. Something to watch is the availability of Derek Selvig, as he may be battling an ankle injury.
- November 15 – Utah State @ Weber State - The Wildcats think they are the best team in the state of Utah, but to start they need to beat the Aggies at home. Utah State has some key personnel losses. Combined that with the fact that this is at the Dee Events Center, and Weber State should be the favorite. Weber State starts with Northern New Mexico so this will be our first real look at them.
- November 19 – Montana State @ Utah – Montana State believes they will be more athletic and dynamic than last season, and if that is true they will have a chance to steal a game against a down Utah team. Brad Huse needs his JUCO wings Xavier Johnson-Blount and Jamie Stewart to grow up fast. If they do, the Bobcats can beat a Pac-12 team.
- November 20 – Northern Colorado @ Northern Iowa – Northern Colorado wants to show that they will still be a contender in the Conference, and this will be a good barometer. Northern Iowa will be a solid contender in the MVC, and their bruising style will be tough for a team that could be a bit guard oriented. If they can win this game, we will have to look at them as being in the upper echelon of the Big Sky.
- November 30 – BYU vs. Northern Arizona - This is a “neutral court” game, though it will be played in Prescott, Arizona, an hour or so away from Flagstaff. BYU has a national following and will still be solid post-Jimmer, but this is a great chance for the Lumberjacks to announce that they will again be players in the Big Sky.
- December 3 – Eastern Washington @ Washington State - Washington State lost some good talent, meaning this is a game that the Eagles could steal. If they do, we will know that Eastern Washington will be legitimate contenders in the Big Sky. Jim Hayford’s team has a few chances to make a statement out of conference, but this is the most winnable opportunity.
- December 7 – Weber State @ BYU – Once again, a big game for Weber State if they are going to be seen as the best team in the state of Utah (and they have the talent to be). It’s always tough to win at BYU (in part because, if Weber fans are to be believed, they are taking on more than just the BYU players if you know what I mean), but they will have a great chance. BYU is talented but Damian Lillard will be the best player on the court.
- December 10 – Nevada @ Montana – it is tough for Big Sky teams to get quality opponents at home, so this is a big game for the Conference. The Wolfpack have had a couple of down years, but they should be back among the top teams in the WAC this year.
- December 16 – Weber State @ California – Cal is one of the darkhorse candidates to win the Pac-12, but Weber State can play with them. They are deep enough to play with a solid team like the Bears, and this would do wonders for their resume.
- December 18 – Portland State @ Oregon State – Oregon State has dreams to make the Tournament this year, but they will face a challenge against a resurgent Portland State program. They have a couple of All Big Sky caliber players, and they will be anxious to show it on a bigger stage. Don’t be surprised to see the Vikings come out with at least one win against either Oregon (December 12) or this one against the Beavers.


1-2 paragraphs on the Big Sky coaches and how I would rank them in terms of the guy I would want coaching my team.

9. Joe O'Brien (Idaho St)
It has been a tough 5 seasons for O'Brien as head coach of the Bengals, as he currently sports a career record of 54-97. He has a solid head coaching track record at lower levels, but simply hasn't been able to recruit enough to have a successful D-1 team. Word is that he is still recruiting guys to play this season. In the final year of his contract, it seems unlikely O'Brien will be back next season barring a miracle turnaround. Fan support is on life support, as attendance dropped last season, and seems unlikely to improve much this year.

8. Brian Katz (Sacramento St)
This will be Katz 4th year in Sacramento, and he has a record there of 18-69. To be fair, he inherited a program that was in a mess, and has built them back to semi-respectability. Like O'Brien, he has a strong history in the junior college ranks, but has yet to see that pay off for his alma mater. His teams have consistently been near the bottom of the NCAA in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency. He will be given a couple more seasons at least (I think) since the program he inherited was in rough shape, but it would be a good start to reach the double digit win mark.

7. Brad Huse (Montana St)
Here is where the rankings get tough. Huse coached previously at Jamestown College (ND), and as an assistant with Montana St and Montana, but has struggled to consistently find success in Bozeman. Despite the presence of two All-Conference performers in Bobby Howard and Erik Rush for much of his tenure, Huse has a career Bobcat record of 69-83 in 5 seasons, taking over a program that was a game over .500 in the 3 seasons before his arrival. Huse has put together a couple of solid offensive teams, but Montana St has consistently been poor defensively since his arrival. He has a lot of new recruits this year, so it will be interesting to see if they can turn the program around. If not, Huse might start to feel the heat.

