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The Morning Dish – Sunday, November 9, 2014

by - Published November 9, 2014 in The Morning Dish
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More conference quick looks as we near the start of the college basketball season…

The Big Sky has typically been the domain of Weber State and Montana in recent years, and it may be again-Weber State in particular looks capable of continuing its excellence. But watch for Eastern Washington and Sacramento State. The Eagles return four starters, including high-scoring Tyler Harvey, while Sac State looks to have its best team in more than 20 years in Division I.

Coastal Carolina is a relatively big favorite in the Big South, and with good reason-the Chanticleers feature a high-quality backcourt (Josh Cameron, Warren Gillis, Elijah Wilson) that gets even better with Mount St. Mary’s transfer Shivaughn Wiggins. The Chants also have some nice size up front, but this still should be a good conference race. Radford returns everyone, Winthrop has become a tough out under Pat Kelsey, and High Point is the conference’s defending champion and has its best player in John Brown.

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2013-14 Big Sky Post-Mortem

by - Published July 1, 2014 in Columns, Conference Notes
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The 2013-14 season saw one of the Big Sky’s signature programs, and the one that has given it arguably the biggest NCAA Tournament wins in recent memory, return to the Big Dance. It wasn’t that Weber State wasn’t good; they have been a consistent postseason team. They just couldn’t knock off one particular team in the conference tournament that had their number.

Since reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2007, Weber State lost three times – all to Montana – in the Big Sky championship game. This time around, the Wildcats didn’t have to go through the Grizzlies, who were bounced in the quarterfinals, and handily beat North Dakota in the championship game. It finished what was pretty much a dominating season for them, as they also won the regular season title and dominated the postseason awards.

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How the conferences shake out as 2014 approaches

by - Published December 31, 2013 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
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Non-conference play is just about over at this point. Conference games are ready to take over the rest of the slate, with a few having an “opening day” of sorts, including the Big East with its well-publicized day of five games on Tuesday. A few have already had early conference games, with the West Coast Conference having its opening day on Saturday.

How are the conferences shaping up? Which ones look like we thought and which ones look nothing like what we thought before the season? Here is a look at all 32 conferences as conference play beckons.

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How the conferences shake out as 2013 approaches

by - Published December 28, 2012 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
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Non-conference play is almost over, and it has been quite a stretch. We’ve learned a good deal about a lot of teams, while some are still a mystery for various reasons – injuries, suspensions, ineligibility and a light schedule are all possible reasons. In addition, a few conferences have already seen a game or two mixed in with the non-conference schedule.

Conference play is right around the corner, and while a non-conference resume doesn’t tell the whole story, it does shed some light on teams and conferences. In conference play, there is more familiarity since teams play each other every year, although the changing landscape is starting to diminish that factor a bit. That’s one reason why we see some teams put forth a very good non-conference showing, including some good wins, then go on to have a mediocre showing in conference play.

With that in mind, here’s a look at how every conference in America shapes up.

… Continue Reading

2012-13 Big Sky Conference Preview

by - Published November 22, 2012 in Conference Notes
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Projected order of finish

1. Weber State (17-3)
2. Montana (16-4)
3. Northern Colorado (13-7)
4. North Dakota (12-8)
5. Portland State (11-9)
6. Eastern Washington (10-10)
7. Sacramento State (9-11)
8. Montana State (8-12)
9. Northern Arizona (5-13)
10. Southern Utah (3-15)
11. Idaho State (2-14)

 

Preseason Player of the Year

G Will Cherry (Montana) – 15.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.6 SPG (11-12)

The senior two-time unanimous selection is the league’s newest Damian Lillard, its newest Devon Beitzel, its newest Rodney Stuckey. Except he’s not because, well, he’s been producing since his sophomore season. A summer injury (more on that later) will impact his status, but he should be back by Big Sky play. If he’s not, or if he’s hobbled, it might be a Peyton Manning-injured situation: talk of him getting MVP votes if the Griz should happen to spiral downward.

 

Preseason Coach of the Year

Wayne Tinkle, Montana

The biggest issue, aside from the Cherry situation, is what to do with everyone else not named Cherry or Kareem Jamar? Mathias Ward is the lone frontcourt player with extended experience, but you can bet Tinkle, a career Euroleague/CBA center will mold the rest of the frontcourt in his image.

