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Big Sky Tournament bracket, preview and how to watch: It’s the year of the Bears and the Eagles

The Big Sky starts their games on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. local time.

NCAA Basketball: Big Sky Conference Tournament: Eastern Washington vs Southern Utah Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

As a whole, the Big Sky plays basketball at a slow tempo with plenty of close games and a lot of turnovers — that is everyone but Eastern Washington or Portland State.

Both teams play at some of the fastest tempos in the country, and have seemed to blow out their opponents as of late. Eastern Washington is riding a seven-game winning streak and Portland State won its last six going into the conference tournament.

On the other side of the spectrum, Idaho State has lost 14 of 15 since its 3-2 start in Big Sky play. The Bengals’ in-state rival, the Idaho Vandals have lost six of seven.

It all comes down to who can win three games in three days, and each of the 11 teams have a player or two who can help them do so.

Bracket

Schedule

Note: All game will be played in Boise, Idaho at CenturyLink Arena. All times Eastern.

First Round (Wednesday, March 11) - PlutoTV

Game 1: No. 9 Sacramento State vs No. 8 Weber State, 11:30 a.m.

Game 2: No. 10 Idaho vs No. 7 Southern Utah, 2:00 p.m.

Game 3: No. 11 Idaho State vs No. 6 Northern Arizona, 4:30 p.m.

Quarterfinals (Thursday, March 12) - ElevenSports/PlutoTV

Game 4: Game 1 winner vs No.1 Eastern Washington, 2:00 p.m.

Game 5: No. 5 Montana State vs No. 4 Portland State, 4:30 p.m.

Game 6: Game 2 winner vs No. 2 Northern Colorado, 7:30 p.m.

Game 7: Game 3 winner vs No. 3 Montana, 10:00 p.m.

Semifinals (Friday, March 13) - ElevenSports/PlutoTV

Game 8: Game 4 winner vs Game 5 winner, 7:30 p.m.

Game 9: Game 6 winner vs Game 7 winner, 10:00 p.m.

Finals (Saturday, March 14) - ESPNU

Game 10: Game 8 winner vs Game 9 winner, 8:00 p.m.

The Favorites

Eastern Washington (23-8, 16-4): Not only do the Eagles have the best offense in the league, but they have a top 20 adjusted tempo and are led by two big men. Those two are Jacob Davison and Mason Peatling. Davison is the team’s small forward and go-to-guy, averaging 18.4 points per game. Peatling is the team’s center, nearly averaging a double double with 17.2 PPG and 9.1 RPG.

EWU has won seven in a row. But most importantly, they beat Northern Colorado on the road and Belmont in Cheney earlier this season.

Northern Colorado (22-9, 15-5): With no real bad losses and near-wins at Northern Iowa and West Virginia, the Bears are the rankings darlings. UNC is ranked 75th overall in KenPom and in the top 50 of 15 categories on the site. The three most important are eFG%, three pointers attempted and assists allowed. Led by Jonah Radebaugh and Bodie Hume’s combined 30.4 PPG, the Bears have the 12th best eFG% in the nation. On defense, they’re keeping their opponents to the least number of assists and three-point attempts in the nation. UNC has only given up 70+ points thrice on the season, losing all three times.

The Dark Horse

Portland State (18-14, 12-8): If the Vikings can play AT their tempo, they’ll be a problem. Ranking 41st in the country in that category, it has helped PSU get loads of offensive rebounds and turnovers. Leading the Vikings this season is Santa Clara transfer Matt Hauser and senior leader Holland Woods. The two combine for 32.1 PPG. If Hauser can find his assisting from his WCC days and Holland Woods go off like he did in the 2017 PK80 Tournament, this team could earn its first NCAA bid in 11 years.

The Long Shots

Montana (18-13, 14-6): After winning seven of eight, the Grizzlies have lost two straight, limping to the postseason. The Bears have a star though in Sayeed Pridgett. His 19.8 PPG has helped the Grizzlies rank 55th in the nation with 52.3 eFG%. Their defense is also a bright side, causing loads of turnovers, ranking 75th in the nation in that category.

Southern Utah (16-15, 9-11): Defense is how this team wins. They are 27th in defensive eFG% and 19th in OR% on defense. They also beat Nebraska in Lincoln, so they know the big-game atmosphere.

Weber State (12-19, 8-12): You can never count out a Weber State team. They are led by Jerrick Harding, who scores well over 20 PPG and shoots nearly 50% from the field. Not only that, he leads the team in assists and steals.

Players to Watch

  • Jacob Davison, Eastern Washington (18.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 45.4% FG%)
  • Mason Peatling, Eastern Washington (17.2 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 55.4% FG%)
  • Kim Aiken Jr., Eastern Washington (13.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 40.2% FG%)
  • Jonah Radebaugh, Northern Colorado (16.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 6.5 APG, 49.5% FG%)
  • Bodie Hume, Northern Colorado (13.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 39.5% FG%)
  • Sayeed Pridgett, Montana (19.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.8 APG, 51.1% FG%)
  • Holland Woods, Portland State (17.7 PPG, 5.2 APG, 41.5% FG%)
  • Matt Hauser, Portland State (14.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 39.7% FG%)
  • Sal Nuhu, Portland State (10.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 47.3% FG%)
  • Cameron Shelton, Northern Arizona (14.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 4.6 APG, 40.4% FG%)
  • Brooks DeBisschop, Northern Arizona (11.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 55.9% FG%)
  • Harald Frey, Montana State (16.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.6 APG, 40.7% FG%)
  • Jubrile Belo, Montana State (13.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 61.2% FG%)
  • Joshua Patton, Sacramento State (13.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 55.4% FG%)
  • Jerrick Harding, Weber State (21.9 PPG, 48.8% FG%)
  • Trevon Allen, Idaho (21.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 44.8% FG%)

Prediction

Northern Colorado and Eastern Washington will face off in a wire-to-wire final, with the Eagles winning their third game of the season against the Bears.