2007-08 Montana Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #113
Conference Rank: #1 Big Sky
2006-07: 17-15, 10-6, 3rd
2006-07 postseason: none
Montana’s high hopes were dashed time and time again last year, but there is still a ton of talent ready to return the Grizzlies to the NCAA Tournament. Andrew Strait and Jordan Hasquet are easily the best frontcourt duo in the Big Sky. Strait averaged 15.0 points and 6.4 rebounds last year while Hasquet added 13.0 points and 6.4 boards. If Strait could hit a free-throw (he shot 52.3 percent last year), he would be nearly impossible to stop.
The Grizzlies have a few pieces to replace with the absence of Matt Dlouhy and Bryan Ellis. Dlouhy was third on the team in scoring and rebounding last year and Ellis led the squad with 4.2 assists per contest. Replacing them would not be too tough, but much of the depth off the bench is now gone as well. Forwards Stuart Mayes, Mike Chavez and Gus Chase are gone and wing Austin Swift has opted to transfer.
That means the newcomers will have to be the guys that are filling in the holes. The most important may end up being Sean Watson. Montana really needs an athletic wing who can get to the basket and Watson is the best option at this point. The versatile 6-5 transfer from Howard College is not afraid to take the ball to rim, but he becomes more dangerous because he has a nice looking shot. Ceylon Elgin-Taylor brings some more toughness to the perimeter. The 6-2 combo guard will show that toughness to the defensive end and that may be enough to get him some playing time right away. However, Elgin-Taylor can also run the show and is not too shabby in the scoring department either. Redshirt freshman Zach Graves will add even more depth to both guard positions. Up front, Derek Selvig and Brian Qvale are hoped to be the next Strait and Hasquet. Selvig, a 6-10 forward, earned Montana’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a high school senior and has all the tools to be a star in the next couple of years. He needs to add a little strength and develop more consistency with his jump shot, but when Selvig hits the floor it will be during meaningful minutes. Qvale is not quite as polished, but the 6-11, 235 pound Williston, North Dakota native is a handful to deal with under the basket. These newcomers do help to fill some of the holes on this year’s roster and the class will likely see another member or two before the season tips off.
Who to Watch:
We know the frontcourt will be good. The perimeter is where there are some concerns. Cameron Rundles had a great freshman campaign, averaging 8.2 points and 2.1 assists. This year, if he can hold off some newcomers, the point guard position should be all his. Rundles shot nearly 48 percent from behind the arc, which was almost as good as Strait at the free-throw line, and there is no reason for him not to get good looks again this year. It is Matt Martin that will likely take most of the shots from long range this year. Martin does not hit at the same rate as Rundles, yet the 6-2 senior is poised for a bigger season than last year. Ryan Staudacher was down the bench a ways as a freshman, but the sharpshooter is expected to provide a spark off the bench.
There are other teams that deserve to be here as much as Montana, like Weber State, Northern Arizona and Portland State, but the Grizzlies have a frontcourt that can take on any of them. As long as the team can hold defensively against quicker guards, the Grizzlies will be fine. In that regard, it will come down to match-ups against most of the Big Sky opponents and that falls on the shoulders of Coach Wayne Tinkle.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Cameron Rundles, Sophomore, Guard, 8.2 points per game
Matt Martin, Senior, Guard, 6.7 points per game
Sean Watson, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Jordan Hasquet, Junior, Forward, 13.0 points per game
Andrew Strait, Senior, Center, 15.0 points per game