Brandon Whitney, Montana Grizzlies, Big Sky Tournament Preview

CBB Review prepares you for every conference tournament leading up to Selection Sunday. Up next: The Big Sky Tournament.

Eastern Washington took home the regular season title, going 16-2, but this conference is far from a lock. Montana State and Weber State are right behind, and in a one-bid conference, anything can happen. A top two regular season team has won the tournament the last 12 years, but it’s March, meaning there could be madness!

2023 Big Sky Conference Awards

Player of the Year: Raequan Battle, Montana State

Freshman of the Year: Nigel Burris, Idaho

Transfer of the Year: Cameron Parker, Portland State

Coach of the Year: David Riley, Eastern Washington

First Team:

  • G: Cameron Parker, Portland State (18.0 PPG, 6.1 APG, 3.6 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 52.7 FG%)
  • G: Raequan Battle, Montana State (17.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.0 APG)
  • G: Dalton Knecht, Northern Colorado (20.1 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 38.9 3P%)
  • G: Steele Venters, Eastern Washington (15.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 38.0 3P%)
  • F: Dillon Jones, Weber State (16.6 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.5 SPG)

Second Team:

  • G: Jalen Cone, Northern Arizona (17.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 39.7 3P%)
  • G: Divant’e Moffitt, Idaho (18.4 PPG, 5.0 APG, 2.7 RPG)
  • G: Daylen Kountz, Northern Colorado (16.9 PPG, 3.0 APG, 3.0 RPG)
  • F: Josh Bannan, Montana (15.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.7 APG)
  • F: Isaac Jones, Idaho (19.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.7 APG, 63.0 FG%)

Big Sky Tournament Simulation

First Round – Saturday, Mar. 4

9. Northern Arizona (9-22, 5-13) vs 10. Idaho (10-21, 4-14) – 7:30 p.m on ESPN+

Despite having two of the best scorers in the league, Idaho has been extremely disappointing all season. They’ve lost their last four games by double digits, including a 22-point loss to Northern Arizona, who they’ll be playing in this one.

Ariel’s Pick: 9. Northern Arizona

7. Portland State (12-18, 6-11) vs 8. Northern Colorado (11-19, 6-12) – 10 p.m on ESPN+

Portland State ended the season cold, going 3-5 in February, with two of those wins being against the 9 and 10 seeds. Northern Colorado swept them in the regular season, and in a game where both teams are upset they have to play each other instead of Northern Arizona or Idaho, the Bears will rally.

Ariel’s Pick: 8. Northern Colorado 

Quarterfinals (Day 1) – Sunday, Mar. 5

1. Eastern Washington (22-9, 16-2) vs 9. Northern Arizona – 7:30 p.m on ESPN+

The first time these two teams played was in late January, EWU only won by three, and NAU actually had a chance to win at the buzzer. The second time, EWU won by 17. Expect more of the latter.

Ariel’s Pick: 1. Eastern Washington 

2. Montana State (22-9, 15-3) vs 8. Northern Colorado – 10 p.m on ESPN+

This will be the ultimate guard play performance between Raequan Battle for Montana State and Knecht and Kountz for Northern Colorado. With that being said, it was Jubrile Belo, the forward who carried Montana State to a sweep this year, averaging 18 points per game in those two matchups. If Northern Colorado can’t stop him again, don’t expect an upset.

Ariel’s Pick: 2. Montana State

Quarterfinals (Day 2) – Monday, Mar. 6

4. Montana (16-13, 10-7) vs 5. Idaho State (11-20, 8-10) – 7:30 p.m on ESPN+

This could be the biggest gap between a four and five seed in any conference, with 2.5 games separating the two teams. Idaho State doesn’t have enough firepower, and their only hope is to remember they are one of the two teams to knock out the #1 seed Eastern Washington this year and bring that same intensity.

Ariel’s Pick: 4. Montana

3. Weber State (17-14, 12-6) vs 6. Sacramento State (14-17, 7-11) – 10 p.m on ESPN+

Both matchups this season were decided by 3 points or less, so expect a great game here. The final scores in both? 52-49 and 50-48, so don’t expect a lot of points in this one. Sacramento went 2-6 in February, and that’s enough negative momentum to keep them out of the semifinal.

Ariel’s Pick: 3. Weber State

Semifinals – Tuesday, Mar. 7

1. Eastern Washington vs 4. Montana – 8:30 p.m on ESPNU

Top four seeds making the semifinals? Boring, I know, but these were the clear best four teams in a top-heavy conference. Eastern Washington won both games this season by exactly seven points, so if you enjoy gambling, you might want to go for three here.

Montana went 6-1 in February, and Aanen Moody is red hot, and that could be enough to beat an Eastern Washington team that finished the season with two straight losses after starting conference play 16-0.

Ariel’s Pick: 4. Montana

2. Montana State vs 3. Weber State – 11 p.m on ESPN2

Montana State could have been perfect in February if it wasn’t for Weber State beating them by 10. This will be the game of the tournament, and our player of the year Raequan Battle will need a big second half to continue Montana State’s bid for back-to-back tournament appearances.

Ariel’s Pick: 2. Montana State

Championship – Wednesday, Mar. 8

2. Montana State vs 4. Montana – 11:30 p.m on ESPN 2

Is there anything better than an in-state rivalry fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament? These two teams haven’t played each other in the championship since 1986, so this would be a dream matchup for the Big Sky. To make things better, both games were decided by four points or less in the regular season. A top-two seed hasn’t lost the conference tournament since Montana did so as a four seed in 2010. Could history repeat itself or will the streak continue? This will be a must-watch game if it were to happen.

Ariel’s Pick: 2. Montana State