Monday, December 15, 2014

Big Sky Power Rankings - 12/15/14

For the first time this year, let's tackle some power rankings as a quick gauge on where things stand, just a couple weeks away from the beginning of conference play!

1) Eastern Washington (8-2)
I wrote about them Friday, so I won't talk too much more. Impressively, they led Washington for much of the game on Sunday, with their win expectancy reaching almost 75% with a little over five minutes to play. Big man Robert Upshaw had a big day against them, and the big, scoring center is someone who can have success against EWU's relatively thin front line. However, there aren't many of those guys in the Big Sky.

2) Weber State (3-5)
While EWU looks better and better each game, the Wildcats spot as number two in the pecking order appears more and more tenuous. They lost on the road to UT-Arlington, and then dropped a home game to BYU where they were never really in the game. The losses are all to good opponents, but I still worry about their turnovers, and their ability to create easy opportunities. Jeremy Senglin does have five assists in back to back games, which is a good sign.

3) Northern Colorado (4-4)
They are flying under the radar a bit because they haven't beaten anyone, but it looks more and more like they will be the second best offensive team in the conference. They take great care of the ball, and they are loaded with efficient scorers. Dominique Lee was good as a junior last year, but he has been outstanding as a senior. He is third in the nation in defensive rebounding rate, blocking shots, and shooting 66%.

4) Montana (3-6)
Last Wednesday, they scored 99 points against Davidson... and lost by 11. They are a solid team offensively, but they are struggling to get any stops. Travis DeCuire should be thankful to former coach Wayne Tinkle for leaving him big man Martin Breunig, who scored 30 in that game against Davidson, and is the real deal. The problem is that teams are just hitting everything against the Grizzlies... DI opponents shoot 40% from downtown and 54% on twos against them. Unlike past year, they are doing well on the defensive glass, they just aren't getting enough opportunities at it!

5) Idaho (4-5)
They had a couple of tough road losses last week, but are playing pretty well overall. Like others, they can score, but they can't stop anyone.They haven't been able to force turnovers, and they've sent teams to the line far too often . Against South Dakota State, they shot 17/30 inside the arc and 12/18 from behind it, and still lost 87-85. I have talked about Mike Scott on here, but senior Bira Seck is another guy showing up big. He is in the top ten in defensive rebounding rate in the nation, and getting to the line offensively. His emergence has been a big plus.

6) Northern Arizona (3-6)
Similar to Weber State, they can't be judged on the record alone, because every loss has come against a solid opponent, with the exception of maybe UTSA. Their problem is the reverse of most - they can stop people, but they can't score well enough right now. They aren't getting to the line, and they aren't getting enough easy baskets (just 42.4% on twos). It looks like Kris Yanku was inserted into the starting lineup last game, which should help. Last year, he showed good passing ability and the ability to get into the lane, which could help generate easy chance.

7) Portland State (5-3)
They are a big of a roller coaster, with a 26 point road loss to an average UC Riverside being a real head-scratcher. One thing that has hurt them is the play of Gary Winston. Winston has been great throughout his career, but has slumped to career low numbers to begin his senior season. He will get every chance to play out of it (as he should), but they need him to start hitting shots. The new duo of Tiegbe Bamba and Braxton Tucker continues to play well up front.

8) Sacramento State (5-4)
They have the talent level to be much better, but they've been up and down this year, and have lost three of their last four. Defensively, teams are scoring at will on them inside, and they continue to struggle getting any offensive production from the frontcourt.  One hope is Erc Stuteville, who played 25 good minutes against Portland, contribuirng 14 efficient points and looking like the player he was at the end of last year. The backcourt of Dylan Garrity and Mikh McKinney is as good as ever,.

9) Idaho State (3-5)
Offensively, they have really struggled shooting from the outside which has hurt what they want to do. Chris Hansen is just 15/45 from downtown, though that should improve with his shooting ability. The problem might be finding someone else that can stretch the defense... Nnamdi Ezenwa has shot well on limited attempts, but nobody other than those guys has made more than three threes so far this year. They don't have enough offensive talent there if they can't hit some shots from the outside.

10) Montana State (3-6)
They have bounced back well from the Kentucky loss, winning three of their last five, including an impressive home win over UT-Arlington (who later beat Weber State). They are pushing the pace, and guys like Marcus Colbert, Mike Dison, and forward Danny Robison has played well in that style. They can't stop anyone, but they are at least playing a more exciting style and building some things for the future. Early on, Brian Fish is building things at MSU.

11) North Dakota (3-6)
It appears that some of the fears are coming true... having lost most of their offensive talent from last year, the new guys haven't been able to step in, and the defense hasn't picked up the slack. Last week against Minnesota and NDSU (two good teams), they lost by an average of 33.5 points. It looks like it will be a long year in Grand Forks.

12) Southern Utah (2-5)
As we've been saying, they could very well still finish last, but they are a much improved club. They are still struggling mightily on the defensive end, but the offense is making a lot of strides. When they don't turn the ball over (which has happened far too often), they are shooting the ball well, and showing some ability to get to the line. They are giving minutes to a lot of guys and seeing what sticks, and so far they are finding some things. Tyler Rawson has looked good, and fellow freshman James McGee has canned 14/25 threes. There are a lot more bright spots this year.

