Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stock Watch: Week One

I’m back! Now that the season has started it’s time to fire TW Courtside back up for another season. Things look a whole lot different in the Big Sky this year, thanks to graduation. This will be an exciting year!

This past week we finally got a chance to see all of the Big Sky teams in action. Albeit, it is always tough to gauge teams at this point because many are playing up or down a level. Here are some thoughts on each of the teams:

Stocks Are Up

Portland State: The Vikings got off to a 2-0 start with wins over Washington and Western Oregon at home. In the win over Washington, Kelli Valentine hit a buzzer-beater to win it. Against WO, Claire Faucher sat out and the game was closer than expected. It must make Coach Murrell happy that this team can win without Faucher. Now, can they do it against real competition?

Montana State: The Bobcats were the most impressive of any BSC team this past week. MSU survived a tough CS Bakersfield team and took care of Pacific, both on the road. The Cats were awful on the road in the non-conference last season, so this trip gave them a ton of confidence. Only 4 games remain away from Bozeman in the non-conf this season. Katie Bussey and Erica Perry showed that MSU may have the best backcourt in the league.

Not Enough Information

Weber State:
Barely lost to a good team (Boise St.), barely beat a bad team (Dixie St). We will know more about CT’s squad in the coming weeks.

Idaho State: Tough way to open the season, at Saint Mary’s and at California. I think the close game against the Gaels is reason to be optimistic. Oana Iacovita’s play is another reason.

Eastern Washington: I believe this to be the most underrated team in the conference. A win at Portland is huge, but only putting up 48 against Oregon is a head-scratcher. Julie Piper is a sure All-BSC first teamer…if they can get her the ball.

Stocks Falling

Sacramento State: The Hornets topped 100 in their exhibition game but looked lost offensively against CS Fullerton. Could this be the same streaky team that we saw last year in Sac Town?

Northern Arizona: There are some great underclassmen on this squad, but losses to UC Riverside and Pepperdine show that this year is clearly a rebuilding year.

Northern Colorado: Offensive struggles will be a theme in Greeley this winter. Losing Kate Kevorken really hurt this team.

Montana: The Griz went 0-2 to start the season, first time this has happened in the Selvig era. A lack of a true point guard hurts this team’s chances and until they find an answer, I think their 2nd place ranking in the preseason polls may be a major stretch.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Burning Questions Part 1

In just a few days, student-athletes will be back on campuses around the country. While many wbb teams have been involved in summer school and offseason workouts, for some this will be the first time that all team members will be together.

As we mourn the end of summer and celebrate the start of another school year there are many burning questions surrounding the Big Sky Conference this year. The league graduated so many talented players last year, that fans will be asking “Who’s that?” when teams take the floor in November. In honor of these hot August days, here are the burning questions in the BSC for the upcoming year…

Can anyone name a returning player on Idaho State’s roster? Anyone? (Crickets chirp in the background). Well to be fair, there are some returnees for ISU, but the graduations of Michelle Grohs and Jenna Brown leave major voids for the Bengals. On top of that, freshman sensation Sheila Adams, forward Verity Peets, and freshman Jeni Guertin have all transferred. That leaves just 6 returning scholarship players. They have signed 7 newcomers, but a team made up of half returnees and half newcomers is bound to have chemistry issues. Coach Sobelewski did a magnificent job with his team last season, but with a roster thin on experience and so many new faces, it will be another uphill climb this season.

Who will make up the Griz backcourt? The names “Nance-Johnson” and “Hurley” just don’t have the same ring as the names “Morales” and “Rogers.” The UM frontcourt of Sarah Ena and Jessa Loman-Linford appears sown up, but the Grizzlies must answer big questions in the backcourt. Loren Beck will be back at the three-guard/small forward position, but the one and two will be new faces. It is assumed the Griz will go with Shaunte Nance-Johnson at the point, and while she did get some time at the spot last year, this will be a major drop in talent from Mandy Morales. Some have RS Freshman Alex Hurley at the shooting guard spot, but will she have the ability to guard the other talented shooting guards in the league? I have also heard Kenzie DeBoer’s name being thrown around as a starter at the two. Either way, defenses are already breathing easier now that Sonya Rogers has graduated.

