Saturday is the last day of the Big Sky regular season. Here is what we know right now:
- Montana and Weber State will be the top two seeds, in some order.
- North Dakota is the number three seed.
- Northern Colorado is in the tournament. At this point they are the four seed, but that could change if MSU wins. However, they won’t be lower than the five seed.
- Of all the teams that haven’t clinched, Montana State has the clearest path in. They need to win, or have either Northern Arizona or Southern Utah lose. If either of those things happen, they’re in. If MSU loses and SUU/NAU both win, it goes to a tiebreaker.
- If Sacramento State, NAU, and SUU all lose… they would all be tied at 8-12 with only two teams making it. Based on my understanding of the tiebreakers, Sac State would be out.
- Eastern Washington has a chance if they can upset Weber State and two of NAU/SAC/SUU lose. That would put multiple teams at 8-12, and it would go to a tiebreaker.
I am sure I have missed something! With all that said, a look at the games and I see them shaking out.
Northern Arizona @ Montana
What’s at stake: Montana needs a win and they clinch home-court advantage. They can still get it with a loss, but they don’t want to mess around with that. NAU would feel good about making it if they win, because they swept Sac State, and a win over the Grizzlies would be a huge tiebreaker help.
Who wins: NAU has come close to beating Weber State and Montana State in their last two games, but haven’t been able to get over the hump. I think it will be the same story this time. The Grizzlies want a second straight outright title, and they are not going to give that up playing at home. It’s been a long time since they’ve lost a conference game in Missoula, and that streak won’t end on Saturday. Montana wins.
Eastern Washington @ Weber State
What’s at stake: Weber State is the top seed if they win, Montana loses, and Montana State loses. That is not exactly an easy road, but it will keep them motivated for this one. EWU has a small chance to sneak in if they can win and get some help.
Who wins: Eastern Washington has shown flashes of the talent they possess and will show in coming seasons, but they don’t have the ability to hang with Weber in Ogden. This won’t quite be a rout like Thursday night against PSU, but I think Weber State will win this game comfortably.
Southern Utah @ North Dakota
What’s at stake: For UND, nothing. They are locked into the three seed. For SUU, a win will make them feel pretty comfortable that they are in, while they need some help if they lose.
Who wins: On paper, UND is the better team and playing at home. However, I’ll go with the more desperate team. The Thunderbirds have to win this game, and they know. With seniors Jackson Stevenett and Damon Heuir, I think Southern Utah guts out a tough road win to keep their season alive.
Sacramento State @ Montana State
What’s at stake: Tons. This could be the biggest game of the night. If MSU wins, they are in. If they lose, things still look good. For Sac State, a win most likely means they are in. A loss, and things get interesting. They have poor records against Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, meaning that the tiebreak scenarios don't seem to be in their favor. They badly need a win or there is a good chance their once promising season will end.
Who wins: The Hornets need it more, but the Bobcats have been playing better lately. Antonio Biglow turned in his best performance on Thursday, and junior Paul Egwuonwu and Flavien Davis are peaking at the right time. Xavier Blount is out with an injury, which hurts MSU, but I think Montana State has enough to get the win at home.
Portland State @ Idaho State
What’s at stake: Well, nothing. Pride, I guess.
Who wins: As a general rule, if you are down 41-13 at the half (even on the road against the best team), you might have given up on the season. I see Idaho State, at home, winning to end the year on a high note.
If this is how things shake out, here is what the final standings would look like (based on my tiebreaker knowledge):
1. Montana (19-1)
2. Weber State (18-2)
3. North Dakota (11-9)
4. Montana State (10-10)
5. Northern Colorado (10-10)
6. Southern Utah (9-11)
7. Northern Arizona (8-12)
8. Sacramento State (8-12)
9. Eastern Washington (7-13)
10. Idaho State (5-15)
11. Portland State (5-15)
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