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  1. Hate to tell you but Mason Stuteville didn't play.....Eric Stuteville got 14pts against Portland U. McKinney had a huge night with 32pts, 7rbs, 8assists and 7 me a better line in the Sky!!!

    1. Oof, you're right, the box score I was looking at was wrong, I will fix that. And no doubt on McKinney... he was rightly named the Big Sky POW. He is a great player!

  2. You talk about other teams only losing to "good opponents" but Sac has lost to UC Irvine, Portland Univ., and Gonzaga.........are these not "good opponents"??? Only bad loss was to Abilene Christian on the road. I admit that is a bad loss but we also beat UC Riverside on the road as well as CS Fullerton at home....don't understand the ranking behind Weber, Montana, UI,NAU or PSU....

    1. Sure, those are good opponents... but as you say, the Abilene Christian loss is a bad one. Gonzaga is a good team, but they weren't even competitive there.

      When I compare to Weber, for example, they have also beaten Nevada, and Oral Roberts, better than UC Riverside or CS Fullerton. NAU was competitive at Mississippi, and beat Fresno by 21.

      UC Riverside, who Sac State beat by 1 on the road, was beaten by 26 by PSU (in Portland, but home court isn't a 27 point difference). Sac State beat Utah Valley by 9, MSU beat them by 8.

      Of course, this is all with the caveat that these rankings are largely meaningless at this point... the sample size is so small that one or two bad games (or good games) can greatly skew things. I'm the same guy that picked Sac State #2 before the year - it's not like I don't think they have the talent to be in the upper echelon - it's just that so far I don't find their play to be that inspired.

  3. You seem to have missed Nevada's home loss to Fullerton and PSU LOST to Riverside by 26 at Riverside (88-62). Jon you must admit that with these facts you need to change your rankings. I don't feel Weber beating Nevada on a last second 3 on a neutral court is a "quality" win in the way you are stating it. NAU has a loss to UTSA and SUU beat same UTSA at San Antonio. Our loss to Gonzaga was without Mikh McKinney. If you take Bolomboy away from Weber how close do you think they stay to Gonzaga in Spokane? Take Harvey or Jois from EWU and I don;t think they stay with the Zags either. MSU beat UTA by over 20 yet Weber lost to same UTA. I know its just comparisons but I've never seen you be this far off in my opinion.

    1. Those are all fair points and you are right, the head to head and common opponent comparisons and whatnot at the very least muddles things, not necessarily clarifying things.

      If it helps, I still think 3 through 8 (and maybe even 2 through 8 with out Weber has played) are almost even to the point that they could be drawn out of a hat. You could make an argument for any to be higher or lower, and once conference play gets going I expect the Hornets to be much higher than 8. I understand why you think they should be higher right now, and I can't argue too vehemently because you may well be right.

      I may be penalizing them in my own mind because I expected them to be a little bit better than they have been so far... No doubt all the teams above them (except EWU) have has equally up and down games so far.

  4. At least correct your result of Riverside vs Portland St.......
    UC Riverside 88
    Portland St 62

    1. I had it correct in my post but just had a brain fart in the comments which I can't edit... but it is duly noted.

  5. Jon keep up the good work, I enjoy these write ups. I have no problem with your ranking of Sac State. We had a slow start to the season and that loss on the road to Abilene Christian is inexcusable. The Hornets have played much better this past week and we'll see if we can shake off the road woes next week at Seattle and UVU (both winnable).

    BTW Hornet fans, there is a fan forum at

  6. UND with D1 road win at Drake plus 12 pt loss at UNI and 2 pt loss at South Dakota ST. Playing better than Montana st.

    1. The SD State game was a good performance... The Drake win is nice but Drake is not a very good team. MSU is playing better the past couple of weeks... beat Utah Valley by 8 (granted it was in Bozeman, but I think Utah Valley might be a little better than Drake, or at least very comparable), and were in the game until the end on the road against a solid Wyoming team.

      Not that the difference is huge but I'd give MSU the small edge right now.

  7. Jon good write up. The conference looks to be Eastern and everyone else. You can play the lets compare scores game all day. Sac hasn't looked good plain and simple. They have lost to a really bad team.

  8. Impressed with EWU, after that it's a crap shoot until BSC play. This Wildcat fan happy to see any BSC team victories in preseason, need MORE of them! But results tell little (because of so many OTHER factors) about how conf. play will go...the REAL BASKETBALL Season to Coach Rahe & several others.

  9. EWU has stood out. Two thru eight could be ranked in any order. Sac has only had one bad game, but so have most of the contenders. Northern Colorado's only D1 wins are over a school that is 0-8 and a school that is 1-9 vs D1 schools with their only win coming against the 0-8 school. I still think the Big Sky race is wide open even with EWU's nice preseason.

  10. UND RPI 3rd in Big Sky per CBS sports