Who will rebound for Montana State? Rebounds were aplenty last season for MSU with senior Nubia Garcia moving up the school’s record charts in career rebounding. The senior led the league in average rebounds most of the year. However, Garcia’s graduation, along with Jenny Heringer’s decision to leave the team, has left the Cats in a major hole. Where will the boards come from? Sarah Strand will return for a third year as a starter this season at the small forward, but she has not proven to be a consistent rebounding threat. There aren’t many guards that rebound the way Jenny Heringer did and it is unlikely that the gap will be made up by perimeter players. It is likely that the battle for a starting spot between Jaime Thornton and newcomer Beata Bak will yield the Cats’ biggest threat on the boards. It may also be possible that freshmen Ashley Albert and Rachel Semansky may see increased playing time as the season moves on should they develop into rebounders.

Rest assured many burning questions remain around the league and I will ask them in the coming days!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Coming Attractions

I will be doing team previews as we get closer to the 2009-10 season of Big Sky WBB, but MSU has some great You Tube videos, so I thought I would wet your appetite a bit. If you are like me, you are going through withdrawls at this point in the calendar anyway.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Cream of the Crop?

Charlie Creme at wrote a column lining out the top 64 teams to watch for the 2009-10 season. The only Big Sky team he listed was Portland State at number 53.

"53. Portland State: While the Vikings say goodbye to perhaps the school's all-time best player in Kelsey Kahle, they do return two of their top three scorers to make a run at the top spot in the Big Sky."

I am inclined to agree that the Viks should be the early favorites in the BSC next season. With Mandy Morales out of the picture at Montana, Claire Faucher is probably the most electric player in the conference. As Creme said, the Viks will return 2 of their top 3 leading scorers (Faucher and Kelli Valentine)and will have plenty of other contributors like Kelly Marchant, Kate DePaepe, and Eryn Jones. So, on paper, the Viks look good.

I do think that they will have a big hole to fill with the graduation of Kelsey Kahle. She had a work ethic that ranked in the top 2 or 3 in the conference, and was a leader-by-example for PSU. How the Vikings respond to a leadership void created by Kahle's absence will be the biggest question they must answer in the off season.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Return of the Jedi (or Blogger)

Hello everyone! I haven't died, there hasn't been any accident, I just was taking some time away from the blog after the season ended. There have been a few happenings since the end of the season that I need to catch you up on. So here it goes:

Sac State coach (and TW Courtside COY) Dan Muscatell took an assistant coaching job at Oregon under the Ducks' new coach Paul Westhead. The Hornets promoted Associate HC Jaime Craighead to the Head Job. Technically she is an interim, but I imagine it is a trial run to see how she handles being in control of the program. I think "interim" is the most damaging word possible to a program. It hurts recruiting because players are unwilling to commit to a coach that may not be there by the time they set foot on campus, donors are unwilling to make donations to the program because the future is murky, and players under scholarship don't work as hard because they are unsure of the future of the program. I hope the Sac AD does the wise thing and removes coach Craighead's "interim" tag soon.

Idaho State is suffering from the normal defections that occur when a program is in transition. Freshman guard Sheila Adams, veteran post Verity Peets, and freshman post Jeni Guertin have all pulled the plug and asked for transfers. Adams is probably the biggest loss of the three. She showed tremendous poise and potential after being forced into the starting lineup due to injuries. She had a great freshman year. Guertin also showed potential off the bench. Check out Kelvin Ang's reporting on these developments over at his blog.

As for this blog, I will continue to update throughout the off season on happenings throughout the conference. Soon, I will look at incoming freshman and transfer classes, have my pre-pre season rankings, and also hopefully do some interviews of BSC news makers. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Madness is Upon Us

The 2009 Big Sky Conference WBB tournament lived up to its billing. Every game was hotly contested, even the semifinal between UM and ISU ended up being a great game. I know many people (including your truly) had predicted that game to be a rout, but just as they did all season long, the Bengals surprised us by playing one of their best games of the year and kept it close throughout.

