With five games on tap this evening, let's take a quick look at them and make some predictions.
@ Montana 77, North Dakota 70
It's an interesting matchup because neither team relies on their post offense, but lets the guards and the outside shooting do most of the work. They are second and third in FT rate during conference play, a good sign that the guards are staying aggressive. Troy Huff is playing better than anyone else in the Big Sky, and North Dakota is playing much better than the team that got beat soundly by Montana (in Grand Forks) a few weeks ago. But it's too tall of a task for them to go into Montana and sweep.
@ Weber State 75, Southern Utah 65
The Thunderbirds have a way of keeping things interesting, and I expect this game might be a little closer than Weber State fans will like. However, the Wildcats just have too much talent and depth for the Thunderbirds. WSU has the defense to slow down Jackson Stevenett and Damon Heuir, and SUU can't generate enough offense outside those two to beat a good team on the road.
Northern Colorado 72, @ Montana State 68
This pick is because I think talent wise they are similar, but UNC is the more desperate team. The Bears know that with a loss, it's not at all inconceivable that they will be three games out of the seventh spot with only six games to go, a hole that would be extremely difficult to climb out of to make the conference tournament. If they need more motivation than that to come out and play tough defense for 40 minutes, I am afraid it's just not going to happen this year.
@ Sacramento State 77, Portland State 73
What it comes down to is this... when the Vikings need a stop late in the game, I have no confidence that they will get one. Their defense continues to be the worst in the conference by a wide margin. Though the continued injury of Konnor Veteto (which has hampered his play) helps make this one closer, the Vikings just don't have what it takes to win on the road right now.
@ Northern Arizona 64, Eastern Washington 61
I wanted to pick the Eagles here, but I am still not sure about Venky Jois' availability, and NAU seems to have something nice going at home this year. Gabe Rogers has been playing outstanding basketball, and they are getting just enough help from their other guys to win. Unless Jois is back and fully healthy, it will be tough for EWU to find the offense to win this game.
Thoughts? Unfortunately I will be out and unable to watch any of the games... but hope the night provides some good Big Sky action!
Follow me on Twitter @bigskybball