Big Sky Tournament: Preview & Odds

    
March 7th, 2009

 

This is one in a series of conference tournament previews, in which I run down all the teams involved, give a brief statistical review and present the log5 projections, using in-conference offensive and defensive efficiency. The basic log5 methodology comes from Bill James, and this is an area Ken Pomeroy has looked at in the past as well. I claim nothing new in the application, but obviously with slightly different methodologies, these numbers may differ from others you find.  I don’t claim to be an expert on any particular conference, and I’m sure there are some mis-characterizations on some players I’ve seen sparingly at best, so please add your thoughts in the comments. Anyway, with no further ado, the preview follows below:

 

Big Sky Conference

The Big Sky Tournament features just 6 of the conference’s 9 teams, with the top two teams getting automatic semifinal byes. The first round games are played at campus sites, while Weber St. hosts the semis and final at the Dee Events Center.

 

#

Team

SF

F

W

1

Weber St.

100.00%

87.17%

73.11%

2

Portland St.

100.00%

58.13%

13.29%

3

Montana

94.12%

41.37%

7.97%

4

Idaho St.

70.40%

9.54%

4.30%

5

Northern Colorado

29.60%

3.30%

1.31%

6

Montana St.

5.88%

0.50%

0.02%

 

Weber would have been favorites at a neutral site. At home, they should be able to win the two games they’ll need.

 

#1 – Weber St. Wildcats (21-8, 15-1) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.173

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2007 (1st Round)

 

There’s little question which team was the best in the Big Sky, as Weber St. has dominated its conference competition, entering the tournament with an 11-game winning streak. With the tournament being hosted in Ogden, the Wildcats should be heavy favorites, though it is worth noting that their only loss of the season came on their home court. They’ve taken the league thanks to their spectacular play on the offensive end, as they have put up one of the best eFG percentages in the nation. They take a lot of three-pointers, and hit more than 41% of those attempts, while also managing to make 55% of their attempts inside. They are poor offensive rebounders, but they don’t get much chance to practice, given how they make shots. Weber St. also has the best defensive team in the conference, dominating the boards and stopping shots well in all areas of the floor.

 

Players to watch:

5-6 SR Kellen McCoy, 14.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 58.2 eFG% - The Big Sky MVP, McCoy is the Wildcats’ top scorer and best three-point shooter, and can easily go for twenty points in a game. His free-throw shooting is also excellent, but the Wildcats must be concerned that he hasn’t been to the line in either of the last two games.

 

6-2 FR Damian Lillard, 11.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 53.6 eFG% - Lillard is coming in on a huge high, after finishing his regular season with a career-high 27 point effort against Montana St. He’s one of a large cast of strong shooters the Wildcats can call upon.

 

 

#2 – Portland St. Vikings (21-9, 11-5) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.093

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008 (1st Round)

 

The defending champions got a couple of big results in the non-conference schedule, losing a close one against Washington and winning at Gonzaga, but struggled with their form on the road in the last month of the season, winning just one of five games. The Vikings have a three-heavy offense, and do a pretty good job with it, hitting more than 38% of their attempts, and are a solid team inside as well. Their strength is their defense, and while they aren’t great at stopping opponents’ shots, they force a lot of turnovers and rarely send opponents to the line.

 

Players to watch:

6-1 JR Dominic Waters, 11.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 58.9 eFG% - Waters is the best three-point shooter on a team of quality shooters, hitting 46% of his long range attempts, and while he tends to be a inconsistent scorer, he has had a strong run in the games leading up to the tournament.

 

5-6 SR Jeremiah Dominguez, 12.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.8 SPG, 54.0 eFG% - Portland St.’s leading scorer is another player who hits more than 40% of his three-pointers, but unlike Waters, he hits just a third of his shots from inside the arc. He also leads the team in assists and steals.

 

 

#3 –Montana Grizzlies (17-11, 11-5) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.071

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2006 (2nd Round)

 

The Grizzlies ran off a seven-game winning streak in the middle of the conference season, and that was enough to power them up to third in the league. They are the last of the Big Sky’s teams to hold opponents under a point-per-possession, as they stop opponents from making shots, including allowing just 45% from two-point range. They need to force a lot of misses, as they don’t take the ball away from their opponents too often. The Montana offense hasn’t been that good; it hasn’t been able to transfer its obvious shooting ability, nearly 78% from the free throw line, into shots from the field. It is a  poor offensive rebounding team, but this is somewhat mitigated by how well it holds onto the ball.