The final between PSU and UM was another great game and I thought Altitude did a nice job of bringing it to us. In the end, you knew PSU/UM would settle the BSC for 2009. They were on a collision course.

UM drew a 13 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. They will play the 4th seeded Pittsburgh Panthers in Seattle on Friday. I think that for only losing 4 games this season, 3 of which were to other NCAA tourney teams and the other to an NIT team, Montana deserved a better seed. This is a consistently good program that is better than a lot of the teams in the tournament. I would have seeded them at a 10 or an 11.

PSU earned an automatic bid in the WNIT and will host Portland on Thursday for the right to play Oregon State on Saturday. The Viks beat Portland already this season and were blasted by OSU. But, you have to like the fact that you get to stay in state for 2 rounds, who knows maybe PSU can make a run!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

2009 TW Courtside Big Sky WBB Awards

After an outstanding 2008-09 season, I am excited to debut the first ever Courtside Awards for Big Sky Women's Basketball. There were some outstanding performances and stories this year. How about ISU and SAC's improbable runs to the tournament? How about the impressive seasons of UM and PSU? How about MSU turning around their season at the end of January?

The story lines and individuals we will continue to follow at the tournament kept us entertained and inspired all season long, and now it is time to hand out the hardware (there isn't really any hardware, but there is a ton of prestige tied to these awards!).

First of all, the fan votes. I tried the idea of letting Courtside followers select some of the individual awards and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of responses to the polls. Thank you for voting and here are the results:

TW Courtside BSC Player of the Year: Mandy Morales, Sr, Montana. Morales had an incredible senior season, through a good portion of the season, she led the league in scoring and proved to be one of the most difficult match-ups for opposing teams. Her strong and consistent play is the reason we are all headed to Missoula tomorrow. Runner-up: in a narrow vote, Morales edged out Kelsey Kahle, Sr, PSU.

TW Courtside BSC Outstanding Freshman: Katie Bussey, Fr, Montana State. In the fan voting, Bussey ran away in this category. It was clear early on that Katie Bussey would be a key contributor for MSU this season. The freshman led all other BSC freshman in scoring and was third on MSU's team in scoring. She has the tremendous potential to be the most deadly three point threat in the league in coming years. This season, she is 14th in the league in made three pointers with 35, a stat that leads MSU.

TW Courtside BSC Defender of the Year: Britney Lohman, Sr, Montana. Lohman was second in the conference in blocks this season, but her defensive contributions are hard to quantify with numbers. Lohman always draws the biggest defensive assignment for UM and rises to the challenge. Note: My vote went to MSU's Nubia Garcia. Garcia is the only BSC player in the top ten in blocks, steals, and defensive rebounds. She is a lock-down defender that made some of the BSC's best forwards look pretty average. However, here at Courtside we value democracy so fan vote wins!

TW Courtside BSC Coach of the Year: Dan Muscatell, Sac State. This was a hotly contested category because both Coach Muscatell and Coach Sobelewski at ISU did fantastic work to get their teams into postseason contention. The Hornets won 3 more conference games than they did last season. Sac State will be in the BSC tourney for the first time since 2005 and for just the 3rd time in school history. The Hornets were able to do this thanks to some huge wins in conference play. The Hornet's nest was not a fun place for opposing teams to visit this year, which is a testament to Coach Muscatell's hard work. Runner up: Seton Sobelewski, ISU.

Now, here are the 2009 All-Courtside Teams!

MVP: Mandy Morales, UM

First Team All-Courtside
Kelsey Kahle, PSU
Erica Perry, MSU
Charday Hunt, SAC
Claire Faucher, PSU
Sonya Rogers, UM

Second Team All-Courtside
Nubia Garcia, MSU
Michelle Grohs, ISU
Sade Cunningham, NAU
Caitlyn Anderson, WSU
Britney Lohman, UM

Honorable Mention All-Courtside
Julie Piper, EWU
Kelly Valentine, PSU
Courtney Stoermer, NC
Jenna Brown, ISU
Sarah Ena, UM