Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Weber State Gets A Little Publicity

From The Hoops Report:

The Wildcats from the Big Sky Conference may be the best team out West no one knows about. They had an impressive victory over instate rival Utah State a few weeks ago, and will get their opportunity against other instate teams in Brigham Young and the University of Utah in the upcoming weeks. WSU is led by junior guard Damian Lillard, who is averaging 23 ppg. Lillard is the star of the team and has the skill set to play in the NBA. He broke his leg mid way through last season which killed the Wildcats chances at making the tournament. WSU is deadly from long range with Scott Bamforth. When Lillard is able to take his man off the dribble and have the defense collapse on him, Bamforth has been lights out from the catch and shoot role. Through three games this season Bamforth is averaging 18.8 ppg and shooting 63 percent from the 3-point line. Weber will be the team to beat this year in the Big Sky and has the guard play to make it and advance in the tournament.

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North Dakota Puts The Big Sky On Notice

If you have been following this blog, you know that North Dakota will become a full-fledged member of the Big Sky Conference next season. However, they are playing some Big Sky games already in non-conference, and the results have been positive for them.

They started by beating Idaho State at home 63-47, a game that they controlled. The Bengals are expected to be last in the Big Sky, but it had to be very positive for Brian Jones that they beat them so soundly. They followed that up with an 88-81 OT win over Montana, which was much more significant for the program. The Grizzlies are projected to be a top 2 team in the conference, so those are the types of games UND needs to win to be seen as a legitimate contender next season.

The Fighting Sioux have two games against Big Sky opponents remaining, as they travel to take on Idaho State on December 3rd, and then hit the road against Sacramento State on December 18th.

UND did not get lucky in these wins (which you might think after seeing they lost to Western Illinois after the Montana game). They are a talented team that is still very young. Of their top seven, there is one senior, one junior, and five sophomores. I think they are one big man away from being a legitimate Big Sky contender over the next two seasons, but they certainly look like a top half of the conference team already.

Big Sky, you have been warned.

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Some BYU/Northern Arizona Information

A little bit of info on the game courtesy of BYU's official site.

Also an interesting NAU nugget from BYU broadcaster Greg Wrubell:

BYU's Wed night foe Northern Arizona has played six games--none in front of a crowd larger than 1,565; three audiences of 547 or smaller.
It is certainly going to be a tough test for the Lumberjacks.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Previewing Wednesday's Games

There are four games on tap in the Big Sky on Wednesday, so let's take a quick peek at them.

BYU vs. Northern Arizona (Prescott Classic)
This will be a neutral court game in Prescott, AZ, and NAU is still looking for their first win against a DI opponent. BYU is 4-2 and not the team they were last season, but they still have a lot of talent and will be near the top of the WCC. The Lumberjacks have been very inconsistent offensively, and they do not get a lot from their frontcourt. James Douglas leads the team in scoring at 13.7 PPG, but he is only shooting 42% from the field. Beyond Douglas and Stallon Saldivar, Mike Adras is still working on finding his rotation. 10 guys have averaged more than 10 minutes per game for them this year. NAU will wind up being better than they have shown, but they aren't good enough to play with BYU.

Idaho State @ New Mexico
Idaho State is also looking for its first DI win, and going to The Pit is a bad place to try and steal one. New Mexico has lost twice this year, but they are too talented to let up against the Bengals in one of the toughest arenas in college basketball to play. I am not sure the Bengals have the horses to match Drew Gordon. Look for the Lobos to improve to 5-2 as the Joe O'Brien Watch continues.

Sacramento State @ Cal Poly
The Hornets are coming off of a disappointing loss to McNeese State, and will have a tough game on the road against 4-2 Cal Poly in the Big West. Dylan Garrity has been a great distributor for them this year, but they do need him to hit a couple shots along the way, as he is shooting just 25%. Joe Eberhard has been a revelation for the Hornets, as the JUCO transfer is averaging 14/8 per game. Cal Poly is the favorite, but Sacramento State could sneak in and steal this one.

Eastern Washington @ Idaho
EWU continues their daunting non-conference schedule with a trip to Moscow to take on the Vandals. Idaho beat Montana State this year but lost to Montana, and I think Eastern Washington is closer to Montana's talent level than the Bobcats. Cliff Ederaine was the star for EWU last game, but they need big games from Collin Chiverton and Cliff Colimon, their two stars. I think Idaho will be favored by a bit, but Eastern Washington absolutely can win this game.

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Damian Lillard Leads The Country In Scoring

After his 36 point game against St. Mary's, Damian Lillard currently is the NCAA leader in scoring at 25.6 PPG.

Proof here.

Sacramento State PG Dylan Garrity is 5th in the NCAA in assists, at 7.4 per game.

Always good to see Big Sky guys up atop the leaderboards.

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Weber State Falls to St. Mary's 87-70

Photo courtesy of Weber State

Going into the game, we knew that Weber State's chances of securing an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament were pretty slim. After Monday night's loss to St. Mary's, it seems those chances are probably getting closer to non-existent.

It was not a "bad" loss, but Weber State doesn't have a ton of chances to impress the voters and committee in the non-conference slate, so this was a big one. In the first half, it looked like it was going to be a good night, as the Wildcats jumped out to a lead as big as 10 points, and entered the break ahead 32-31.

However, midway through the second half, the wheels came off. Weber State took a 52-50 lead with 12:37 to play, but St. Mary's then went on a 28-8 run, sealing up the victory. The Gaels scored 56 points in the second half, and alarmingly struggles in the second half are becoming a trend for the Wildcats.

“We played hard and executed well early on but the last 10 minutes we had some breakdowns,” said WSU head coach Randy Rahe. “We fought extremely hard but we need to improve in some areas. We let them shoot 69 percent in the second half and outrebound us. Damian was fantastic tonight but we need to have more contributions and balance from the rest of the team.”
Damian Lillard was indeed phenomenal, and led all scorers with 36 points. At one point in the second half, he scored 21 straight points for the Wildcats, showcasing his talent and the fact that not a lot of others were stepping up. He finished with 11/18 FG, 2/5 from 3PT, and 12/15 from the FT line. He was the best player on the floor.

Kyle Tresnak was a key going into the game, and he did step up, finishing with 17 points on the game. He was a force in the first half when Weber State went on a run to take the lead, and the only blemish of the day was at the foul line (3/10). Beyond those two guys, Weber State simply did not get production.

Kyle Bullinger was battling an injury, and finished scoreless in 32 minutes. Scott Bamforth was hounded all game long, and had 5 points on just 3 shot attempts. Frank Otis contributed 8 points in 24 minutes. Nobody else scored more than 4. To go on the road and beat a team like St. Mary's, who will be a player in the WCC, you need balance and a lot of guys to step up, but unfortunately they didn't have that in this one.

Weber State will be off until Saturday, when San Jose State comes to town. The loss drops Weber State to 4-1.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Montana State Takes Down San Jose State

Montana State was desperate for a win. After beating Utah on the road, they lost two straight heading into their game against San Jose State. It wasn't easy, but they got the win with a 77-70 victory over the WAC opponent.

They were led early by Christian Moon, who nailed his first 4 treys en route to 19 points on 7/11 shooting, 5/8 from three-point range. He has been a great asset off the bench, and is quietly turning into one of the best outside shooters in the Big Sky.

Jamie Stewart was also big for the Bobcats, as he had 21 points and 4 rebounds on the night. Montana State built a 12 point lead in the second half before SJSU actually came back to take the lead. However, the Bobcats tightened up the lead a bit and hit some key FTs, which enabled them to even their mark to .500.

After a big start to the year, Shaun Reid has struggled lately, and he has 3 points on 0/4 shooting. They will need him to be a key rotation player this season.

Anyone watch the game?

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Weber State Ranked 7th in Mid-Major Top 25

The new Mid-Major top 25 came out on Monday, and Weber State was ranked #7!

