Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Previewing Thursday's Big Sky quarterfinals


BETTING LINE: Weber -7.5
KENPOM GIVES Weber State a 76 percent chance to win

WINNER GETS Idaho State/North Dakota in the semifinals

DURING THE REGULAR SEASON: Weber won the series 2-0

Weber State 73, Portland State 58 in Portland

Stars of the game
WSU - Joel Bolomboy … 22 points, 13 rebounds
WSU - Jeremy Senglin … 21 points, 5 rebounds, 5 of 10 from 3
PSU - Cameron Forte … 18 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists in 27 minutes coming off the bench 

Weber State 87, Portland State 78 in Ogden

Stars of the game
WSU - Jeremy Senglin … 24 points, 6 rebounds, 7 of 8 from 3
PSU - Cameron Forte … 17 points, 7 rebounds, 7-of-15 shooting 

TRENDS/WHAT TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Both games played out exactly like Weber State would have wanted. Senior Wildcats forward Joel Bolomboy put up two double-doubles, and his teammates, particularly junior guard Jeremy Senglin, were efficient shooting from the arc. In a combined 80 minutes of action, WSU led for 73 minutes and 52 seconds.

But their last game was Feb. 13. The Vikings have gone 4-2 since then and Cameron Forte, who had 26 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and four turnovers against UNCo in their opening game of the tournament, has continued to emerge as one of the league’s best players. He’s a difficult matchup because of his height (6-7), athleticism and ability to handle the ball. When PSU can speed up the game, it allows their athletes to finish at the rim and draw fouls.

And in regard to PSU’s speed, this game comes down to tempo. Portland State plays faster than anyone else in the league, and Weber State ranks 10th in terms of tempo.

The Vikings are only only pulling off an upset by forcing the Wildcats into a frantic, full-court game.
Live stats


BETTING LINE: North Dakota -2.5
KENPOM GIVES North Dakota a 60 percent chance to win

WINNER GETS Weber/PSU in the semifinals


North Dakota 84, Idaho State 76 in Pocatello

Stars of the game
UND - Quinton Hooker … 24 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals … 7-of-11 shooting
UND - Corey Baldwin … 22 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 5 of 11 from 3
ISU - Ethan Telfair … 37 points, 2 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 turnovers, 2 steals, 12-of-21 shooting, 6 of 8 from 3 

North Dakota 76, Idaho State 60

Stars of the game
UND - Adam McDermott … 28 points in 30 minutes off the bench, 8 of 14 from 3
UND - Quinton Hooker … 13 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists
ISU - None. This was a miserable game for the Bengals 

TRENDS/WHAT TO KEEP AN EYE ON: North Dakota matches up well with Idaho State. The Hawks have a good inside presence with Drink Bernstine and Carson Shanks, and they’ve got guys who can line it up and hit it from 3 — essential against Idaho State’s zone.

And from a coaching matchup, North Dakota’s Brian Jones has owned Idaho State’s Bill Evans. UND is 7-0 versus ISU since the 2012-13 season (Evans’ first in Pocatello).

But here’s the thing … Evans isn’t going to shy away from mentioning to his players how poorly they’ve performed going against North Dakota. He won’t hesitate to point out little things like how two Big Sky media members picked UND to beat ISU before the tournament. He won’t mind telling them how, even as the higher seed, they’re not favored to win this game.

This all just comes down to the Bengals’ mental approach. They’ve got the edge. But will that help ISU actually win the game? It’s not like Quinton Hooker, who went off for 24 points in one game against the Bengals and a triple-double in the other, is going to shrink away from the pressure of the moment.

And North Dakota has some real roster advantages in this matchup. The Hawks can choose to play small with the Bengals or stick with their bigs and try to beat up ISU on the boards.