 

Preseason All-Conference

Sr. G Will Cherry (Montana) – The best defender in the Big Sky hands down, Cherry has developed a mid-range game to go with it. Plus he can get to the basket like few others in the conference.

Jr. G Kareem Jamar (Montana) – 13.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 3.7 APG, 44% 3FG – Jamar can hurt you many, many ways. Jamar is listed as a G/F, and has a game which lends itself to both mid-range and the near low-post.

Sr. G Scott Bamforth (Weber State) – 14.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.4 APG – One of the best pure shooters in the league, Bamforth has to step up his mid-range game and free throws (a still-solid 87.5 percent, 105-of-120) as Weber looks to replace NBA point guard Damian Lillard.

Sr. F Collin Chiverton (Eastern Washington) – 13.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 41% 3FG – Chiverton netted close to 14 points a game while wrestling with a foot injury all of last year. He’s healthy now, which could be lethal for the Eagles as Jim Hayford probably will let Chiverton shoot the lights out every night.

Jr. C Kyle Tresnak (Weber State) – 10.0 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 54% FG – Tresnak is the best post scorer in the conference, hands down, and can play with his back to the basket like traditional centers should. His weakness is rebounding – a 6-foot-10 body, even by marginal standards, should average more than 3.8 rebounds per game. (Tresnak, a 32-game starter, averaged less than power forward Byron Fulton, who came off the bench.)
Coaching changes

Out: Joe O’Brien, Deane Martin (Idaho State); Mike Adras, Dave Brown (Northern Arizona); Roger Reid (Southern Utah)

In: Bill Evans (Idaho State); Jack Murphy (Northern Arizona); Nick Robinson (Southern Utah)

 

What was and what will be

Montana was the Big Sky’s NCAA Tournament entry last season after going 15-1 in conference play and winning the conference tournament. UM’s regular-season title was 20 years after its last outright title was secured, and the Grizzlies went 25-7 overall as head coach Wayne Tinkle won Coach of the Year honors and its backcourt duo of Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar were named to the Big Sky All-Conference First Team.

Damian Lillard was the talk of the conference, and rightly so: he’s playing in the NBA now. Though league runner-up Weber State lost him – and a couple other key cogs – the Wildcats have continually been a Big Sky tournament/title game mainstay. The program has a league-best 455 wins and has played in the tournament championship four times in the last half-dozen seasons.

As the season unfolds, the Big Sky expands to 11 teams; it will expand to a full-fledged 12 in 2014-2015. For now, the tournament gets an extra team and just the No. 1 seed (instead of Nos. 1 and 2) will receive a bye. Newcomer North Dakota comes in from the Great West with a balanced and experienced team and has a chance at the expanded tournament field, and several people were bullish on Sacramento State at a recent coaches conference call.

 

Eastern Washington Eagles (15-17, 8-8)

Projected starting 5: F Jordan Hickert, F Collin Chiverton, F Jaylen Henry, G Jeffery Forbes, G Justin Crosgile

Dearly departed: G Cliff Colimon (16.5 ppg, 66 3-pointers, 160 assists, 52 steals); F Cliff Ederaine (10.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 96 assists, 41 blocks, 43 steals); F Laron Griffin (8.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 23 blocks, 26 steals)

We’re back, baby: G Chiverton (13.9 ppg, 88 3-pointers, 36.7% FG), G Forbes (6.9 ppg, 31 steals, 48 assists, 62% FG)

Welcome to your new home: G Justin Crosgile (St. Joseph’s; 5-11, 170 pounds), the junior is expected to slide into starting point guard role after sitting out last season; Hayford also has collected a quartet of Europeans (transfer Martin Seiferth and true freshmen Fredrik Jorg, Venky Jois and Thomas Reuter) for his roster.

Games to watch: Non-conference, at Washington State (Nov. 10). Conference stretch, Jan. 17-26 (at North Dakota, at Northern Colorado, at Southern Utah)

Predicted finish: 10-10, Big Sky quarterfinalist. Eastern lost three very good starters and have a very young roster this season with a lot of new faces and interchangeable parts save for Chiverton, who should be the go-to scorer/leader.