 

Players to watch:

6-2 JR Anthony Johnson, 17.5 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.1 APG, 54.0 eFG% - Johnson is the conference’s best scorer, and leads the Grizzlies in assists. He shoots 54% on his two-point attempts, and leads the conference in shooting from the free throw line, at 87%.

 

6-9 SR Jordan Hasquet, 10.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 50.6 eFG% - Hasquet leads the team in rebounding, is one of the team’s better three-point shooters, and has committed just 9 turnovers in 2009.

 

 

#4 – Idaho St. Bengals (12-18, 9-7) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.068

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1987 (1st Round)

 

Idaho St. should be able to make the semi-finals, as it is has had a very good record at home in conference play, only losing to Weber St. With the Wildcats waiting in the semis, though, any further  would be a big surprise. The Bengals are a slow, deliberate, interior focused team, and make 54% of attempts from inside the arc, good enough to make them the conference’s second best offense. Idaho St. has been average defensively, though they have had problems with sending opponents to the free throw line.

  

Players to watch:

6-6 SR Matt Stucki, 12.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 55.2 eFG% - Stucki is a 6-6 player whose style is a lot like a guard’s; he’s not a great rebounder, but leads the conference in assists and leads the team in three-point shooting.

 

6-5 JR Amorrow Morgan, 13.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 50.7 eFG% - Morgan plays more minutes than anyone else in the Big Sky, and leads the Bengals in scoring, a good inside player who can also hit threes pretty well.

 

 

 

#5 – Northern Colorado Bears (14-17, 8-8) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.047

Last NCAA Tournament bid:  None

 

Just five years into its Division I history, Northern Colorado has made its first Big Sky tournament, and will have a decent shot against an Idaho St. team that it split a tight pair of games with in the regular season. The Bears’ games tend to feature a lot of threes being hit, as they make 42% of their attempts and allow opponents 38%. Despite these extremes, they are average on both ends of the floor, as they are excellent defensive rebounders, but commit a fair number of turnovers. They also get to the free throw line a lot, an area where they earn a lot of points.

 

Players to watch:

6-7 JR Jabril Banks, 12.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 64.4 eFG% - Banks leads the Bears in scoring, and is an excellent inside shooter, with one of the conference’s best field goal percentages. He also get to the free throw line a lot, and shoots a very respectable 73%  once there.

 

6-0 SO Devon Beitzel, 11.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 61.8 eFG% - Beitzel had a magical four game stretch just before the holiday break in which he averaged more than 25 points, but since then he’s been pretty up-and-down with his scoring. He’s a very good shooter, well over 40% from outside and nearly at 60% inside the arc.

 

 

#6 – Montana St. Bobcats (9-19, 5-9) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.060

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1996 (1st Round)

 

Montana St. snuck into the tournament despite going 1-6 to close the conference season, and sitting 8th in the league in efficiency margin, so an early exit should be expected. The Bobcats are the conference’s worst shooters, and allow opponents to make a high percentage of shots inside, so their strength on the glass doesn’t help them that much. They lost both of their games with Montana fairly handily, and I’d expect a third defeat in a similar vein.

 

Players to watch:

6-9 SR Divaldo Mbunga, 10.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 54.4 eFG% - Mbunga has been a very efficient player over the season, but has seen his role in the offense decrease over recent weeks, something that’s not caused a lot of trouble for the Bobcats. Still, he leads the conference in rebounds and blocks, and is a critical player inside.

 

6-3 JR Will Bynum, 10.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 49.8 eFG% - No, not that Will Bynum. Leading the team in scoring, and the Big Sky in steals, he’s an solid inside scorer, over 50% from two-point range.

 

My statistical all-Big Sky team:

Montana JR G Anthony Johnson, 17.5 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.1 APG, 54.0 eFG%

Weber St. SR G Kellen McCoy, 14.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 58.2 eFG%

Idaho St. SR G Matt Stucki, 12.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 55.2 eFG%

Northern Colorado JR F Jabril Banks, 12.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 64.4 eFG%

Northern Arizona SO F Shane Johannsen, 9.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 72.7 eFG%