6. Tyler Geving (Portland St)
This will be an important year for Geving. His first two seasons have not gone very well, but he was handed a program that lost a lot of players and was under some NCAA sanctions after the departure of Ken Bone. While his teams have been some of the worst defensively the NCAA has seen, he has still managed to get them towards the middle of the Big Sky. He has also had some success recruiting (especially in JUCO and with transfers), that could pay dividends this year as Portland St looks to get back towards the top of the Big Sky. It will take a little more time, but I suspect if I redo this list in a year we might Geving a little higher up.

5. Jim Hayford (Eastern Washington)
Hayford obviously has not coached a game for the Eagles, so this is based on how I think he will do. At Division III Whitworth, he compiled a .792 winning percentage in 10 seasons, which tells me he can coach basketball and get his players to respond to him. I don't care what level of basketball it is, that is an impressive coaching record. He has also been able to get and retain solid recruits, as shown with his pickup of Collin Chiverton. At only 43, he could have a bright future ahead of him.

4. Mike Adras (Northern Arizona)
Adras has been at the helm for the Lumberjacks for 11 years, an impressive run no matter the program. While NAU has had a couple of down years in his tenure, they have experienced more solid seasons since he became the head coach, including back-to-back Big Sky Conference regular season titles in the middle of the 2000's. Earlier in his career, his teams got the ball up and down the court quickly, but for the past few years he has slowed the tempo down a bit. His teams are better offensively than defensively, and he seems to make it a priority to recruit solid outside shooters, though his teams don't shoot a ton of 3s.

3. BJ Hill (Northern Colorado)
He has had only one season as head coach of the Bears, making it tough to evaluate him, but it's tough to argue with the success of making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. Hill had spent all of his career as an assistant coach, and at age 38 has a reputation of being a solid recruiter (his first full class looks to be good, with 5 members led by Brandon Keane). The worst case scenario for them is probably similar to NDSU, where Saul Phillips took over for head coach Tim Miles and led a team built by Miles to the NCAA Tournament, but has struggled since. I think Hill has a little better pedigree and should see more success. It will be interesting to see how the Bears fare this year after facing a lot of roster turnover.

2. Wayne Tinkle (Montana)
Tinkle has a career record of 91-64 (51-29 in the Big Sky), and briefly flirted with the Fresno St. job this offseason. Tinkle is a former Grizzlies player and Montana alum, so they are all hoping he will stick around for a while (and not follow in the footsteps of Larry Krystowiak). His teams have a reputation for hard-nosed defense, as they were easily the best defensive team in the BSC last year (with thanks due to Brian Qvale). He has also put together some solid offensive teams, but it is hard to notice because his teams play a slow, grinding pace. But if he keeps winning like he has to start his career, it doesn't matter what pace his teams play, just that it continues to work.

1. Randy Rahe (Weber St)
It was tough to choose between Rahe and Tinkle, but I think Rahe has been a little more successful than Tinkle and has done a little better recruiting. His career record is 95-61 (60-20 in conference play). He has been named the Coach of the Year in the BSC 3 times, and 3 times he has had the Conference POY. Almost as importantly, he has gotten the fan base fired up about the Wildcats, as attendance has increased during his tenure, and Weber State leads the Big Sky in attendance. Like Tinkle, he has flirted with other jobs as well, and WSU fans are always a little nervous that he could leave. One thing is for sure, as long as Rahe is around, it seems the Wildcats will be contenders, and they are one of the favorites again this season.


The Big Sky will be getting two new members next season in North Dakota (spending their last year in the Great West Conference) and Southern Utah (in their final season of the Summit League), which will bring the basketball side of things to eleven teams. With all of the rumors on realignment, there was talk of the WAC poaching any number of teams, from Montana and Montana State to Sacramento State. So far, everyone has stayed put, and the Big Sky has some nice stability as a Division I basketball conference and FCS football conference.

One recurring problem for the Big Sky is attendance. They were 20th out of 31 conferences in attendance last year, and three schools averaged fewer than 1,000 fans per game. Better product and better scheduling will draw more fans, but that is easier said than done (especially on the scheduling side of things). All in all, the Big Sky is one of the most stable conferences in America, but as we have seen, things can sometimes change in an instant.


On the court, the Big Sky will be balanced and deep with seven quality teams. There is a ton of youth in the Conference as well, and 2012-13 should be even better. If you are looking for a Cinderella bandwagon to jump on, there is still time for Weber State. With a legitimate star (Lillard), great shooters (Bamforth, Bullinger, etc) and a deep frontcourt, the Wildcats will become the first Big Sky team to win an NCAA Tournament game since Montana in 2006. Hopefully you will be watching.


