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The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

Time to dance: The men’s Big Sky Tournament is here

There’s plenty to unpack for a jam-packed weekend of Big Sky basketball
Junior+forward+Zee+Hamoda+drives+past+his+defender+towards+the+basket+Saturday%2C+March+2%2C+2024+at+The+Nest.+Hamoda+and+the+Hornets+will+face+off+against+the+Idaho+Vandals+in+the+first+round+of+the+Big+Sky+Tournament+on+Saturday+in+Boise%2C+Idaho.
Malachi Parker
Junior forward Zee Hamoda drives past his defender towards the basket Saturday, March 2, 2024 at The Nest. Hamoda and the Hornets will face off against the Idaho Vandals in the first round of the Big Sky Tournament on Saturday in Boise, Idaho.

The men’s basketball Big Sky Conference Tournament will take place March 9-13 in Boise, Idaho at Idaho Central Arena, the winner will get an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Tournament.

This article will hit on three players to watch in the tournament as well as previews for each of the matchups that are currently scheduled.

The top two seeds, Eastern Washington and Northern Colorado, have yet to have their opponents determined.


RELATED: Through rain and shine Sac State breaks even

Players to watch

Dillon Jones – Weber State


Junior forward Dillon Jones was unanimously selected as the preseason Big Sky MVP back in October and was just named Big Sky regular season MVP on Thursday. After a phenomenal season, Jones has cemented his status as a potential NBA draft pick.

The junior has won Big Sky Player of the Week eight times this season, with only one other player winning the award multiple times this year. Jones is also up for the Erving Award, which is given to the best small forward in the nation.



Jones leads the conference in scoring, rebounding and assists. In a thriller at home against Northern Colorado, Jones posted a 30 point, 23 rebound, nine assist game.



If there’s one player primed for a huge Big Sky Tournament run, Jones without a doubt has the best case.

 

Saint Thomas – Northern Colorado

Junior forward Saint Thomas would be the surefire number one on this list if it wasn’t for Jones.

Thomas is second in the conference to Jones in scoring and rebounds. He also ranks sixth in assists and has won player of the week six times.

In the Big Sky, Thomas is ninth in three-pointers made, third in free throw percentage, seventh in field goal percentage and one of two players to eclipse 600 total points this season.



In the preseason polls, Northern Colorado was picked to finish eighth place out of 10 teams in the conference.

Thomas is the main reason why the Bears blew those expectations out of the water and are the two seed heading into the Big Sky Tournament.

 

Cedric Coward – Eastern Washington

There are many players deserving of the final spot on this list: Montana’s Aanen Moody, Montana State’s Robert Ford and Northern Arizona’s Trenton Mclaughlin.

However, junior guard/forward Cedric Coward is the best player on the best team, so he gets the nod. The former Division 3 star has the ability to do it on both ends of the floor .



Coward’s offensive versatility makes him one of the hardest guys to defend in this conference as he can shoot the three ball and score in the paint with ease.

The first-team all conference forward is the Big Sky’s sixth best scorer, eighth best rebounder, boasts the second-best field goal percentage and is top 15 in three-pointers made.

Coward’s length and athleticism also makes him one of the best defenders in the conference.

If Eastern Washington is able to make it out of the Big Sky Tournament and continue on to the NCAA Tournament, Coward will be the main reason why.




#9 Idaho VS #10 Sac State

Sacramento State men’s basketball dropped both conference matches to the Idaho Vandals this year. The first of which came at the hands of a 25-foot game-winning heave at the buzzer by junior guard Quinn Denker.

In the second matchup, the Hornets struggled at home and lost 61-45.

It feels like Sac State is due for a win here. It’s hard to beat the same team twice in this conference, let alone three times.

“We’re feeling pretty good about it,” freshman center Bowyn Beatty said. “Everybody knows what their role is and everybody is playing their role so I think that’s helped us and hopefully it gets over the line in the tournament.”

The Hornets have won two of their last three, with the only loss coming to the back-to-back regular season Big Sky Champions Eastern Washington.

