It's time to get ready for the Big Sky season again with some overviews of each team this month, and then eventually we'll get into more detailed looks at everything. Today we'll look at the newcomer in the conference, as Idaho re-joins the Big Sky.
What They Lost: The biggest loss looks to be wing man Stephen Madison, who did a little bit of everything for the Vandals last season. He was the focal point of the offense, with a usage rate of 29.8%, getting to the line frequently while also shooting 33% from downtown. He also grabbed 19.2% of defensive rebounds, and will be tough to replace. Their other big loss will be a name familiar to Big Sky followers - Glen Dean, who began his career at Eastern Washington. Dean was a good ballhandler and distributor for them last season.
Who Returns: Conner Hill is the leading returning scorer, as he averaged 14.2 PPG last year, shooting 41% from downtown on plenty of attempts. He will stretch defenses, as they will need to account for him at all times. Mike Scott will be the lead guard, as the senior posted a 22.4 Assist Rate versus a solid 13.7 TO rate.
One more of note is Sekou Wiggs, who had a nice debut season for Idaho. He was third on the team in scoring and rebounding last year, and drew fouls at a great rate (26th highest in the country). If his jumpshot improves, he can be a star for Idaho with his ability to create shots. Big men Ty Egbert (12 MPG as a freshman) and Bira Seck (a solid rebounder) will be counted on in the frontcourt.
Newcomers: Jordan Scott redshirted last season, but could be in for minutes at forward after averaging 18 and 10 as a senior in high school in Colorado Springs, where his team won back-to-back titles. He looks like a nice piece for them. Nate Sherwood is another guy that could play in the froncourt, after averaging a double-double with three blocks last year . His brother Chad Sherwood is also on the team. I am unsure the competition level, but 6'7'' F Arkadiy Mkrtychyan averaged a healthy 26.4 PPG, 14 RPG, 6 APG, and 4 BPG last year, which are big time numbers no matter what. They also bring in guard Jake Straughan, who is a good all-around athlete who had a decorated college career.
A final guy that should make an impact right away is JUCO forward Nahshon George, who averaged 17 and 13 last year for Shoreline CC in Washington last season. They should have no shortage of talented guys around, it's just a matter of getting them all experience and seeing who is ready to play.
General Outlook: Idaho has the look of a team that will be able to put points on the board, with Hill one of the best shooters in the Big Sky and some talent around him. As with many teams in the Big Sky, the key will be how well they stop other teams from scoring. They allowed 1.12 PPP last year, which is not a good mark. It's tougher to get a full read on their talent (though for what it's worth, they beat Idaho State and Portland State last year, and lost twice to Montana), but I have them battling for a playoff spot.
Follow me on Twitter @bigskybball