2007 Big Sky Tournament Preview

2007 Big Sky Tournament Preview

2007 Big Sky Tournament Preview
by Jordan Adams - 02/28/2007

The Big Sky faithful are still pining for the days of Harold "The Show" Arceneaux. It's been nearly eight years since his Weber State Wildcats sent North Carolina packing in the first round. Since then this conference has had to settle for the usual one-and-done stint in the Big Dance.

This season there might not be one true dominant team in the Big Sky, and that leaves the door wide open for anyone to jump in and steal a tourney spot. Weber State and Northern Arizona finished atop the league at 11-5, but it is the aforementioned Wildcats that earned the top seed with their season sweep of the Lumberjacks.

Montana and Portland State finished just one and two games, respectively, behind the Big Sky co-leaders and they, along with Eastern Washington, are just as equipped to take the postseason crown.

While the programs in this league are vaguely obscure to most, some of the individual talent needs high praise. Players like Eastern Washington's Rodney Stuckey, one of the country's top scorers, and Northern Arizona's Ruben Boykin Jr. and Stephen Sir will have a big impact not only on who emerges as champion here, but also if the Big Sky representative will record a win in the NCAA Tournament.

The Big Sky Tournament runs from March 3-7 at the Dee Events Center in Ogden, Utah. Weber State will host the tournament because they are the No. 1 team.

THE FAVORITE:
Weber State - Despite laying an egg in their season finale, Weber State put together the best season that the Big Sky had to offer. They lost only once at home in conference play, so securing the tournament site in their own arena makes for a pretty cozy environment. But they do have to go out and win it because the opposition will be hungry. Only one team gets in from this league.

THE CONTENDERS:
Northern Arizona - The Lumberjacks finished the year winning five straight and six of their last seven. Of their five conference losses, three came by five points or less, and the other two were from Weber State by eight points each. NAU has one of the best three-point shooters in the country in Stephen Sir, and if they make the Big Dance you'll get to know him well.

Montana - The Grizzlies had their fair share of difficulties on the road in Big Sky play. However, they played well at home, so they know they can beat anyone when it matters most. The ended up splitting the season series with both Weber State and Northern Arizona.

THE SLEEPERS:
Eastern Washington - Their .500 mark in league play and 15-14 record overall clearly states they are not the best team around. But they do have Rodney Stuckey, and he can take them all the way. His 25 points, five rebounds and five assists average could be just what they need to create some havoc in this bracket and make their tourney dreams a reality. They'll score 80 or 90 on you, so be prepared for a track meet when the Eagles set flight.

Idaho State - The Bengals finished only three games out from the top spot, but their 13-16 overall record leaves a lot more to be desired. Their best game of the year was probably the opener when they gave Marquette a scare on the road and fell by just three. This team's biggest issue is being able to keep up with the higher scoring teams.

MATCHUPS:
#6 Idaho State vs. #3 Montana
Each team won on the other's home court, but if the Grizzlies can get this one in the high 70s or 80s, it will be tough for Idaho State to manage a victory. Idaho State hasn't touched 80 in over six outings.

#5 Montana State vs. #4 Portland State
This series was split as well, but it was the hosts won each game. Portland State has five players scoring in double figures, and that might be too tough a task for a Bobcats team that has dropped four of its last five.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:

There is no reason why the home Wildcats shouldn't sweep right through the tournament. Five of their seven home wins came by at least nine points, and they have been dealt the right cards to capture their first tournament title since 2003. If they make it so far as to the championship game, you can watch them on March 7 on ESPN at 7 p.m. EST.

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