Montana State favored to win 2023 Big Sky Conference Tournament
The Big Sky Conference Tournament runs March 4-8 in Boise, Idaho and will decide the conference’s lone bid in the NCAA Tournament. Personally, this is one of my favorite conferences because there are so many different styles of play and so many home-court advantage quirks with hard-to-reach locations, altitude and passion among the fan bases. None of those home-court elements come into play in Boise, but there are still a lot of interesting games in this league.
All 10 teams in the conference qualify for the tournament.
How to Watch the Big Sky Conference Tournament
When: March 4-8
Where: Idaho Central Arena in Boise
Format: Top six seeds get bye to quarterfinals
Watch: ESPN+, ESPNU, ESPN 2; Championship Game on ESPN 2 on Mar. 8 at 11:30 p.m. ET
Big Sky Conference Tournament Seeds, Teams and Odds
1. Eastern Washington (+250)
2. Montana State (+115)
3. Weber State (+1100)
4. Montana (+450)
5. Idaho State (+2800)
6. Sacramento State (+2000)
7. Portland State (+5000)
8. Northern Colorado (+3100)
9. Northern Arizona (+4700)
10. Idaho (+15000)
Favorite To Win Big Sky Conference Tournament
Eastern Washington looked invincible until the final two games of the regular season. The Eagles lost on the road at Idaho State and lost on Senior Night to Montana State. Eastern Washington also had two of their worst defensive performances in Big Sky play over the last three games. With that late-season swoon, Montana State slid in to be the comfortable favorite at +115 in this conference tournament per FanDuel.
EWU beat everybody in the conference at least once, but split with No. 2 Montana State and the first win by three points was tied for their lowest margin of victory of the conference play season. Despite EWU’s gaudy record and 16-game win streak to start conference play, the right team is favored here.
Big Sky Conference Tournament Darkhorse
Montana lost by seven in both games against Eastern Washington, but finished the regular season winning eight of the last nine games, only losing by four to Montana State in a game where the Bobcats had 41 free throw attempts and had 32 made throws against 19 made shots from the floor. The Grizzlies are on a crash course with Eastern Washington, but I think Montana State is the best team in this conference, so I’d be eager to avoid them with any other option.
That said, they can’t be considered a “darkhorse” as the third favorite. I do think they’re the only other team with a strong shot, but, for the sake of argument, I’ll drop Weber State a mention here. They beat Montana State during the regular season and played tough with Eastern Washington. They also started the season 2-7, but finished 15-7, including a solid 12-6 mark in league play.
Players to Watch in Big Sky Conference Tournament
This is a high-scoring conference, but Northern Colorado’s Dalton Knecht (20.1 PPG) is the only player north of 20 points per game and Isaac Jones (19.2) from Idaho is the only other player over 19 points per game. Balanced scoring is really the story for a lot of these teams, though that doesn’t apply to Northern Colorado (Daylen Kountz, 16.9 PPG) or Idaho (Divant’e Moffitt, 18.4 PPG).
Weber State is led by double-double machine Dillon Jones (16.6 PPG, 11 RPG), while Montana State looks to RaeQuan Battle (17.1 PPG) as the leading scorer. As impressive as Eastern Washington’s offensive numbers have been (77 PPG overall, 80.2 PPG in Big Sky play), they only have three players in double figures nightly, led by Steele Venters with 15.1 PPG.
Betting Pick to Win The Big Sky Conference Tournament
Montana State is the best team in this league and probably has the best coach in Danny Sprinkle. I think they’re the deserving favorite and the ultimate conference champ. They’re a little better than average offensively by conference standards, but clearly the best defense in this league. They force turnovers at a high rate and shoot 2s well, which are strong attributes in a field like this. They do have a tougher draw with a likely semifinal against Weber State, but they match up well there and Eastern Washington is bad defensively.
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