They were 11 last week, so it is nice to see the move up even if they didn't really do anything. They will move up even further if they can take down St. Mary's, who is ranked #11.

No other Big Sky team received votes. It seems likely Montana would have, if they had beaten North Dakota.

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Your Big Sky Thanksgiving Holiday Roundup

I had a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend, and I can only hope yours was as good. I spent a lot of time with family, and thus the lack of posts.

Anyway, just wanted to run through and do a quick scan of what happened in the Big Sky from Wednesday-Sunday, team by team.

- EWU took down UC Davis thanks to a 19-1 run and a huge game from F Cliff Ederaine. The senior forward had 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists, having the best all-around game of his career. On a night when leading scorer Collin Chiverton struggled a bit, 4 other guys scored in double figures for the Eagles.

- The Bengals had a tough weekend, as they lost in OT to Loyola Marymount and got beat 75-62 by Utah State, dropping them to 1-4. The bright spot was Melvin Morgan, who had 24 points in each game and is finally becoming the player they thought he would be.
- Jakub Kusmieruk missed the Utah State game and played only 16 minutes against LMU, anyone know what happened to him?
- It doesn't get a lot easier for the Bengals. They travel to take on New Mexico and then get North Dakota at home, a team that beat them 63-47 earlier this year.

- As covered last night, Montana took out Long Beach State on Saturday night for the biggest Big Sky win of the weekend. Long Beach State has been getting a lot of national respect, so hopefully the Grizzlies can get a little bit of that.
- On Wednesday, Montana went to North Dakota and lost a tough game to UND, 88-81 in OT. As has often been the case, the big men did not get involved, and that was a big part of their undoing.

- Things were looking sky high for the Bobcats after they beat Utah last week, but the hype has started to slow a bit. First, they lost at home to Seattle by 12, and then dropped a road game to Idaho. All of a sudden, the Bobcats are 2-3 with games against San Jose State and Cal State Bakersfield coming up. They are still struggling to get consistency from their three wings - Xavier Johnson-Blount, Jamie Stewart, and Shawn Reid. Those three have not been able to all put it together for one game yet this year.

- The Lumberjacks beat NAIA Northern New Mexico by 31, but then lost on the road to Loyola Marymount, 81-61. After 6 games, freshman James Douglas is the leading scorer with 13.7 PPG, nobody is over 8.3. He has been the only semi-consistent threat for them.
- They will now take on BYU on Wednesday in the Lumberjack Classic. It could be a good learning experience for NAU if they can keep the game competitive.

- UNC started things with a tough game on the road against Iowa State, and lost 90-82. They played pretty well, just struggled to slow down the Cyclones offensive attack, which could be pretty good under Fred Hoiberg. Freshman Tim Huskission led the team with 16 points.
- In the South Padres Invitational, the Bears won their first two games of the season. The first was against Western Carolina, which the Bears won by 17, led by Connor Osborne's 16 points. The next day they took down Southern for a 20 point win, as Mike Proctor and Emmanuel Addo each had 10 points in a balanced effort. Getting a couple wins should be a nice confidence boost for a young team, and they have a couple more cupcakes this week, so they should be 4-4 when they take on Denver in a couple weeks.

- The Vikings also picked up a couple wins in a holiday tournament, winning 2 of 3 in the Wyoming Jim Thorpe Classic. They beat Louisiana Tech 66-48 thanks to 27 from Charles Odum, and then took out Maryland East-Shore 79-69 after 25 more points from Odum. They haven't really beaten anyone yet, but they do stand 4-2.
- They started the Classic with a 14 points loss to Wyoming, a game that they could not get their offense going.

- The Hornets began things with their big win over UC Davis, but they could not continue the momentum against McNeese State, falling 68-63. The Hornets led by 17 at half, but were outscored 45-23 after intermission, a tough one to take at home. The loss drops them to 3-2, and could come back to haunt them in their quest for .500.

- Weber State took down Jacksonville State on Sunday night, setting up a huge game with St. Mary's tonight. Damian Lillard showed why he is the star of the Conference, posting 23 points and 8 rebounds.

Anything I missed over the weekend?

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Weber State to Take on St. Mary's

It wasn't the most pretty game for Weber State, but they beat Jacksonville State 69-61 in the first round of the St. Mary's Classic, setting up a championship game tilt with St. Mary's.

As is alarmingly becoming a bit of a trend, the Wildcats jumped out to a big lead, leading by 20 at the break, but let the Gamecocks hang around. The star was Damian Lillard, who had 23 points, shot the ball well, and pulled down 8 rebounds. He was the most consistent outside threat for the Weber.

Weber State still needs to feed the ball inside a bit more. Kyle Tresnak was solid with 10 points and Byron Fulton had a nice game with 8, but they need to keep feeding these guys. If they can get better balance that will serve them very well.

They now take on St. Mary's tonight at 8:30pm mountain time, and the stakes are simple: If they win, the small ripple of Weber State's at-large chances get a little bigger. If they lose, that talk ends. They are certainly good enough for this win, and needless to say it would be a really big one if they can get it.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Montana Beats Long Beach State 73-71

Photo from The Missoulian

I will get to more on the Thanksgiving holiday soon, but for now I just wanted to focus on the biggest game in the Big Sky over the break - Montana beating Long Beach State 73-71 in Missoula.

Long Beach State was a team that was a getting a lot of respect on national blogs like CBS, as well as being ranked #8 in the Mid-Major top 25. However, I knew Montana had the talent to beat them, and they showed it on Saturday night.

The Grizzlies admittedly had no answer for TJ Robinson, but the key was that they slowed down Casper Ware, who had an inefficient 15 points. Ware is the best player in the Big West, and the Griz should be commended for their work on him. It was a team effort too, as Will Cherry was plagued by some foul trouble and was only able to play 27 minutes (though Cherry did score 13 points, all in the second half).

The biggest key other than defense on Ware was that the big guys stepped up. Here are the lines for the four bigs:

Derek Selvig - 25 mins, 14 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists
Billy Reader - 21 mins, 8 points, 2 rebounds
Mathias Ward - 21 mins, 9 points, 8 rebounds
Eric Hutchison - 11 mins, 5 points, 2 rebounds

Anytime Montana can get 36 points and 18 rebounds from their PF/C spots, they are going to be extremely difficult to beat. It was a very encouraging effort from all those guys.

Of course, Montana is still not getting much respect for the win (probably in part because they lost at North Dakota on Wednesday -- but a lot of teams are going to lose to UND this year, they have a really solid team). From CBS:

Long Beach State has its opportunities against big boys, but it can't blow the games like it did against Montana, falling 73-71. Louisville is next.
No talk on how the Grizzlies forced Casper Ware into 4/12 shooting with their typical stifling defense, but talk of the 49ers "blowing the game." As if the Big Sky needed more locker room material, that certainly works.

Huge win for Montana and the Big Sky as a whole.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Big Sky Recruiting Interests

The always excellent SeaTown Sports has some info on a few recruits or potential recruits from the Big Sky.

Big man Caleb Dressler (Sr.) signed his LOI to Hawaii this month. Dressler also held offers from Montana St. and Portland St. Here is an interview we conducted with the 6'10" center in May.
Ryan Shannon (Sr.) signed his LOI to Montana St. The 6'7" forward could see time at power forward for the Bobcats, though he did play the wing for Emerald City this summer. Shannon averaged 13.1ppg and 10.7rpg last season for Marysville-Pilchuck—he will play for Mountlake Terrace this season. Shannon also held an offer from Portland St.
Jake Wiley (Sr.), a 6'6" power forward from Newport, WA on the eastern side of the state signed with the University of Montana. Wiley is originally from Long Beach, CA and bursted onto the prep scene last season after averaging 20.2ppg and 10.9rpg. He also shot 50% from the field.
Where is Battleground, WA? About three hours from Seattle according to Google Maps. Jake Belford (Sr.) from Battleground HS took an official visit to Montana St. in late September. Though the forward stands tall at 6'9", he is comfortable with shooting the basketball from the perimeter. Sources tell me that he is waiting for a bigger offer and will commit during the spring signing period.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Scott Bamforth is Big Sky Player of the Week

Scott Bamforth of Weber State was named the Player of the Week in the Big Sky, which should surprise absolutely nobody.

