Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Two Northern Colorado Players Suspended

Elliott Lloyd and Aaron Hawk-Harris have been indefinitely suspended from the team, according to UNC.

Hawk-Harris has been a bit player so far this year, but Lloyd is the team's best perimeter defender and is one of the team leaders. Both guys were juniors, so the team will get even younger right now.

Let's hope that this is not for anything serious, and the guys did not do anything stupid. I will let you know if I find anything out.

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Kenny McGowen Named Big Sky POW

Kenny McGowen of Idaho State was able to break Charles Odum's two-week POW streak, winning the award for the first time his career.

McGowen scored 18 points with five steals, four assists and three rebounds and five steals as the Bengals beat Northern Colorado 99-94 in double overtime on Thursday, Jan. 26.

McGowen converted a 3-point play with 29 seconds remaining in the first overtime to tie the game and send it to a second overtime.

McGowen scored a game-high 19 points and hit the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer as the Bengals beat Weber State 64-62, handing the Wildcats their first conference loss and ending their 10-game winning streak. McGowen was 7-of-14 from the floor, and 4-of-9 from 3-point range. He also had two assists, a steal and a rebound in 37 minutes of action.
Certainly a well deserved award.

Other Candidates: Laron Griffin (EWU), Will Cherry (Montana), Shawn Reid (MSU), Tevin Svihovec (UNC), Chehales Tapscott (PSU), Jackson Carbajal (Sac), Damian Lillard (WSU)

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Northern Colorado Outlasts Northern Arizona in Overtime

It wasn't always pretty, but UNC doesn't care about getting style points when it comes to road victories in the Big Sky Conference.

In a tight, back and forth game, Northern Colorado prevailed for a big win, beating Northern Arizona 64-62 in OT.

UNC led 54-45 with 3:49 to go, when the Lumberjacks went on an 11-0 run, taking the lead with 20ish seconds left. After a Stallon Saldivar missed FT, Tevin Svihovec went the length of the court to make one in the lane, tying it up. James Douglas committed and offensive foul, and Svihovec was blocked by Durrell Norman to send the game to an extra session.

This was the story at the end of overtime:

In overtime, the teams exchanged the lead five times before Svihovec put the Bears up by one with a layup. NAU had two chances to tie the game or win in the final 10 seconds. Saldivar missed a jumper in the lane with seven seconds left and UNC's Mike Proctor grabbed the rebound. Tim Huskisson hit the first free throw to extend the lead to two points but missed the second, giving NAU a final chance. James Douglas' jumper from the right side was off the mark as time expired.
A few takeaways from this game:

- About a month ago, it seemed like Tate Unruh and Paul Garnica were the underclassmen guards that were the future of UNC's backcourt. But suddenly, a new contender has emerged. Tevin Svihovec scored 30 against Idaho State, and had another important game for them. He only had 11 points on 5/13 shooting, but he made big shots for them. He made the running layup near the end of regulation to give send it to overtime, and he hit the go-ahead basket. He is an excellent outside shooter and crafty, efficient offensive player. His star is bright. I am hoping to write a bit more about him in the next couple weeks.

- Another guy that has gotten better and better is Emmanuel Addo. I called him one of the breakout sophomores of the conference before the year started, and he is fulfilling that promise. He scored 28 against ISU, and last night threw in 17 points and 5 rebounds, and doing it very efficiently. He is a guy that looks to score around the basket, and does it well. There are not a lot of big men athletes like Addo in the Big Sky, and UNC has to be very excited about his future.

- I would be remiss if I didn't mention Tate Unruh finding his stroke again, draining four threes.

- James Douglas showed why he has supplanted Gabe Rogers as the go-to guy in Flagstaff. He played all 40 minutes, and had 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. He showed some nice athleticism and the ability to get to the basket.

- With Northern Arizona trailing by 1 in overtime, they had the ball at midcourt with 25 seconds left. I thought they might give it to Stallon Saldivar, so he could create for somebody else (8 assists on the night). Instead, he took it himself, and missed a runner in the lane. Did not really like that call, because that is not his game. I would rather have seen the ball go to Douglas to see if he could create something.

What is everyone else's impressions of the game?

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Big Sky Bracket Buster Matchups

Obviously I will have a lot more on these in the coming weeks, but just wanted to post the Bracket Buster Matchups for the Big Sky. I got three out of nine right on my predictions... ouch!

Eastern Washington at UC Irvine
Idaho State at Pacific
Hawai’i at Montana
Montana State at Cal State Fullerton
UC Davis at Northern Arizona
Cal Poly at Northern Colorado
Portland State at Idaho
San Jose State at Sacramento State
UT-Arlington at Weber State (ESPN3)

Obviously the biggest matchup is Weber State getting on ESPN3, which should be nice for the program. They have to be a bit disappointed that they didn't get on ESPN or ESPN2, and that they did not draw a higher profile opponent (no offense to UT-Arlington, who is having a nice season), but the chances of those things dropped dramatically when they lost on Saturday night.

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Former NAU Coach Mike Adras Violated NCAA Rules

After former Northern Arizona head coach Mike Adras resigned his position in December, there was rampant speculation that it may have been more of a forced resignation. On my post about the resignation, there were some negative comments about him, but it was hard to separate what was true from what was not true.

However, that part may have gotten a little easier, depending on how much you believe of this AZ Daily Sun article that was posted on Sunday.

Former Northern Arizona men's basketball coach Mike Adras violated multiple NCAA and university regulations before he resigned in December, according to documents received by the Daily Sun.

An internal investigation also described a climate of "extreme fear" among players and assistant coaches if Adras were to learn they were cooperating with the probe.

Public records released by NAU documented the internal investigaton of Adras conducted last summer by athletic director Jim Fallis. Fallis concluded that Adras was responsible for multiple violations regarding basketball practice by the Lumberjacks, as players signed inaccurate time sheets to keep the permitted practice time within NCAA limits, according to the documents.
There is much more in the article, and I encourage you to give it a read. It is a bit disturbing, especially the parts about the culture of fear, and forcing players and assistant coaches to lie, as they feared there would be repurcussions if they did not.

Even though Adras is now gone, it seems very possible that the NCAA will come down on the Lumberjacks program, possibly by taking away scholarships or practice time. I would be surprised if that did not happen.

Another thing is that this helps to explain why none of the assistant coaches were chosen to be the interim head coach, as they were probably all sorting through who did what in the NAU basketball program. It would not surprise me if there is a completely new staff next season, as the Lumberjacks try to move on.

It is clear that NAU will need an energetic coach to get past this, as it is a program in need of rebuilding. Though there is some young talent in place, they have looked very far away from contending this year. Combined with potential NCAA sanctions, and rebuilding will take some time and energy.

Hopefully NAU can make a good hire and work on rebuilding the program. They have traditionally been a strong Big Sky team, and hopefully they will get back to that level sooner rather than later.

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One Minute Prediction For Northern Arizona & Northern Colorado

There is one Big Sky game tonight, and Northern Colorado travels to Flagstaff to take on Northern Arizona. NAU is 1-8 in the Big Sky, while UNC is 3-5.

NAU has played 7 games at home and 14 games on the road, so they are anxious to get back and playing in front of their fans. However, they seem to be devoid of momentum right now, with losses piling up on the court, and now bad vibes from off the court coming to light.

For Northern Colorado, they are desperate for a win, because all of a sudden they are below the cut line in the Big Sky, falling to the seventh spot. This is the back end of a four-game roadtrip, so they are no doubt tired. This will be a great chance to see what they are made of mentally, and whether they have the toughness to make a run.

