Big Sky (22-9, 10-6)
Big Wins: 11/23 at Oregon (68-55), 2/5 Weber State (75-61), 3/10 at Weber State (66-65)
Bad Losses: 12/31 at Idaho State (65-67), 2/14 at Eastern Washington (68-69), 2/27 Montana State (67-73)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2006, Second Round loss to Boston College
Coach: Wayne Tinkle (First NCAA appearance)
Why They Can Surprise:
Few teams shoot the ball as well as Montana. Coach Wayne Tinkle has a slew of shooters on the wing to choose from, but the star of this team is unquestionably Anthony Johnson. The 6-3 senior easily leads the team with 19.6 points per game. And while he is a superb outside shooter, Johnson does not simply hoist up long balls all the time. He will use his size and quickness to attack the basket and he gets to the charity stripe over seven times per contest. His 42 points, of only 66 scored by the team, against Weber State in the conference final was one of the best individual performances of the season.
Ryan Staudacher is the other starter on the wing. Unlike Johnson, Staudacher is pretty much a pure shooter. He will rarely get to the basket, but he is a prolific shooter and connects on an impressive 46.3 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. Even the bench players hit over 40 percent of their shots from long range. Michael Taylor and Raason Young do not score as often because there are just not as many minutes available for them, but both are superb shooters who are more than capable of providing a spark off the bench or giving Johnson and Staudacher a break.
Why They Can Disappoint:
Montana is not a bad rebounding team, but they should be better. Starting center Brian Qvale has turned into an effective scorer in the paint and his presence under the basket has opened up the shooting lanes for the talented wings. The 6-11 junior does lead the team in rebounding as well. However, the Grizzlies will occasionally have seven-footer Derek Selvig on the floor at the same time. With two players with that much size on the court, the team should dominate the boards in the Big Sky Conference. Jack McGillis is the usual starter at the power forward position with Selvig coming in off the bench. McGillis is a great glue guy who does a little bit of everything, but he is not a particularly strong rebounder.
Who To Watch:
Part of the problem with the rebounding is because of the emergence of Will Cherry. Once the freshman point guard was inserted into the starting lineup, the Grizzlies lineup got smaller. But the offense got much more explosive. Johnson still leads this team in assists, but Cherry has allowed Johnson to spend most of his time off the ball doing what he does best. Cherry is not a great shooter like the rest of the group on the perimeter, but he is an effective scorer. Cherry will attack the basket with ease and either finish or find one of his teammates. The postseason can be a dangerous place for a freshman, but Cherry has performed well late in the year and that should continue.
Will Cherry, Freshman, Guard, 8.3 ppg, 2.4 apg, 1.9 spg
Anthony Johnson, Senior, Guard, 19.6 ppg, 3.0 apg
Ryan Staudacher, Senior, Guard, 8.6 ppg, 1.3 apg
Jack McGillis, Senior, Forward, 5.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg
Brian Qvale, Junior, Center, 9.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg
Vassy Banny, Senior, Forward, 1.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg
Derek Selvig, Sophomore, Forward, 5.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg
Michael Taylor, Junior, Guard, 4.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg
Raason Young, Junior, Forward, 4.7 ppg, 1.4 rpg
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 70.2 (140th in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 61.0 (28, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 48.7 (11, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.8 (100, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.3 (65, 4)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 40.4 (5, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 72.4 (62, 4)
Rebound Margin: 2.2 (108, 2)
Assists Per Game: 12.3 (217, 7)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.9 (43, 2)
Follow Joel Welser's Postseason Capsules & College Basketball Previews on Twitter @Joel_Welser and on his Facebook page. Joel will be back in June for his annual Top 144 Teams in 144 Days preview on CollegeHoops.net