Bamforth, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound junior from Albuquerque, N.M., averaged 23 points per game and made 9-of-12 from 3-point land as the Wildcats improved to 3-0 with wins over the Aggies of the Western Athletic Conference and the Anteaters of the Big West.

Bamforth netted a career-high with 28 points, pulled down six rebounds, and tied his career-high with seven 3-pointers in last Tuesday’s 73-63 home win over Utah State. He made his first five 3-pointers of the game, and made his first 10 of the season. He finished 7-of-9 from 3-point range

The All-Conference guard followed that up with 18 points in Saturday’s 80-72 win at UC Irvine. Bamforth made 2-of-3 from 3-point range, 8-of-9 from the free-throw line, and also dished out two assists.
Bamforth is shooting 14/17 from downtown on the season , which is amazing. He is providing Damian Lillard with the perfect complement, and that is a big reason Weber State is so feared.

Check out the article for the other candidates for the award.

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Montana Not Getting A Lot of Respect

If you follow mid-major college basketball, you know that Long Beach State has been getting a lot of publicity following their victory over Pittsburgh last week. They are 8th in the Mid-Major Top 25, for instance.

Another place that they are getting publicity is on CBS Sports, the premier college basketball blog on the web, who talked Tuesday  about how the 49ers are going to be coming up on a tough stretch.

Long Beach got Pittsburgh in the Peterson Events Center last week. One more could put the 49ers in position for an at-large bid -- pending they roll through the Big West, but don't win the league tourney. Next up is Boise State at home, tonight, then a road contest at Montana -- before The Stretch.

It starts at Louisville on Nov. 28. Then comes BYU, followed by trips to Kansas (12-6) and North Carolina (12-10) before opening with Xavier on Dec. 22 in the Diamond Head Classic.
I can only assume that LBSU is not taking a trip to Montana as lightly as a lot of other people are, because Montana absolutely can beat them. Will Cherry will make it his goal to put the lockdown on Casper Ware, and the offense will be looking a bit better with Derek Selvig back and healthier.

The Grizzlies should be well aware of what a win like this would mean, because LBSU is a very talented team that seems like it will be in the mix for a Tourney berth. This game could be a nice boost for Montana's resume and national profile, in large part because LBSU has a lot of hype surrounding them early on this season.

If you just look at the schedule, Long Beach State at Montana at Saturday is not one of the biggest games of the day, and it doesn't necessarily jump out at you, but it is surely one of the best opportunities the Big Sky has for a marquee win, and should be a really exciting game. All Big Sky fans should be rooting for Montana on Saturday, because it will be a great chance to earn some respect nation-wide.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am traveling back home to the beautiful state of North Dakota for Thanksgiving, so expect posting to be sparse over the holiday break.

There is plenty of action though, so you can check out my predictions for the biggest games of the week. There was also be some content here and there, hopefully something fresh everyday, so be sure to still check back if you are on your computer!

Hope that everyone has a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Eastern Washington Topples Hawaii

It is never easy to fly to Hawaii and win, especially by 16. So Eastern Washington had to be excited after beating Hawaii 89-72 on Tuesday night, really taking control of the game in the second half.

Hawaii jumped out to an early lead, but the Eagles took a 33-29 lead into intermission. From the start of the 2nd half they jumped on things, leading by as many as 18 before the final margin of 17.

Collin Chiverton got things going in the first half, as he had 12 of his 20 points, a game-high. He hit three more treys, and is a huge weapon from the outside. Cliff Ederaine picked it up in the second half, scoring 14 of his 18 points. Cliff Colimon also had another nice day, with 15 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds. Jeffrey Forbes was the only other Eagle in double figures, with 14 points.

I thought this would be a good barometer for the Eagles, as they have lost some tight games on the road against good competition this year. They answered all questions, as Hawaii is a solid team. Coupled with Montana State's loss, the Eagles look like a top 3 Big Sky team to me right now. Coach Hayford said the trip has been good for his team in other ways too:

“Our players keep showing poise,” Hayford said of having second-half leads in all four games. “This has really been a good trip because the players can spend time together and bond. To play well is one thing, but to see them get along really reinforces all of those things so much. It was just a great night to be an Eagle.”
The Eagles have to be feeling good about themselves heading into the holiday, but they will have no time to rest. UC Davis comes to town on Sunday.

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Sacramento State Beats UC Davis In The Causeway Classic

Sacramento State's impressive start to the season continued with a victory over UC Davis in the Causeway Classic on Tuesday. The Hornets trailed by as many as 17 in the first half, and outscored the Aggies 47-29 in the second half en route to a 69-61 victory.

Different guys stepped up for the Hornets, which is one reason Brian Katz is so excited about this group. Last week's Big Sky POW Joe Eberhard contributed 16 points and 8 rebounds, also getting to the line 9 times. Walter Jackson was a bit more efficient with his 14 points and 6 rebounds, most of which came in the second half. Konnor Veteto had an extremely productive day, scoring 14 points and pulling down 9 rebounds in only 19 minutes. He was a terror inside, going 8/9 from the line.

One of my favorite storylines so far this year is the A:TO ratio of Dylan Garrity. He had 6 assists and 2 turnovers in this one, bringing his season totals to 31 assists vs 6 turnovers. Before the game he was ranked in the top 5 nationally in assists, now he sits just outside the top 5.

For the Hornets, who have not had a winning season in over 20 years, the fact that they now sit at 3-1 is extremely positive. That they won a rivalry game on the road by coming back from a big deficit has to make it even sweeter. Up next for Sac State is a home date with McNeese State on Saturday and a chance to move to 4-1.

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Northern Colorado Comes Up Short Against Iowa State

Northern Colorado dropped to 0-4 last night, but they can't feel too bad about their performance against Big-12 squad Iowa State on the road, a game they lost 90-82.

The name of the game for the Bears was balance, as 5 guys scored between 13 and 16 points. Some of the excellent performances - Senior forward Mike Proctor had 14 points and 6 rebounds, Tate Unruh scored 13 points, including three from downtown, Emannuel Addo scored 15 points in 22 minutes off the bench, with an efficient 7/12 night, freshman Tim Huskission is showing the makings of a star, as he had 16 points and 5 rebounds in 19 minutes, and Paul Garnica had 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. They shot 49% from the field.

Simply put, they were undone by their defense. You can't give up 90 points, especially on the road, and still win the game. They did a nice job of keeping Royce White in check (only had 10 points, though he did have 8 rebounds and 7 assists), but Iowa State had 6 guys in double figures. At the end of the day, UNC is 0-4, but if I were them I would feel better about myself than Montana State does today.


Montana State looked like it had a lot of momentum after beating Utah, but then Seattle came to town and beat them soundly. Seattle shot 56% from the field, while the Bobcats shot just 37.5%.

There were a couple of bright spots for Brad Huse, but he must have left this game with a lot more questions than he had before it. Montana State was outclassed by a team that Portland State had just beaten, as the Redhawks were more physical, and simply better. For Coach Huse it is back to the drawing board before Montana State heads to Idaho to take on the Vandals.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Mid-Major Top 25 Out, Weber State 11th

The new Mid-Major Top 25 is out, and Weber State clocks in at #11. They are 3-0 with wins over Northern New Mexico, Utah State, and @ UC Irvine. In the initial poll, they were 19th.

However, that performance was not enough for them the top 15 of the Non-BCS teams according to CBS Sports. Hopefully that will change with some more time.

