By Lucas Owens
The Big Sky Men’s Basketball Tournament kicks off the 11th, and all 11 teams will be vying for that coveted automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. For many, while their chances of winning big in March Madness is slim, the bid to the NCAA Tournament provides a step forward to the conference that hosts the team that is credited with inventing the fast break.
Team to Watch: No. 1 Eastern Washington Eagles
Eastern Washington is the team to watch entering the tournament, surprising many by going on a seven-game win streak to end conference play at 16-4. They will play the winner of Weber State and Sacramento State on the 12. The conference leading team is led by Junior guard Jacob Davison, who has been averaging 18 points per game so far this season. The Eagles are by far the hottest team coming into the tournament, but do not count out the Northern Colorado Bears and the Portland State Vikings, who enter off a six-game win streak of their own. The Montana Grizzlies, who started Big Sky play the presumptive favorite to win it all again, also fall in line at 14-6 in conference play, rounding out a packed house for the No. 1-4 seeds.
Player to Watch: Montana G Sayeed Pridgett
While EWU’s Davison is one to watch coming into the tournament, Montana’s star guard Sayeed Pridgett is nobody to scoff at either. The Senior from Oakland, Ca. has been averaging almost 20 points a game this season, and leads the Grizzlies in rebounds, assists, and steals as well. Alongside Pridgett is also Montana’s own Kendal Manuel, who is a good counter piece with 15 points a game himself and is shooting an insane 43% from the field.
Sleeper Team to win it all: No. 4 Portland State Vikings
As said above, the Vikings come into the tournament hot off of a six game win streak, with their last loss being by just 8 to Eastern Washington, a team who they lost to by just 2 at the beginning of conference play. Guard Holland Woods leads the team with 17.7 points a game, but Sal Nuhu, I believe, will be the deciding factor in how far Portland State goes this time around. The Senior from the Bronx is a defensive force and provides 7 rebounds and 10 points a game. Looking at Portland State’s bracket line-up, they face Montana State after a first-round bye in the 4-5 game, before facing the winner of Eastern Washington and Weber State/Sacramento State. Of course, the Vikings would much prefer to not have to face the Eagles, but if they do, expect Portland State to be very prepared to take an upset and flip the Big Sky on its head.
Tournament Champion: No. 4 Portland State Vikings
For the reasons just stated, I am going to pick to Vikings to win it all this year. They are coming into the tournament incredibly hot, and it will be very hard for Eastern Washington to beat them three times in one year. I really could see any of the top four teams taking it, but Portland State is my top pick
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org