Posted on: March 7, 2012 11:27 pm

Tiny Dancers: Montana

Wayne Tinkle's Grizzlies took down arguably the nation's top point guard, Weber State's Damian Lillard, to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament. 

This Montana-Weber State championship contest wasn't quite as electric as the last time the two teams met with everything on the line, when Montana's Anthony Johnson went for 42 points, but the result was the same. 

Montana is led by junior guard Will Cherry, but Tinkle has plenty of weapons. 

The Grizz had all five starters reach double-figures in the championship game. Sophomore Kareem Jamar and junior Mathias Ward, who each had 18 in the semifinal win, led Montana with 23. Cherry had 13, senior big man Derek Selvig had 16 points and nine boards and Art Stewart finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. 

The Grizzles, who won their first outright regular-season crown since 1991-92, trailed by five at the break -- but outscored Weber State, 54-30, in the second half to blow the game open. 

Player to know: Will Cherry - The 6-foot-1 junior guard leads the team in scoring at 16.1 points per game, but he's versatile and is also one of the nation's top defenders. He’s topped 20 points on 10 separate occasions this season, and has dramatically improved his outside shooting since last season.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 25-6 overall, 15-1 in Big Sky
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2010
  • We’re thinking: 15
  • KenPom ranking: 97
  • Sagarin ranking: 102
  • RPI: 81
  • Best wins: Long Beach State, Weber State
  • Worst losses: North Dakota
  • Notable stat: The Grizzlies enter the game on a school-record 14-game winning streak.  

 -- Jeff Goodman

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 5, 2012 8:04 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 8:10 pm

The Poll Attacks: Voter drops IU after two wins

By Gary Parrish

Tom Crean cost himself an AP vote by beating Michigan State and Purdue.

I know that sounds crazy.

But it's true and the focus of the Poll Attacks.

Associated Press poll: I've been on this Indiana thing for a few weeks because I don't understand how presumed intelligent reporters could watch basketball and/or look at bodies of work of basketball teams and conclude the Hoosiers didn't deserve to be ranked. I had to jump the 15 voters who didn't rank IU two Mondays ago, and that number dwindled to seven last week. It was better, obviously. But seven voters were still wrong.


Now only one voter is still wrong.

It's Jason Franchuk from the Provo Daily Herald.

He somehow decided to omit Indiana from his ballot even though the Hoosiers are:
  • 24-7 overall.
  • on a four-game winning streak.
  • the owners of wins over No. 1 Kentucky, No. 7 Ohio State and No. 8 Michigan State.
  • ranked 10th at KenPom.com and 12th at CollegeRPI.com.
  • 8-4 against the Top 50 and 11-5 against the Top 100.

I don't care if you hate Tom Crean, cream and crimson, John Cougar Mellencamp and Norman Dale -- I don't even care if you're a Purdue fan -- there's no reasonable way to keep Indiana off a Top 25 ballot. It stupid. It makes no sense.

But you know what makes less sense?

The fact that Jason had Indiana ranked 22nd last week.


Jason had Indiana ranked 22nd last week. Then he watched Indiana beat Michigan State and Purdue to move from 22-7 to 24-7. Then he dropped the Hoosiers straight off his ballot. I'm just gonna assume that's an oversight. Has to be, right? Otherwise, man, I don't know.

Coaches poll: It's clearly just a coach throwing an off-the-radar program a bone, so I don't really mind it much. Honestly, I don't mind it all. But Montana getting a vote in the coaches poll is a little silly. Yes, the Grizzlies are the Big Sky's regular-season champions, and their 10-game winning streak has moved their record to 23-6. But they're 2-3 against the Top 100 with three losses outside the Top 130, and that's just not a rankable resume. Again, it neither matters much nor bothers me much. But that doesn't make it any less wrong.

Posted on: March 9, 2011 12:42 pm

Big Sky championship game preview

Once again, the seeding process has held true to form for the Big Sky Conference. No. 2 Montana (21-9, 12-4) defeated No. 3 Weber State (18-12, 11-5) on March 8 to advance and face host Northern Colorado (20-10, 13-3). The No. 1-seeded Bears beat No. 4 Northern Arizona (19-12, 9-7) and will play for their first NCAA bid on their home floor. The game will be televised at 9:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2

The Northern Colorado Bears got here in harrowing fashion, needing a late comeback to beat the Lumberjacks 73-70 in the semis. Their rock all season long has been senior guard Devon Beitzel, and he came through again with 25 points and 9 defensive rebounds. Forward Chris Kaba contributed 14 points and 2 blocked shots, and senior forward Neal Kingman kicked in 10 points.

The Bears will need that production up front as they prepare to take on Brian Qvale and the defending champion Montana Grizzlies. Qvale is a 6-foot-11, 260 lb. behemoth on the blocks, averaging 15 points and 9 rebounds per game. Most importantly, he's good for about 3 blocked shots per game, and that could turn the tide. Montana is the experienced team here, and may find a way to win in the rubber match. The Griz lost by 18 when they visited Greeley in December, but that was a long time ago.

One thing's for certain, though. The Big Sky will be sending a student wearing a bear costume to the Big Dance.

Big Sky tourney bracket

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Eric Angevine

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Posted on: March 7, 2011 9:19 am
Edited on: March 7, 2011 9:20 am

Big Sky semifinal matchups are set

Way out west, the seeding has held true to form. The Big Sky tournament semifinals match No. 1 seed Northern Colorado (19-10, 13-3) with No. 4 Northern Arizona (19-11, 9-7), while No. 2 Montana (20-9, 12-4) will get another shot at No. 3 Weber State (18-11, 11-5). The semifinals and final will all be played at Northern Colorado's Butler-Hancock Athletic Center, starting Tuesday, March 8.