Montana did not receive any votes, but they will have a chance to change that this week. They travel to North Dakota on Wednesday, and then host Long Beach State this week. LBSU is ranked 11th in CBS' poll, and 8th in the Mid-Major Top 25.

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Guest Post: 11/22/11 Big Sky Women's Basketball Rankings

Just like last week, we have a guest post with rankings of the Women's teams in the Big Sky. The writer identifies himself as bigskywbball.

Week 2 of non-conference play in the Big Sky didn't do much to clear anything up and really, nonconference means extremely little in the big picture for the Big Sky and the NCAA tournament. Still a whole lot of wait and see. There were big home wins by ISU (vs. Boise) and EWU (vs. San Diego) and huge performances by the Big Sky's elite players: Jones, Bussey, Semansky, Ryan, Baker, Jeppeson.

(Number in parenthesis is quality win points. +2 for road win, +1 for home win, +0.5 for non D1 win, -1 for home loss)

1 - Portland State (2) - A close road loss to a Pac 12 team isn't enough to bump the Vikings out of the top spot. Still concerned about post presence for PSU, but wow their guards are good!

2 - Montana State (3) - Two home wins are great but against non division one teams still don't tell us much about the Bobcats. The duo of Bussey and Semansky look to be the most potent 1-2 punch in the league, the question will be bench depth and a consistent #3 scorer.

3 - Idaho State (3) - Great home win and a bad road loss leave us still scratching our heads about my prediction that the BSC Tourney will be in Pocatello in March. It will be interesting to see how the Bengals hold up as they go on the road for the next few weeks.

4 - Montana (1.5) - The Bad News - The Lady Griz are shooting 11% from 3 this season. The Good News - If teams still can't stop Katie Baker when the LG are shooting that bad. What will she be able to do if they start hitting a few 3's?

5 - Eastern Washington (1.5) - Big home win against San Diego has bumped the Eagles up a few spots this week. How will they fair against an Oregon State team that beat down Montana State by 30?

6 - Northern Colorado (2) - Have absolutely no idea about this team. They are talented enough to compete for the Big Sky Championship and inconsistent enough to not make the tournament. Scored 37 points against an average Santa Clara team and 85 two nights later against San Fransisco.

7 - Northern Arizona (1.5) - Two tough road losses don't tell us much about a team. The home game a few nights later does...wait and see Jacks

8 - Weber State (-1) - The hardest early season schedule in the Big Sky could make the Wildcats tough...could also crush their confidence in a new system.

9 - Sac State (0) - They beat Long Beach State 74-67... If they have changed styles, perhaps they have a chance to be competitive.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Nice Weekend For The Big Sky

There were only four games on the schedule, but the Big Sky represented itself well, going 3-1 on the weekend.

The biggest story was the return of Derek Selvig from injury, as he helped Montana beat San Diego 73-60. Selvig adds a whole different dimension to their offense with his skill set. The Griz have struggled at times this year to put the ball in the basket, and it is no coincidence that they had their best performance on that side of the ball this year on Sunday.

In Saturday's action, both Weber State and Montana State took care of business on the road. Weber State did not look great, but they took down UC Irvine 80-72 behind good games from Damian Lillard and Scott Bamforth. Montana State beat Utah 70-64, thanks to some nice FT shooting late, as well as a solid day from Rod Singleton.

Northern Colorado suffered the lone loss, losing 78-69 to Northern Iowa, but even they represented themselves well, behind a career day from G Paul Garnica. The Bears drop to 0-3.

Here is a look at the week ahead, with predictions for eight of the biggest games of the week in the Big  Sky.

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Derek Selvig Returns As Montana Beats San Diego

Montana took down San Diego for a nice road victory on Sunday, but the biggest story for them was the return of big man Derek Selvig.

In Montana's 73-60 victory, Selvig did not start, but he played 23 minutes, scoring 8 points and grabbing 6 rebounds. Selvig opened things up a bit for the Griz, who had their best offensive output of the season. Montana shot a sizzling 60% from the field.

Kareem Jamar was the high scorer with 14, including 4/4 from beyond the arc. He also had 5 assists and 5 rebounds. They also got 13 points from Will Cherry, but he did turn the ball over 7 times. The big key was contributions from the big men. Billy Reader had the best game of his young career, with 11 points and 4 rebounds. Mathias Ward contributed 10 points as well.

If Montana can consistently get efforts like that from the big men, they are a serious threat to Weber State. Suddenly, the 1 point victory over Great Falls is forgotten, and the Griz are looking like one of the top 2 teams in the Big Sky again.


Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Northern Colorado gave a nice effort, losing 78-69 against Northern Iowa, but it just wasn't enough.

The star of the game for the Bears was guard Paul Garnica, who finished with a career high 22 points. He also had 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. Garnica shot 6/9 from downtown, and is slowly morphing into their go-to guy. Tate Unruh was the only other guy in double figures, as he had 12 points. The Bears were undone by their 25 turnovers, as well as lack of production up front. Five Panthers scored in double figures.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Predictions For The Week Ahead

It should be a good week ahead for the Big Sky, as we get into the heart of non-conference play and the always busy Thanksgiving weekend time.

@ Montana State 67, Seattle 58 (11/22)
Portland State needed a last-second shot to beat Seattle, but the Bobcats have some momentum after beating Utah, and they will be playing with a lot of confidence. Montana State will eventually need to find a go-to guy, but for now their balance is their strength. They have a lot of guys that can hurt you.

Iowa State 77, Northern Colorado 63 (11/22)
Iowa State is simply a bit more talented than UNC, as the Bears will have their hands full trying to slow down Royce White.So far this year, White has shown all of the talent that originally made him a high recruit, with averages of 23 and 12.5 through two games. UNC will need to be firing from the outside if they want to have a chance in this game.

Eastern Washington 71, @ Hawaii 67 (11/22)
It is never easy to go to Hawaii and play, but there is something I like about this Eastern Washington group. They have played Gonzaga and  Oregon very tough on the road, and I think they can pull one out against Hawaii. They will need good games from Collin Chiverton and Cliff Colimon, two guys that have looked very solid so far this year. EWU is reliant on the three-point shot, so they will need it to be falling.

Montana 63, @ North Dakota 58 (11/23)
North Dakota is a talented team. They beat Idaho State pretty easily at home, and gave Bradley all the wanted on the road. But they are still a young team, and I think they will struggle with the defensive intensity of Montana. It will be a matchup of the guards, especially if Derek Selvig is still unable to go. While UND's guards are good, Montana's are a little more complete.

@ Wyoming 70, Portland State 65 (11/25)
Wyoming beat UNC soundly at home, and this one will be in Laramie. Portland State is certainly good enough to win this, but they have been a bit uneven so far this year. They laid an egg offensively against Denver, and they needed a furious comeback to beat a middling Seattle team at home. I see them falling behind early, and spending the rest of the game catching up.

@ Idaho 65, Montana State 61 (11/26)
Montana dominated the first half when they played Idaho, before struggling in the second half. As I talked about earlier, the Bobcats are off to a nice start, but it will be a road test going to Idaho on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Idaho has been a solid three-point shooting team, so Montana State will have to guard the perimeter.

@ Montana 68, Long Beach State 67 (11/26)
The game of the week in the Big Sky, and this prediction is based on the fact that I think Derek Selvig will be able to play by the time this game rolls around. LBSU was already a popular Cinderella pick before the year, and then they went and beat #9 Pittsburgh. They are very talented, lead by PG Casper Ware. Montana is pretty good themselves, and they are looking for a signature win out of conference, and this is one that would hold up well. This pick is based on the fact that I think Will Cherry, the best defender in the BSC, can slow down Ware.

Utah State 67, @ Idaho State 57 (11/26)
With the way New Mexico State has played this year, I am not so sure that Utah State is still the favorite in the WAC, but they still have plenty of talent to take down the Bengals. Idaho State needs Melvin Morgan to start playing like the guy he was hyped up to be. This game is in Pocatello, but it is hard to see the Bengals pulling off the upset.

