With each passing week, sentiment grows that the Big Sky this year will be going through Cheney, WA. The latest evidence came last night, when Eastern Washington went on the road and beat a good San Francisco team... The Dons had beaten Montana by 19 last week. Earlier this week, EWU went and beat Seattle by 12 in Seattle (Montana beat Seattle by four).
The Eagles are now 8-1, with their lone loss coming on the road in a tight game to SMU (they are 6-3 and widely seen as a likely tournament team). Offensively, EWU has been dynamite, scoring 1.08 PPP against DI opponents, which is 30th in the nation. For comparison, Northern Colorado has been second best, scoring 1.03 PPP, good for 97th in the country.
Also against DI teams, the Eagles are shooting 56.7% on twos, and 40.3% from downtown, giving them a 58.4% effective field goal percentage, top ten in the country. They take care of the ball, and they have a ton of guys that can hurt you.
Venky Jois has become a good free throw shooter almost over night... he was 12/33 from the charity stripe to start the year, but is 23/27 from the line in his last three games. That would take away the biggest weakness of his offensive game, and he is certainly in the short discussion for best big men in the conference.
Tyler Harvey and Drew Brandon continue to excel in the backcourt as guys that do a little bit of everything. Harvey is an elite scorer with unlimited range, while Brandon is a nightly triple-double threat (to wit: he is in the top 12 in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate in the Big Sky, despite being the team's PG!)
Parker Kelly fills his role masterfully, as he is a lethal spot up shooter. Perhaps the best sign for EWU is the emergence of Ognjen Miljkovic in his sophomore year. The big man shoots 46% from downtown, and helps out on the interior with a 5.6% block rate. Against USF, he scored 20 points, hitting 4/7 from behind the arc. Again, he is their four man.
Eastern Washington is far from invincible... defensively, they have been much improved this year but they are not a lockdown D. They have a tough three game road stretch ahead, so it's possible that they could be 8-4 in a week's time, which would dull some of the enthusiasm. But they are an explosive offensive unit with a ton of skilled players and ways to hurt you. When they are on, they can put up 85 on anyone, and so far, it looks like they're going to do exactly that many times over this Big Sky season.
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