SARNIA, Ont. — The Big Sky Conference has undergone some big changes this off-season.
For starters, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks are now officially members of the Summit League, leaving the Big Sky Conference after the 2017-18 season. North Dakota’s departure now puts the Big Sky at 11 teams for the upcoming season.
Many of the remaining teams will also look considerably different, as star players from across the league have moved on in their careers. Whether it was due to graduation or transfer, some familiar names have left the Big Sky Conference. With that said, there are now plenty of opportunities for new players to become the faces of the conference, and there are plenty of candidates around the league.
There are still star players in the league, but the Big Sky is home to some talented players who have flown under the radar so far in their respective careers. One in particular put up massive numbers a season ago, but barely grabbed attention from the national media.
Here are 10 returning players who will be names to know this season in the Big Sky Conference.
RENO, Nev. — It took an extra five minutes of action, but it was all worth it in the end.
Before the 2016-17 season got underway, many picked either the reigning champion Weber State Wildcats or the North Dakota Fighting Hawks to win the conference title and represent the Big Sky in the NCAA Tournament.
On Saturday night, in Reno, the two teams met in the Big Sky tournament with a spot in the NCAA Tournament on the line.
North Dakota won their first regular season Big Sky crown, and came in as the one-seed. Weber State, the defending champions, came in as the three-seed. Both rosters are decorated with star-caliber players, so it was bound to be a tight contest from the start.
After the Fighting Hawks took a four-point lead into the break, Weber State bounced back and opened up an 11-point lead of their own midway through the second frame. North Dakota fought their way back, and forced overtime on a layup from Geno Crandall in the final seconds.
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Before the 2016-17 season kicked off, the trendy picks in the Big Sky Conference were the Weber State Wildcats and the North Dakota Fighting Hawks.
As the season has moved along, nothing has changed. Many are still picking between the Wildcats and Fighting Hawks to be representing the conference in the NCAA Tournament. On Thursday night, the two teams squared off inside ‘The Betty’, with both looking to gain an edge in the race for the Big Sky title.
Weber State held a five-point lead at halftime, and they stretched their lead to nine early in the second, but they weren’t able to hold off the host Fighting Hawks down the stretch.
One thing that the Denver Pioneers have been lacking early in the 2016-17 season is consistency.
They have looked impressive in their two wins over the San Jose State Spartans and the Sacramento State Hornets, but they were unable to build off those wins and string together consecutive victories. In fairness, all four of their losses have been by 12 points or less.
Denver has been competitive, but have come out on the losing end more times than not.
On Saturday, the Pioneers had an opportunity to notch a big road win, as they took on the Weber State Wildcats. Led by Jeremy Senglin, the Wildcats have also struggled out of the gate, and both teams entered Saturday’s tilt with matching 2-4 records.
To open the first half, Weber State went on a 14-4 run over the first seven-plus minutes, and it looked as though they would be in firm control as the game progressed. Denver fought their way back, and it was a back-and-forth affair that came right down to the wire.
With 12 seconds showing on the clock, and the game tied at 55-all, Denver sophomore Joe Rosga rose to the occasion. He hit a jumper to give the Pioneers a two-point lead, 57-55. The Wildcats had one last chance to tie or win the game, but Senglin’s three point attempt was off the mark.
With the exhibition season in full swing, and coming to a close early this week, that can mean only one thing.
The 2016-17 college basketball regular season is just around the corner!
Things get underway Friday, November 11th at Noon EST with the first regular season game of the season, and there will be a plethora of talent on display across all 32 conferences all season long.
Before the season gets started, we decided to hand out some preseason hardware, in the form of our Conference Player of the Year award and All-Conference Teams.
Along with that, we have the College Court Report All-Americans, and the Mid-Major Player of the Year Preseason Watch List. Links to all of the conference awards and the Watch List can be found at the bottom of each article.