What-to-know tourney previews: The Big Sky

Wayne Tinkle is one of the best small-conference coaches in the country. Can he get Montana another title? (USATSI)


1. OK, so it's a small league. Give us the favorite.

I actually don't think there is one. But the separation between top seeds Montana (1) and Weber State (2) with the rest of the bracket is massive. Montana finished 23-6 this year, Weber State 24-5, and both are capable of getting a Round-of-64 win. Weber State is especially impressive considering the team has rebounded from losing NBA stud/top-10 pick Damian Lillard.

2. With Lillard gone, who's the closest thing to him?

In terms of star quality, it's Will Cherry. The Montana guard has been nagged by injury to bookend this season, though. He missed time in November and was hurt recently, too. The good news is MU coach Wayne Tinkle (giggle if you must) has said Cherry will be ready for Big Sky play. That will be huge, because Weber State is the best Big Sky team on both offense and defense -- it's just Montana is stronger in the margins. 

3. It sounds like there's no sleeper chances here, right?  

Right. And I'm talking: I'd be genuinely shocked if anyone outside of the top two seeds got the auto bid here. (MU and WSU have no shot at an at-large either, for the record.) If you're looking at the next team in the mix, North Dakota, the No. 3, is the only other team in the conference with a .500 record this year -- and it's just at .500. It was that bad.

Schedule: All games at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula, Mont., March 14-16.

Title game: Saturday, March 16, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU.


  • Kareem Jamar (Montana)
  • Will Cherry (Montana)
  • Troy Huff (North Dakota)

Conference RPI: 28
KenPom.com rating:
Sagarin rating:

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CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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