This coming March 7, The Reno Events Center in Reno, Nevada will begin hosting the exciting Big Sky tournament. The winner of this single-elimination tournament will claim that all-important ticket to the national tournament and join the craziness of the basketball spectacle that is March Madness.
Read on for a breakdown of the Big Sky tournament. You can also check out our preview for the MEAC tourney.
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2016 Big Sky Tournament Preview
Weber State Wildcats
And compete they did as the Wildcats won their first regular season title since 2014 by topping the Big Sky with a 15-3 conference slate. Bolomboy and Senglin give Weber State two go-to guys who can take over a game any time. Bolomboy averages 17.9 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, while Senglin puts up 17.8 PPG on 49.3 field goal percentage. Overall, the Wildcats average 77.0 points per game, second in the conference and 86th in the nation.
Per TeamRankings.com, Montana has the second highest chance of winning the Big Sky tourney at 19.65%. While that’s much lower than Weber State’s (42.20%), the Grizzlies have the weapons, not to mention the pedigree, to make another run at the title.
Montana, which reached the finals last season but lost to Eastern Washington, will rely on the trio of Martin Breunig (18.6 PPG), Walter Wright (12.8 PPG), and Michael Oguine (11.6 PPG) to deliver the goods in the tournament. But more than the scoring, the Grizzlies will turn to their defense that limits opponents to only 69.1 points per game.
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Eastern Washington Eagles
You’d expect the Eagles’ offense to drop following the departures of four starters from last season, including Tyler Harvey, who led the team with 23.1 PPG. The opposite actually happened, as Eastern Washington averaged from 79.2 PPG last year to 82.4 PPG this season—tops in the Big Sky and 13th in Division I ball.
Austin McBroom and only starter returnee Venky Jois are both doing terrific jobs of filling the void left by Harvey. McBroom notches 21.5 PPG, while Jois scatters 16.8 PPG. Eastern Washington lost to favorites Weber State and Montana, but not before giving those two teams a run for their own money, losing only by a combined seven points.
If the Eagles get their defense to improve at least modestly, they’ll surely be a team nobody wants to face in the tournament.
Sacramento State Hornets
The Hornets reached the semis last season as a three-seed, but for now, they’ll likely be settling with nothing but a participation certificate in the Big Sky tourney. They don’t have the offense to keep up with the big dogs in the conference (71.7 PPG, 213th in the nation) or the defense to cut them down to size (allowed 72.1 PPG, #191).
Sacramento State, however, has Justin Strings, who’s having a terrific season at least on a personal level. Strings, who averaged just 0.8 PPG and 0.7 RPG last season, is putting up 15.3 PPG and 6.8 RPG.
Weber State defeats Montana in the finals.