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Big Sky Tournament Odds, Predictions and Preview

Jack Magruder

by Jack Magruder in College Basketball

Mar 8, 2022 · 10:25 AM PST

Montana State guard Xavier Bishop going after the ball
Montana State guard Xavier Bishop keeps the ball from Eastern Washington guards Kim Aiken Jr. (24) and Michael Meadows, right, during an NCAA college basketball game for the championship of the Big Sky men's tournament in Boise, Idaho, Saturday, March 13, 2021. Eastern Washington won 65-55. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger)
  • The Big Sky Tournament will be played March 9-12 at the Idaho Central Arena in Boise, Idaho. All 11 teams qualify, with top five finishers receiving a bye into the quarterfinals, to be joined by the winners of the three play-in games.
  • Defending champion Eastern Washington beat Montana State in the finals last year and has played in the last three title games, losing to Montana in 2018-19.
  • See the Big Sky Tournament odds, seeds, bracket, and full tournament preview, below

The Big Sky Tournament will be played March 9-12 at the Idaho Central Arena in Boise, Idaho, where the top five seeds receive a bye into the quarterfinals and the other six play March 9 for the final three spots in the bracket. The championship game is March 12 at 8 pm ET on ESPNU.

No. 1 seed Montana State won its first regular-season title since 2002. The Bobcats, who lost to Eastern Washington 65-55 in the 2021 title game, are seeking their first tournament title since 1996. Montana, which has a record 11 tournament titles, beat EWU in the 2018 and 2019 finals.

Big Sky Tournament Odds

Team Odds
#1 Montana State Bobcats +200
#2 Southern Utah Thunderbirds +300
#3 Weber State Wildcats +400
#4 Northern Colorado Bears +600
#5 Montana Grizzlies +1000
#6 Eastern Washington Eagles +1000
#7 Portland State Vikings +2500
#8 Sacramento State Hornets +10000
No. 9 Idaho Vandals +20000
No. 10 Idaho State Bengals +25000
No. 11 Northern Arizona Lumberjacks +25000

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook on March  8.

 

Regular-season success has meant a lot in the Big Sky. The No. 1 seed has won four of the last five tourneys and seven of the last nine, with No. 2 seed Eastern Washington winning the other two. Defending champion EWU was a No. 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament last year, but this Big Sky winner will not be seeded that high in the projected NCAA Tournament bracket.

Last 5 Big Sky Tournament Champions

Big Sky Champion Year
Eastern Washington 2021
Not Held 2020
Montana 2019
Montana 2018
North Dakota 2017
Weber State 2016

Montana State’s Unfinished Business

Montana State took control of the regular-season race with a 12-game winning streak that began Jan. 1, and the Bobcats enter the tournament on a three-game winning streak following late road losses to Montana and Eastern Washington, the 5-6 tourney seeds.

The veteran Bobcats swept the season series against No. 2 seed Southern Utah and return four starters from the team that lost to EWU in the 2021 title game, including double-digit scorers 5’8 Xavier Bishop (13.7 points, 4.3 assists), 6’9 Jubrile Belo (13.5, 7.0 rebounds, 1.9 blocks) and 6’5 Amin Adamu (11.5 points).

Belo was the named the league MVP and the defensive player of the year.

Belo did not play in an 87-85 victory over Northern Colorado in the regular-season finale Saturday because of a right leg injury suffered in a win over Southern Utah, but he is expected to play. Either way the Bobcats will be an extreme long shot when the Final Four odds are announced.

The Bobcats advanced to the finals last year as the No. 5 seed an dbeat No. 1 seed Southern Utah in the semifinals. They have been a go-against the last month, 6-2 straight up but 2-6 ATS.

Southern Utah’s “Top Three” Issue

No. 2 seed Southern Utah (20-10, 14-6) won four of its final five games, three on the road, with the lone loss coming 69-53 at Montana State on March  1. Of greater concern is the Thunderbirds’ struggles against the league’s best.

The Thunderbirds are 1-5 against Montana State, No. 3 seed Weber State (20-11, 13-7) and No. 4 seed Northern Colorado (18-14, 13-7), although they did beat Weber 80-70 in the regular-season finale Saturday without leading scorer Tevian Jones, who missed the final two games with a left hand/wrist injury but is expected to return.

Southern Utah has four double-digit scorers — 6’7 Jones (14.6 points, 4.7 rebounds), 6’3 John Knight III (14.5 points, 4.2 assists), 6’6 Maizen Fausett (12.1 points, 8.2 rebounds) and Dre Marin (10.2 points).

Northern Colorado — a Shooter’s Chance

Former Colorado guard Daylen Kountz leads the tryin’-one Bears, who average 78.7 points per game, 27th in Division I and one-tenth behind Big Sky leader Southern Utah as the selection committee prepares to set the NCAA Tournament field.

Kountz is averaging 20.9 points, 12th in Division I, and is shooting 50.9 percent for a Bears’ team that shoots 48.1 percent from the field (29th in Division I) and 38.5 percent from three-point range (ninth). The Bears average 10.4 three-point makes per game, which is eighth.

The fourth-seeded Bears beat Southern Utah twice and split with Montana State and Weber State, and the Bobcats needed a 30-footer at the buzzer to beat them 87-85 last Saturday. The Bears’ minus-2.1 turnover margin is a stumbling block.

Weber State Trending Down

No. 3 seed Weber State had an even faster league start than Montana State, opening league play 11-1 before fading in February. The Wildcats finished the season 2-6 straight up and 1-7 ATS, with home losses to Montana State, Northern Colorado and Southern Utah.

Wildcats’ guard JJ Overton had a career-high 23 points in the 80-70 loss to Southern Utah in the regular-season finale Saturday. Starting forward Dontay Bassett (9.7 points) missed the final 16 minutes of that game with a muscle cramp.

Big Sky Tournament Projection

The No. 1-2 seeds are usually the play here, although the league seems more wide open that in any time in recent memory. Montana State and Southern Utah are 4-1 in their last five games and Northern Colorado is 4-2.

The Bobcats lead the Big Sky in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense, three-point field goal percentage defense and rebounding margin in conference games. As appealing as hot-shooting Northern Colorado is at the price, defense and veteran leadership are the way to go.

The pick: Montana State (+200)


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