The Big Sky has had its fair share of theatrics and excitement the last couple years, from Sacramento State trying to figure out how to host a conference tournament on campus to Weber State’s thrilling three-point victory over Montana in the conference tournament title game last year.
This year is shaping up to be no different.
Big Sky Power Rankings:
1 Weber State
New Jazz forward Joel Bolomboy’s loss cannot be overstated. Replacing the double-double machine will have to be done by committee, but with so many returners, including conference tournament MVP Jeremy Senglin, and Kyndahl Hill, Weber has its eyes set on a return trip to the Big Dance.
Coming off a loss in the conference championship game should add some fuel to the fire for the Grizzlies. Though undersized, their guards are fast, explosive, and talented. Oregon transfer Ahmaad Rorie is eligible and will look to make a significant contribution immediately, while Michael Oguine will step into a larger role.
This is a dangerous Vandals squad. Pretty much everyone returns for Don Verlin, and his team has the looks of one that could end up stealing the Big Sky’s tournament bid. Perrion Callandret and Victor Sanders head a solid backcourt and Arkadiy Mkrtychyam and Ty Egbert give the Vandals one of the more talented and physical frontcourts in the conference
4 North Dakota
Quinton Hooker will be one of the most dynamic players in the conference this year and Brian Jones’ squad will have high expectations after losing in overtime to eventual champion Weber State in the conference semifinals as the 5 seed. This year, maybe a CIT bid won’t be enough.
5 Idaho State
Idaho State had quite a turnaround last season, and the upward trajectory will be expected continue behind Ethan Telfair, who flirted with the NBA Draft over the summer. His 20.2 points per game average and 5.4 assists per game were huge for the Bengals, and they could challenge the upper echelon of Big Sky teams this year.
6 Portland State
The Vikings lose two key players in Cam Forte and Isaiah Pineiro, but Arizona State transfer Calaen Robinson returns as a focal point of the offense after a solid first year with the Vikings. Deontae North brings some shooting prowess over from Long Beach State after spending last season at a junior college.
7 Montana State
The Bobcats fall in the middle of the pack, but could turn some heads if some key cogs, like Utah Valley transfer Konner Frey, mesh into Brian Fish’s system. Tyler Hall returns from a solid freshman campaign as well, and a couple of JuCo transfers, including Devonte Klines, could prove pivotal.
8 Sacramento State
It’s always nice to have your best player back, which the Hornets have in Justin Strings. Marcus Graves and Nick Hornsby return to the Hornets as well, but the overall firepower may not be at the level of the top teams in the conference.
9 Eastern Washington
Losing Tyler Harvey and then Venky Jois has been tough for the Eagles the past two years, but in 2016, the team finished a respectable 10-8 in the Big Sky. With expectations a little lower than in previous seasons, Eastern Washington may be able to sneak up on some people.
10 Northern Arizona
A lot has changed for the Lumberjacks since their 2015 run to the CIT championship game. With point guard Kris Yanku gone, the boys from Flagstaff will look to returners Ako Kaluna, Marcus DeBerry and a couple of other underclassmen to right the ship.
11 Northern Colorado
It may be another tough year for the Bears. With a new coach, albeit a solid one in Jeff Linder, and the roster stretched thin in the frontcourt, Northern Colorado will rely on leading scorer Anthony Johnson on offense, as well as Jordan Davis, who set the Northern Colorado school record for scoring by a true freshman.
12 Southern Utah
Like Northern Colorado, the Thunderbirds also bring in a new coach: former UNLV interim head coach Todd Simon. Although it may take a little while for him to bring in his own recruits, his emphasis on changing the culture of the program is encouraging. Southern Utah has not finished with a winning conference record since 2002 (shout to the Mid-Continent Conference).