Big Sky tournament: Preview, prediction, TV info
The Big Sky tournament could be wide-open, which means that a surprise team could sneak in and get the bid.
What: Big Sky Conference championship.
When: March 13-15.
Where: Dee Events Center in Ogden, Utah.
Bracket: View tournament field here.
TV: Championship game on ESPN2 (March 15, 8 p.m.). Quarterfinals and semifinals at www.watchbigsky.com.
Last year's champ: Montana (25-7, No. 13 seed)
What matters: This should be a competitive tournament. Eight of the league's 11 teams finished at least .500 in league play -- and because only the top seven make the conference tournament, all games should be fairly close. Despite losing two of its final three games, Weber State still won the conference by two games. The Wildcats jumped out to an 11-2 start before faltering down the stretch and losing four of their last six heading into the conference tournament. North Dakota led a three-way for second, with Northern Arizona and Montana joining UND. All three teams are hot, with North Dakota winning four of five, Montana winning five of six, and Northern Arizona winning four in a row.
Who matters: Weber State took home most of the individual awards, with star guard Davion Berry (19.2 ppg, 4.0 apg) winning Player of the Year honors. Berry has scored at least 20 points in 13 of his last 16 games. Jeremy Senglin (11.3 ppg) and Kyle Tresnak (11.3 ppg) are complementary options, and Joel Bolomboy (10.9 rpg) anchors the interior. There are two other big-time perimeter players in the league, with North Dakota's Troy Huff (19.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and Montana's Kareem Jamar (18.8 ppg, 4.0 apg) both capable of carrying their teams to the automatic bid. Northern Arizona is led by newcomer Quinton Upshur (15.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg).
Fun fact: As a whole, the Big Sky is one of the most efficient offensive leagues in the country. It ranks second nationally in offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage and 2-point percentage. Moreover, it's third in 3-point percentage. There are plenty of individual talents in the league, with Berry, Huff and Jamar leading the way, but the league is jam-packed with teams and players who can knock down shots and make plays offensively.
Prediction: Northern Arizona surprises for the Big Sky automatic bid. Out of the top four teams in the conference, Northern Arizona is the only one without a senior superstar on the perimeter who is capable of carrying them to the title -- but the Lumberjacks are the hottest team in the league and could keep that going in the conference tournament. They destroyed Montana by 20 points in the season finale, and also won at Weber State earlier this month. Second-year head coach Jack Murphy has infused talent into the program, and the combination of Quinton Upshur and defense could get the job done.
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