I consider the arrival of the Big Sky men's basketball prospectus as the official opening of the basketball season, even though teams can't start practicing for a week and a half. Since I received the prospectus from the Big Sky office last week, I'm already running late in putting together my early, early Big Sky preview. So let's get to it already.
I've sneaked a peak at a couple of college basketball preview magazines on the newsstands, and I'm going to preview the BSC teams in the approximate order the magazines have placed them. I'll give you my predictions as we get closer to the start of the season:
Most Intriguing Newcomer: Emmanuel Addo, a 6-7, 230-pound F out of Minnesota, will get the first shot at taking Banks' minutes.
How They Did Against the Bengals: The Bears gave the Bengals matchup fits, but ISU eventually won the season series, including an OT win in the regular season and seven-point post-season victory, both in Holt.
Performance Over the Last Five Seasons: The Lumberjacks have been 43-33, including a nice 34-12 run sandwiched in between 4-10 and 5-11 seasons, the later coming last season when the Axers missed the post-season.
Outlook: Cameron Jones (who averaged 15.6 points in league play) and Shane Johannsen (shot 82 percent in the Big Sky) both emerged nicely as sophomores last year. Shane Lepley, 6-10, showed a lot of potential as a freshman. The Axers could be the surprise team in the league if those three continue to develop.
Intriguing Newcomer: Eric Platt, a 6-5 guard, saw a lot of playing time during two seasons at Wyoming. He averaged 6.5 PPG as a freshman for the Cowboys, and will likely line up at the wing opposite Jones.
How They Did Against the Bengals: In one of the key games of the season, NAU blew a big second-half lead against ISU to lose in Flagstaff, then the Bengals punished an injury-depleted Axer team in Reed Gym, 71-49, at the end of the regular season.
Performance Over the Last Five Seasons: Eastern has been 34-42 in league play during that time, including back-to-back 6-10 seasons under Kirk Earlywine.
Outlook: The Eagles return leading scorer Benny Valentine, a 5-7 PG, and leading rebounder Brandon Moore, 6-9 C, but that's about all the experienced talent.
Intriguing Newcomer: Would have been Treymayne Johnson, a 6-7 F who was recruited by some heavyweights early on, but I was told over the weekend that he is ineligible. The Eagles are bringing in three freshmen guards and two JUCO forwards, but none of them catch your eye immediately.
How They Did Against the Bengals: The two teams split, each winning on their home courts.
Peformance the Last Five Seasons: The Hornets have clearly been the worst program in the conference over that time with a 21-55 mark. Their last non-losing season, and the last time they've been in the post-season, was 2004-05, when they went 8-8.
Outlook: Justin Eller, a 6-8 C who averaged 10 points and 6.7 rebounds, and fourth-leading scorer Antonio Flaggs, a 6-3 G who averaged 7.7 points, return. Six junior college transfers and two freshmen lend an air of mystery to the roster.
Intriguing Newcomer: Sultan Toles-Bey, a 5-10 G, averaged 17 points and 5 assists a game at Fresno City College last year.
How They Did Against the Bengals: Sac State earned its only conference victory against the Bengals at home, then ISU blew out the Hornets 74-39 on the last weekend of the regular season.
And thanks for being a Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.