I will go with the more desperate team, and I think that is UNC right now. The Lumberjacks are three games out of it for being able to make it to the conference tournament, while the Bears are on the cusp. That adds an extra layer of motivation, and I think it will be enough. NORTHERN COLORADO 72, NORTHERN ARIZONA 66

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A Huge Weekend in the Big Sky (Part 2)

Yesterday we started out look at the fantastic weekend that was in the Big Sky, and today it is time to take a look at what else happened.

- It was a bad weekend for NAU. On the court, they got blown out by Sacramento State, who notched their first conference win. The final was 77-43. There is not a lot to be said, and I'm not sure there are any positives to be gleaned after a game like that.

- Off the court, the AZ Daily Sun dropped more details on Mike Adras' resignation, and how he potentially violated multiple NCAA and school regulations before he left in December. I will have more on this in the coming day, but suffice to say there will likely be some repercussions to NAU.

- They just played one game, and it was a disappointment. They did some good things well, but couldn't hang on for the win, losing 99-94 in double OT to Idaho State. They lost because of two issues that have plagued them all year. One, they couldn't get stops down the stretch. ISU shot 57% from the field and 52% from beyond the arc. Two, they turned it over a whopping 26 times. That can't happen.

- Two guys really had huge days for them, however. First was Tevin Svihohec, who dropped 30 points on 11/16 shooting. He is now averaging 14.3 PPG, 8th in the conference, and doing it in an efficient way. A month ago it looked like Tate Unruh and Paul Garnica were turning into the go-to guys for UNC. Now, Svihovec is the guy. Big man Emmanual Addo also had a huge day, with 28 points on 8/14 FG. He also pulled down 8 rebounds. He is inconsistent, but has he showed in this one, when he is playing well there aren't a lot of big men in the conference that can score like him.

- They came into their homestand with big hopes, playing at home against two teams above them in the rankings. They end the weekend dropping two big games and move into the middle of the jumble in the Big Sky. They started with their loss to Montana State, where they went cold in the second half and let the Bobcats come back. They shot just 33% in the second half.

- On Sunday they were in the opposite direction - trying to claw back from a big deficit. PSU trailed Montana by 14 in the second half, and by 9 with 3:01 left, but couldn't quite come all the way back, falling 64-62. Chehales Tapscott and Renado Parker were solid down low, but Charles Odum got outplayed by Will Cherry. Odum turned it over seven times, which is not a rare occurrence for the guy being guarded by Cherry. The loss drops PSU to 4-5 in the Big Sky and tied for fifth.

- Hornet fans have to be thinking one thing -- finally! After some close, heartbreaking losses, they left nothing to doubt with a 24 point beating of Northern Arizona. From the opening tip it was a thorough win, as they dominated every phase of the game. Konner Veteto led them with 24 points and 7 rebounds, and Jackson Carbajal had 18. Dylan Garrity, currently the leader among all freshmen in assists, chipped in 11 points and 8 rebounds. It was a great day for the Hornets, and one that they desperately needed.

- Things began ok, as they beat Sacramento State 75-60, their 10th straight win.They didn't come out and dominate, but they did what they needed to do to win. One highlight - Damian Lillard scored 21 points, and moved into third place on WSU's all-time scoring list.

- On Saturday night, the Wildcats learned what everyone else in the Big Sky is finding out, that Idaho State is no longer a pushover. The Bengals stunned WSU at the buzzer for a 64-62 ISU victory. They are still getting guys 100%, but this is a loss that will sting (no pun intended) for awhile. Damian Lillard uncharaceristically struggled from the field, and WSU shot just 12/19 from the line (they entered the game first in the nation in that category). The loss may give them a lesser Bracket Buster matchup, as well as stop all of the national attention that comes from an undefeated conference run.

- All of a sudden, Weber State and Montana are knotted at 8-1 in the Big Sky, as this should be a great two-team race.

Any other thoughts from the weekend?

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Huge Weekend in the Big Sky (Part 1)

Following a short sabattical, I missed a lot in the Big Sky. From the fantastic games Thursday night the upset of the year on Saturday night, and a barnburner on Sunday (not to mention some off the court happenings), it was a very interesting weekend. Let's take a quick peek at the biggest stories for each team (Note: I planned on just making this one post... but it got a bit long, so let's turn it into a couple!)

- Things got off to a rocky start on Thursday, as Montana was simply the better team than EWU.The Grizzlies jumped out to a big first half lead, and even though EWU made some runs in the second half, they could not overcome Montana, losing 74-60. A few guys had a nice day (such as Collin Chiverton, Cliff Ederaine, and Laron Griffin, but Cliff Colimon struggled again. He finished with 7 points on 2/12 shooting, turning it over 7 times. He needs to be an above average PG for them.

- EWU was able to bounce back on Saturday, as they beat previously 6-2 Montana State by 17 at home, really putting together an outstanding defensive performance. The Bobcats had been playing great basketball, so this was big for the Eagles. They were led by the big guys - Cliff Ederaine had 17 points and 8 rebounds, Laron Griffin had 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Tremayne Johnson threw in 11 and 8 off the bench. This has been seen as kind of a guard-oriented team, but the frontcourt has been producing.


- WOW!

- I thought they would win a tight one over Northern Colorado, and that is what happened. What I didn't expect was for it to really be one of the most entertaining games of the whole Big Sky season. The last 8 minutes plus both overtimes were back and forth and high action, eventually ending with ISU winning 99-94 in double OT to improve to .500 in conference play. Chase Grabau continued his incredible play, finishing with 30 points on 11/15 shooting before fouling out. He wasn't alone. Melvin Morgan has 22, and Kenny McGowen had 18. Even Sherrod Baldwin stepped up and hit a huge shot down the stretch.

- Of course, the excitement of winning that game only lasted for two days... when it was replaced by even bigger excitement! Idaho State pulled off the upset of the year in the Big Sky, shocking Weber State and the college basketball world by winning 64-62 on a last second three. If you have not yet, go to Big Sky TV and watch the ending of this one, you will not be disappointed. With Weber State up 62-61 with the ball and just over a minute left, the Wildcats got two good looks at the basket. Kyle Tresnak missed an open 16 footer, but the rebound came out to Damian Lillard. He eventually got a good look at a straight on three, but was way short. ISU got the ball and worked it around, eventually having the ball in Chase Grabau hands with just a few seconds left. He looked like he was going to go up and shoot a tough, double pumper shot, but at the last moment passed it over to senior Kenny McGowen, who was alone in the corner. The rest is history, as McGowen buried it as time expired.

- Coach Deane Martin said, " We knew if we could get it into Kenny's hand or Mel's hand we could get off a ball screen and make something happen. We got fortunate that Kenny got loose to get the shot at the end. You had to let players be players and let them make plays.”

- The fans are starting to come out as well, as their attendance of 3,309 was the most they have had since 2008. They certainly have reason to be excited, as they have won three straight, including doing what nobody else in the Big Sky has been able to do - beat Weber State.


- Going to Eastern Washington and Portland State is a tough road trip, but the Grizzlies handled it with aplomb. They started off by giving Wayne Tinkle a nice birthday present, going into Cheney and playing some really solid basketball. The Eagles played well in the second half, but the Griz simply made too many plays. Art Steward was the star, playing all forty minutes and going off for 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. Will Cherry struggled offensively but contributed in other ways, including defensively, where he was instrumental in shutting down Cliff Colimon. Finally, Kareem Jamar was a star again, with an excellent all-around game of 15 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds, also playing the full game.

- Sunday followed a similar script, but it was a little tighter for the Griz. They led by as many as 14 points in the second half, but had to hold on for dear life for a 69-67 win over Portland State. After Mathias Ward made one of two with four seconds left, the Grizzlies played great defense to stop Gary Winston from getting off a shot, sealing another road win. Wayne Tinkle used mainly a 6-man rotation, and they were led by Will Cherry's 20 points (putting him over 1,000 on his career). Ward also had 18.

