Montana, Weber picked 1-2 in Big Sky preseason poll
Ogden Defending champion Montana has been selected to repeat in the Big Sky Conference coaches and media men's basketball polls, which were released Thursday, Coach Wayne Tinkle's Grizzlies received eight first-place votes and 98 total points in the coaches' poll. They received 24 first-place votes and 344 points in the media poll. Weber State was selected second in both polls. The Wildcats earned three first-place votes from the coaches and 92 total points. Eight media members selected Weber State first. The 'Cats earned 318 points from the media. "We do have a few key pieces back," Tinkle said. "It's nice to see us recognized, but coaches don't put a lot of credence in the polls. We have an awfully long ways to go to compete for the championship." Montana returns a pair of All-Conference performers in senior guard Will Cherry and junior Kareem Jamar. The Grizzlies finished 15-1 in conference last season, when they went 25-7 overall. The Grizzlies lost to Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Grizzlies have played for the Big Sky Championship three straight seasons, winning twice. Weber State lost NBA lottery pick and two-time league MVP Damian Lillard, but the Wildcats are once again expected to contend. Two starters return from last year's team, which went 25-7 overall, 14-2 in conference and won a game in the in the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament. Northern Colorado was selected third by the coaches and fourth by the media. Coach B.J. Hill's team returns leading scorers Tate Unruh (11.3 ppg) and Tevin Svihovec (10.8 ppg). The Bears, who won the 2010-11 Big Sky championship, led the nation in three-point field-goal shooting a season ago. Eastern Washington, under second-year coach Jim Hayford, returns senior Collin Chiverton, the Big Sky's top newcomer last season. Chiverton averaged 13.9 points per game. The Eagles were tabbed third by the media and sixth by the coaches. Big Sky newcomer North Dakota could make a splash. The coaches selected coach Brian Jones' team fourth, while the media picked it sixth. North Dakota played in the Great West Conference last season and finished 17-15. North Dakota returns four starters, including junior guard Troy Huff, who led the team in scoring and rebounding. Portland State was picked to finish fifth in both polls. The Vikings lost All-Conference performers Charles Odum and Chehales Tapscott from last year's team, which finished third in the Big Sky. Sacramento State was picked to finish seventh in the coaches' poll and eighth in the media poll. Montana State was picked seventh in the media poll and eighth in the coaches' poll. Rounding out the poll both polls were Idaho State, Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. All three teams feature new coaches this season. Idaho State is led by Bill Evans, who served as an assistant at Montana the last four years. He was the head coach at Southern Utah from 1992-2007. Jack Murphy takes over at Northern Arizona. The first-year head coach served the past three seasons as an assistant coach at Memphis. Nick Robinson, a Stanford graduate who was an assistant at LSU for three seasons, is Southern Utah's new coach. SUU played in the Summit League last season, finishing 14-17 under Roger Reid. The field for the 2013 Big Sky tournament will consist of the top seven teams from the regular season. It will be played March 14-16 at the site of the league champion. The No. 1 seed receives a bye to the semifinals. There will be three first-round games on March 14.