BIG SKY NOTES AND RAMBLINGS
-Only six of the nine teams qualify for the conference tournament, and the tournament is hosted by the regular season champions, which puts an added emphasis on the regular season games.BIG SKY TEAMS
-MONTANA finished 10-6 in league play last year, which resulted in a third place finish in a league that displayed a lot of parity. They should be a much better team this year with four starters returning, including two of the better players in the league. Center Andrew Straight averaged 15ppg and over 6rpg last year. Forward Jordan Hasquet is also a big time contributor. They also had the conference freshman of the year last season in Cameron Rundles, so the team is well balanced and loaded with talent. Their out of conference schedule is highlighted with match-ups against Gonzaga, Washington State and Air force, which gives them some opportunities to put some quality wins on their NCAA Tournament resume. Unfortunately the Grizzlies are not playing in the Bracket Buster this year. Most of their games appear to be winnable so they could rack up quite a few wins so dont be surprised if we see them in the NCAA Tournament this March. They could end up being a very tough out for whoever they face.
-WEBER STATE is another team that will contend for the league title. They tied for first in the standings last year and won the conference championship, which earned them a bid to the NCAA Tournament. It was a great debut for head coach Randy Rahe, who took over a team that finished eighth the previous season. They have a very strong backcourt with guards Juan Pablo Silveira and Dezmon Harris, both of whom averaged double figures last year. Replacing forward David Patten wont be easy, but if someone can step it up they could be dancing again this year. They return quite a few players who contributed off the bench, and have a pretty good recruiting class as well, so they should be one of the better teams in the league.
-NORTHERN ARIZONA has either tied for first or won it outright and advanced to the championship game for the past two seasons, but failed to win it either year and ended up being left out of the NCAA Tournament. They lose a ton of talent off of last years team and it will be very difficult for them to finish on top again. They do return two starters, as well as a player who averaged double figures coming off the bench in forward Kyle Landry. Two juco transfers should contribute this season as well. They dont appear to have quite as many weapons as Weber State or Montana, but they should still be a good team and do well in conference play.
-PORTLAND STATE is another team to watch for this year. They were playing their best basketball of the season down the stretch and came very close to beating eventual champion Weber State in the semifinals. They are a balanced team that returns three double-digit scorers from last season, including senior guard DePree Lucas, who had a big year last year and was voted newcomer of the year in the league. Four players who redshirted last season will be available as well, so Portland State should have plenty of depth this year. That can come in handy in some of the high altitudes theyll have to play in.
-EASTERN WASHINGTON had Rodney Stuckey
last season, who was easily the best player in the league. However, the Eagles were far from one of the best teams in the league. They ended up winning four of their last five games, but even that wasnt enough to qualify them for the conference tournament. With a new head coach and only one starter back this team could be in for a long season.
-MONTANA STATE really wasnt anything special last season. They won just nine games against div1 teams, but eight of those were in conference play. Carlos Taylor averaged over 12ppg off the bench last year and looks to be one of the teams better players. Two other starters are also back, but they really dont look like a team that will contend for a league title.
-IDAHO STATE was just 13-17 last season and didnt look all that good down the stretch. They came close to pulling off some big time upsets against Marquette and BYU last year, but they just couldnt seem to get it done in league play in the latter part of the season. They did lose two of their better players, but should get a boost out of juco transfer Lucas Steijn, who originally enrolled at Indiana, but transferred to Logan Junior College in Illinois where he was a standout player.
-Only two starters return for SACRAMENTO STATE, who had a rough year last year. Things arent looking all that much better this year. They do have pretty solid guard play, but that isnt enough for them to contend for the league title. They are likely in for another long season.
-NORTHERN COLORADO was just 4-24 last year, which isnt too surprising since theyre new to div1. They do have two very good players in guard Sean Taibi and Center Kirk Archibeque, but those two cant do it alone. They should be somewhat improved this year, but they have a ways to go before theyll be able to contend for a league title.