“It’s exciting to see that we’re playing better than earlier in the year,” Sac State head coach David Patrick said. “I think that’s a sign of a young team that’s getting more experienced and more comfortable playing together.”

Junior guard Austin Patterson is riding a hot streak. He is averaging 18.2 points per game and nearly four three-pointers made in his last five games.

Sac State has been without sophomore forward Duncan Powell in its last two games, but he’s expected to be back for the tournament. He is the Hornets’ leading scorer and rebounder.

Junior forward Zee Hamoda and junior forward Jacob Holt have also improved their play as of late. Hamoda is averaging 16 PPG over the last three, while Holt is averaging 10 points and five rebounds per game.

The Vandals have dropped three straight, losing by an average of 17.3 points during that stretch.

Denker and junior forward Julius Mims lead the way for the Vandals.

“I just feel like we’re playing well together,” Patterson said. “I’m really confident going into the tournament.”

Prediction: Sac State 72, Idaho 60

#7 Northern Arizona VS #8 Idaho State

These two split the series in conference play, with the home team losing both times.

Each game was decided by less than four points, including the most recent, which was an overtime thriller in Pocatello, Idaho that saw NAU win 92-88.

Idaho State is a strong defensive team standing second in the conference for PPG allowed at 70.2.

The Bengals’ defense is led by the first-team all-defense sophomore guard Maleek Arrington, who is second in the conference in steals at 2.3 per game.

Graduate center Brayden Parker and junior guard Tommy Miguel are the two that make the Idaho State offense go.

Parker is top 25 in threes made, fourth in field goal percentage at 53% and a top-10 rebounder in the Big Sky at 5.8 RPG. Miguel finds most of his production behind the three-point line. His 75 3PM is tied for first in the conference.

NAU is led by junior guard Trenton Mclaughlin, who is third in the Big Sky in PPG at 16.7. The junior has scored double-digits in every game but two in conference play.

Junior center Carson Basham is the second leading scorer for the Lumberjacks at 12.3 PPG. He leads the conference in blocks at 1.6 per game and made the conference’s first-team all-defensive team.

Prediction: Idaho State 73, Northern Arizona 70

#3 Montana VS #6 Portland State

These two schools split the season series in conference play. Montana got blown out on the road in the first meeting, losing by 26 but won the second matchup at home by nine.

The Vikings are middle of the pack in both scoring and defense, ranking sixth in the Big Sky in both.

The Grizzlies don’t have many glaring holes and have the most experienced starting five in the Big Sky with three seniors and two graduate students.

They are the fourth best free throw shooting team in the nation percentage wise and are top 25 in the nation when it comes to assist/turnover ratio.

Portland State is led by senior forward KJ Allen, who ranks 12th in the conference in scoring at 13 PPG.

The Vikings also have an elite three-point shooter in senior guard Bobby Harvey, who averages the most 3PM per game in the Big Sky at 2.5.

Graduate guard Aanen Moody leads the charge for Montana, who can score with the best of them in this league. Moody is the conference’s fourth-leading scorer and is tied for first in 3PM.

Prediction: Montana 79, Portland State 67

#4 Weber State VS #5 Montana State

These two schools split the season series against one another.

Weber State has the biggest win this season of any of the Big Sky teams. The Wildcats beat Saint Mary’s, the 23rd ranked team in the nation back in November.

Montana State has represented the Big Sky conference in the NCAA Division 1 Tournament in back-to-back years. The Bobcats have three players that average better than 13 PPG.

Weber State has the best player in the conference, Jones and statistically is the best defensive team in the Big Sky, allowing just 66.8 PPG.

Montana State ranks seventh in PPG and has the leading steal man in the conference, Robert Ford, and are top 50 in the country as a team in steals per game. Ford is fifth in scoring in the Big Sky.



Prediction: Weber State 70, Montana State 65

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Andrew Edwards
Andrew Edwards, Sports Staffer
(he/him) Andrew Edwards is a fourth-year student at Sacramento State in his first semester at The State Hornet. He is a lifelong sports fanatic and has plans to pursue a career in sports journalism after graduating.
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