Monday, January 27, 2014

Big Sky Power Rankings

Another week almost in the books, and it's time for another set of power rankings!

1. Northern Colorado (7-1) - They are still solidly in first, but they have struggled a bit defensively the last few games, and have gone five straight games allowing opponents to score over 1.05 PPP. Right now they are the best offensive team in the Big Sky, and doing great things across the board there, but with a four game road stretch on the horizon, they need to tighten things up defensively.

2. Weber State (7-1) - Suddenly, the Big Sky is looking like a two-team race, again. This time, Weber State's foe is Northern Colorado. The good news for the Wildcats is that the Bears have already lost to someone other than Weber, which didn't happen to Montana the last two years. The Wildcats are 7-1, but have played 6 of 8 games in Ogden. Beating Montana State by 29 was easily their most impressive performance of the year, but we still have a lot to learn about them.

3. North Dakota (5-3) - Suddenly, they look like the third best team in the Big Sky, after winning three straight. The biggest thing is they are starting to get contributions from different guys. Against Sac State, Alonzo Traylor had 17 points off the bench in 26 minutes. Against Northern Arizona, five guys were in double figures, and none of them was Troy Huff. Having those contributors is key for them.

4. Northern Arizona (5-3) - After losing to North Dakota and Northern Colorado on the road by double digits, we know they aren't legitimate Big Sky contenders, but that is not a real surprise at this point in their rebuilding. But, they are a talented and athletic team that can go 7 or 8 deep, which is a luxury that some teams (other than the top two) don't really have. They will be in the mix for a top 4 seed throughout the conference season.

5. Montana (3-5) - For much of the game against Idaho State, the Grizzlies' win probability was below 50%. But for a big second half from Jordan Gregory, the Grizzlies would be 2-6 and down. As is, they did what they had to do on their roadtrip - get a split. This week, they should beat Southern Utah, but then have an interesting date at rival Montana State. That game should tell us a lot about both teams.

6. Idaho State (4-4) - After two disappointing losses against Weber State and Montana, they bounced back for a tough win against MSU. In the big picture, it's still a concern that they can't get any production from their bench. Their core trio of Hatchett, Sanchez, and Hansen has been very solid, but if any of them has an off night, they struggle to beat good teams. That might just be the reality of the roster this season.

7. Montana State (4-4) - They were 4-1 after beating Northern Colorado a couple weeks ago, but that seems like so long ago now, after three straight losses. Their problems right now are on the offensive end. As good as they are at defensive rebounding, they don't create many second chances for themselves, and they don't get many freebies from the foul line. Their next four games include three home games and a road tilt against SUU. They need to come out of that with three wins, or else things will start to get a little dicier for them.

8. Eastern Washington (3-4) - Ognjen Miljkovic returned last game, which is key for their depth. The Eagles played at the 14th fastest pace in the country, yet they are one of the least deep teams in the nation - a tough combo. They have been struggling lately on defense, giving up 1.09 PPP during conference play (while scoring 1.03 PPP), and have struggled to force any turnovers. At 3-4, they aren't where a lot of people thought they were, but they have won the game they are supposed to. If they can continue to do that, and steal a couple they aren't supposed to win, they'll be right in the thick of things in the top five.

9. Portland State (3-4) - They play Eastern Washington in Portland on Monday night (this was written before that, but probably happened by the time you are reading this), and it's a big game for them. One of the unsung role players for them this year has been Marcus Hall, an efficient shooter that fills in where needed. Every team could use a guy like Hall.

10 Sacramento State (2-6) - The Big Sky is a funny league. Going into Saturday, you probably would have said it was clear that the Hornets were #10 in the conference pecking order. Then they went and gave UNC their most competitive game in Greeley during the conference season (the Bears soundly beat North Dakota, Weber State, Southern Utah and Northern Arizona). Against the Bears, the Hornets frontcourt scored 13 points. Apart from 6'5'' Zach Mills, it's hard to know where production up front will come from.

11. Southern Utah (0-8) - They are still winless against DI competition, but they are still playing hard every night, and a win will come. In their last three games, they lost on the road in tough environments by six, seven, and three points. It can be hard to see, but they are getting better, and they are not the punchline they appeared to be earlier in the season.


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  1. In two weeks the conference picture will be a little clearer. If UNC goes 4-0 or 3-1 on the road swing, it will be difficult for Weber to over take them for the lead. 1-3 or 2-2 may leave the door open for Weber. I see Weber losing a few more road games this season. I am really interested to see if North Dakota is back in the race. This road swing will tell us alot about the team without a name. I keep waiting for Eastern to surge back into the pack. Is this the week?

  2. After they laid an egg in the second half last night, it appears EWU's not ready to make a move yet. I keep waiting for both them and Montana!

  3. Having seen both EWU and Montana play, I don't think either one is good enough to make a serious run. They will both be tough at home, but Montana has no front court and EWU has no depth.

  4. I thought Ognjen Miljkovic returning would lead to depth and more wins. He has made an impact, just no too sure the team is better. Is North Dakota a contender or pretender? Looks like they are starting to gel, but they still have the worst coach in the Big Sky.

  5. At this point, I'm not ready to name anyone except Northern Colorado and Weber State as a contender. Everyone else has just been too inconsistent, and they have too many holes right now. It seems like UND, NAU, Montana, EWU... have the talent to potentially make a run, but so far they aren't close. UND has looked good the last few games, but we will see what happens on their road stretch coming up.

  6. The road stretch will determine the legitimacy of UND's chances at the Sky. 4-0 or 3-1 I say it turns into a 3 team race. 2-2 its about where they are at now, 1-3 or 0-4... time to pay attention to our girls who are tied for 1st in conference