Any games that you disagree on?

Season Record: 6-3

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Montana State Officially Signs Ryan Shannon

I said this a couple weeks ago based on reporting from Msalacat, but a few days ago it was made official that F Ryan Shannon would be coming to Bozeman to play basketball.

Shannon averaged 13.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.2 blocked shots and 3.1 assists a game as a junior at Marysville High School near Seattle. He earned Washington 4A Player of the Week honors once, along with Second Team All-Wesco honors after the season.
A couple of good articles on this, one is a nice short bio on Montana State's website.

The best information on all of this, unsurprisingly, comes from Gidal over at Blue & Gold. He has background, interviews with Coach Huse, Ryan Shannon, and Shannon's current high school coach. A quote from Shannon:

“I’m excited to get it done with (and) I’m really excited to be a part of the Bobcats program. They have a lot to offer, and I think that … I’ll be able to go in there, learn a lot and hopefully get some decent amount of time my freshman year.”
He looks to be a very nice addition for the Bobcats.

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Touching Article on Scott Bamforth

Fantastic article from Roy Burton of the Standard-Examiner on Scott Bamforth and the trials he went through with the birth of his newborn son.

Scott had been at Kendra Bamforth's side in the early morning hours Sunday, Nov. 6, when the doctors told them she had a condition called preeclampsia and if she didn't have the baby immediately, four weeks early, both could die.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Weber State Takes Care Of Business

Weber State had a sneakily tough road game against UC Irvine, but they came out with an 80-72 win.

They trailed by 2 with under 6 minutes to play, but then went on an 11-1 run to seal the victory. Damian Lillard led the team with 27 points, including 4 assists. Scott Bamforth was excellent as well, with 18 points on 5 shots (now that is efficiency!) including hitting another 2/3 from long-range. Kyle Bullinger pulled down 16 rebounds, stunningly topping his previous game total of 14 rebounds.

Weber State fans, what did you think of the game?

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Montana State Topples Utah

I am guessing that a lot of teams are going to have the pleasure of beating Utah this year, but it still feels good to get a prediction right for a change. I said earlier today that the Bobcats were simply the more talented team, and they showed it on Saturday.

Montana State jumped out to a 9-0 run and never looked back, winning 70-64 in Utah. Rod Singleton led them with 18 points, while Tre Johnson contributed 15 points and 6 rebounds and JUCO big man Mohammed Fall showed he was worth the hype with 12 points and 6 rebounds.

The game recap said that the game was tied with just under a minute left when Christian Moon hit a bit 3, which helped jumpstart a 9-3 for the Bobcats which gave them the win. For all of the preseason talk about JUCOs Xavier Johnson-Blount and Jamie Stewart, Moon might be the one that has had the biggest impact. He is a great shooter and is a valuable role player for the Bobcats.

The Bobcats improve to 2-1 and own a win over a Pac-12 team. It's a solid start for Brad Huse, who is starting to settle into a bit of a rotation.

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North Dakota Falls To Bradley

Future Big Sky member North Dakota fell on the road against MVC member Bradley on Saturday night, losing 70-61. Troy Huff led the team with 22 points and 12 rebounds.

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11/12/11 Northern Colorado vs New Mexico State Photos

I am a little late posting these, but more shots taken by my lovely and talented wife!

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Big Sky Weekend Primer

There are four games on tap for this weekend in the Big Sky Conference, so let us take a look at each one. Ranked in order from most compelling to least compelling.

1. Montana State @ Utah (Saturday)
This is a game that the Bobcats can win, and I believe they will win. Both teams are 1-1, and this one will be played at Utah, but the Bobcats are simply the more talented team this season. So far this season the Utes beat San Diego Christian at home by 3 and lost at Boise State by 21. The Bobcats lost by 6 at Arizona State, and beat Northern New Mexico by 50. Montana State is more athletic and deeper than Utah, who is simply not a solid basketball team right now. After watching this game, if you didn't know any better, you'd think Montana State was the Pac-12 team.

2. Montana @ San Diego (Sunday)
Montana is 2-1 and coming off of a win against WAC team Idaho, while San Diego is 2-0 but their best win is against Stephen F. Austin. As usual the Grizzlies are a solid defensive team, while the Toreros have struggled a bit offensively so far this season efficiency-wise. I think that combination will be the difference to help Montana win a close one to pick up a solid out-of-conference victory.

3. Northern Colorado vs. Northern Iowa (Sunday)
The Bears are 0-2 and coming off an ugly loss to Wyoming, and now will take on Northern Iowa in the first round of the South Padre Invite (they will take on Iowa State on Tuesday). The Bears desperately want to avoid leaving the tournament 0-4, but they will have their work cut out for them. The one thing you know about the Panthers under Ben Jacobsen is that they are very disciplined and sound defensively, and that can be frustrating for a young team like the Bears. I think Northern Colorado has enough talent to match up with Northern Iowa, but they aren't quite ready to win a game like this.

4. Weber State @ UC Irvine (Saturday)
Weber State is 2-0 after beating Utah State, while UC Irvine is off to an 0-2 with tight losses at California and at San Jose State. The Anteaters (what a great nickname) have not been very consistent this year, but they like to push the tempo a bit (they just haven't been able to shoot well this year). Weber State has been a little too reliant on the three-pointer this year, and they will need to get some inside scoring from guys like Kyle Tresnak and Byron Fulton, but they should have enough firepower to win this sneaky tough road game.

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Northern Arizona and Idaho State Take Care Of Business

Picture from Idaho State website.

Northern Arizona and Idaho State had a couple of easy ones on Friday, and thankfully they went out and took care of business in games they should have and did dominate.

The Lumberjacks got their first win against Arizona Christian, winning 103-42. The game was never in doubt, as the Lumberjacks took a 27 point lead into halftime and dominated the second half even more. It is not a game that will boost any resumes or look impressive, but sometimes it is good to just get that first win and to experience playing well to boost confidence. Five players posted double figures, including Stallon Saldivar (with a career-high 17 points and 9 assists) and freshman James Douglas (with 18 points).

They should have another easy win on Tuesday as they take on Northern New Mexico, an NAIA team that has been throttled by both Weber State and Montana State this season.


Meanwhile, Idaho State took out Colorado Christian 93-66, though it was only a 9 point game at halftime. The Bengals had 6 guys in double figures, led by 16 points from Andre' Hatchett. It was a very nice offensive performance, but Coach O'Brien wasn't super pleased with the first half defense:

“The first six minutes we played like we had been practicing and played with a lot of intensity on the defensive end of the floor,” O'Brien said. “That resulted in some running and easy shot opportunities. They were really frustrated with what they were going to do offensively. They were having a hard time handling Chase, Kenny and Andre's pressure. The last 12 minutes of the half we backed off defensively and started lining up between the ball and the rim. All we did was give up lay ups and commit fouls.”
Still, they figured it out in the second half and coasted for an easy victory. The win improves them to 1-2.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Eastern Washington and Sacramento State Lose Tight Ones

At one point last night, it looked like both Eastern Washington and Sacramento State would beat Pac-12 teams. While moral victories ultimately don't mean anything, both teams have to be encouraged by their play on Thursday night.

Eastern Washington led Oregon by as many as nine points in the second half, but couldn't hold off a Ducks rally late, as they fell 73-65. It was their second straight tight loss against a high level opponent, as they fell in the season opener to Gonzaga.

The culprit was poor shooting for the Eagles. Cliff Colimon led them in scoring with 14 points, but he was just 4/14 from the field. Tremayne Johnson was next with 12 points (and 7 rebounds), but he shot just 4/15 from the field. Collin Chiverton had been averaging 25 PPG in his first two efforts, but he was plagued by some foul trouble in this game, as he only played 15 minutes before fouling out. He finished with 8 points and 3 rebounds.

