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The Big Sky Conference has one of the more interesting conference tournament set-ups, as nine teams are in the league, but only six reach the tournament. During the regular season, Weber State set the tone early by knocking off favorite Portland State on the road en route to a 15-1 campaign. PSU finished tied for second with Montana, with both teams going 11-5. Idaho State also finished above .500, with Northern Colorado going 8-8. With the dregs of the league already at home, it should be a competitive conference tournament.
Favorite: Weber State did not come into conference play as the frontrunner, but the Wildcats quickly took control of the league, winning two of their first three games on the road. They have won 12 straight games heading into the tournament. They rank second in the country in effective field-goal percentage, according to Ken Pomeroy, and are also an excellent rebounding team. The Wildcats are led by the backcourt duo of Kellen McCoy and Damian Lillard, who can both shoot the three and create for others. Daviin Davis heads a versatile and balanced frontcourt.
Contenders: Portland State was riding high heading into conference play, as the Vikings had knocked off Gonzaga and nearly beat Washington in the non-conference. However, after a 6-1 start in the Big Sky, they lost four of their next six to fall out of the race. They have won their last four, though. Guard Jeremiah Dominguez is one of the best in the league, and Phil Nelson is an inside-outside threat. Dominic Waters and Andre Murray also average double-figures. Montana won seven in a row in late January and early February, but lost two of its final three to settle in a tie for second. The Grizzlies have one of the best inside-outside combos in the league in guard Anthony Johnson and forward Jordan Hasquet. Ryan Staudacher can really shoot the ball from three.
Sleeper: With just six teams in the conference tournament, there is not a lot of room for sleepers, but Idaho State could make a run. The Bengals have won five of their last six, including their last two by a combined 57 points. Amorrow Morgan and Matt Stucki form a very solid backcourt, while Chron Tatum does most of the damage up front. They are very solid inside the arc and have already defeated Portland State and Montana this season.
Prediction: As mentioned earlier, the Big Sky doesn’t let a third of its league into the conference tournament, which takes some of the fun out of Championship Week. However, there should be no shortage of solid basketball over the next few days. Weber State ran through the league and easily won the regular season title, but it will be interesting to see if that continues in the tourney. The Wildcats are hosting the semifinals and finals, which gives them an advantage, but I like Portland State to pull the upset and win the automatic bid as a No. 3 seed. The Vikings have great balance and plenty of weapons offensively and will get to the NCAA Tournament.
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