The Bengal men (more on the women below) got a split on the recent Montana road trip and they got the biggest win of the two available -- over Montana State. That gives Idaho State the first tiebreaker should the Bengals and MSU both finish with the same record in the race for fourth place, ISU having swept the season series over the Bobcats. Had MSU won in Bozeman Thursday the Bobcats would have clinched a tiebreaker by virtue of having beaten Weber State once this season while ISU was swept by the first-place Wildcats.
With just two regular season games left for Idaho State and Weber State, Montana and Portland State virtually locked in at the 1-2-3 spots, here's a look at the race for the No. 4 spot and that first-round hosting opportunity:
The Bengals are 7-7, a half-game ahead of Montana State and a full-game ahead of Northern Colorado for fourth place. If ISU beats both Sac State (Thursday) and Northern Arizona (Saturday) in Reed Gym this week the Bengals will clinch fourth place. They would host Northern Colorado, MSU or Eastern Washington in a first-round game.
The Bengals can also grab the fourth place spot with one win this week if Montana State loses one of its three final games (at Portland State, at Northern Colorado and at home against Weber State), and Northern Colorado loses either of its final two at home games against Montana and Montana State.
If the Bengals drop both games this week, they would need MSU to lose to Portland State and Weber State, and Northern Colorado to lose both its final two games.
Northern Colorado had a gut-wrenching road trip this past week, losing at Portland State by three and at Eastern Washington by a point. Had the Bears won either of those, they could have put a lot of pressure on ISU, especially if they had held on to the big lead they had at PSU.
More on Willie Humes
I got an email from former ISU Sports Information Director Glenn Alford, who explained that former Bengal star Willie Humes is not in the ISU Athletic Hall of Fame because "he's never been nominated." The inference I get from Glenn's email is that Willie, who is ISU's all-time scoring average leader at 31.5 points a game, was something of a gunner. Humes averaged over 30 shot attempts a game his senior year.
While Willie may not have been all-conference when it came to shot selection, however, his individual scoring exploits would still seem to me to qualify him for the Hall of Fame. He is, afterall, still ranked No. 10 in NCAA career scoring average, was a two-time all-Big Sky selection and made the conference's Silver Anniversary Team.
Willie played at a very different time in college basketball, back in the days when guys like Pete Maravich and Johnny Neumann averaged over 40 points a game for entire seasons. There were a lot of "gunners" in college basketball in the late 1960s and early 1970s -- Rick Mount, Austin Carr, Bo Lamar, Freeman Williams, Travis Grant, etc. UCLA was dominating the NCAA tournament with exemplary "team basketball," but a lot of programs were giving their stars free reign to fire at will.
Willie Humes was one of those stars. In my view, he shouldn't be penalized for taking advantage of the times. So I nominated him for the ISU Hall of Fame Class of 2009. We'll see what the selection committee decides. In the meantime if anybody knows if Willie is still alive or what he's doing these days, I'd still love to hear about him.
Return of the Whistle
Ty Elkin's wife officiated the ISU-Montana women's game in Reed Gym Saturday, and I was able to return Ty's spare whistle, which I used to discipline my marauding dogs, through her. Brutus has gone home and I'll have to find another means of keeping peace between he and my dog Burley next time Brutus comes to visit.
Welcome Coach Cullen
I ran into several members of the Bengal football coaching staff on Saturday night, as they were preparing to take a recruit to dinner. They were beaming about the addition of new defensive line coach Joe Cullen, who comes to Pocatello after three seasons of working with the Detroit Lions. Cullen's past history has been much reviewed in other places, but suffice it to say the Bengal coaches are thrilled to have his experience and expertise available, and they firmly believe Cullen has put his past problems behind him.
Farewell Michelle and Jenna
Saturday's blow-out loss at the hands of Montana's women's team Saturday certainly was not the way Michelle Grohs and Jenna Brown (above) wanted to leave the ISU women's program, but both seniors have a lot to be proud of. They were both outstanding complementary players on outstanding ISU teams that featured all-league stars Natalie Doma and Andrea Lightfoot.
Then both became leaders and all-Big Sky quality producers on this year's team which has been stripped of the talent and depth of those recent top-quality Bengal teams. They will both be missed greatly as Seton Sobolewski rebuilds the ISU program, both for their athletic talents and for the outstanding young women they are off the floor.
Here's hoping the Bengals can get a couple of wins out of their final three road games and cement a place in the post-season tourmanent, so Michelle and Jenna can build more fond memories of their ISU career.
And thanks for being Bengal fans -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.