2001-02 Big Sky Conference Preview
by Chad Muszynski
So here I sit, mere hours from my deadline. I’ve been hacking up a kaleidoscope of colors for the past 36 hours and my editor is breathing down my neck for a Big Sky Conference preview. I’ll keep this brief, I’m not sure how much time on this earth I have left.
Ed. Note: Chad tends to exaggerate a bit. I’ve only been breathing down his neck for the last 24 hours.
In order of predicted finish:
1. Weber State: The Wildcats are coming off of a 15-14 record (8-8 in Big Sky) and are led by Jermaine Boyette. Boyette is one of two First Team All-Conference players returning from a year ago, the other being Portland State’s Anthony Lackey. Boyette averaged 19.1 points per game last season. Keep an eye out for senior forward Chris Woods as a solid complement inside to Boyette’s outside prowess.
2. Northern Arizona: These Lumberjacks are better than OK. They return three starters from a year ago: Casey Grundman, Ryan McDade, and Matt Gebhardt. The Lumberjacks expect to challenge for the Big Sky Title and to return to the Big Dance as they did in 1999-00.
3. Eastern Washington: The Eagles return two key starters from a year ago in Jason Lewis and Jason Humbert. Lewis, who averaged 7.4 PPG and 4.3 Assists will run the point this season. Humbert will be the man in the middle averaging 8 points and 3.4 boards a year ago. As of this writing, Humbert faces legal troubles following charges that he struck his fiancee’s 2 year old daughter. Humbert faces charges of fourth degree assault, with a maximum penalty of 1 year in prison and $5,000 fine. Until this situation is resolved, it is difficult to predict what to expect from the Eagles.
4. Montana: The Grizzlies return four starters from last season’s 11-16 team. The keys for this team appear to be Senior Dan Trammel (12.4 point and 7.8 rebounds) and Junior guard David Bell. If Bell can continue the hot shooting from beyond the arc he has displayed early in this season, the Grizzlies could make some noise in the conference tourney.
5. Montana State: The Fighting Bobcats are fighting for respect in the Big Sky. The preseason Media Poll placed them ahead of their cross-state rivals despite receiving 0 first place votes to the Grizzlies 6 votes. The Bobcats feature a balanced scoring attack from forward Aaron Rich, and guards Pete Conway and James Clark. Don’t expect to see this team in the Big Dance. A strong conference tourney showing could land them an invite to the NIT.
6. Idaho State: The Bengals can be summed up in one name, Jeremy Brown. The Junior Transfer from Scottsdale (AZ) CC leads the team in scoring and rebounds averaging a double double early this season. Unfortunately, things drop off considerably for the Bengals after that. D’Marr Suggs provides an outside scoring threat. The Bengals may win a few games they shouldn’t, but don’t expect them to challenge for the conference crown.
7. Portland State: The Vikings feature All-Conference forward Anthony Lackey as their star player. Lackey is supported by Conference Co-Freshman of the year Seamus Boxley. An early season upset at Arizona State may suggest potential for the Vikes, but then again, ASU is not exactly a Pac 10 powerhouse.
8. Sacramento State: Last season, the Hornets compiled a 5-22 record. This season looks to be more of the same. Junior guard Joe Dawson has the hot hand early, shooting 67% from 3 point range. One has to wonder how long he can keep up this torrid pace, shooting only 64% from the charity stripe. There won’t be much buzz from the Hornet Gym this year.