 

Idaho State Bengals (9-21, 7-9)

Projected starting 5: G Andre’ Hatchett, G Melvin Morgan, G/F Chris Hansen, F Dejan Kostur, F Nnamdi Ezenwa

Dearly departed: F Chase Grabau (12.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 93 assists, 52 steals, 50.6% FG, 37.3% 3-point); G Kenny McGowen (14.7 ppg, 66 assists, 67 3-pointers, 32.5% 3pt, 37.9% FG); G Abner Moreira (7.2 rpg, 6.2 ppg, 14 blocks, 45.8% FG)

We’re back, baby: G Hatchett (7.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 13 blocks), G Morgan (12.2 points, 57 3pointers, 39.6% 3pt, 83 assists, 55 steals)

Welcome to your new home: Hansen (19 ppg, four rpg) is one of five transfers for new head coach Bill Evans. He is the only sophomore; there is one senior (Neveij Walters) and three juniors. Freshman Clint Thomas, an Idaho native, is the sole non-transfer.

Games to watch: Non-conference, at Oregon (Dec. 8). Conference stretch, Jan. 24-Feb. 2 (at Montana, at Montana State, at Northern Colorado, at North Dakota)

Predicted finish: 2-14, miss the Big Sky tournament. The Bengals lost four of their top five players from last season, which isn’t very helpful. Don’t know if Morgan can do it on his own; they just lost Sherrod Baldwin for the first semester due to academic ineligibility. It might be a long season, but they were predicted to be horrible last year, too.

 

Montana Grizzlies (25-7, 15-1)

Projected starting 5: G Will Cherry, G/F Kareem Jamar, F Mathias Ward, F Eric Hutchison, F Spencer Coleman

Dearly departed: F/C Derek Selvig (9.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 38 pointers, 43.7% 3pt, 87 assists, 35 blocks); F Art Steward 9.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 33 steals, 52.8% FG 113 FGs)

We’re back, baby: Cherry (15.8 ppg, 105 assists, 83 steals, team leader FG, 3pt, FT makes); Jamar (13.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 20 blocks, 36 steals, 49 3ptrs, 147 FGs, 92 FTs); Ward (10.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg53.8% FG, 129 FG)

Welcome to your new home: F Spencer Coleman (15.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 56 3ptrs,75% FT 66-88) is one of five newcomers to the Griz; transfer C Marko Kovavevic (JuCo, 6-11, 230) should be another key contributor. UM also has two redshirt Montanans (Morgan Young and Nick Emerson) who can contribute the way Shawn Stockton and Jordan Wood did – by doing the little things, like being a defensive specialist or harasser. Emerson has ability to put up points, too.

Games to watch: Non-conference, vs. BYU in Salt Lake (Nov. 28) or Feb. 23 at BracketBuster. Conference stretch, Feb. 14-March 4 (five road games, including BracketBuster)

Predicted finish: 16-4, Big Sky Tournament champions. OK, so how won’t they win the Big Sky regular season title? For one, Cherry is out indefinitely with a broken foot and Mathias Ward has no rebounding pedigree through his career so far. Why they’ll turn it around and win the Big Sky tournament – head coach Wayne Tinkle has an overall record of 116-71 (.620) and has guided the team to two NCAA tournaments in his seven-year tenure. The Griz have been to the postseason three seasons in a row, no reason to stop now.

 

Montana State Bobcats (12-17, 7-9)

Projected starting 5: G Antonio Biglow, G Xavier Blount, G Christian Moon, F Eric Norman, C Paul Egwuonwu

Dearly departed: G Rod Singleton (7.3 ppg, 105 assists, 61 FT, 75.3% FT, 40% FG); F Shawn Reid (10.6 ppg, 73.8% FT, 62 FTs, 101 FG); F Tre Johnson (8.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 29 blocks, 96 FG, 45% FG); C Mohamed Fall (7.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 51.7% FG, 78 FG)

Welcome to your new home: Biglow (6-0, 165) redshirted last season after going through NCAA issues and has been considered MSU’s best player since he was signed back in February of 2010. Averaged 22.4 points per game as a JuCo sophomore; he’s one of seven new people Brad Huse has on his roster.

