There are four games on Thursday night, and we are into the crunch time of the year. Each game matters in some way, so let's break it up and preview in two parts.
We will start with the game that on paper will be the most lopsided of the day. Montana has won nine straight games, and Northern Arizona has run their losing streak to 14 games. In theory, there is no real way that the Lumberjacks should stay in the game.
Montana once again has the best defensive club in the conference, and their offense has been playing better and better as the year has gone on, culminating with their 94 point effort against Hawaii. Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar have been playing basketball at a caliber that makes it fair to question if they are the best backcourt in the Big Sky. They bring it on both sides of the ball. Wayne Tinkle has a team where everyone knows their role, and they do it well.
NAU, on the other hand, is playing like a team that has nothing to play for. They are guaranteed to finish last in the Big Sky, and they are playing for a coach that has no chance of being there next year. They only have one senior that plays big minutes (Durrell Norman), so even that sense of urgency is not there. I am afraid this one will not end well for them. MONTANA 78, NORTHERN ARIZONA 49
In theory, the Hornets have a chance to still make the tournament, though their hopes were probably extinguished with their loss last Thursday to the Vikings. Still, they have a chance to get to six wins in the Big Sky, which would be their most since 2006 and give them a lot of momentum heading into next year, when they return almost everyone. Portland State still has high stakes. They are currently in a tie for third, and still need to lock up a home game in the Big Sky quarterfinals. Plus, a three seed is more likely to draw a reeling team like Montana State, as opposed to a potential sleeping giant in Eastern Washington.
When they met last week, Chehales Tapscott had one of the best games of his career, with 17 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks, three steals, and three assists, showing every side of his versatility. PSU led by 27 at the half, and completely dominated in every phase of the game. Sacramento State will play a lot better at home (they can't really play any worse), but their production down low has been down a bit in the last couple games. To beat quality teams, they need Konner Veteto and John Dickson to play good basketball. They have been very average lately, and I don't think the Hornets have enough talent to overcome that if it happens again. I see Chehales Tapscott having a big day once again, and clinching a return to the Big Sky tournament for the Vikings. PORTLAND STATE 77, SACRAMENTO STATE 71
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