I am sure that Jim Hayford has to be disappointed with his two close losses rather than having a signature win, but the Eagles have looked very competitive this year, with the consensus being that they look like one of the top three teams in the Big Sky. They travel to Hawaii next Tuesday, a game I am sure they believe they can and will win.


Meanwhile, Sacramento State put together a great effort against Washington State, leading all of the first half and parts of the second half before losing 73-65 to the Cougars.

The Hornets used an eight-man rotation throughout the game, and built leads of 7-0, 25-12, and 29-16 during the first half. Neither team had a lead larger than four points the first 9:28 of the second half before a layup from Faisal Aden gave Washington State their largest lead - at the time - of five points with 10:32 remaining. The Cougars led the rest of the way as the Hornets were down just six points with 4:37 remaining before a DaVonte Lacy three-pointer put WSU up nine points.
John Dickson led them in scoring and had a real nice game, scoring 21 points (on 9/18 FG) and grabbing 6 rebounds. They need him to be their star, and he delivered in this game. He is probably their most talented and athletic player.

Reigning Big Sky POW Joe Eberhard was also big, finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. He continues to be a great find for Brian Katz, as he is averaging 13 points and 8.7 rebounds per game so far this year. The other star was a guy I have been praising all year, and that is Dylan Garrity. He has not provided much scoring this year (5 points in this one), but he continues to dish out assists and make plays at a great rate. He had 12 assists in this game, and for the year he has 25 assists to 4 turnovers. He could quickly become one of the best PGs in the Big Sky.

Eagles and Hornets fans, what did you think of your teams' performances?

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Montana Beats Idaho, Some Questions Still Remain

Montana took down Idaho 57-52 on Thursday night, mostly on the back of an outstanding game by junior PG Will Cherry.

His 24 points certainly didn't hurt. The career-high 11 rebounds - from a 6-foot-1 point guard - were crucial. His 4-for-6 effort from 3-point range certainly got the crowd of 2,684 fired up against the Grizzlies' former Big Sky Conference rival.

And the six points Cherry limited the Vandals' Deremy Geiger to - 10 below his team-best average - certainly looked big after the Griz survived a near second-half collapse.
After struggling a bit in the first two games of the year, Cherry played like the First-Team Big Sky player that he is against the Vandals. His 24 points and 11 rebounds were game highs, and the rebounds were especially important for a team that struggled rebounding earlier this season. He also led the team with 4 assists and 2 steals, and played outstanding defense on Idaho G Deremy Geigel. All in all, it is far to say he carried the Grizzlies.

Cherry needed to carry them on this game, because once again the frontcourt did not produce. Still without Derek Selvig, here is the stat line for the Grizzlies three bigs (Mathias Ward, Billy Reader, Eric Hutchison): 64 minutes, 9 points, 8 rebounds, 11 fouls. That is simply not going to get it done. Even if they do not provide a lot of offensive pop (which Selvig will help provide when he is back), they need to contribute rebounding the basketball, where they have not been good. Mathias Ward had 1 rebound in 32 minutes.

Montana is 3-1 but there is certainly a lot of work to be done to get to where they want to be. Wiith games at San Diego on Sunday, and then a trip to North Dakota and home date against Long Beach State next week, they quickly have a chance to pick up some nice wins. According to Griz Basketball, "Selvig was not in uniform Thursday, but he was out of the boot that he’s been wearing since spraining his left ankle in an exhibition win over Lewis-Clark State on Nov. 3."

The Grizzlies are getting better, but they need the bigs to show up this week. If they do, Montana has a chance to distingush themselves from a lot of the Big Sky.

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Weber State Could Have A Chance At An At-Large Bid

This hopefully will be a story we can follow all year, but for now, just a link to an article from Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports:

Randy Rahe's Weber State squad quietly got a victory last night against Utah State.

The Wildcats will likely have three more shots - against Saint Mary's at the Gaels' tournament, at BYU and at Cal - to make their way into the equation as potential mid-major at-large candidates come March.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chehales Tapscott Game Winner Against Seattle

Video of Chehales Tapscott's game-winner on Tuesday night.

For some more on Portland State and their victory, check out Crawford's Court.

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Guest Post: Northern Arizona's Hellish Weekend in San Francisco

We have a guest blogger on today, going by the initials MP. We will probably see a post a week from him, as he brings another viewpoint and a little more coverage to the blog, which is always a nice thing.

The college basketball season (for most teams) is merely only 4 days old. So how low can things get in that time span? Well, if you ask the young Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, pretty low.

Granted, the college basketball season is a marathon, not a race. And in small-conference basketball, non-conference games don’t have as much of an impact as it does for the big boys. That being said, NAU kicked their season off in a somewhat disturbing fashion in the Hilltop Challenge in San Francisco.

Heck, before the season even started, the Lumberjacks received bad news when their leading returning scorer, Gabe Rogers suffered an injury that will keep him out for at least two months.

The Challenge featured a round-robin three game set between Northern Arizona, University of San Francisco, Louisiana-Lafayette and North Dakota State.

It was a tournament filled with teams who are expected to perform marginal, at best, in their respective conferences. That meant Mike Adras’ squad had a chance to make an early splash on the 2011-2012 season.

In game one, the Lumberjacks tipped-off against Louisiana-Lafayette (or University of Louisiana, if you’re new-school), it was a sloppy affair. And NAU found themselves down 40-27 at the break. The Ragin’ Cajuns 6’9 JUCO transfer Kadeem Coleby (by way of the Bahamas) was a force in the paint all evening long, scoring 16 points--but more astonishingly--blocking 8 shots. A young Lumberjack was led offensively by freshman James Douglas who scored 21 points, but the most frustrating stat for Adras’ squad in the 83-66 loss was the 24 turnovers they gave up.

On Saturday evening, in the second game, the ‘Jacks faced the host school of the Hilltop Challenge, the San Francisco Dons. Twenty turnovers and a 35% shooting performance later, NAU was trounced 69-50.

In the third and final affair, the turnovers were restricted (12), but the North Dakota State Bison were able to shoot an unconscious 60% from the floor, which paced them to a 21-point lead at the break, and after a second half which saw Northern Arizona pick up the pace, the Bison left the Lumberjacks 0-for-San Francisco with a 70-58 victory.

An 0-3 start isn’t necessarily reason to hit the panic button for the faithful in Flagstaff, Arizona. But it raises a question of how will this young team be able to turn the corner in time to be a competitive factor in conference play?

Those close to the Lumberjack program hope Rogers (the junior who averaged 13.1 points) is going to be available by mid-January, shortly after Big Sky play begins. But, what’s to say he will be able to play a major role on this team immediately after his return? Or what if his timetable gets pushed back to early-February, and the Lumberjacks aren’t contending at the top of the standings? Wouldn’t the wiser move be just to redshirt him at that point?  [Editor's Note: From my understanding, Rogers redshirted his first year, so this option is unfortunately unavailable for the Lumberjacks]

The Lumberjacks (excluding Rogers) return only three contributors from last season, two of which played a big role (assist-extraordinaire Stallon Saldivar and Durrell Norman). That means there is a pressing need for this team to figure out their individual roles during non-conference play. The major problem though, is do they have anyone that can create their own shot?

Cam Jones was a special talent, who could create for himself as well as score from all places on the floor. The hole he left in his graduation is gaping for this program. Not only did Jones graduate, but so did Eric Platt and Shane Johannsen, two of the top-four scorers from last year’s Big Sky Tournament semifinal team.

With such inexperience, some young guns are going to have to grow up quick. And without any real size inside to speak of, that young help will come in the form of guard-play. Namely, point guard James Douglas, long-range shooter Danny Cheek and Colin Gruber. All three guys were just at their high school senior prom just months ago.

