It's not bad enough that Portland State has dominated Idaho State in men's basketball of late, and that the Bengals are desperate for a win to end a four-game losing streak. To further compound matters, it will be a short-handed ISU that hosts the Vikings in Holt Arena Thursday night.
Bengal Coach Joe O'Brien (above) said on our coaches show last night that he does not expect forward Demetrius Monroe to be available for the Vikings Thursday night, and there is a possibility the Bengals' leading rebounder could be sidelined for the rest of the season with a knee injury. The ISU medical staff is in the process of scheduling an MRI, but O'Brien said Monroe's recovery from the injury, which he suffered in practice early last week, has not been good. He had a lot of swelling on the flight to Greeley last week, and was unable to practice at all on Monday.
In addition, guard Kal Bay (broken bone in his shooting hand) is still not ready to take the floor, and the Bengals' leading scorer, Amorrow Morgan, remains in Memphis tending to his ailing father. O'Brien is hopeful Morgan will make it back to Pocatello for the Portland State game, but that all depends on his father's situation.
So expect to see a lot more of freshman PG Sherrod Baldwin, who played capably in 30 minutes against Northern Colorado on Saturday, and SG Austin Kilpatrick, who emerged from his slump to drill four three-pointers against the Bears. Portland State causes all kinds of match-up problems for the Bengals with their quickness, and O'Brien said he'll likely use a lot more of the four-guard lineup he put on the floor against UNC. The Vikings scored 30 points off Bengal turnovers the first time they played this season, so taking care of the basketball will be at a premium for ISU Thursday night. That probably means more minutes for guards and small forwards, and less for the "bigs."
That quickness matchup issue has been bothering the Bengals all season, and O'Brien said on the coaches show last night that he's looking to tweak the ISU roster prior to next season to try to address it. O'Brien said he was on the road last week, looking at a junior college point guard who might be a partial solution. O'Brien emphasized that he believes strongly in Baldwin's long-term potential at the position, but he wants to bring in another "true PG" to help next year.
O'Brien's problem is that he may not have a scholarship to offer the junior college PG. ISU loses only two seniors after this year, they signed high school SG Eric Segert last fall, and they have promised a scholarship to F Rolando Little, a junior college transfer, IF he gets academically eligible by next fall. But O'Brien said he's approached the JC guard about the potential of walking on; he also said there is the possibility that a current Bengal might choose to leave the team in search of more playing time elsewhere. Stay tuned.
Big Couple of Weeks for the Vikings
While the Bengals are trying to stay alive for a post-season playoff berth, Portland State is trying to maintain its feint hopes of winning the BSC regular season title and hosting the conference tournament. Here's hoping PSU considers its seven straight wins over Idaho State and looks ahead instead to its big rematch with Weber State in Ogden Saturday night.
The Wildcats have a game-and-a-half lead over PSU and Montana in the standings, and the advantage of having beaten PSU already on the Vikings' home floor. Weber also has a potential tiebreaker in its favor in having beaten Montana in Ogden, while the Vikings split their season series with the Griz. If Weber and PSU would happen to tie for first and split their two meetings, the next tiebreaker is how they finished against the third place-team head to head. Weber still has to play in Missoula, but at least they have an opportunity to claim that tiebreaker with a win there.
Portland State has announced if it does slip into the conference host role, the tourney would be played at Memorial Coliseum. Conference rules prohibit PSU from hosting the tourney in the cozy Stott Center on campus (capacity: 1,500), and the Rose Garden, where the Vikings hosted the tourney last year, is already booked for a Trailblazers game.
The Vikings are going to use the Stott Center for a nationally (kinda) televised game with Boise State Feb. 21 as part of ESPN's Bracketbusters event. The game will be televised on ESPNU, which has a much smaller audience than the normal ESPN and ESPN2 outlets. It will be interesting to see if the Vikings, who have averaged 1,066 fans for their home games, can fill tiny Stott for the ESPNU cameras.
And thanks for being a Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.