I have written a lot about the Big Sky over the past few months... and here are a few of the articles for each team (and Conference) that you can read if you want to go a little bit further in depth.

- Predicting the season openers
- Notes from the Preseason Coaches Conference Call
- A look at the Preseason Coaches and Media Poll
- Does the Big Sky have an attendance problem?
- A look at Big Sky efficiency numbers for the past five seasons
- Potential breakout sophomores in the Big Sky

- Notes on the team as they started practice
- Looking at Danny Powell, a 2012-13 recruit
- Taking a look at G Kevin Winford
- The X Factor for EWU, F Tremayne Johnson
- How will Eastern Washington replace Glen Dean?

- The importance of Jakub Kusmieruk
- Taking a look a wing man Chase Grabau
- Where will Idaho State get frontcourt production?
- How will the Bengals replace Broderick Gilchrist and Deividas Busma?

- A rundown of their preseason scrimmage
- Could Will Cherry be the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year?
- How will Montana replace Brian Qvale?
- A look at the Grizzlies non-conference schedule

- One of the Bobcats top recruits, Antonio Biglow, will miss the start of the year
- Highlight video of recruit Jamie Stewart
- How will Montana State replace Bobby Howard and Erik Rush?
- A look at Montana State's non-conference schedule

- The Lumberjacks will be playing their home games at the Rolle Activity Center
- Looking at the loss of Gabe Rogers to injury
- Taking a look at NAU's recruiting class
- Where will NAU get frontcourt production? (My feeling is not even Mike Adras knows)
- How will the Lumberjacks replace Cameron Jones?

- A look at UNC's exhibition win over Chadron State
- The importance and potential of G Tate Unruh
- How will the Bears replace Devon Beitzel?
- A look at Northern Colorado's recruiting class

- A look at the Vikings as they started practice
- Lamont Prosser is a Vikings recruit for 2012-13
- A look at Portland State's schedule
- Lateef McMullan is a guy that will be heavily relied on this year
- Chehales Tapscott could be the best post player in the Big Sky

- JUCO recruit Anthony Costetino left the program before playing a single game
- A look at the Hornets as they began practice
- Where will Sac State get their offense?
- Taking a look at their recruiting class
- A look at the Hornets non-conference schedule

- A look at freshman Gelaun Wheelwright
- A video from Weber State showing some action of Damian Lillard's rehab
- Weber State secured a nice commitment from Joel Bolomboy for the 2012-13 class
- The other star in Ogden is F Kyle Bullinger
- The Wilcats have a deep stable of shooters

What do you think of the Big Sky this season? Anything you would add to this preview? Please let me know what you think in the comments or via twitter or email!

Follow me on Twitter @bigskybball


  1. Wow! Excellent job!

  2. Nice job. I really think it's a race between Montana and Weber st. The Northern California connection looks strong with many of the teams. Do you think this nor-cal pipeline will continue:

    Colin Chiverton (San Jose)
    Damian Lillard (Oakland)
    Will Cherry (Oakland)
    Frank Otis (Oakland)
    Brendan Keane (Alameda)
    John Dickson (San Francisco)
    Colin Gruber (Monterey)
    Konner Veteto (Auburn)
    Walter Jackson (Stockton)
    Davion Berry (Oakland)

    It's a deeper more talented pipleline than any region that has helped the Big sky.

  3. Well done, Jon. My pick for conference freshman of the year is Mike Brown of Weber. He will surprise.

  4. Very well done! I'll be checking this site a lot during basketball season. Soon as football finishes up. :)

  5. Anon 1, Absolutely the NorCal pipeline is HUGE for the Big Sky! If you look at it, states like Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, even Colorado... these are not high school basketball rich states for the most part. No doubt you will get your solid DI players out of these places, but the teams need to go somewhere else in addition to find talent, which is why I think NorCal will definitely continue to be a major talent pipeline.

    Plus, once teams like Weber and Montana have begun to establish pipelines there, in theory the talent will continue to come. I mean, just looking at your list, the two best players in the conference (Cherry and Lillard) are NorCal guys, so that shows you the importance right there.

    Anon 2, I like Brown, but I think he has one thing missing that someone like Garrity has, and that is playing time. Weber is just too deep I think for Brown to get enough time to be the freshman of the year. These awards are a combo of talent and opportunity, and the fact that he joins such a good team works to his detriment!

  6. Weber also has Jordan Richardson from Tracy, CA. Tracy is in the central valley but 30 min drive to the Bay Area.