It might be a scary thought for Lumberjacks fans, but the keys of the program are being handed over to three 19-year old kids until reinforcements arrives. And those three kids will dictate whether Northern Arizona is a team that is strictly preparing for future seasons, or if they are ready to make an impact this season.

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Sacramento State Starts 2-0

Sacramento State kept their non-conference schedule light this year for obvious reasons. They wanted to get off to a good start in the win column, and get some momentum heading into conference play. After 18 wins in the past three seasons, I like this strategy.

So far, things are going as planned.

They opened their season with an unimpressive 70-56 win over Menlo College, but then had a nice 75-54 home victory over Central Arkansas. They may not have played the toughest competition, but 2-0 is still 2-0, and they have to be pleased with the start and the way they have taken care of business.

Against Central Arkansas, a lot of guys stepped up. John Dickson (16), Konnor Veteto (16), and Joe Eberhard (12) were all in double figures, and as a team the Hornets shot about 57%. The biggest star might have been Dylan Garrity. The true freshman PG doled out 9 assists compared to 0 turnovers (and chipped in 5 points and 4 rebounds). For the season he has 13 assists to 1 turnover, a great rate even if he wasn't a freshman. I had him on my preseason Third-Team All Big Sky, and he is showing why so far.

Sacramento State's next 4 games are - @ Washington State, @ UC Davis, McNeese State, and @ Cal Poly. Winning at least 3 of these 4 games is not out of the question, and would put the Hornets in a very nice position early in the season in their quest for their first .500 season in 20+ years.

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Sacramento State's Joe Eberhard Named Player of The Week

From the Big Sky official site:

Sacramento State’s Joe Eberhard has been selected as the first Big Sky Conference men’s basketball Player of the Week after leading the Hornets to their first 2-0 start since the 2000-01 season.

Eberhard, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound junior forward from Newport Beach, Calif., averaged 11.5 points, seven rebounds and two assists per game as the Hornets picked up home wins over Menlo College and Division I Central Arkansas of the Southland Conference.

Not a bad start for the JUCO transfer. Hopefully he can keep it up once the level of competition ratchets up!

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Eastern Washington Has Big Day Recruiting

Will get more into this when I have a bit more time, but Eastern Washington signed five guys to letters of intent today.

Two players from Germany, two from Australia and one from Arizona highlight Jim Hayford’s first recruiting class
Read the article, there is tons of great stuff in there.

Safe to say that Jim Hayford is off to a GREAT start in Cheney.

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Portland State Wins A Thriller Over Seattle

Without about a 1:30 to play, Seattle was up over Portland State 65-58 and looked like they would score a nice road victory. However, the Vikings had something to say about that.

The Vikings scored the last 8 points of the game to win 66-65, improving their record to 1-1 and getting a nice regional victory. They did not shoot the ball particularly well, but they stayed in the game with their defense (something they haven't been able to say a lot over the past couple seasons), and made enough plays at the end of the game.

Two plays stick out most. First, with the Vikings down 65-64, Seattle had the ball with 45 seconds left. Charles Odum, who the led the team in scoring with 17 points, made a great defensive play to knock the ball out of bounds. With their next possession, Portland State got the ball to their best player Chehales Tapscott, who went to work in the post. He made a nice move inside, and simply muscled the ball in with a bit of an acrobatic shot to put the Vikings ahead. Seattle got a desperation three at the buzzer, but it hit the rim and fell off, securing the comeback win.

Tapscott did not have a great game, as he finished just 4/12 (and missed a key FT down the stretch), but he made the big play when it mattered. The Vikings still have some issues... including the poor play of JUCO PG Lateef McMullan (5 points, 3 assists, 7 turnovers), and their lack of depth, but for one night they can go to bed happy after a nice comeback win at home.

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Eastern Washington Gets Their First Win

No big article, just a link to Eastern Washington's article after their 70-61 victory over South Dakota.

Collin Chiverton scored 25 again, and he is looking like a star for the Eagles.

Chiverton, a transfer from City College of San Francisco, scored 25 points for the second-straight game, and also added five rebounds and a pair of assists. He made 9-of-21 shots from the field, including 6-of-13 3-pointers. He also scored 25 with six treys in Eastern’s season-opening 77-69 loss at Gonzaga.

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Weber State Recruiting Interest

Via RecruitRecon:

2013 5-8 PG Jalen Smith Langham Creek (TX) is gaining interest from Weber State, Southern Illinois, Wichita State and Northern Iowa.

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Guest Post: 11/15/11 Big Sky Women's Basketball Rankings

I had somebody want to anonymously contribute to the blog in the women's section of the Big Sky Conference... So, they sent me their power rankings, and here they are:


1 - Portland State - Two home wins are a great start for defending the regular season champions. Question is the lack of post production. Can't question the production of guards Jones/VanBrocklin/Lampman.

2 - Idaho State - The most balanced team picks up a road win. Bengals have the experience and weapons to win the Big Sky. We will learn more this week when they host Boise State.

3 - Montana State - Big road win followed by unknown road loss (similar to how MSU finished last season). If Oregon State is the real deal this year, this loss isn't bad, if OSU is the cellar dwellar that the Pac 12 coaches and media think they are, not a good sign for the Cats.

4 - Northern Colorado - Tough road loss against a good Bradley team. Will learn a lot more about the Bears this week when they will play two winnable road games.

5 - Montana - The Lady Griz can't score. That didn't stop them from winning the Big Sky Tournament last year. Baker and Sullivan have the talent to be forces in the Big Sky, but it won't happen if they can't get perimeter scoring.

6 - Northern Arizona - Road loss and home win. NAU is the "best of the rest" and the question will be if they can break into the top five. They definitely have the talent, need to see more.

7 - Eastern Washington - Giving up 90 points and losing by 21 at home is a tough way to start the season. The Eagles will miss Piper and Cooper immensely this year. Will be interesting to see who steps up.

8 - Weber State - Only played one game, on the road. Will wait and see what the Wildcats have before moving them out of the 8 spot.

9 - Sac State - Lost 117 - 55 to Oklahoma. Could be a long season for the Hornets.


I will be the first to admit that I do not follow Big Sky women's hoops... so I will turn to the readers, what do you think of his rankings?

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Weber State Stakes Claim As The Best Team In Utah

I said earlier that Weber State needed to beat Utah State if they wanted to be considered the best team in Utah, and they came through on Tuesday night thanks to a big first half and a huge day from Scott Bamforth.

The Wildcats came our firing in the first half, leading 42-27 at the intermission and leaving no doubt for everyone who was the best team in the state of Utah. They slowed down a bit in the second half and allowed Utah State to cut the lead down to as little as 6, but they held on for a pretty convincing victory over the Aggies.

The star of the game was Scott Bamforth, who had 28 points and 6 rebounds on the day, including 7 three-pointers. He made his first five attempts, which ran his streak up to 10 straight makes from three-point land before his first miss. He was especially huge in the first half, where it seemed like time and time again the Aggies left him alone, and he buried them. In the first half he had 17 points on 5/6 three-point shooting. Bamforth is also a good ball handler, which can help to take the pressure off Lillard.

Damian Lillard did not have his best game, but it is a testament to the depth of the Wildcats that they won solidly without their star playing his best. He did finish with 17 points, but shot just 4/16 from the field and 2/9 from downtown. However, he played solid defense, and held Brockeith Pane to 14 points. Even if he is not scoring, Lillard does other things to help his team win.

Kyle Bullinger also played very well for Weber, showing that he is the glue guy of the team. He rebounds the ball very well for his size (6'6'') as he had a game-high 13 rebounds, and always seems to have his nose around the basketball. He has a nice midrange game as well that can extend beyond the arc, and is just a nice all-around player. Jordan Richardson is the other guard that got some run, and I liked him. Offensively he takes care of the ball well, and defensively he is a nice on the ball defender. I don't think any coach would be displeased with those attributes from the back up PG.