- The win was big for the Grizzlies because they are now in a tie for first place, by virtue of Weber State losing to Idaho State. Montana is now 8-1 in the Big Sky and 14-6 overall.


- I thought the Bobcats should be pretty satisfied with a split in their road trip, and that is what happened. They started things with a thrilling come-from-behind win on Thursday night in Portland. The Bobcats trailed by 15 with under 12 to play, but came back thanks to a great defensive effort.

The Bobcats fixed the situation, answering Portland State's 18-2 run to open the second half with an 11-0 spurt over the next eight minutes to trim the lead to 58-54. In fact, from the point of PSU's 58-43 lead with 11:39 to play, Montana State outscored the Vikings 27-7.
It was a big win for MSU, sweeping the season series over the Vikings. The biggest play of the game was made by Shawn Reid, who made a "No no no yes yes yes!" three-pointer with 29 seconds left to give the Bobcats the 67-65 lead, which they would not relinquish. But really, the biggest was the fact that the defense, which has struggled at times, was outstanding at the end of the game. That is the biggest reason they got this win.

- On Saturday, they had a bit of a letdown, going into Cheney and getting beat soundly by a desperate Eastern Washington team. MSU shot 25% in the second half and turned the ball over 20 times, which is a great recipe for getting blown out. They are still 6-3 in conference play, and have to be feeling good about themselves.

The next part will be coming soon! What are your guys' thoughts on what went down?

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Friday, January 27, 2012

A Little Step Back For A Bit

I started this blog back in July, and in the not-quite 6 months since, my article count is approaching 500. It has been a ton of fun. It is a lot of work though, as anyone writing a blog would tell you (which is why I have a ton of respect for any bloggers). With ever-increasing responsibilities at my day job, as well as getting married in October, it has kept me busy! So, I am going to take a little bit of a step back… instead of 2-3 posts per day, frequency will be a bit less for awhile to recharge.

In the manetime… how about that night in the Big Sky on Thursday? Wow! Some great basketball was played.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Montana State Gets Verbal Commitment From Danny Robison

We don't get a ton of recruiting news at this time of the year, but Montana State got a verbal commitment from Danny Robison of Billings West.

Robison, a 6-foot-8 senior, leads all Class AA players in scoring and rebounding this season with averages of 20.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. He has scored at least 18 points in every game this season, helping West to a 9-1 record and the No. 1 ranking in Class AA.
The Bobcats already have commitments from G Marcus Colbert and F Ryan Shannon, so it is shaping up to be a very solid recruiting class for Brad Huse. After a year of being heavy with JUCO guys, he is getting some talented guys that will come in as freshmen.

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Thursday Night Big Sky Preview (Part 2)

Earlier we started our Big Sky preview for the four games on Thursday night, and now let's take a look at the last two.

Montana State @ Portland State
How MSU can win: They are a very balanced team, as noted by Gidal Kaiser, and that is key to their success. They don't have a star (though Xavier Blount can play like one at times), and so having multiple guys step up is critical to their success. Another key is to keep PSU out of the lane. They are efficient at getting easy shots, so they need to force PSU into jumpshots.
How PSU can win: Guard the three. MSU does not have a lot of consistent inside scorers, and they rely on the outside shot and their guard play to score points. If PSU can take that away, they have a great chance. MSU made 13 threes last week against Northern Colorado, so stopping that should be high on their priority list. The other thing is to be aggressive and get to the line. That has been key to PSU's offensive success this year - they get to the line a lot and they are good foul shooters when they get there.
Who will win: Montana State won the first meeting between these teams, but PSU is a better team at home than they are on the road (not a surprise). In Portland, I think they are the better team. MSU will have trouble slowing them down, particularly with the roll that Charles Odum is on. PORTLAND STATE 81, MONTANA STATE 74

Weber State @ Sacramento State
How WSU can win: Simply put, avoid making big mistakes, and just play their game. Weber State is clearly the better and more talented team, and as long as they can avoid turning the ball over often and making boneheaded plays, they will win this game.
How Sac State can win: They have not been great about making threes this year, but that can be a big equalizer in games like this. They need to hit some outside shots to keep pace with WSU. If they can force some turnovers, that will be key as well. The other thing is to slow the game down. WSU is great at forcing turnovers and getting easy baskets, and that is something that the Hornets cannot allow. Weber State's offense is potent enough, any easy baskets you give them, and it is going to make it very tough to pull the upset.
Who will win: Sacramento State has shown they can stay in some games against better competition, but I don't believe they have the firepower or the confidence to win this game. Damian Lillard should have a field day, and he has been getting a lot of help lately from Scott Bamforth and Kyle Tresnak. It will be too much for Sac State to contend with. WEBER STATE 82, SACRAMENTO STATE 61

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Interview with UNC's Mike Proctor

There is a solid interview up at the Big Sky site with UNC senior forward Mike Proctor, including what it felt like to win the Big Sky last year on their home court.

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Thursday Night Big Sky Preview (Part 1)

With four Big Sky games on Thursday, I'll break up the previews into two parts! Look for part two on Wednesday night or Thursday morning (hopefully you will be able to contain your excitement!)

Northern Colorado @ Idaho State
How UNC can win: Hit their outside shots. Simply put, the Bears are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country, and ISU is one of the worst at stopping the three-ball. Their other key isto never leave Chase Grabau. Simply put, not a lot of guys in the Big Sky make as many plays as Grabau.
How ISU can win: Conversely from UNC's key, ISU needs to stop the three. They have to make sure the perimeter is covered at all times, because UNC can be deadly from out there. The other thing defensively is to force turnovers, which they have actually been pretty good at. UNC likes to give the ball away, and they can be rattled with their youth. Offense, they need Kenny McGowen and Melvin Morgan to score in double figures. That is vital to their offense.
Who will win: There is something interesting going on in Pocatello right now. I never would have guessed this, but they have a great chance to be 4-4 in the Big Sky. After the Sacramento State game, it seems like they have some new confidence. They hung with PSU in Portland, and then beat NAU soundly. I think this is a game they EXPECT to win, and that has not been a common occurrence for them. I think UNC's road woes continue. IDAHO STATE 73, NORTHERN COLORADO 70

Montana @ Eastern Washington
How MT can win: They beat EWU once this year (a hard-fought 79-71 win), in part thanks to a career day from Mathias Ward. I doubt they will be able to count on that again. They key to beating EWU is to remain aggressive... EWU's foul problems are well documented, which should be music to the ears of Will Cherry, Kareem Jamar, and Art Steward (who are all good at drawing fouls). The other key is to take care of the ball... EWU is solid at forcing opponents to give the ball up, and that gives them some easy baskets. Montana needs to have a solid handle on it.
How EWU can win: Obviously, avoid foul trouble. That has been their Achilles heel all year long, and they can't keep giving opponents 40+ free throws in a game. Another key for them will be to maintain their composure and make smart plays at the end of the game. Two straight games they have been ahead in the final 30 seconds, and both times they have lost. This game is likely to be close as well, and they need to execute at the end of the game.
Who will win: On paper, I think Eastern Washington should win a tight one since this is in Cheney. However, they need a bit of a confidence boost after two straight heartbreaking losses, and it might start to get in their heads. Montana, on the other hand, is playing their best basketball of the year. Other than their loss to Weber State, they are mauling opponents right now (get it?), and I think they can go into Cheney and steal one. MONTANA 77, EASTERN WASHINGTON 72

Your thoughts? Who do you have winning these games?

