In 2012, the Big Sky finished 28th in KenPom's rankings (which can at least provide a decent overview of the state of the conference).
In 2013, the Big Sky finished 27th in the rankings.
So far this year, the Big Sky is 23rd in the rankings.
To my eye, we are seeing some improvement from Big Sky teams, and we are especially seeing what will be a much improved top five of the conference, as all of the top teams seem like they will be very strong. A quick rundown of some of the impressive wins and performances so far this year.
- North Dakota's win over potential Summit League winner NDSU was one of the biggest wins so far, and should look stronger as the season goes along. Also, they did score 85 against Wisconsin (but they did give up 103). For the last couple of seasons, their defense has been better than their offense, but so far this year, they look like they could have the most explosive offense in the Big Sky.
- Northern Colorado has been perhaps the most impressive team in the conference so far. They have the season-opening win over Kansas State, but they also went on the road and gave two solid teams - New Mexico State and Colorado State - all they could handle. The experience gained in tough, road games should be a big help as the season goes on.
- Eastern Washington led the University of Washington by nine at the half in Seattle, before falling late. They followed that up with an impressive win over a good Boston team, a beating of a traditionally solid LIU team, and a road loss to UC-Irvine. Like UND, their offense is looking very explosive right now, and they potentially have the talent to be better than their number five pre-season ranking.
- Montana faltered against Minnesota and San Francsico, but they did beat South Dakota State on the road. The Jackrabbits were an NCAA tournament team last year, though they'll surely take a step back this season.
- Idaho State actually has the best RPI in the conference, and they boast an OT win on the road at San Francisco, who will be a good team this year.
- Portland State hosted a tournament, and came away with wins over DI opponents Loyola Chicago, SIU Edwardsville, and UC Davis. No matter the quality of the opponents, when you win three DI games in three days, that is really positive.
- Montana State got a road win over Central Michigan, who could be a middle of the road MAC team if things break right.
There are no stunning upsets of top 25 teams, but there's a lot of solid victories in the mix here. Those are the types of things that were few and far between for the Big Sky the past two years. This year, the top appears stronger, and the depth with teams like Idaho State seems better than in past years as well. That is a great sign for the Big Sky.
Follow me on Twitter @bigskybball