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.
What They Lost: The biggest lost is the head coach, Wayne Tinkle, who left to take the top job at Oregon State. Tinkle had great success with the Grizzlies, and was widely seen as the top coach in the Big Sky. Travis DeCuire looks to be an excellent coach, but Tinkle is a tough act to follow. The other major loss is do-everything Kareem Jamar. If you are reading this, you likely know all about Jamar, who was one of the three best players (and arguably the best) in the Big Sky over the past three seasons.
The other loss of note is guard Keron DeShields, who transferred out. Last year, he improved to be a solid starter for them, but I think they have the pieces in place so that this won't be a major loss for the team. They also lose big men Andy Martin and Eric Hutchison, but neither loss should be felt too much.
Who Returns: Guard Jordan Gregory returns for his senior year, and he could be one of the leading scorers in the conference. Consistently efficient (60% True Shooting Percentage, low TO Rate), he could get more opportunities with Jamar gone, but could also have to deal with being the focal point of the offense. Either way, he's a nice building block. Another key returnee in the backcourt is Mario Dunn, who could be a breakout star in the conference. Though a bit raw offensively as a freshman, he has the physical tools to be above average there as a sophomore, while becoming one of the best defensive players in the Big Sky, in the mold of Will Cherry. Seeing how much he improved from year one to year two could be one of the most interesting storylines in the Big Sky.
They return some depth on the wing, with Riley Bradshaw and Brandon Gfeller both potential sparkplugs offensively with their shooting ability. Upfront, Michael Weisner is one of the biggest weapons in the Big Sky - a stretch four that shoots 50% from downtown. He is a big weapon for them. Another returner upfront is forward Chris Kemp, who had an uneven debut season as a junior. There are games he looks like a good starter, and others where he is a bench guy. They could use some consistency from him.
Newcomers: The guy with the biggest impact will be big man Martin Breunig, who is eligible after sitting out last year due to transfer rules. He originally committed to Maryland before signing at Washington, and is an athletic big with a versatile skill set. I'll be writing more about him before the year, but he could be an all-conference player in his first year in Missoula.
Bryden Boehning is a good prospect at center, but it will likely take him a couple years to make a true impact. Forward Fabijan Krslovic from Australia could see some time as a true freshman, as a 6'8'' post with some offensive skills. I wouldn't expect a huge impact in year one, but he should play and grow into a role as a solid bench player for them right away.
General Outlook: Like many others, there is a wide variance possible for Montana. If things break right, it wouldn't be a huge shock to see them competing for a Big Sky title in year one of Travis DeCuire. If Gregory isn't able to keep his efficiency with more responsibility, or Breunig can't provide that inside presence they've been missing, they could fall into the mid-tier. Preseason, I currently have them slotted in at number four.
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