Big Sky Tournament Preview
This feels like a two team race, but as we’ve seen in the Big South, this is March! Upsets are bound to happen and these would be stunners as the reigning champs Montana look like the class of the league, but Northern Colorado is right on their heels.
2018 Champion: Montana
1-seed Montana Grizzlies 23-8 (16-4)
The defending champs are just on the outside of the top-100 offensively in the country. They average just shy of 77 points per game and have four players that score 13+ points a night. Their leader is Jamar Akoh who shoots it well from the field, rebounds well, and picks up 2 steals a night. The team as a whole shoots 49.2% and if they continue to play the way they are, they will repeat in this league.
2-seed Northern Colorado Bears 21-10 (15-5)
Northern Colorado was just slightly behind Montana this season in the Big Sky and it was due to Jordan Davis. Davis averaged over 23 points per game for the Bears and shot it fairly well 48% from the field and 37% from 3. This team needs to get someone else going offensively if they want to matchup with Montana.
3-seed Eastern Washington Eagles 14-17 (12-8)
You’d think a team with three guys that average 14+ points per game would at least be .500 right? Wrong. Eastern Washington is that team this year, the Eagles struggle defensively and don’t shoot the 3 particularly well. Those are the two major keys for this team, but winning this tournament will be a tall task.
4-seed Weber State Wildcats 17-14 (11-9)
Realistically, Weber State (the home of Dame Lillard for those who might have forgotten/not known) goes 6 deep. Their bench production is minimal which is not the worst thing. Their star Jerrick Harding scores over 20 points a night but needs some help. That is the biggest place they can improve.
6-seed Montana State Bobcats 14-16 (11-9)
The other team in Montana also scores the ball pretty well. They boast four players averaging double figures lead by Tyler Hall who chips in 19.7 a night. Their problem is the defensive side of the floor, ranking near the bottom of all Division 1 teams this season, the Bobcats allow nearly 80 points per game. Cut that down to even 75 and they’ve got a much better chance to win ball games.
5-seed Portland State Vikings 16-15 (11-9)
This team averages 77 points per game and they really spread the offense around. They also have a really good shot-blocker in Sal Nuhu and as a team average over 8 steals a night. That’s all pretty good, except they don’t defend particularly well. Lockdown on defense and find one player to be that guy, whether it’s Holland Woods or Michael Nuga, they need someone.
7-seed Southern Utah Thunderbirds 14-15 (9-11)
A very quick tempo and a highly inefficient offense is the name of the game for the Thunderbirds. They score the ball pretty well and really if they can be much more efficient, like multiple percentage points, they can win, but that’s a big if.
8-seed Northern Arizona Lumberjacks 10-20 (8-12)
This team is one of the worst in America defensively. The offense isn’t terrible but it’s not nearly enough to make up for the issues on defense. They need to pick one or the other and just go all in on that end of the floor.
9-seed Sacramento State Hornets 14-15 (8-12)
Sacramento State needs to have one of Marcus Graves or Joshua Patton absolutely go off in this tournament to have a chance to win. The team doesn’t score it well and they don’t play strong defense. They struggle from 3 and aren’t the best ball possession team.
10-seed Idaho State Bengals 11-18 (7-13)
Now, when I said Northern Arizona was one of the worst defensive teams in America, it was true. However, Idaho State is even worse. The Bengals are a bottom-5 team in the entire country on defense. Their only hope is to go unconscious from 3 and score 80+ points per game in the tourney.
11-seed Idaho Vandals 5-26 (2-18)
Now, when I said Northern Arizona and Idaho State were two of the worst defensive teams in America, it was true. But Idaho is the WORST, legitimately dead last in the country. They are not going to win this tournament.
Northern Arizona over Sacramento State
Southern Utah over Idaho State
Montana State over Eastern Washington
Montana over Northern Arizona
Weber State over Portland State
Northern Colorado over Southern Utah
Montana State over Eastern Washington
Montana over Weber State
Northern Colorado over Montana State
Montana over Northern Colorado