(Tomorrow's previews: Weber State @ Sacramento State / Montana State @ Portland State)

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Weber State Getting Some Scout Team Help

From Roy Burton at The Standard:

Weber State basketball coach Randy Rahe invited Jankowski, a former roommate of senior forward Kyle Bullinger and graduated center Trevor Morris, to help out with the scout squad.

"Coach Rahe actually came up to me one day and I thought he was joking. He said, 'Do you want to play some scout team?' I just kind of laughed; I was like, yeah, sure. He said, 'No, I'm serious." That's a big opportunity in my eyes. A Division I basketball team, to play for a coach like that, this program."

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Charles Odum Named Big Sky POW Again

Damian Lillard has some competition for most Big Sky POW awards this year. For the second straight week, Charles Odum of Portland State has been named the conference Player of the Week.

Odum scored a career-high 29 points with four rebounds, two assists and a steal in an 80-68 win over Idaho State on Monday. Odum connected on 10-of-18 from the floor, was 3-of-5 from 3-point range, and 6-of-7 from the free-throw line.

Odum scored 20 points with four rebounds, two steals and one assists in the Vikings’ 78-76 overtime win at Eastern Washington on Saturday. With the game tied at 76-76, Odum hit the game-winning shot with two seconds remaining on a contested 12-footer in the lane.

Odum ranks second in the Big Sky and 35th in the nation in scoring with an average of 18.3 points per game. In conference play, Odum is netting 21.1 points per game and shooting 59.7 percent from the field.
Other candidates were: Tremayne Johnson (EWU), Chase Grabau (ISU), Will Cherry (MT), Tre Johnson (MSU), Michael Dunn (NAU), Mike Proctor (UNC), and Kyle Tresnak (WSU)

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Predictions on Big Sky Bracket Buster Matchups

With Bracket Buster selections happening on January 30th, there has been more and more talk about who teams might play. I am no more in the know than anyone else, but thought it might be fun to speculate on what the matchups involving Big Sky teams might be.

Nevada @ Weber State (TV game)
Weber State has a relatively strong national profile thanks to Damian Lillard, and Nevada has a relatively strong national profile thanks to their past tournament success. This game seems to make a lot of sense, as both teams appear to be the class of their conference, they are close geographically, and it would make for a compelling game.
Last year: Weber State played at San Jose State

UC Santa Barbara @ Montana
Both teams have had their moments nationally over the past few years. Montana has played in the NCAA Tournament and had a well publicized win over UCLA last year, while UCSB has a great player in Orlando Johnson and has been a contender in the Big West for the last few years. Both teams have a chance to win their conference this year.
Last year: Montana played at Long Beach State

UC Davis @ Northern Arizona
UC Davis has struggled all year to get wins, as they have just one on the year. For NAU, they had a good stretch of games, but other than that they have played just as poorly as UC Davis. This would be a competitive game between two teams that desperately need some good things to happen to them this year.
Last year: Northern Arizona played at Cal Poly

Southern Utah @ Northern Colorado
This would be an early preview for next year, as Southern Utah gets prepared to join the Big Sky Conference. UNC has been inconsistent so far this year, but they are a good team at home. The Thunderbirds are currently .500 overall and in conference play, and matching their experience against the Bears' inexperience would make for a compelling game.
Last year: Northern Colorado played at New Mexico State

San Jose State @ Sacramento State
Both teams got some wins in non-conference play, and looked like they might contend for at least .500 in their conference. That hasn't happened, as they have both struggled big-time once the games mattered. The fact that they both play in the same state makes this one a logical choice.
Last year: Sacramento State played at SE Missouri

Eastern Washington @Cal Poly
The Mustangs are a solid team - they have beaten USC, Fresno State and Cal State Fullerton this year, but the bigger story has been their close losses. They lost to St. Mary's by 5, DePaul by 5, UC Santa Barbara by 1, and Long Beach State twice (by 5 and 9). Eastern Washington is similar in that they have been close to getting the big win, but haven't quite gotten over the hump, with tight losses to Gonzaga, Oregon, Montana, and Weber State. Each team needs this chance to get a win over a quality opponent.
Last year: Eastern Washington hosted Cal-State Northridge

Idaho State @ Cal-State Northridge
The Bengals are on a little bit of a nice streak, but on paper this would be a competitive ballgame. CSN likes to play fast, but they don't exactly do it all that well. ISU is probably a little bit better thanks to Chase Grabau, but this would be a nice road win if they could get it.
Last year: Idaho State hosted Cal-State Fullerton

Montana State @ Utah State
Utah State is having a down year, but they are still a high profile team thanks to their success over the past few years. Meanwhile, Montana State is on a tear, at 5-2 in the conference. While Utah State fans might think their team should get a higher profile opponent, all evidence suggests this would be a really good game.

Last year: Montana State hosted Idaho

Portland State @ Idaho
Both teams are near the middle of their conference, with aspirations to go higher. Idaho has played a couple of Big Sky squads this year, losing to Montana and Eastern Washington. If Portland State can get a couple wins this week, they have a chance to get an even higher profile opponent, but Idaho looks like it would be a good matchup. Also, geography triumphs, as this game simply makes sense.
Last year: Portland State hosted Loyola Marymount

Your thoughts? What matchups would you like to see?

EDIT: My original post had San Jose State against Sacramento State, and UC Davis at Northern Arizona. Then, later, I switched this around, so UC Davis traveled to Sacramento State and SJ State took on NAU. Then, a commenter and tweeter reminded me the error of my ways, and I why I had the original matchups that I did  - because UC Davis and Sacramento State play every year! Thanks to those guys for pointing out my error, and I have fixed my prediction.

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Twitter Follow List for the Big Sky

Thought it might be fun to put together a twitter follow list by team for all of those in the Big Sky. If you want to suggest one, please email me - bigskybball AT gmail dot com.

Big Sky Conference
@bigskybball - That's me!
@bigskyconf - official Big Sky twitter feed
@wchoops -  writer of Crawford's Corner, which frequently touches on topics relating to the Big Sky.
@TheUpsetBlog - blog that occasionally touches on the Big Sky

Eastern Washington
@CChiv24 - twitter feed for guard Collin Chiverton 
@cliffdips - twitter feed for forward Cliff Ederaine
@EaglesPOV - fan site for all things Eastern Washington
@EWUAthletics - official twitter feed of Eagles athletics
@EWUEagleEye - fan site dedicated to Eastern Washington basketball
@EWUReviewBB - scores during Eastern Washington games
@Jawdy_Water - twitter feed for forward Jordan Hickert
@JFlight22 - twitter feed for guard Jeffrey Forbes
@Kwinford23 - twitter feed for guard Kevin Winford
@ohsobutta - twitter feed for forward Tremayne Johnson

Idaho State
@ISUBengals - official twitter feed for Idaho State athletics
@JeffLanders - sports director for KIFI
@Matt_Gittins - KVPI sports director
@PhilCampbell6 - KPVI sports reporter

@aesteward1 - twitter feed for forward Art Stewart
@BobMeseroll - writer for The Missoulian

@GrizGameDay - site for all Montana Grizzlies sports
@GrizCoachJones - assistant coach for the Griz
@GrizDailyBB - scores during Montana games
@KevStayGQ - twitter feed for forward Kevin Henderson
@JerekWolcott - sports information intern for Montana
@missoulian - feed for The Missoulian, paper in Griz' hometown
@Selvig24 - twitter feed for forward Derek Selvig
@UMAthletics AD - run by Jim O'Day, AD for the Griz
@UMGrizzlies - official twitter feed of Montana Athletics
@UMGrizzlies_BB - official twitter feed of Montana basketball
@willcherry5 - twitter feed for guard Will Cherry