This is going to be a fun game. Someone who was at the North Dakota-Southern Utah game told me that Telfair (ISU’s players and coaches were, of course, at the game watching) was openly rooting for Southern Utah. These teams aren’t “rivals,” but there’s no love between the two.
Live stats


BETTING LINE: Montana -7
KENPOM GIVES Montana a 75 percent chance to win

WINNER GETS Idaho/EWU in the semis

DURING THE REGULAR SEASON: They split two games

Montana 77, Sac State 58 in Missoula

Stars of the game
UM - Jack Lopez … 21 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 of 8 from 3
UM - Walter Wright … 16 points, 4 rebounds, 12 assists
Sac - Jeff Wu … 13 points in 18 minutes off the bench

Sac State 83, Montana 79 in Sacramento

Stars of the game
UM - Brandon Gfeller … 21 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 of 8 from 3
Sac - Jiday Ugbaja …  18 points, 5 rebounds, 5-of-8 shooting

TRENDS/WHAT TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Sacramento State is coming off its biggest win of the season, and Montana has been stewing since Saturday when it blew a shot to win a share of the regular-season title.

Throw in the fact that the Hornets have won three in a row for the first time since November and suddenly Brian Katz’s team, even with its offensive flaws, is a seemingly dangerous foe for the Grizzlies.

Sac’s chances of pulling off an upset come to one thing: Can sophomore Justin Strings and senior Cody Demps, who missed both games with UM during the season, manufacture enough offense to win?

The Hornets scored .987 points per possession in conference play, the 11th-worst mark in the league. But they were much better against Montana State on Tuesday, putting up 1.14 points per possession.

After the game, Katz wanted to credit his defense for the win as much as anything. MSU shot 21.4 percent (6 for 28) from the 3-point arc.

Without question Sacramento deserves a heaping chunk of credit for that defensive performance, but Montana’s offense is a different kind of animal to contain. The Grizzlies, during the conference season, led the Big Sky in 3-point shooting percentage, and with Martin Breunig’s presence down low, Sac’s defense will be stretched thin trying to cover the entire court.
Live stats


BETTING LINE: Eastern -1.5
KENPOM GIVES Eastern a 53 percent chance to win

WINNER GETS UM/Sac in the semis

DURING THE REGULAR SEASON: They split two games

Eastern Washington 74, Idaho 60

Stars of the game
U of I - Victor Sanders … 18 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 7-of-18 shooting
EWU - Austin McBroom … 26 points, 2 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 turnovers, 6 of 10 from 3 

Idaho 66, Eastern Washington 62

Stars of the game
U of I - Victor Sanders … 16 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals
U of I - Nate Sherwood … 11 points, 2 rebounds, 5-of-8 shooting off the bench
EWU - Venky Jois … 16 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 7-of-10 shooting 

TRENDS/WHAT TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Tempo, tempo, tempo and the 3-point line. That’s what you need to keep an eye on. That’s it. Tempo, tempo, tempo and the 3-point line.

When Eastern beat Idaho at home Jan. 9, the Eagles, in a terrific performance, drained 15 of 29 3-point attempts and scored 1.17 points per possession. Austin McBroom, Julian Harrell and Felix Von Hofe combined to go 9 of 14 from deep.

When Idaho beat Eastern at home Feb. 27, the Vandals, in an outstanding defensive performance, held the Eagles to nine 3-point makes, and EWU went 3 for 13 from the arc in the second half. McBroom needed 15 shots to pour in 11 points, and his team scored .95 points per possession.

This game is similar to WSU-PSU in that one team (EWU) is better off if it’s a fast-paced battle, and the other (Idaho) is in a better position to win if it can create a grind-it-out slugfest.

Whoever controls the pace of the action wins.

And maybe tempo won’t matter a bit, because Eastern will heat up* and bury Idaho in an avalanche of 3-pointers.
Live stats

— Kyle Franko

*had to reword this sentence, because it made no sense before. Thanks spartypants.

1 comment:

  1. Going to be a lot of intrigue in that UND/ISU game with that out there.