BIG SKY CONFERENCE PRESS RELEASE
After finishing with a 12-6 record in conference play last season and returning nearly their entire roster, Idaho finds itself at the top of the Big Sky Preseason Coaches’ and Media Polls. The coaches could not vote for their own team in the polls. The media poll was made up of sports information directors as well as media in the Big Sky Conference’s footprint. Media could vote for all 12 teams.
Idaho brings back almost all of their production from their successful 2016-17 season including their entire starting lineup. Senior Victor Sanders stood out for Idaho last year averaging over 24 points per game in league play. Sanders was recognized by the Big Sky coaches after his stellar junior season earning First Team All-Conference. Sanders isn’t the only returning Vandal that opposing coaches have to worry about. Arkadiy Mkrtychyan contributed to the cause averaging over eight points and four rebounds while starting over half of Idaho’s games. The Sherwood brothers are also back for Idaho. Both Nate and Chad were valuable starters for Coach Verlin last season and will to be an integral part of the lineup.
Weber State finished second in the preseason both polls and will look to build off their strong run in the Big Sky Championship. The Wildcats fell just short of locking up their second consecutive NCAA berth after losing in overtime to North Dakota in the Big Sky Championship game. Weber State brings back three of their five starters from a year ago in Zach Braxton, Ryan Richardson and Cody John. The three starters combined for 25.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. In addition, the Wildcats welcome Utah transfer, Brekkott Chapman to the team. Chapman was part of the Utah squad that made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2016. Head coach, Randy Rahe can become the Big Sky’s all-time leader in career wins if the Wildcats win 19 or more games this season.
Montana, the third ranked team in the preseason polls, also welcomes back a bevy of talent. The Griz have their top-two leading scorers returning in Ahmaad Rorie and Michael Oguine. Rorie, a 2016-17 second-team All-Conference honoree, averaged 17.6 points last year including a 19.4 average in Big Sky play. Oguine also put up better numbers in league play scoring 13 points per game compared to an 11-point average on the year.
Northern Colorado was perhaps the toughest team for the media and coaches to predict as the Bears were projected fourth in the coaches’ poll with a first-place vote and seventh in the media poll. Not only does Northern Colorado bring back third-team All-Big Sky member Jordan Davis, the Bears also welcome Anthony Johnson. Johnson redshirted last season after being All-Conference honorable mention during the 2015-16 season.
No one can deny the talent level of Montana State who finished tied for fourth in the coaches’ poll and fourth in the media poll. The Bobcats have the 2017-18 Preseason MVP in Tyler Hall. Hall averaged 23 points for Montana State to help the team achieve their first over .500 record in Big Sky play since the 2009-10 season. Montana State also returns 2016-17 Freshman of the Year Harald Frey for the upcoming year.
Reigning regular season and Big Sky Tournament champions North Dakota finished sixth in the coaches’ poll and fifth in the media poll. Even though the Fighting Hawks graduated Quinton Hooker, Second-team All-Big Sky member Geno Crandall is back and will look to guide North Dakota to a repeat of the Big Sky title.
Eastern Washington, Portland State and Sacramento State finished in the middle of the pack in both polls. Eastern Washington and Sacramento State welcome back All-Big Sky performers in Bogdan Blizkyuk and Justin Strings. Portland State will look to first-year head coach, Barret Peery to guide the program to a winning season. Eastern Washington is the other team in the league to have a new head coach, but not an unfamiliar one. Shantay Legans was promoted to head coach from the top assistant coach at Eastern Washington after Jim Hayford left.
Idaho State, Northern Arizona and Southern Utah round out both polls. Idaho State was predicted 10th in the coaches’ poll and 11th in the media poll, while Northern Arizona was 11th in the coaches’ poll and 10th in the media poll. Southern was projected to finish 12th in both polls.
The regular season kicks off on Friday, Nov. 10 with 11 teams in action. Big Sky conference play starts on Thursday, Dec. 28 with Northern Arizona hosting Montana, while Montana State will face off against Southern Utah. The Big Sky Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships will be held in Reno, Nev. from March 5-10 with the winner receiving the Big Sky’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
|1. Idaho||117 (10)|
|2. Weber State||103 (1)|
|T-4. Northern Colorado||83 (1)|
|T-4. Montana State||83|
|6. North Dakota||71|
|7. Eastern Washington||65|
|8. Portland State||55|
|9. Sacramento State||48|
|10. Idaho State||25|
|11. Northern Arizona||23|
|12. Southern Utah||19|
|First place votes in parenthesis|
|1. Idaho||211 (12)|
|2. Weber State||195 (3)|
|3. Montana||188 (3)|
|4. Montana State||180|
|5. North Dakota||146 (1)|
|6. Eastern Washington||144|
|7. Northern Colorado||106|
|8. Sacramento State||87|
|9. Portland State||76|
|10. Northern Arizona||59|
|11. Idaho State||52|
|12. Southern Utah||38|
|First place votes in parenthesis|