Friday, February 6, 2015

Battle For Final Tournament Spots Slowly Taking Shape

As of today, it looks like we will have nine teams fighting for eight conference tournament spots. Going further, we can probably assume Eastern Washington, Sacramento State, Montana, Northern Arizona, and Northern Colorado will be in. That's five. That would leave four teams battling for three spots.

Those four teams:

- Portland State (5-5)
- Idaho (4-5)
- Weber State (4-6)
- North Dakota (4-6)

While it would be a nice story if Southern Utah (2-7) was able to make a run, it seems unlikely. They've won three conference games in the past 1.5 seasons, so I don't see them running off a 6-3 stretch to end the conference year, which is what it would likely take to get into a tiebreaker.

- Of the four, we have to give PSU the biggest chance of making it as of now, simply because they've reached the five win mark. However, they also have arguably the toughest remaining schedule. Their next three games are at Sacramento State, at Idaho, at Eastern Washington. It's not hard to envision them coming home at 5-8. From there, they host North Dakota, Northern Colorado, and Sac State, before closing the year on the road at Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. Are there four wins there?

- On paper, I think Idaho is the best team of the four, but a home loss to North Dakota could hurt them if it comes down to tiebreakers (they meet only once this year). They have four home games, but one is against Sac State, and another is against Montana, so there aren't a ton of gimmes there either. Next Thursday, hosting PSU, looms as a big game, because Idaho needs a split there for tiebreaker purposes.

- Weber State is a surprise entrant based on preseason expectations, but they've lost 4 of 5. However, their schedule sets up favorably the rest of the way - 5 of their 8 remaining games are at home, and two of the road games are against Idaho State and Montana State. They should be safe.

- North Dakota keeps hanging around, including getting a huge road win at Southern Utah last night. At 4-6, they have four home dates and four away dates remaining, but all the road games are losses on paper (NAU, PSU, Sac State, UNC). However, they showed by beating Idaho on the road that they are capable of getting the upset there. Their best bet is to hold serve at home and get one road upset.

If I have to predict it, I think this is what we'll see by the end of the year:

6. Idaho (9-9)
7. Weber State (9-9)
8. Portland State (8-10)
9. North Dakota (7-11)

Your thoughts?

Follow me on Twitter @bigskybball


  1. Looks about right, UND home losses costly

  2. Some teams get better as the season progresses...some stay the same, and some actually decline. I think Weber State is in real trouble. I think EWU, Sac St, NAU are improving as the season moves along...most of the others are playing about the same. I would say Weber and Montana State are actually on the decline. I think Weber will drop off and not make the tourney. #1JacksFan

  3. And as a Jacks fan I will say the difference lately has been Quinton Upshur who was largely invisible for the first part of the season, but has emerged big time lately both offensively and defensively. The Jacks need him in a big way if they have any chance in the BSC Tourney. #1JacksFan

  4. Zach Reynolds has really come on over the past two games. If he continues to provide an emotional spark, more rebounding and depth then that bodes well for the Lumberjacks. -MTJack

  5. MTJack - You are right on. Much needed energy and depth for the Jacks - takes the pressure off of J Martin and allows him to be even more aggressive. Even though Zach is a big man, his addition to the rotation allows Coach Murphy to play Bewernick small and give the guards more blows as well. I am not trying to directly equate the two, that would be silly, but Zach plays a role similar to what Dennis Rodman played on his teams.

  6. Watched UND for the first time in person this season. Of course it wasn't their best game, but after seeing them I will say they have some good weapons down low (Nash, Shanks, Cashman, pretty darn good, and Cashman is going to be a force the next few years). I wasn't that impressed with their guards defensively,although Tyler and De Rouen were in foul trouble much of the game. Today at least, Yanku and Upshur just completely blew by the backcourt all day long drawing fouls every which way you can. I do like their soph Hooker at guard. They can really build around Hooker and Cashman for the future. Couple of observations about the Jacks:

    Yanku improves every game. He sees the floor as good as anyone in the conference already. His decision making and ball handling are improving and he is deceptively fast and controls his body as well as anyone I have seen in the Big Sky this year. He is also in good position to rebound on almost every shot. He is going to make a run at POY in two years I think. Every game he is a threat to rattle off a triple double. I noticed today he was very smartly finding his mid-range shot instead of driving all the way in or settling for a long ball. His upside is scary big.

    Upshur is back. Definitely the most versatile offensive and defensive threat NAU has.

    Jack Murphy deserves a lot of credit...I think at some point he determined that his team sometimes lacked energy. His use of Reynolds has been genius. Zach Reynolds is one hell of an athlete...but it's hard to understand why he wasn't an option sooner (maybe a discipline or academic issue who knows).

    Aseem Dixon is one of the streakiest shooters in the league. He is either really on, or really off. Not in between very often. Today, he couldn't miss.

    Kaluna is frustrating to watch. He does do a lot more than score (takes a lot of charges for a big guy) and can make it hard on bigs to score down low, but he is hands down the most inconsistent player on the team. His potential is very significant, but I am still waiting for him to really "get" it. Thank goodness Len Springs has really improved. He is probably the league's biggest clutz down low, but man he is athletic as hell (what a weird antithetical combination huh?). Len is playing much smarter in terms of managing his fouls, is contributing more to the scoring, and in terms of pure shot blocking is right there with Jois as the cream of the league's crop.

    The Jacks are still very vulnerable...if they sustain any major injuries their chances at a BSC tourney run can be severely curtailed. But, right now, I think they can definitely beat any team in the league.


  7. Hearing rumblings Harvey may miss Thursday's first place showdown. IF this kid cant get healthy from a BRUISE in 2 weeks time, I'm really starting to question his toughness. This is a MUST WIN game for EWU at home vs the current 1st place team. Harvey needs to step up and lead this team like a potential NBA prospect should.

    1. Since he joined the rotation in his freshman year, he has never missed a game. Last year, he played over 94% of the team's minutes, sixth highest in the country, and he was at that level before he got hurt. I think it's a big quick to question his toughness when it's not very easy to know the severity of the injury.