Montana State
@BobcatsBB - scores during Montana State games
@CMoonOfficial - twitter feed for guard Christian Moon
@gidalkaiser - writer for Bozeman Daily Chronicle and good source of Big Sky hoops
@JeffLaskydotcom - radio voice of the MSU Bobcats
@JBUD40 - twitter feed for forward Jeff Budinich
@HotBoy_Dison - twitter feed of guard Mike Dison
@mslacat - often has good info on MSU, especially recruits
@msubobcats - official twitter feed of the Bobcats
@RodSingleton - twitter feed for guard Rod Singleton
@StewartJamie1 - former MSU guard Jamie Stewart
@temesghenstarr - twitter feed for Montana State assistant coach

Northern Arizona
@1andDUNN - twitter feed for G Michael Dunn, a smart, young man from what I've seen
@B_Murdock1320 - sports reporter for The Lumberjack
@NAUAthletics - official twitter feed of NAU athletics
@nausid - Athletic Media Relations Director for NAU

Northern Colorado
@CoachAdamGordon - assistant coach for UNC
@CoachBJHill - head coach for UNC BJ Hill
@CoachLoganBean - assistant coach for UNC
@MileHighMids - feed covering Denver and Northern Colorado hoops
@PGarnica3 - twitter feed for guard Paul Garnica
@prochoops - twitter feed of forward Mike Proctor
@tateunruh - twitter feed for guard Tate Unruh
@unc_bears - official twitter feed of UNC athletics
@UmmitsAaronHawk - twitter feed for guard Aaron Hawk-Harris

Portland State
@PSUCoachGev - head coach of PSU Tyler Geving
@PSU_Vikings - official twitter feed of PSU athletics

Sacramento State
@bmet7 - writer for Sac State Sports
@HornetsHomeBB - scores during Sac State games
@hornetsports - official twitter feed for Sacramento State athletics
@sacstate - official twitter feed for Sacramento State
@SacStateSports - great coverage of all matters related to the Hornets

Weber State
@Dame_Lillard - twitter feed for forward Damian Lillard
@davionberry15 - twitter feed for forward Davion Berry
@ericduft - associate coach at Weber State
@jhajek55 - twitter feed for James Hajek
@JordanRashad5 - twitter feed for guard Jordan Richardson
@mooksinatra - twitter feed for forward Frank Otis
@PhilBeckner - assistant coach at Weber State
@RoyBurton - writer for The Standard, closely follows WSU hoops
@Sbam04 - twitter feed for guard Scott Bamforth
@The_Mahoner - unofficial twitter account for Darin Mahoney
@weberstate - official twitter feed of Weber State athletics
@WeberHQ - twitter feed for Weber basketball and football
@WeberHoops - fan site fort Weber State basketball
@WeberStateMBB - twitter feed for Weber State basketball
@Wildcats_11 - twitter feed for guard Gelaun Wheelwright
@WildcatBeatBB - scores during Weber State games

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Article on Idaho State Coach Deane Martin

Solid article in the St. Joseph News-Press about Idaho State interim head coach Deane Martin.

Deane Martin decided he wanted to return to the college basketball scene after spending the past five years at the professional level.

Simply trying to reunite with a former coach, the Mercer High School graduate suddenly gained a much higher level of responsibility. Martin went to Division I Idaho State as an assistant coach but earned the interim head coach tag only 10 games into his tenure with the Bengals, a member of the Big Sky Conference.
Very solid article and good background on the coach, who will certainly be a candidate for the permanent head coaching job after the season is over.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Idaho State, Montana Get Victories on Saturday Night

Having looked at Portland State and Montana State getting huge wins, let's take a look at the last two Big Sky games of the weekend.

It was a big day for Idaho State, who knew that they needed a win at home to stay in the thick of things for the Big Sky tournament. Northern Arizona jumped out to an 11 point lead in the first half, but it was all Bengals after that, as they won 78-62.

ISU was led again by Chase Grabau, who is becoming one of the best players in the Big Sky to follow. He had 19 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals, as he simply does it all.

“You never have to worry about Chase,” ISU Interim Head Coach Deane Martin said. “Chase is going to get shots. He doesn't do crazy stuff. He comes off screens hard, he sets good screens and a lot of times when you set good screens you just happen to be the man open. Chase has it figured out. He takes the ball to the basket, he gets fouled, he takes easy shots and when he doesn't have a good shot he dishes it out to his teammates. He plays hard and he plays the game the right way on both ends of the floor.”
Melvin Morgan and Kenny McGowen were also in double figures with 14 and 12 points respectively.

Idaho State now improves to 3-4 in the Big Sky, in a tie with Eastern Washington and Northern Colorado for fifth place. They welcome UNC to Pocatello on Thursday, in what is surprisingly a key game. For Northern Arizona, they fall to 1-6 in the Big Sky and things are looking dire. They got a spark with the coaching change last month, but they are going to need another spark to compete in the conference tournament.


In the other game, it was Montana jumping all over Sacramento State for an 85-56 victory. There is not a lot that needs to be said... Montana is clearly the better team, and they showed it, as the Hornets were never really in the game.

Art Steward led the team with 20 points, and Kareem Jamar also played an excellent game. The Grizzlies dominated in all facets of the game, and they move to 6-1 in the Big Sky, maintaining their second place status. Sacramento State falls to 0-7, and they are now three games behind everyone else for a chance to go to the Big Sky tournament. They need to turn things around in a hurry. Many fans are already becoming disenchanted with Brian Katz (just read their message boards), but if they don't get some victories, even the diehard Katz supporters may start to have their doubts.

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Montana State Improves to 5-2 in Big Sky

It was a toss up for the most impressive Big Sky win on Saturday night. You could make the argument for Portland State, or you could make the case for Montana State.

The Bobcats were in control for most of the game, beating Northern Colorado 84-72 on Saturday night. The win improves MSU to an impressive 5-2 in the Big Sky, in sole possession of third place. For UNC, the loss of both games on the Montana roadtrip drops them to 3-4, as well as being a bit disheartening that they weren't all that close to winning either game.

Montana State may still be finding themselves, but they have to be happy with what they are finding.

Montana State head coach Brad Huse still describes his team as one that's finding itself. If nothing else, the last three games have taught the Bobcats they're pretty good at counter-punching.

MSU shook off two Northern Colorado runs - one in the first half, one in the second - and countered UNC's 52 percent shooting effort from the field by hitting 13 3-pointers in an 84-72 victory at Worthington Arena Saturday night. The Bobcats (10-8, 5-2) pushed to a homestand sweep and three wins in a row by starting hot and using their bench to provide sparks all game long.
The Bobcats beat the Bears at their own game. UNC came into the game by being the third best three-point shooting team in America, but it was MSU that made 13 treys in this one (and ironically Christian Moon, their best three-point shooter, was just 2/9 from downtown). Freshman Mike Dison was 4/5 from outside and led the team with 17 points, and four other guys were in double figures for MSU. They also took great care of the ball, turning it over just six times in perhaps their most impressive win of the year.

Northern Colorado also shot the ball well, but their old defensive problems cropped up again. Anytime you can shoot over 50% and turn it over only 11 times you have to like your chances, but they simply could not get stops. They had four guys in double figures, but BJ Hill must have been trying everything he could think of to spark the team to play defense. 11 guys played at least five minutes in this game for the Bears.

Montana State will now travel for a roadtrip against Eastern Washington and Portland State. If they can get a split out of that, they will be sitting nicely at 6-3. Northern Colorado goes on a roadtrip to play Idaho State and Northern Arizona, and it is not unreasonable to say they should be disappointed with anything short of a sweep. Improbably, UNC @ Idaho State on Thursday night is a huge game in the Big Sky.

