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Big Sky Notebook

February 26, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Big Sky Notebook

by Nicholas Lozito

Much to be determined in final weekend

As we head into the final weekend of conference play, two things are for sure: Weber State (22-5 overall, 12-0 in Big Sky) will be the No. 1 seed and Eastern Washington (17-9, 9-3) the No. 2 seed. These two teams will get a bye into the semifinals, and Weber will host the semifinals and finals. Montana (12-15, 6-6) and Idaho State (13-12, 6-6) have clinched a tournament spot, but their seeds are not yet determined. Sacramento State (10-15, 4-8), Northern Arizona (13-12, 4-8) and Montana State (11-14, 5-7) are battling for the final two tournament spots. Portland State (4-21, 2-10) is simply playing for pride.

The biggest set of games are Montana State coming down to face Sac State and Northern Arizona. One of these teams will not make the playoffs, and it will most likely be Montana State. The only way the Bobcats do not make the tourney is if they lose both games. But they lost to Sac State in Montana earlier in the season, and Northern Arizona is 8-3 at home this season. All Sac State has to do to get in the tourney is match whatever NAU does.

The key for Montana State is point guard Jason Erickson. Last year’s conference MVP is the glue of this team. He led the Bobcats to the regular season title last season, and is back to full strength after suffering a mid-season injury. Montana State is coming off a road loss to Montana.

Sac State relies on the leadership of Derek Lambeth. The Hornets swept Portland State and Eastern Washington in their last homestand, but most recently lost on the road to Idaho State and Weber State. If the Hornets can turn these contests with Montana and Montana State into a run-n-gun affair, it will play to their advantage.

Northern Arizona relies heavily on power forward Ryan McDade and the sharp shooting of their wing players. McDade currently averages 17.9 points and 8.4 rebounds. The Lumberjacks are also the best 3-point shooting team in the conference. The Lumberjacks have lost their last three games.

Weekend Predictions

Montana State loses both of their games to Northern Arizona and Sacramento State, therefore not making the tourney. Montana will lose to Sac State and NAU as well. Portland State ends their season by losing at home to Idaho State and Weber State. A sad first season for PSU head coach Heath Schroyer. Eastern Washington finishes their season off strong by handing Weber their only conference loss and then knocking off Idaho State.

Therefore, the tourney picture would look like this:

1. Weber State (13-1)
2. Eastern Washington (11-3)
3. Idaho State (7-7)
4. Montana (6-8)
5. Sacramento State (6-8)
6. Northern Arizona (6-8)

7. Montana State (5-9)
8. Portland State (2-12)

Wildcats going wild

Weber State currently holds the second longest winning streak in the nation with 12 straight. They are also only one of three teams in the nation with undefeated conference records. So, would the Wildcats be granted an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament if they did not win the conference tournament? The only way I see that possible is if they win every game from here-on-out except the title game. This would leave them with a 25-6 record. The one thing holding Weber back is their preseason schedule, in which the best team they beat was Brigham Young.

Weber State not winning the Big Sky Tournament would be the conference’s only chance to get two teams in. If Eastern Washington does not win the conference tournament, they would be a candidate for the NIT. Last season Montana got the automatic bid to the NCAA Tourney, while Montana State made the NIT.

Game of the Week

Sacramento State’s Saturday match-up with Montana State will have tournament implications. The Hornets knocked off the Bobcats in Montana earlier in the season, and MSU wants revenge. Prediction: Sac State 70, Montana State 64.


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