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Big Sky Tournament bracket 2017: North Dakota eyes its first NCAA Tournament appearance

Are the Fighting Hawks a team of destiny?

NCAA Basketball: North Dakota at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Never Made the Tournament Club may lose another member this week. Eastern Washington’s 76-61 loss to Northern Arizona on Saturday means that North Dakota won the Big Sky regular season championship outright and will be the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. Coach Brian Jones and the Fighting Hawks are now just three wins away from clinching their first trip to the Big Dance since making the jump to Division I just nine years ago.

North Dakota comes into this week red-hot, having won seven of its final eight regular season games. UND’s perfect 4-0 record against Eastern Washington, Weber State and Idaho make it the preeminent favorites to capture the Big Sky’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid.

The defending Big Sky Tournament champion Weber State will be the No. 3 seed. The Wildcats were the preseason favorites to win the conference but saw their hopes of hanging another banner in the rafters of the Dee Events Center dashed by a four-game losing streak in the final weeks of the season. Senior guard Jeremy Senglin, who is averaging a career-high 20.7 points per game this season, is on a mission to get his team back to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years.

Northern Colorado is currently serving a self-imposed one-year postseason ban over a plethora of NCAA violations that led to the dismissal of former head coach B.J. Hill during the offseason. The Bears’ absence means this year’s bracket will look slightly different than it has in the past.

The 11-team format awards first-round byes to the top five teams instead of the usual four. Montana is the beneficiary of the new layout, and it will face Idaho in the quarterfinals on Thursday. The first round kicks off on Tuesday from Reno, Nevada, as Portland State takes on Northern Arizona. Free streaming for the entire tournament can be found on Watch Big Sky.

Here is the entire bracket: