By Lucas Owens
For those who are unfamiliar, the Big Sky Conference is an 11 school league formed in 1963, with member schools across nine different states on and west of the rocky mountains. Known more for their impressive FCS football resumes, the conference is no slouch when it comes to low-major Division 1 conferences.
The Big Sky has been up and done this season, with teams going on hot streaks and the only consistency being Idaho losing all but one game they have played this year, but the final bracket is finally set. Southern Utah takes an impressive 12-2 record in conference into the tourney, and have captured the one seed, but Eastern Washington, Weber State, Idaho State, and Montana State have all secured a bye for themselves as well. The first round of games kicks off Wednesday in Boise, with three games featuring the rest of the Big Sky.
Team to watch: Southern Utah
If you want to pick a team to win the conference this year, you are probably looking straight at the Southern Utah Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds, who are bolting from the conference in 2022 for the WAC, claimed their first ever Big Sky regular season title Saturday with a dominating win over Portland State. The Thunderbirds do have some questionable games, including an early season loss to Loyola Marymount, who finished 7-5 in conference in the WCC and ended their season with a loss in the quarterfinals to St. Mary’s, and dual losses to Weber State and Eastern Washington, who should figure to be Southern Utah’s biggest competition in the tournament. Any of the teams who have byes could realistically find themselves on top of the podium in Boise, but Southern Utah’s regular season success should carry over barring unfortunate circumstances.
Sleeper: Montana State
If you are like many and look at bracket projections through the season, you have probably seen Montana State in the field for most of the season up until recently. That is for good reason, as the Bobcats managed to lose 5 in a row in February, including being Idaho’s lone win of the season. Montana State was mighty impressive over the first part of the season, and still have managed to find themselves in the top half of the conference despite those losses. They just wrapped up their season Saturday with yet another loss to Sacramento State, but things could start to look up for the Bobcats. Their top scoring due of Amin Adamu and Xavier Bishop just need to get hot again, and life could change quick in Boise. Montana State, who fun fact, are recognized as the 1929 National Champions and are credited with helping to form the fast break offense, are definitely not the favorites, but they do have an outside chance as the slumping giants right now.
Player to Watch: Tevian Jones, Southern Utah
Jones is the requisite player to watch this tournament, as the 6-7 guard out of Chandler, Ariz. Has made a name for himself at Southern Utah, with 17 points per game so far this season. While not the most efficient from the field, Jones is incredibly fun to watch, and when surrounded by great pieces like John Knight III and Maizen Fausett’s rebounding acumen combines for an intriguing game every night.
Edited by Emma Moloney