Obviously the guards are the strength of the team, but the big guys are very solid as well. Kyle Tresnak had a nice first half (finished with 6 points), and showed some good skill around the basket. Frank Otis is very athletic for a big man, and made some nice plays even if the box score didn't show him having a big day. Byron Fulton is another offensive weapon for them (he had 10 points, including 2/3 from downtown), and he can score inside and out. Darin Mahoney is a solid rebounder and probably their best interior defender.

Weber State will not have a ton of chances to prove themselves this season out of conference, so this is a big win. (For the record, there other two big games are at BYU and at California). They think they are the best team in Utah, and it is hard to argue after this game. Less than a week ago, Utah State took down BYU 69-62, and now Weber State has beaten Utah State 73-63, and did it in convincing fashion.

Steps to being the best team in Utah:
Beat Utah State: Check
Beat BYU: Test comes December 7
Beat Utah: Test comes December 22
Beat Southern Utah: Test comes December 10

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Weber State Needs to Beat Utah State

Weber State thinks they are the best team in Utah, and the case could certainly be argued. They have a ton of returning talent, the best player in the Big Sky, and huge expectations heading into the year.

The good thing about college basketball is that these arguments are not simply academic, but they get settled on the court. The first test for Weber State comes Tuesday night against Utah State, who will be coming to the Dee Events Center. Last season, Utah State won 77-65 in Logan. This time, Weber State gets the chance to play them in Ogden.

If Weber State wants to be seen as the best team in Utah, they have three games to prove it:

- Tonight against the Aggies
- On December 7th they travel to Provo to take on BYU (who Utah State just beat)
- On December 10th Southern Utah comes to Ogden
- On December 22nd they get the Utah Utes at home

It is a big game for the Wildcats for a couple of reasons. One, it is always a big game agaisnt the Aggies, there is certainly no love lost between the schools. Two, Weber State's goal this year should not simply be to win the Big Sky, but to represent themselves in the postseason. To do that, it helps to have a higher seeding, and to do that, you need non-conference victories that stand out.

Beating Utah State less than a week after they took out BYU would be a huge first step. And it is vital for them to stake the claim to being the best team in the state. To do it, they will need to slow down Brockeith Pane, who might be the best player in the WAC. If they do that, they will have a great shot in this one

Game on.

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Future Big Sky Member Beats Current Big Sky Member

Idaho State traveled to Grand Forks to take on the University of North Dakota on Tuesday night, and the future Big Sky member had their way with the current Big Sky member. The Fighting Sioux won 63-47 in a defensive battle.

Aaron Anderson led the Sioux with 17 points, including getting to the line for 9 FT attempts. Jamal Webb, a guy I believe has the potential to be one of the best mid-major PGs in America, contribued 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. It was a night when UND's most talented player, Troy Huff, contributed just 8 points, but the rest of the team was more than able to pick up the slack.

For the Bengals, it was an ugly performance. They shot 36% from the field, 14/27 from the foul line, and made just three 3-pointers. For the second straight game Melvin Morgan did not play well, this time going scoreless in 11 minutes. Jakub Kusmieruk was their best player when he was on the floor (as he should have been - UND does not have a strong or deep front line), but he only played 23 minutes.

For Joe O'Brien and the Bengals, the near upset of Oklahoma suddenly seems very far away.

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Montana Escapes With 60-59 Win Over Great Falls

Didn't watch the game and don't have time to go deep into it, but it is not a good sign for Montana that they narrowly beat Great Falls 60-59 at home.

From reports, Griz led by 11 at halftime and as much as 15 in the second half, but Great Falls came back to take a three point lead with 6:49 to play. It should be a good learning experience for the Griz. Kareem Jamar led the team with 14 and 14, and Billy Reader also had a nice game.

Montana fans, what happened?

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Monday, November 14, 2011

An Oklahoma Article on the Idaho State Game

Moving Without The Ball, who I had an interview with last week, posted an excellent recap on the Idaho State/Oklahoma game from Friday night. As you would expect, it is more thorough on Oklahoma coverage, but he has some nice stuff on the Bengals.

The two impact transfers into the Bengals' program this season--Melvin Morgan and Jakub Kusmieruk--had a lot of variation in their opening games. Morgan, like Sam Grooms, is a JUCO point. Like Grooms, he's fast; unlike Grooms, he played too fast at times. Kusmieruk, at the other end of the height scale, showed a raw offensive game but was not hopeless, though he did shoot perhaps the ugliest turnaround jumper I've ever witnessed. The Bengals' best player was Chase Grabau (10/8/9). He did a particularly good job breaking the press, refusing to be driven to the baseline, keeping his dribble alive and keeping the ball in the middle.
Definitely worth a read.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Mexico State Too Athletic For Northern Colorado

I had the chance to attend the game between New Mexico State and Northern Colorado on Saturday, a fast paced game won by the Aggies 89-75. Some thoughts and observations from the game.

- Paul Garnica looked good, as he was 6/10 for 14 points. He drained a couple of 3s which was impressive... if he can knock those down consistently he will be the Bears best player. Garnica is also the best on the team at getting to the basket, he really had some nice drives. In addition, he has quick hands defensively, and wound up with 2 steals (though they were in part due to someone else deflecting the ball. I did think he struggled a bit with the press, as did the whole team.

- The biggest key to the game was the athleticism of New Mexico State. They are one of the top teams in the WAC, and they showed it. They put on a press all night, and forced UNC into 20 turnovers. Their athleticism also allowed them to be the aggressor, which is why they got 41 free throws compared to 15 for the Bears. They forced UNC to play too fast, and it caused them to take some quick shots. In the first half, Northern Colorado was lethal from downtown, and that kept them in it, but they cooled off a bit in the second half.

- Tate Unruh had an impressive game, finishing with 15 points, 3 assists, and 3 steals. He has a quick, pure release, and he will drain a lot of treys this year. He is also a good passer, and made some nice decisions passing the ball in this game. His handle is decent. He seemed to really favor going to the right, and will need to work on his left hand. Unruh and Garnica were the two Bears that most impressed me.

- I was a little surprised to see true freshman Tim Huskisson get the start, but he handled himself well. His stat line didn't stand out - 5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, but his athleticism was apparent. On a team without a lot of great athletes, Huskisson will be a nice piece. Another recruit, Aaron Hawk-Harris, is a guy that they said brings intangibles and toughness, and I liked what I saw from him. He is a solid defender and does enough offensively that he is not a liability. Another guard Tevin Svihovec was solid but didn't stand out. He is a solid shooter and is fundamentally sound, but didn't really make a big impact.

- The frontcourt has some nice pieces, but nobody really stepped up in a big way. Connor Osborne looked the best to me, as he had 8 points and 7 rebounds in 23 minutes (and a couple thunderous dunks), but he still looks like he is getting into playing shape. I like his skillset a lot though. Mike Proctor played decent defensively and deflected a couple of balls, but tried to do a little too much with a couple things offensively. On the glass, he only had 3 rebounds in 24 minutes. Emmanual Addo is the most athletic of the big men, and you can see his talent as a sophomore. He had 6 points and 5 rebounds in 19 minutes, and showed some good footwork around the basket. I like his future. Brendan Keane got 11 minutes of action, but against an athletic Aggies frontline he looked a bit overmatched. He had 0 rebounds in his time, and you could tell it was his first collegiate game. I have no doubt he will be a fine player, but he did not add much in his first game.

- Once again, photo above taken by my beautiful wife!

Overall, Northern Colorado is definitely a talented team, and they are stocked with shooters. I like their backcourt, and I think their frontcourt will get there. However, after watching them Saturday night, I still like my original preseason analysis - they are a talented team, and they will beat some good teams in the Big Sky this year. But, I do think they are a year away from being true contenders in the Conference, and I see them settling in anywhere from 4th-6th in the Big Sky.

What is everyone else's thoughts? I'd particularly like to hear from the UNC fans that had a chance to watch the game, what did you see?

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