JUST IN TIME FOR TONIGHT’S GAMES… All the news you ever wanted to know about the Big Sky, the weekly edition.
YOUR WEEKLY DAMIAN LILLARD IS A STUD LINK-FEST: A Salt Lake Tribune story on his success. USA Today also jumped in sometime in the last week to talk about him. Then there’s this little blurb which went up at noon EST on Wednesday afternoon. Finally, here is Lillard’s Draft Express page.
Record: 9-11, 3-4, t5th
Major superlatives: Lost by 2 in OT; 76 ppg for, 78 against.
Season conference stats: 4th scoring offense (72.7 ppg), 4th scoring defense (69.9 ppg), 3rd scoring margin (plus-3.7). Percentages: 173-417 FG (9th), 67-196 3-point (7th) 96-140 FT (5th).
What it means: Portland State walked into Cheney and walked out with an OT win, which only intensifies this rivalry and makes the return trip on Feb. 25 potentially for anything from the No. 3 seed to maybe EWU getting into the tournament. And it’s just fun. Worse is the knowledge you had the lead throughout the second half, though it never got higher than five, but got outscored 7-3 in the final 1:28 of regulation. Also, having the lead until the final 40 seconds of OT and coughing it up is going to make Jim Hayford’s club really, really mad.
Record: 5-14, 3-4, t5th
Major superlatives: Won by 16; 78 ppg for, 62 ppg against; plus-16 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: T7th scoring offense (64.0 ppg), 3rd scoring defense (69.0 ppg), 7th scoring margin (minus-5). Percentages: 156-368 FG (7th), 42-123 3-point (8th), 94-138 (6th).
What it means: More road-warriorness from the Bengals – “NAU led by 11 points early in the contest, but the Bengals came back to tie the game at the half and carried the momentum into the second half. After extending the lead to 10 points at 52-42, the Bengals went on a 14-0 run to pull away from the Lumberjacks, leading by as many 25 points. NAU was out-scored 46-30 overall in the second half.” Now all they have to do is beat UNC in Greeley (which happens tonight) and they can start to maybe think about the postseason. Unless they continue to go 1-2 every three home games, which projects to a 2-6 or 3-5 home record. In conference.
Record: 13-6, 6-1, 2nd
Major superlatives: Won by 18, won by 29; 80.5 ppg for, 57 against; plus-23.5 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: 3rd scoring offense (75.0 ppg), 1st scoring defense (60/9 ppg), 1st scoring margin (plus-14.1). Percentages: 182-348 FG (1st), 48-113 3-point (2nd), 113-151 FT (3rd).
What it means: Feast on the weary and poor, bide time until the rematch with Weber State. And watch out for the intrastate rival, who could be nipping on UM’s heels when the first rivalry game comes around in Bozeman in a couple Saturdays.
Record: 10-8, 5-2, 3rd
Major superlatives: Won by 7, won by 12; 78 ppg for, 68.5 against; plus-9.5 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: 5th scoring offense (72.0 ppg), 6th scoring defense (70.9 ppg), 5th scoring margin (plus-1.1). Percentages: 178-388 FG (5th), 56-132 3-point (3rd), 92-129 FT (4th).
What it means: There was crunch-time defense and MSU set itself apart, albeit at home vs. UNC. True test will come in Greeley, Colo. But MSU seems to have found a gameplan – shoot steady when possible, start hot and counter-punch when punched. MSU jumped from almost seventh in FT percentage to fourth and sank 34 free throws this past weekend at home, but it is relying on outscoring opponents and getting defensive stops only when it matters.
Record: 5-15, 1-7, 8th
Major superlatives: Lost by 14; lost by 16; 64.5 ppg for, 79.5 against; minus-15 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: t7th scoring offense (64.0 ppg), 9th scoring defense (76.8 ppg), 9th scoring margin (minus-12.6). Percentages: 181-431 FG (8th), 45-129 3-point (6th), 105-155 FT (7th).
What it means: Seven losses in a row, and now the big question becomes “Where does this program go once this season ends?” Safe to say there won’t be a playoff berth for NAU unless UNC and ISU completely fall apart. The chance to play spoiler is all the Lumberjacks can look for at this point and the administration must start thinking about the program’s future. There is a good young base to work with because Adras was a solid coach and he and his staff recruited well.
Record: 6-12, 3-4, t5th
Major superlatives: Lost by 18; lost by 12; 65 ppg for, 80 against; minus-15 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: 6th scoring offense (67.4 ppg), 5th scoring defense (70.0 ppg), 6th scoring margin (minus-2.4). Percentages: 157-313 FG (2nd), 32-62 3-point 42-89 (1st), 116-173 FT (8th).
What it means: Losses on the road to the Montana teams mean a logjam for one of the last two spots. Not much because the road record is 1-2 in conference, but the home games against the Montana schools become that much bigger. If the Bears sweep at home this weekend, they’re at 5-4 and right back in it. Big game tonight vs. ISU.
Record: 10-9, 4-3, 4th
Major superlatives: Won by 2 in OT; 78 ppg for, 76 against.
Season conference stats: 1st scoring offense (77.7 ppg), t8th scoring defense (75.7 ppg), 5th scoring margin (plus-2). Percentages: 181-364 FG (3rd), 43-109 3-point (5th), 139-184 FT (2nd).
What it means: This home weekend is very big. Even a split might vault them into third. There’s not much more to add at this point; this weekend is very big and all the Vikings know it.
Record: 5-13, 0-7, 9th
Major superlatives: Lost by 7, lost by 29; 60.5 points for; 78.5 against; minus-18 scoring margin.
Season conference stats: 9th scoring offense (61.1 ppg), 7th scoring defense (71.1 ppg), 8th scoring margin (minus-10.0). Percentages: 153-353 FG (6th), 29-104 3-point (9th), 93-142 FT (9th).
What it means: The tailspin continues and the fanbase is apathetic to it at this point.
Record: 15-3, 7-0, 1st
Major superlatives: Won by 14; 81 ppg for, 67 against.
Season conference stats: 2nd scoring offense (77.1 ppg), 2nd scoring defense (65.3 ppg), 2nd scoring margin (plus-11.9). Percentages: 178-397 FG (4th), 58-146 3-point (4th), 126-151 FT (1st).
What it means: The top 3, right now, is intriguing. WSU has command of the Big Sky, but has to make the always-dreaded-by-everyone Montana trip later this year. Randy Rahe’s club, if it continues to play steady and solid, will host the BSC tournament for what feels like the hundredth year in a row, but they didn’t host last season and had only hosted six years in a row before that. If not, Missoula or even Bozeman has an outside shot at hosting a tournament.