Damian Lillard and Will Cherry battle for a loose ball in the 2010 Big Sky tourneyAs the two top seeds, NoCo and Montana have yet to play a tourney game. They have been rewarded with the extra rest that a first-round bye imparts, and will get their feet wet on Tuesday.

Weber State got to this point by defeating the league's upset kings, the Eastern Washington Eagles, in a Saturday quarterfinal. EWU had almost single-handedly set the postseason seedings by closing out wins over Montana and Weber State to finish the regular season, and had their eye on doing the same to the Wildcats in the tournament. The Eagles ran up a 15-point advantage on Weber State that lasted into the second half, before junior forward Kyle Bullinger got on his horse, finishing with 26 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals to advance his team one step closer to a hoped-for Big Dance invitation.

Northern Arizona's road to the semis was eerily similar, as the Lumberjacks overcame a 16-point deficit to Montana State thanks to the heroics of two high-scoring players. Guard Cameron Jones scored 27, and reserve Eric Platt added 20, including a late game go-ahead three pointer that secured the eventual win.

In the regular season, Northern Colorado defeated the Lumberjacks by ten on the road and just one at home. Montana split the season series with Weber State, also experiencing success away from home.

Players to watch:

Devon Beitzel, 6-foot-1 senior guard, Northern Colorado

Neal Kingman, 6-7 senior forward, Northern Colorado

Brian Qvale, 6-11 senior center, Montana

Will Cherry, 6-1 sophomore guard, Montana

Kyle Bullinger, 6-6 junior forward, Weber State

Lindsey Hughey, 6-3 senior guard, Weber State

Cameron Jones, 6-4 senior guard, Northern Arizona

Stallon Saldivar, 6-1 sophomore guard, Northern Arizona

Big Sky tournament bracket

Other conference tournaments

Photo: US Presswire

Postedy by Eric Angevine

More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: March 3, 2011 10:20 am
Edited on: March 3, 2011 1:46 pm

Conference tourney preview: the Big Sky

The Big Sky conference doesn’t mess around. Of the league’s nine teams, only six make the postseason. That’s just the beginning. The top two seeds, in this case Northern Colorado (19-10 overall, 13-3 Big Sky), and Montana (20-9, 12-4) don’t have to play until the semis on Tuesday, March 8. On Saturday the 5th, the four bottom seeds battle it out to see who gets to go on, but it’s still not a straight bracket situation. After the first round, NoCo gets the lowest remaining seed and Montana gets the highest, and the rest of the tournament is played in the top seed’s building. Talk about protecting your No. 1 team.

Northern Colorado has that advantage on its own merits, but owes a huge debt of thanks to sixth-seeded Eastern Washington (10-19, 7-9). After enduring a four-game losing streak in February, the Eagles rebounded to win their final two games against Montana and Weber State (17-11, 11-5), the only teams that had a chance to sneak into the top slot in the conference.

Northern Colorado and Montana dueled for the auto bid last season as wellNorthern Colorado may be the most surprising success story in the league. The Bears have only been in the Big Sky since 2006, and only in D-I since 2004. They’re atop the league under a first-year coach, B.J. Hill (who took over from Tad Boyle when he ascended to the Big 12), and went 4-7 against D-I competition in the non-conference season, making the surge to the top of the standings all the more unexpected. Senior guard Devon Beitzel has a lot to do with that, putting up a conference-best 20.6 points per game.

Montana’s greatest threat is Brian Qvale, the 6-foot-11 senior who nearly led the Grizzlies to an upset of New Mexico in last year’s NCAA tournament. This year, his numbers are even better: 15 points per game, 62 percent shooting from the floor, 8.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game. He helped Montana forge a season split with the Bears (you won’t find any more rugged mascots than in the Big Sky) and can easily power this team to another auto-bid, even from the second slot in the tourney.

If there’s a dark horse in this race, it’s probably the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (18-11, 9-7), a team that has five seniors, a long-term coach in Mike Adras and the nifty ballhandling of Stallon Saldivar (3/1 assists to turnovers ratio) providing the intangibles that could fuel a run to the title.

Since NoCo won the regular-season championship, the semis and final will be held in Greeley, CO regardless of results, so it may all come down to the Bears’ ability to protect their house, where they haven’t lost a game all season long.

Big Sky tournament bracket


Title game: 9:00 p.m. ET, Wednesday, March 9 (ESPN2)


  1. Devon Beitzel, Northern Colorado
  2. Brian Qvale, Montana
  3. Stallon Saldivar, Northern Arizona


Conference RPI: 24

KenPom.com rating: 22

Sagarin rating: 23

NCAA tournament Locks:

NCAA tournament Bubble Teams: None


Last NCAA tournament Appearance:

Northern Colorado: N/A

Montana: 2010 (62-57 loss to New Mexico)

Weber State: 2007 (70-42 loss to UCLA)

Northern Arizona: 2000 (61-56 loss to St. John’s)

Montana State: 1996 (88-55 loss to Syracuse)

Eastern Washington: 2004 (75-56 loss to Oklahoma State)

Note: Portland State, which won back-to-back auto bids in 2008 and 2009, has been ruled ineligible to participate in the 2011 Big Sky tournament.

Posted by Eric Angevine

Photo: US Presswire

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