#103 Montana: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #103
Conference Rank: #1 Big Sky Conference
2009-10: 22-10, 10-6
2009-10 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Wayne Tinkle (70-53 at Montana, 70-53 overall)
Losing Anthony Johnson and Ryan Staudacher will hurt Montana’s chances of reaching a second consecutive NCAA Tournament, but they return a solid nucleus of players and bring in a stellar recruiting class. The long list of newcomers may need some time to adjust to life in the Big Sky, but by the time the conference season gets in full swing this will be one of the toughest teams to beat.
Key Losses: G Anthony Johnson, F Jack McGillis, G Ryan Staudacher, G Michael Taylor, F Raason Young
Replacing Johnson and Staudacher on the wings is the biggest priority and Coach Wayne Tinkle found plenty of options. Incoming freshmen Vaughn Autry and Kareem Jamar are probably more talented than junior college transfers Art Steward and Jordan Wood. Autry is a proven scorer and a superb athlete. If he has been working on his outside shot, Autry will be the starting shooting guard. If not, he could start at the point. Jamar is not a great shooter either, but he has the size to attack the basket. Steward and Wood have more experience and that could be enough to get them in the starting lineup. Steward is a defensive stalwart and Wood is a versatile player who can do a little bit of everything. Four more freshmen will help bolster the depth in the frontcourt.
This is now Will Cherry’s team. As a freshman last season Cherry averaged 8.2 points, 2.4 assists and 2.8 rebounds. He will be asked to run the point full-time this season and he has the skills to do it. The problem is he is not a three-point shooter either. The top four outside shooters are gone and somebody has to replace them. It will not be Cherry if he is busy running the point, so one of the newcomers needs to step up and start knocking down the open shots. Shawn Stockton is the only other returning perimeter player who could work his way into the regular rotation. Stockton is more of a point guard than a scorer, but he could turn out to be a nice backup to Cherry and that would allow Autry to spend all of his time at the two spot and not have to worry about running the point.
What makes this team a favorite to win the conference crown is the duo on the inside. Brian Qvale is a 6-11, 260 pound senior and Derek Selvig is a 7-0, 230 pound junior. Nobody had much luck scoring in the paint against those two last year and it should be just as difficult this time around. Qvale is more than just a big presence in the paint. He ranked second on the team with 10.2 points per game and led the squad with 7.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. Selvig ranked just behind Qvale in both the rebounding and blocked shots department. Qvale is a superb interior scorer and will open up space for the shooters, while Selvig is actually one of those shooters. He will not make a ton of three-pointers, but he usually gets open looks and he is surprisingly effective when it comes to knocking down the long ball. Mathias Ward had a decent freshman campaign, but really did not get much of an opportunity to show his stuff last year and he will battle with the newcomers for playing time off the bench.
Who to Watch:
And it is those frontcourt newcomers that could make the difference on this team. Last year Selvig and Qvale were rarely on the floor together. They might have to be this year unless one of the freshmen is ready to play major minutes right away. At 6-8 and 220 pounds, Taylor Farnsworth already has the body to bang in the paint. Eric Hutchinson spent a year redshirting and bulking up. If he can start knocking down the mid-range jumper, Hutchinson could be the answer. Billy Reader is a fast rising prospect who needs more experience, but has plenty of potential and Mike Weisner may end up playing more at the small forward spot than the power forward position.
As long as Selvig and Qvale are around, nobody is going to score too many points against the Grizzlies. The frontcourt needs to find some depth and the perimeter needs to find some shooters, but having Cherry back to run the show is huge and he will help get the newcomers going offensively and defensively. However, there will not be much time for the new guys to adjust to life in the Big Sky before this team will have to start winning games if they want to win a conference title for the first time under Coach Tinkle.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Will Cherry, Sophomore, Guard, 8.2 ppg
Vaughn Autry, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Kareem Jamar, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Derek Selvig, Junior, Forward, 6.0 ppg
Brian Qvale, Senior, Center, 10.2 ppg
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