Games to watch: Non-conference, at Oregon State (Nov. 25) or Feb. 24 at BracketBuster. Conference stretch, Feb. 14-28 (four road games, including BracketBuster)

Predicted finish: 8-12, miss the Big Sky Tournament. Where to begin? For the second straight year, Brad Huse brings in seven new players (variety of reasons, from graduation to NCAA to extra scholarships). That is a big issue, unless you ask Huse. The Missoula native is going into the final year of his contract, but that doesn’t seem to bother him: Eighteen of the 22 seasons he’s been a head coach, he had one year to prove himself.

Idaho State makes a decision

by - Published March 15, 2012 in Conference Notes

Last Thursday, Idaho State finally made it’s choice, hiring Montana assistant Bill Evans as it’s head coach. So far, reaction has been mixed by at least one of the couple of forum posts dedicated to the decision as well as the local scribe’s feelings. Here’s the traditional “welcome to town” article. We shall see what transpires from here; we’re also awaiting word on the NAU coaching search.
Coming Monday/Tuesday: A look at Montana’s matchup with Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament; other postseason matchups and thoughts.

Idaho State interim head coach Deane Martin will not have his tag taken off

by - Published March 6, 2012 in Columns

We’ve mentioned this before – what Deane Martin did for the Idaho State University Bengals basketball program. Long story short, a 3-13 record became third place in the Big Sky and ultimately fourth in a season everyone picked them to be dead last. Now comes word that Martin won’t be retained as full-time head coach. They’ve made a hiring, and they’ll announce it Thursday. Rumors are that it’s the longtime SUU coach Bill Evans. There has been some backlash, but not much. Pretty sure the hiring Thursday will bring out more backlash/intrigue/commentary. I disagree that they’d think Martin was part of the O’Brien regime; this was his first season in Pocatello. Bill Evans, if he’s hired, has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the region. That’s fine, but why wouldn’t you keep things simple? This will be the third coach in a calendar year for the Bengal players. We’ll have more Thursday when it comes; we’re also waiting on NAU’s coaching search (for now.)

The Big Sky Championships: who’s gonna win

by - Published March 6, 2012 in Columns, Conference Notes

This is what the head honchos wrote on Monday:

Big Sky (March 3)
Top seed: Montana. The Big Sky regular-season championship came down to the final game, in which the Grizzlies avenged their only loss in Big Sky play by beating Weber State in Missoula.
Tournament stakes: Although Weber State and Montana have 23 wins apiece, neither team will reach the NCAA Tournament without the Big Sky’s automatic bid. If either team claims the Big Sky championship, it will probably enter the NCAA Tournament as a No. 15 seed. If any other team finds a way to win, it would likely receive a No. 16 seed.
Spoiler alert: No. 3 Portland State. The Vikings are the only other team in the tournament with a winning record, and Portland State won six of its final seven. Although they fell short in games against Denver, Wyoming, Oregon, Montana and Weber State, the Vikings kept games close against a few heavy favorites. This lineup featuring mostly juniors and seniors could find a way to make a run.
Predicted champ: Montana. The Grizzlies have lost just twice at home this season, and that was to San Francisco and Nevada by a combined nine points. Since mid-December, the Grizzlies have been shredding opponents, winning by double digits in 14 of 18 victories. A championship game against Weber State would likely be a thriller, but the Grizzlies should be heading back to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

Here’s three reasons why the Griz will capture it all.
1) Dahlberg Arena. There are benefits to having one of the loudest, tightest, most packed game-to-game arenas in the Big Sky. It averages roughly 4,500 a game, but can jam in almost 7,500. Montana is 41-6 at home in the past three seasons. And did I mention it gets loud in there when the Griz go hunting?

2) Will Cherry. The junior guard, recently named First Team All-Big Sky Conference, netted 16.1 points per game and 3.3 assists per game in Big Sky play. He’s money at the line, sinking 82.6% of his foul shots 71-of-86) and sinks 49.7% from the field (87-of-175). More importantly, he was the league’s Defensive Player of the Year honors after pacing the conference with 2.6 steals per game (sixth in the nation) and spearheaded a Griz defense that allowed a league-low 61.4 points per game, a league-low 39.8% shooting, and a league-low 32.8% from 3-point range.
And did I mentioned he held Weber State’s Damian Lillard, the conference MVP, to 19 points on 7-of-19 shooting, including a 2-of-11 3-point effort. If you watched that game, you noticed Lillard was hounded by Cherry every time he touched the ball in the winner-take-all game last Tuesday. Lillard did have three steals, but had no assists – and Lillard is a point guard.

