I interviewed Blue Ribbon's Assistant Editor John Moorehouse about the Big Sky and some of his thoughts on the conference, and here is what he had to say (my questions in bold):
1) Who do you see winning the Big Sky title and who are their two biggest contenders?
First off I think it should be noted I've picked the Big Sky champ wrong more often than not since I started previewing the league. That being said, I think Weber State has the best team on paper, even with Wheelwright's transfer creating a bit of a depth issue on the perimeter. The Wildcats have the best big man in the league in Kyle Tresnak, and one of the top overall players in Davion Berry. Joel Bolomboy is a matchup nightmare. Lots to like there.
It's been Weber and Montana at the top of the league for so long but I think North Dakota is primed to challenge for the conference title. UND brings back everybody relevant from last season's team, and most of their key seniors like Troy Huff have been starting since midway through their freshman year. I think UND has the best perimeter in the league, even with Kareem Jamar coming back at Montana. Jaron Nash can be a real difference maker for them.
You can't discount Montana, because no matter what happens with regard to personnel, Wayne Tinkle always has the Grizzlies in the hunt. Of course, it doesn't hurt when you bring back the Big Sky player of the year.
So those would be my top three: Weber, North Dakota and Montana. I wouldn't be shocked to see Northern Colorado unseat one of those three either. In my preview interviews, coaches around the league think the Bears will be very tough this season.
2) There is a tournament and you can pick a starting lineup out of Big Sky players... who is your starting five?
Well, the Big Sky is a guard-heavy league so I'd go with three perimeter players in Huff, Berry and Jamar.
Derrick Barden at Northern Colorado is the best pure forward in the league, in my opinion, and I already mentioned Tresnak so I'd stick him at center.
3) What team do you think will surprise followers of the Big Sky this season?
I think people are sleeping on Northern Arizona to some degree. They won't win the league, but I was surprised to see the Lumberjacks picked seventh and ninth in the two preseason conference polls. NAU exceeded expectations last season, and this year's team has more depth and length. That team's going to be a contender in 2014-15.
4) What team do you think will disappoint relative to expectations this season?
Montana always expects to be playing for Big Sky hardware, but I think the Grizzlies could be in store for a bit of a down year. This is the youngest team they've had in years, and they don't have that veteran presence in the paint that's been such a consistent factor for this team during their recent run at the top of the conference.
Of course, by Montana's standards, a down year means finishing third.
5) I think Eastern Washington might be the hardest team to project this year, because of all of their youth (no senior on the roster). How do you see their season going?
I picked them to finish seventh, which is below where the Eagles placed in both of the preseason polls. They have some nice pieces but I'm not sold on their point guards and I think they're going to be relying too much on newcomers to make a major move. There are too many teams ahead of them with too many proven returning players.
You can purchase the 2013-14 Blue Ribbon Yearbook here, as they have both print and digital copies.
Your thoughts on any of his comments?
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