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Charles Odum The Hero As Portland State Beats Eastern Washington

I thought that the game between Portland State and Eastern Washington would be the best game of Saturday night, and it proved me right. In a game that was tight throughout, Portland State won 78-76 in overtime.

Near the end of regulation, Portland State had the ball, trailing by three (in part thanks to a missed free throw by EWU). They found guard Lateef McMullan, who nailed a three from the corner and got fouled (but missed the free throw, robbing the Big Sky of potentially have two game-winning four point plays within one week). On the ensuing possession, Tremayne Johnson drove to the hoop, but had his shot blocked by Chehales Tapscott, sending the game to extra minutes.

In overtime, the drama continued. Late in the game, it was Eastern Washington trailing by three, taking the ball out from under their basket with about 35 seconds left. EWU ran a nice play to get Collin Chiverton free, and he banked in a three from the wing with 30 seconds to play. Portland State did not call timeout, and they simply ran the clock down, and ran a four-low isolation play for Charles Odum, who got into the lane and hit a 12 footer with 2 seconds left. The Eagles got a desperation attempt up, but Odum's shot was the game-winner.

Odum finished with 20 points, but he was just one hero among a few for the Vikings. Chehales Tapscott had 16 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks, and made tons of big plays. Lateef McMullan hit the big three at the end of regulation, and finished with 18 points on the game. His emergence becoming a reliable offensive threat has made the team that much more dangerous.

For Eastern Washington, it's two straight painful losses. Last week they were on the wrong end of a thriller against Northern Colorado, and this one has to sting even more since it was at home. Once again, their propensity to commit tons of fouls was their undoing, as three guys fouled out and PSU shot 40+ free throws. I saw a couple EWU fans (though it should be noted I have seen others that don't agree with this) blaming the refs and thinking that EWU is getting the short end, but I don't see that. There was ticky tack calls on both teams, but the bottom line is that every game EWU is having these foul problems. They foul more than anyone in America, and it seems to happen to them every game.

At some point you have to stop looking at the refs and start looking in the mirror.

Suddenly, EWU is sitting at 3-4 in the Big Sky with Montana and Montana State coming to town. They desperately need some wins, especially with Idaho State playing better and better. For Portland State, they are 4-3 and host Montana State on Thursday. With a win, they will be tied for third in the conference.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

New Eastern Washington Blog

Doesn't look like it has been up for too long yet, but there is a new blog up about Eastern Washington basketball. It is great to see more coverage of the Big Sky, so check out Eagle Eye.

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Interview With Sac State Athletic Director

Very solid interview over at Sac State Sports with Athletic Director Terry Wanless, including an interesting nugget on the TV deal with Root Sports.

Wanless, who is part of the league’s TV committee, told SacStateSports.com on Wednesday night that the conference’s nine schools paid $100,000 to have games televised on Altitude, their previous television partner. That came to about $11,000 a school. Now Root Sports will pay the Big Sky televise about as 30 events a year.

“If I can save the athletic department $11,000 and possibly bring in about $5,000-$10,000, then that’s a big win for us,” Wanless said. “Now that’s not huge dollars compared to some of the BCS leagues, but for us it’s about exposure and bringing the product into a bigger region.”
Check out his site for the full interview.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Saturday Night Big Sky Predictions

Four games are on tap in the Big Sky on Saturday night, so let's get a little preview of the games and a prediction for the winners.

Northern Colorado (3-3) @ Montana State (4-2)
This game will have major implications in the Big Sky standings. If MSU wins, then they will be alone at third at 5-2, or in a tie for second if Sac State can beat the Griz. If UNC wins, all of a sudden there is a 4-3 logjam.The Bobcats are 4-2, but for the most part they have been winning close games against inferior competition. It's tough to predict which UNC team will show up on a given night, but given that they struggled Thursday, they are due for a good game here. The Bobcats struggle at stopping teams for downtown, and nobody in America has shot them as well as the Bears have this year. NORTHERN COLORADO 72, MONTANA STATE 71

Sacramento State (0-6) @ Montana (5-1)
The Hornets are desperate to win a game in the Big Sky after losing nine straight, but going into Montana is not exactly the best recipe to try and make that happen. The Grizzlies did not play well against Weber State, but they have been playing great other than that, including a big win over a solid UNC team on Thursday. Sacramento State can keep this interesting for awhile, but they don't have the talent to go into Missoula and win. MONTANA 77, SACRAMENTO STATE 62

Northern Arizona (1-6) @ Idaho State (2-4)
This is a big game for the Bengals. If they can win at home, they are 3-4 (with 2 more home games coming) and legitimately in the race for a conference tournament spot. That is a lot more than people would have thought before the season started. For NAU, their post play is improving a little, but it is still not that good. I think Chase Grabau is the best player in this game, and that makes the difference. IDAHO STATE 64, NORTHERN ARIZONA 59

Portland State (3-3) @ Eastern Washington (3-3)
If I had to choose just one of these games to watch, this would be the one. Both teams have high octane offenses, and they are two of the faster teams in the Big Sky. PSU is solid at getting to the line, and EWU likes to put people there - Portland State might shoot 50 free throws tomorrow. But, this game is in Cheney, and I think the Eagles will be able to get the job done at home. It should be a great game. Neither team is going to want to wake up on Sunday morning to 3-4. EASTERN WASHINGTON 82, PORTLAND STATE 77

What are your thoughts? Who do you have winning?

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursday Night Thoughts

A few takeaways from each of the three Thursday night games in the Big Sky.

Montana 76, Northern Colorado 58
- This was a chance for the Bears to take a big step in their growth and maturity, but they couldn't do it. They got off to a great start, getting a 12 point lead in the first half, but they could not sustain it. Montana led by one at the break, and then blew the Bears out in the second half.
- Will Cherry was the man in this game, with 27 points (17 in the first half), six assists, and four steals. He was a level (or two) above anyone UNC had on this given night.
- Still would like to see Montana's freshmen (especially Keron DeSheilds and Kevin Henderson) get some more run, but it is tough to question Tinkle - he has proven himself well.

Weber State 81, Northern Arizona 67
Weber State showed how dangerous they can be and how many weapons they have. Damian Lillard had 18/6/6, but Kyle Tresnak was the leading scorer with 22 points. Playing against NAU's front line, it was a nice game plan by the Wildcats to get the ball down low.
- Northern Arizona shot 53% from the field, but they still weren't even that close in this game. It didn't help that leading scorer James Douglas missed the game with an illness. Hopefully he can return quickly.
- Weber State is now 11-0 at home. That is a scary thought since as of now, both the semifinals and finals of the Big Sky tournament would be played in Ogden.

Montana State 72, Sacramento State 65
- I keep doubting how good Montana State is, and they keep winning. Sure, they have benefited from a nice schedule in the early going, but there is something to be said about winning the game that  you're supposed to win. That is what the Bobcats have done this conference season.
- As they have done this year, MSU hit some big free throws down the stretch.
- Finally a nice scoring effort from Sac State guard Dylan Garrity! He led all scorers with 18 points, and even knocked down three treys. He has been a nice playmaker for the Hornets, but has struggled mightily with his shot.
- If Montana State can beat Northern Colorado at home, they will improve to 5-2 in the Big Sky, another strong start. Suffice to say that MSU fans have seen this movie before, but they hope that this time around it has a happy ending.

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North Dakota Still Hopes to Keep Rivalries

From The Dickinson Press, talking about how The University of North Dakota hopes to keep some of its rivalry games even when it enters the Big Sky conference:

The Big Sky season will give UND 20 games, leaving eight or nine nonconference dates.

