Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Big Sky Conference Preview


As always, the Big Sky Conference was fairly wide-open last season, and should be again this year. Portland State won the regular season championship by two games over Montana and Montana State, but neither of the top two seeds made it to the finals of the conference tournament. 5th seed Weber State and 3rd seed Montana met in the championship, with Montana getting the automatic bid. They proceeded to lose to Washington by a respectable 11 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Once again, there is a slew of teams capable of winning the automatic bid this season.

Favorites: Montana State returns all five starters from a team that finished second in the Big Sky, but only went .500 overall. Included in the returnees is the league's best inside-outside combo in guard Ja'Ron Jefferson and forward Marvin Moss. Branden Miller is a very good third option, averaging over twelve points and three assists per game. Nick Dissly and Al Beye are solid frontcourt players, while Casey Durham provides scoring off the bench. Montana has four starters back from their Tournament team, but lose their best player in Kamarr Davis. However, one of the best players in the conference, Kevin Criswell, returns. He and point guard Matt Martin form one of the best backcourts in the league. Up front, Matt Dlouhy and Andrew Strait are the main options. John Seyfert needs to step up his production from the center position. Sacramento State has the best player in the league in Jason Harris, as well as two other all-conference candidates in Alex Bausley and DeShawn Freeman. Harris, because of his quickness, is extremely difficult to defend on the offensive end. Freeman is the best point guard in the conference, and can do it all on the court. He averaged 10 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals per game. Bausley is the go-to-guy in the frontcourt, and can compete down low with anyone in the league. Aaron Perry and Chris Lange are two more very solid forwards.

Sleepers: Northern Arizona may have the most talented offensive team in the league, but it didn't translate to wins last season, as they finished 11-17 overall and 4-10 in the conference. That should change this season. Ruben Boykin is one of the premier forwards in the conference, and provides a go-to-option down low. The perimieter trio of Steven Sir, sixth man extraordinaire DeJuan Stevens, and Kelly Golob can compete with any backcourt in the league. All three are capable of putting up big scoring numbers. Kyle Landry is another above-average player in the frontcourt. Weber State loses the best player in the league in Lance Allred, but return three starters and several other players that can keep them in the hunt. A deep perimeter that includes All-conference candidate Coric Riggs; role players Brett Cox and Jamaal Jenkins; and super sub Terell Stovall, leads the way. Stovall could move into the starting lineup this season, while Cox is a solid three point shooter. In the frontcourt, versatile David Patten will need to step up his production, while JC transfer Dan Henry should have a big impact.

Rounding Out the Pack: Eastern Washington lost three starters from a 8-20 team, but they should be improved anyway. Henry Bekkering and Jake Beitinger form a good forward tandem, while Deuce Smith could develop into an all-conference-type player in the backcourt. 6-10 Paul Butorac is expected to improve as well, and newcomer Rodney Stuckey could have a decent impact on the perimeter. Portland State lost their three best players from a year ago, including the Big Sky player of the year in Seamus Boxley, and the nation's leading assist man in Will Funn. Jake Schroeder is a decent scorer in the backcourt and Scott Morrison should develop into a solid option down low. Two transfers, Anthony Washington (Washington) and Ryan Sommer (JC), are expected to pick up some of the scoring slack. Idaho State finished last in the conference a season ago, and lose three starters. However, they do return an all-conference player in Antoine Killien and last season's Freshman of the Year Logan Kinghorn. Those two will carry the Bengals. David Schroeder is a big-time scorer who hasn't been able to contribue to his full potential in three years because of injury. A myriad of transfers, including Tim Henry (Wyoming); Kyle Hopkins (Arizona); and Jamal Holden and Akbar Abdul-Ahad (JC) are expected to shore up what is going to be a very deep perimieter corps.

Player of the Year: Jason Harris, SG, Sacramento State

All-Conference Team:
G- Jason Harris, Sacramento State
G- Ja'Ron Jefferson, Montana State
G- Kevin Criswell, Montana
F- Marvin Moss, Montana State
F- Ruben Boykin, Northern Arizona

Second Team:
G- DaShawn Freeman, Sacramento State
G- Coric Riggs, Weber State
G- Steven Sir, Northern Arizona
F- Antoine Milien, Idaho State
F- Alex Bausley, Sacramento State

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