With three basketball games in four days coming up for the men's basketball team, it's turning into a bit of a do-or-die weekend for the Bengals, who admittedly have not played up to expectations at 6-17 and 3-8 in the Big Sky, but despite rumored reports, they ain't done yet. ISU had Northern Colorado, who will be looking for win number 20 on Friday night at Reed at 7:05 pm, and then Northern Arizona on Saturday at 7:05 pm. The weekend then rolls into Monday's 7:05 Senior night game with Cal State Bakersfield, as ISU will see six Bengals; Rolando Little, Chron Tatum, Donnie Carson, Austin Kilpatrick, Demetrius Monroe, and Amorrow Morgan play in their final home games.
You guys thought I was going with a six pack for the picture didn't you? well, I wasn't going with Taylor Lautner's abs, but I did go with the old Kenny Rogers movie, which came out in 1982 and contained one of my first movie star crushes...Diane Lane, who was 17. I can still watch her movies today...heck of an actress.
But what does it all mean for the games this weekend? I figured I'd breakdown where everyone is at, going in the league standings and working down.
Weber State, 9-2, 15-8 The Wildcats have punched their ticket into the conference tournament, as they can finish no worse than 9-7, and three schools, ISU, Eastern Washington, and Sacramento State cannot match that. Weber State's two losses are to Northern Colorado and to Montana, both on the road, and they have UNC on Saturday night. That game will be pivotal for Weber State's tiebreakers, so that's the game of the week at this point. Weber State still needs to take care of business to clinch the right to host the tournament, but a sweep this weekend puts them just inches away, or in reality, one more win. Their schedule is identical to ISU's, except they host the Bengals next week in a rematch of the triple-OT thriller in January. (Games left: NAU, UNC, ISU, @EWU, @PSU)
Northern Colorado, 8-3, 19-5 Can they possibly be looking past the Bengals? I'm guessing the entourage that's joining Northern Colorado for the trip (SID and AD both coming, and a fan bus chartered to Weber to boot) are not coming here because Reed Gym is so cozy. They didn't bring this many folks to the conference tournament game here last year. If Northern Colorado has any prayers of hosting the tournament, they have to beat the Wildcats on Saturday night, assuming they get past ISU first on Friday, which is not a given. The Bears have won a grand total of once...once...in Pocatello since Reed Gym was built in 1951. Did I mention once? Of course, they usually weren't 19-5 either. The danger for them is a loss and Montana could catch and pass them for the #2 seed and the all-important bye into the semifinals, so they will be ready. (Games Left: @ISU, @WSU, EWU, PSU, Johnson & Wales (seriously), @SAC)
Montana, 8-4, 17-7 I'm telling you right now...if Montana plays like they did the other night, they cannot be beaten. That said, they can't keep that pace up. Still, the team a lot of folks said was the best on paper has recovered from a 1-3 start and have gone 7-1 since. They probably woke up to late to host the tournament, but they are in a battle for the #2 seed, and if they are UNC both end up 12-4, the tiebreaker goes to the Griz, unless Portland State has a monumental collapse and ISU catches them for fifth place. (Games Left: @PSU, @EWU, SAC, MSU)
Montana State 7-5, 12-11 This is a hard team to figure out, but as they showed int he tournament last year, even though they might lose a bunch of games (they are 12-11 after all), they can get a good run and win three straight, and that's what they will have to do. Their loss to Weber State (MSU missed two free throws in the final three seconds to tie the game...sound familiar? Weber State's boogey-man defense is awesome) means they aren't hosting, and they probably aren't catching anyone for the two-seed, unless Northern Colorado losse to someone else besides Weber, and MSU beats Montana at Montana, and if the Griz shoot like they did the other day, that's gonna be tough to do. Still, Montana State is in great position for a home game in the opening round. Much like UNC and Montana, they can clinch a playoff berth on Friday with a win and an ISU loss. (Game Left: @EWU, @PSU, SAC, @UM)
Portland State 5-5, 10-13 Apparently Jeremiah Dominguez and those other cats were that good, because Portland State's streak of 20-win seasons is over at two. Still, this is a dangerous team that can shoot the ball from deep, and they are deadly at home (sounds like the other four, no?). That being said, they are also a little schizoid, which is the mantra of the bottom five Big Sky teams. PSU has a lot of experience, and that should count for something. They also have six games left, so they have a lot to say about the conference race, not just for them, but for everyone else. Their games this week against the Montanas are HUGE. (Games Left: UM, MSU, @UNC, @NAU, ISU, WSU)
Northern Arizona 5-6, 11-11 The Lumberjacks have been the surprise of the league so far, as their 72% shooting day and stunning win at Portland State would attest, and you could make a pretty good case that Mike Adras is the Big Sky's Coach of the Year as no one thought this young squad would be where they were, but Cameron Jones is the great equalizer (Steve Shaff, you can borrow that), and the 'Jacks have won games at home and just enough on the road. However, this is a do or die weekend for them, having to go to the league leader in Weber State, and then they travel to ISU with a chance to either deliver a knockout blow to the Bengals, or really tighten the race, and even slip out of the top six. While the UNC/WSU game is the game of the week, the NAU/ISU is a fitting undercard. NAU has tough games from here on out, and just two at home, and they are probably the team ISU has the most realistic shot of catching. (Games Left: @WSU, @ISU, EWU, PSU, @SAC)
Idaho State 3-8, 6-17 The Bengals are still breathing, and in reality, although it's tough, one good home weekend puts them amazingly in sixth place. Before we get to Friday, this much is clear...ISU has to beat Northern Arizona, because they own the tiebreaker with the 'Jacks if they do, as long as Montana finishes ahead of Montana State (or if ISU beats UNC on Friday, as long as either UNC or Montana finished ahead of MSU). A would at the very best put ISU two behind NAU with three to go, and NAU owning the tiebreaker. If ISU sweeps this weekend and NAU is swept, than ISU is the sixth place team with three to go. What that means is ISU better win on Friday as well. Oh that Weber State loss...oh that Sacramento State one point loss...oh, you get the picture. (Games Left: UNC, NAU, @WSU, @PSU, @EWU)
Sacramento State 3-9, 9-16 The Hornets have nine losses, so they aren't in the same boat as ISU, and in fact it's worse, because they haven't beaten any of the top six teams, so they have zero tiebreakers, except over ISU and Eastern at this point. Still, they could finish 7-9 and squeak in somewhere, but it would mean a sweep at the Montanas and of NAU and Northern Colorado, and I'm guessing that's not happening. I suppose you never know, and the Hornets are a much more confident bunch,a nd Brian Katz is proving to be an excellent coach or this pesky squad. (Games Left: @Seattle, @MSU, @UM, NAU, UNC)
Eastern Washington, 2-8, 6-18 Not as bad a shape with only eight losses, but they have a tough road ahead of them as well, and would need to at a minimum beat NAU and a few others and get some help. The have already played PSU twice and were swept, so their best shot is catching NAU. That shot is a longshot though with a tough schedule left as they have to face the top four one more time still, although three are at home. (Games Left: MSU, UM, @NAU, @UNC, WSU, ISU)
Bottom line for Idaho State....sweeping the weekend could change everything...it could put them in sixth place with three to go, and I'm telling you that ISU is a lot like NAU....a scary team in the tournament that you don't want to face.
Idaho State Sports Information