And UND coach Brian Jones would like nothing better than to fill those dates with the likes of North Dakota State, South Dakota and South Dakota State.
It is interesting to note that according to the article, each Big Sky team will be playing 20 conference games, meaning there would be a home and home with the other 10 teams in the conference. That would only leave 8 or 9 non-conference games, which will make the athletic directors jobs easier, but could make it harder for teams to impress outside of the Big Sky.

There will be some changes in the conference next season, and it certainly is going to be interesting.

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More Big Sky TV Deal Questions Answered

There have been a lot of questions asked about this new deal with Root Sports, and Jon Kasper of the Big Sky Conference set out to answer some of them on the Big Sky Conference blog. Perhaps the best news is this:

Q: What is the future of Big Sky TV?
A: Big Sky TV will continue. In fact, with the addition of Southern Utah, North Dakota, and Cal Poly and UC Davis for football, we'll bring you more games than ever in 2012-13. The games that ROOT chooses to televise, however, will not be part of the Big Sky TV package. ROOT may opt to video stream those games, or may not. We are also working with America One, our Big Sky TV provider, on mobile applications starting in 2012. Most conferences and universities charge to view games on the Internet. The Big Sky package has been FREE for the past four seasons, and will likely continue to be free.
One question that I didn't see answered in the article, but I have been asked... is that the Altitude package will not continue after this season.

What does everyone think of the deal? Big deal, or no big deal?

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Big Sky Standings Breakdown

Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the day to day looks at the conference, but let's take a step back and look at the big picture. Here are the Big Sky standings, and some quick thoughts on them.

1. Weber State (6-0)
2. Montana (4-1)
3. Montana State (3-2)
4. Northern Colorado (3-2)
5. Portland State (3-3)
6. Eastern Washington (3-3)
7. Idaho State (2-4)
8. Northern Arizona (1-5)
9. Sacramento State (0-5)

- Obviously the regular season in the Big Sky means a lot. Only six teams make the conference tournament, and the winner of the regular season hosts the semifinals and finals of the Big Sky tournament, meaning the odds are stacked in their favor to make the Big Dance. In my opinion, that's exactly the way it should be.

- Weber State is obviously established itself the undisputed favorite, and they look like far and away the best team in the conference. If anyone is going to beat them, it will have to be away from Ogden. The Wildcats are 10-0 at home this year.

-Montana State it sitting at three right now, but I don't think it will last. I just don't think they have the talent of Northern Colorado, Portland State or Eastern Washington. Now, the Bobcats did beat the Vikings already this year, I just think PSU is a little bit better. Northern Colorado's overall record of 6-10 still looks ugly,  but they look like a top 5 team in the Big Sky.

- I think it will be a mild upset if the top six teams as they currently sit are not the six teams that make the Big Sky tournament. Idaho State has definitely had their moments (and currently sit right outside the tourney), but I don't think they can put together enough wins to finish in the top 6. Northern Arizona is capable of putting together the occasional good game, but they don't have the talent or depth to consistently win games.

- Sacramento State can be a top six team on paper, but they are not showing it on the court. They have lost some games they should have won (ahem), and there simply doesn't seem to be a lot of positive vibes coming out of Sacramento right now. They are already three games back in the win column, and watching them so far this year, you don't get the impression that they will even win three conference games all year!

Your thoughts on the way things look right now?

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Big Sky Notes

Once again, the Big Sky has put out their weekly notes , which as always includes some interesting tidbits. Some of the most interesting:

CHART WATCH: Weber State’s Damian Lillard scored 38 points last week to push his career total to 1,583, which places him 20th on the Big Sky’s all-time scoring list. Lillard ins in position to move into 17th on the all-time list with 20 points on Thursday against Northern Arizona. Former Boise State and NBA guard Chris Childs is 18th on the all-time list with 1,602 points. Former Weber State great Jermaine Boyette is 17th with 1,613. Lillard also made four 3-pointers, giving him 211 for his career. Lillard is tied for 10th all-time in league history with Idaho State’s David Schroeder. Montana’s Will Cherry had four steals last week, giving him 178 for his career. Cherry is now tied for 12th place on the Big Sky’s all-time list with Weber State’s Eddie Gill.
RPI REPORT: Buoyed by victories over Montana State and Montana, Weber State’s RPI jumped 14 spots to 72nd. Weber State had an RPI of 103 two weeks ago. Montana is second in the Big Sky with an RPI of 138. Eastern Washington is at 158, followed by Portland State at 209.

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UND Beats NDSU in Rivalry Game

This involves a future Big Sky team, but allow me to gloat for a minute! As an alum, NDSU is our big rival. We don't like NDSU. So now that the rivalry is starting to get going again (after a few years of hiatus), it is a big win for The University of North Dakota to top North Dakota State University, which they did on Tuesday night, winning 59-54.

Sophomore forward Brandon Brekke (East Grand Forks, Minn.), whose father, uncle and aunt all played in the rivalry at UND, led all players with 17 points to carry his team to a 59-54 victory. The game was the first between the two rivals in Grand Forks in eight years, and drew 7,169 vociferous fans to Ralph Engelstad Arena.
It is an excellent win for the program, and one that will be savored by the players and fans alike.

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Jim Hayford Reads KenPom

Just thought this would be interesting to note!

In talking to Eastern Washington Coach Jim Hayford on Saturday after the UNC/EWU game, he let out that he is a reader of Ken Pomeroy's site. As readers of this site hopefully know, I am a big fan of Pomeroy, and think his site is a must-read and must-subscribe for all college basketball fans.

I love hearing about coaches using sites like this, because it means they are open to using all the resources available to them. The most famous is perhaps Brad Stevens, who has used all of the resources available to him to go to two straight national championship games. If Hayford (and other coaches) are open minded about using all data points to make their team better, good things should follow.

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The Play of Tim Huskisson

I have been very impressed all year with the play of Northern Colorado freshman Tim Huskisson, and that belief in his potential was just reinforced watching him in person on Saturday night.

Looking at his numbers, nothing stuck out a ton, but he was just solid in many ways, and contributes a lot for a freshman. He scored eight points on 3/6 shooting, had three rebounds, and two steals. It was a quietly efficient game, but showcased his skills.

One, he is a solid shooter and efficient offensive player. He is shooting over 50% from downtown this year (albeit he does not have a ton of attempts), but picks his spots. In the EWU game, he hit a couple huge threes late in the game, which kept the Bears right in the game. He is shooting 54.3% from the field this year, 52.6% from threes, and 87.9% from the stripe.

He also contributes with his excellent athleticism. He is not an amazing athlete, but he is a very good one for the Big Sky. He posts solid rebounding numbers, and gets some steals and blocks. He has the ability to guard athletic guys, which is a big trait for the Bears with their roster makeup.

Huskisson is a guy that only plays 15.8 minutes per game as a freshman, and averages 7.2 PPG. But he is a guy that brings a lot of different attributes to the table, and doesn't really take anything off of it. With his talent, he will at the very least be a very good player for the Bears for the next few years, with the potential to grow into an all-conference guy.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Big Sky Reaches TV Deal With Root Sports

On Tuesday, the Big Sky reached a TV deal with Root Sports, entering into a five year deal to televise football and basketball games in the Big Sky. This makes DirectTV Sports Networks and its Root Sports branded regional sports networks the Big Sky's official TV partner.

DIRECTV Sports Networks will produce and televise up to 18 Big Sky Conference football games each season, including the annual Montana-Montana State rivalry game, beginning with the 2012 football season. Under the agreement, it may also broadcast up to 12 regular season conference basketball games as well as Big Sky quarterfinal and semifinal conference men’s basketball tournament games. All events will be produced and distributed in High Definition with new state-of-the-art graphics elements customized for the Big Sky Conference and its teams.
It is unclear what type of impact this will have for the conference, because the financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. But safe to say, the more exposure for the conference, the better. The more games that are on TV and can be seen by more eyeballs, obviously the better for the Big Sky.

