NOTE: This was written before all of Wednesday's games, which features an impressive Idaho win over Washington State on the road, a tough NAU loss to UTSA in OT, and a Montana loss in double OT to California.
It's been about a week since I've typed up some notes and observations from Big Sky play, so let's go back and take a look at some of the top storylines and things that have happened lately around the Big Sky.
- Jeremy Senglin for Weber State hit his second game-winner in a week, this time hitting a three with 2.4 seconds left to cap a late comeback win over Oral Roberts. Senglin told Brett Hein he thought the Wildcats were down three rather than two, which helps explain the shot selection. Video and quotes can be found here.
The fact that he may not have known the margin changes this storyline a little bit, but the shot and the possession brought up an interesting look at the process versus the outcome in how we should evaluate things. The shot was good because it went in and gave them the win, but the possession itself was not very good. Down two (again, this is complicated if he really thought it was a three point game), the possession was ugly, filled with a bunch of dribbling on the perimeter and then a long three attempt. He was bailed out in a sense by the shot going in, but overall it wasn't a great look.
The Wildcats are now 3-3 with a neutral court win over Nevada and home win against Oral Roberts, but the fact that they are a young team is still clear. The biggest issues seem to be taking care of the ball, and finding someone other than Joel Bolomboy to rebound the ball, but the talent is still evident. Still, while Senglin has struggled a bit adapting to the full-time ball handling role, Bolomboy has shown more assertiveness offensively (with mixed results), and maybe most importantly, Richaud Gittens looks like a star right now. Their future is very bright.
- Eastern Washington continues to win, as they're number 117 in Ken Pomeroy's rankings and top 60 by the RPI. They have gotten absurd efficiency from their guards (Drew Brandon, Tyler Harvey, and Parker Kelly), while Venky Jois appears to have taken a big step forward. Offensively, they have been excellent. I think teams know how much they like to shoot threes, and that has given them good looks inside the arc, where they have been dynamite.
Their next five games are on the road - Seattle, San Francisco, Washington, Sam Houston State, and California. We should find out during this stretch if their ceiling is that of a team that could be a major threat in the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament, or merely as the best team in the Big Sky. Either way, they have established themselves as the early favorites in the Big Sky with their play so far.
- Northern Colorado has been flying under the radar a bit, but they are a good team. While they have again shown some struggles defensively so far, they could be behind only EWU in terms of their offensive prowess. They have been excellent shooting the ball, as well as taking care of it. It could be partly due to the early schedule, but they look deep... only four teams in the country have given more minutes to their bench in DI games. They may not have a star, but they have a lot of good players.
- Sacramento State is 4-1, but I don't know that we've learned much from their games so sfar. One positive development for them is that Nick Hornsby is playing well early on, but that is mostly due to his unsustainable 12/18 FG. They should still be contenders, but there's not much new information on them.
- Kudos deserve to be given to Brian Fish who got the first win of his head coaching career in a 104-81 Montana State win over UT-Arlington. Kudos also to Southern Utah, who snapped a very long road losing streak with this shot from AJ Hess. In case you missed it, here it is again!
AJs 40 ft shot to for first season WIN at the Buzzer 93-92 from Barbara H Hess on Vimeo.
- Martin Breunig has been as good as advertised for Montana, shooting 20/29 on two-point FG against DI opponents, while showing great rebounding ability. Montana has mixed some good performances with puzzling ones, but Breunig still looks like a star.
- On Saturday, Northern Arizona lost a slobber knocker, 40-36, to North Carolina Central. It's not a good loss, but maybe not quite as bad as it sounds. UNCC plays at a snail's pace, and they have been pretty good defensively. At 2-5, the Jacks look like they could be one of the better defensive teams in the conference, but they are struggling a little bit defensively. Still, the 2-5 record basically means nothing, because they've played a very tough slate of opponents so far.
- On the whole, Idaho has been about what we expected - a team that looks like it will score a bunch of points, but not be able to stop anyone on the other end. Their defensive efficiency is #338 in the country... they haven't forced turnovers, and teams are shooting the ball very well against them. Still, there are positives. Mike Scott looks like the breakout senior player for the Vandals, shooting 12/21 from downtown while sporting a cool 26:2 assist to turnover ratio. Perrion Callandret has also started well, and I will have to eat some crow to an Idaho fan who emailed me about him if that continues.
Each week and each game provides some more data points, as the 5-7 games each team has played so far don't give us too much to go on. Things look to be as competitive as they promised to be before the year began. Anything else that you have noticed?
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