3) The veteran presences and leadership. Of the five key contributors to the Griz, most of them have started much of their careers. Senior Derek Selvig has played in 91 games, starting 57 of them. Classmate Art Steward has played in 61 games in two seasons, starting 47 of them. Juniors Cherry and Mathias Ward have played in a 91 games, the most possible, and Cherry has started 80 of them. Sophomore Kareem Jamar has played in 56 games and started 37.
And we haven’t even touched on the coaching staff that’s been there since 2006 – or the fact the Griz have been to the last three BSC title games. So let’s touch on that by repeating it – UM has been to the last three BSC championship games.

Playing catch-up: the Big Sky all-conference team & “first-round” analysis

by - Published March 5, 2012 in Conference Notes
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Well, a lot has happened since yours truly was able to take a breath and get back to Big Sky updates.
First, we’ll look at the all-conference team.

Individual Award Winners
MVP
Damian Lillard, Weber State

Newcomer of the Year
Collin Chiverton, Eastern Washington

Freshman Of the Year
Dylan Garrity, Sacramento State

Defensive Player of the Year
Will Cherry, Montana

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The curious case of Idaho State

by - Published February 22, 2012 in Columns
idahostate

They were selected to finish dead last in conference play. Their head coach resigned 10 games into the season. The interim coach was in his first year on staff when he was selected to his position.
So, how are the Bengals in position to end up as high as the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Big Sky Tournament? What has been the key to Idaho State’s resurgence, to Deane Martin’s 7-9 record this season, which is 7-6 in the BSC? What is going on in Pocatello?
… Continue Reading

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Your Phil of Hoops

Young UNLV team grows in Brooklyn

November 23, 2014 by

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Teams often grow from early season tournaments, and that appears to be what UNLV did in Brooklyn. The young Runnin’ Rebels need the experience.

Simply put, Syracuse needs to improve offensively

November 22, 2014 by

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Jim Boeheim didn’t have many things to say about his team’s offense, but that said it all. It’s at that end of the floor that Syracuse’s fate this season will be determined.

Growing pains are here for talented Brown team

November 20, 2014 by

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Brown has good talent and should be a factor in the Ivy League, but with three sophomores starting on the perimeter, growing pains are in the foreseeable future

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2014 Prep School Tour

Missed a recap of an open gym workout? We have them all right here for you.

Sept. 9: Putnam Science Academy
Sept 10: Commonwealth Academy
Sept. 11: St. Andrew's
Sept. 12: Northfield Mount Hermon
Sept. 16: Brewster Academy and Phillips Exeter
Sept. 17: Brooks School
Sept. 21: Holderness School
Sept. 23: St. Thomas More and Marianapolis Prep
Sept. 24: South Kent School and Kent School
Sept. 25: Williston Northampton
Sept. 28: Wilbraham and Monson Academy and Suffield Academy
Sept. 30: New Hampton
Oct. 5: Worcester Academy
Oct. 7: Brimmer and May
Oct. 8: Cushing Academy
Oct. 9: Tilton
Oct. 12: Tabor Academy and Rivers School
Oct. 14: The Master's School
Oct. 16: Vermont Academy

You can also find them all right here.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

New England Prep Schools 2014-15: looking back and looking ahead

November 3, 2014 by

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With a series of prep school open gym visits in the book and the season not far away, here’s a look back at open gyms and a look forward to the season in the New England prep school ranks.

Marianapolis Prep will battle in Class AA

October 20, 2014 by

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Marianapolis Prep is far from loaded with talent, but they have enough perimeter talent to be dangerous. As is usually the case, they will battle and be a tough out in Class AA.

New Vermont Academy coach has put together a contender

October 17, 2014 by

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Vermont Academy has a new coach for the second year in a row, but they shouldn’t skip a beat. They have enough talent to win a lot of games and make a deep run in NEPSAC Class AA.

The Master’s School has good students and talent

October 15, 2014 by

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The Master’s School has a number of good students, and they will continue to head to college later. This time around, they also have some talent on the hardwood and should win a few more games.

Rivers will try to build on a breakthrough season

October 13, 2014 by

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The Rivers School had a breakthrough season last year, winning the Independent School League. They will try to build on that with a team that loses a lot but also returns a lot from last season’s team.