I will have more if more information comes out, but certainly a good day for the Big Sky.

A couple other takes on things - from Eagles POV, and Sac State Sports.

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Eastern Washington Falls to Seattle

I am getting a link up a bit late, but Eastern Washington lost last night to Seattle by the score of 91-78.

Eastern Washington University took a 52-51 lead early in the second half and was within one with 10 minutes to play, but it was all Seattle after that as the Redhawks rolled over the Eagles 91-78 in a non-conference college men’s basketball game Monday (Jan. 16) at Key Arena in Seattle, Wash.
It was just Seattle's fourth win of the season, so it's easy to see this as a bad loss for the Eagles, but I am not sure it is too big of a deal.

For one, they were playing their third road game in five days, which has to wear on a team, especially one without a ton of depth. Second, it has to be a bit tougher to get up for a non-conference game in the middle of the conference season, especially after losing the way they did on Saturday.

Obviously you would always rather win than lose, but beyond that, I am not sure this is cause for much concern in Cheney.

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Charles Odum Named Big Sky POW

Charles Odum has broken Damian Lillard's streak! Odum was named the Big Sky Player of the Week for his performance against Northern Colorado in a road win.

Odum, a 6-foot, 205-pound senior guard from Lakewood, Calif, scored 22 points with five assists and four rebounds as the Vikings beat Northern Colorado 86-75 on Thursday, Jan. 12, to record their first road win of the season. Odum made 7-of-9 field goals, was 4-of-6 from 3-point range, and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line. It was his sixth 20-point game of the year.
Odum is averaging a solid 17.2 PPG this year.

Other candidates were: Collin Chiverton (Eastern Washington), Kenny McGowen (Idaho State), Kareem Jamar (Montana), Shawn Reid (Montana State), Mike Proctor (Northern Colorado), and Scott Bamforth (Weber State).

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Portland State Evens Big Sky Record

After Idaho State's thrilling comeback over Sacramento State on Saturday, they had a lot of confidence.They started out this game playing well, jumping out to a 9-2 lead, and it looked like they may have found some magic. However, Portland State regained their composure, kept it close for a while, and then made a big second half run, eventually winning 70-62.

The star for the Vikings was guard Charles Odum, who finished with a career-high 29 points. As has been the case most of the season, it was an efficient scoring output, as he was 10/18 from the field (including 3/5 from downtown) and 6/7 from the stripe. Off the heels of being named Big Sky Player of the Week, he had an impressive outing.

Chehales Tapscott also filled the stat sheet for the Vikings as usual. He had an efficient 15 points, six rebounds, five steals, and four blocks. There is no doubt that he is one of the more versatile guys in the nation. Lateef McMullan and Renado Parker also contributed with 10 points each in the win.

For Idaho State, they didn't play too poorly, they just didn't have the firepower. Chase Grabau continued his excellent senior season with 18 points, eight rebounds, and four assists, and Kenny McGowen also chipped in 20. However, they just didn't have the talent to keep pace with the Vikings on their home court.

Portland State moves to 9-9 on the year, 3-3 in the Big Sky, while Idaho State drops to 4-14 and 2-4 in the Big Sky. PSU will take on Eastern Washington on Saturday in what should be a fantastic matchup, as both teams currently sit tied for fifth in the Big Sky.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Weekend Recap: Weber State Rules the Big Sky

As mentioned, I had a friend visiting which is why there was a huge lack of posts this weekend. However, I did enjoy a great Colorado weekend! Here is a quick look at what I missed in the Big Sky.

The big game of the weekend, biggest game of the Big Sky season so far and one of the bigger mid-major matchups so far, was obviously the matchup between Montana and Weber State. It is not a shock that Weber State won, as they were favored and were at home. However, it was certainly a surprise that they won so handily, with the final of 80-64.

Also surprising was that Weber State put up 49 first half points against the best defense in the Big Sky, and that they did it on a night when Damian Lillard was just 4/15 from the field. Now, Lillard certainly contributed with 11/12 FTs, five rebounds, and four assists, but the big story was that a lot of other guys stepped up for the Wildcats.

Scott Bamforth had 15 points and knocked down three treys. Kyle Tresnak had five. Five other guys scored between five and eight points, and that's not even counting leader Kyle Bullinger, who is just returning from injury. Weber State has been winning games with guys hurt and without a ton of guys stepping up to help Lillard... now that they are getting guys healthy and they are getting everyone involved, they are going to be extremely difficult to beat.

Montana obviously struggled defensively, but they also were not able to get in a real good offensive flow. They shot 38.5% from the field, and only two guys (Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar) were in double figures. For a team that had to be going into this game thinking it was one they could go in and steal, it had to be a very disappointing effort.

The two teams will meet again on February 28th in Missoula in their final conference games of the year. It would be great theater if they can go into the game gunning for the Big Sky regular season title (which matters a heck of a lot in this conference), but as it stands right now Weber State is the clear favorite.


Another big game on Saturday night was played between Montana State and Northern Arizona, with the Bobcats needing to go on the road and get another road win. It wasn't easy, but they did just that, beating the Lumberjacks 74-72 in Flagstaff. Northern Arizona trailed by 14 with 11:02 left, but battled back to take a 72-70 lead with 2:23 left, but MSU held them scoreless the rest of the way. Xavier Blount made lots of big plays all day and especially down the stretch, showcasing his superb talent.

Montana State has an excellent trio of wings, and they showed it in this game. Blount led the way with 21 points (on 11 shots), Christian Moon had 12 points, and Shawn Reid finished with 16. They are three solid players that need to play big for MSU, and they did on the road here.

NAU rebounded well and got to the line often, but they just didn't hit enough shots to win this game. They were 3/15 from downtown, and shot 40.7% overall.

MSU improves to 3-2 in the Big Sky, while Northern Arizona falls to 1-5. The Bobcats have a nice win over Portland State (and road wins over Idaho State and Northern Arizona), but I don't see them as a top 4 team in the Big Sky at this moment, despite their solid record. Time will tell. Three conference wins at this stage is huge.


I did write about this game this weekend, but in case you missed it, Northern Colorado won a thriller over Eastern Washington Saturday night in Greeley. It was a back and forth game that was a blast to be at, and could probably be called the best conference game in the Big Sky so far this season. Both teams went back and forth all day and made plays.


In the final game of the day, Sacramento State found a shocking way to lose, as Idaho State incredibly came back to win in Sacramento, 68-67.

The Hornets led by 22(!) points with 11:21 to go, and ISU had amassed 32 points in the first 28 minutes, 39 seconds. In the last 11:21, they scored 36 points. I will admit, I was following the game online a bit, and I turned the computer off and assumed that Sacramento State got the win. To call the comeback shocking does not do it justice.

Check out Ken Pomeroy's win probability chart for this game. You won't find a lot of games like that. Sacramento State led by 22 with 11:21 left, 10 with 1:58 left, and 3 with 12 seconds left. Then Kenny McGowen went to work.

The Idaho State men's basketball team rallied from 22 points down in the second half to beat Sacramento State 68-67 at the Hornets Nets in Sacramento, Calif. Idaho State trailed 67-64 with 12 seconds remaining when Kenny McGowen hit a 3-pointer and was fouled with eight seconds left. McGowen connected on the free throw and the Hornets last second 3-pointer was blocked by Sherrod Baldwin to give the Bengals the victory.
Congrats to the Bengals for an incredible comeback win to improve to 2-3. Sacramento State falls to 0-5 in the Big Sky, and their deep hole is a little bit deeper, especially after a game that has to be more than a little bit of a confidence killer.

What did I miss from the weekend?

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