Barring a remarkable run in the final month of the season, the Gophers will not be participating in the NCAA Tournament this March. But the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is the best weekend of the calendar year (this is fact, not an opinion). Dozens of college basketball games with teams and players trying to make themselves a household name, even if for just the weekend. Small schools from smaller conferences get their shot at knocking off schools with more established basketball pedigrees. This is going to be a series where we take a look at 24 conferences and the schools most likely to represent them in the NCAA Tournament. Consider this early bracket research to find that Cinderella team that busts everyone’s bracket...except yours.
Big Sky Conference
Last Year’s NCAA Participant: North Dakota
Prior Years Upset Team: The Big Sky hasn’t fared too well in the Big Dance in modern times, aside from the magical Weber State upset in 1995 and a Montana upset in 2006. Otherwise the conference has a whole lot of nothing to its name
KenPom Rank: 78
Off Efficiency: 110.0 (104)
Def Efficiency: 100.4 (61)
eFG%: 51.0% (173)
Why are they dangerous: The Grizzlies are led by junior guard Ahmaad Rorie, an Oregon transfer, who is averaging 17.5 ppg for the second straight season and leading Montana’s three-headed scoring monster. Along with Michael Oguine, Rorie forms perhaps the conference’s best backcourt. Montana started out at 12-0 in conference play, but has dropped two in a row on the road, including one to Idaho, who is also pushing for a conference title. And, while Montana is rolling through the competition, the Griz haven’t had many tests this year to compare themselves against major programs.
NCAA Tournament Outlook
The Griz are far and away the Big Sky’s best chance for an upset team. And you know what? They just might have a chance. They’re packed with all-conference candidates and have a nose for victory. At 78 in the KenPom rankings, they’re going to be a dangerous 14-seed if they can make it all the way to the end.