Media pick Griz men to win Big Sky

A year ago at this time, the Montana Grizzlies basketball squad was getting set to tip-off a new basketball season with just one returning starter and a new head coach.

With questions surrounding the team, UM was picked by the media to finish fifth, and by the Coaches’ to finish eighth in 2014. Coach Travis DeCuire and the Grizzlies went on to exceed all expectations, winning the Big Sky Conference regular season championship and the right to host the post season tournament.

At the start of the 2015 season, those questions have been answered.

The Montana Grizzlies men’s basketball team has been picked to win the Big Sky Conference by a landslide in the 2015 preseason media poll, picking up 220 points on 14 first place votes.

In the Coaches’ preseason poll, the Griz sit just one point out of first place with 113 points and six first place votes. With six each, the Griz and Weber State share the first place votes, but UM was ranked below Weber in the overall tally, putting Montana just one point away from another first place standing.

“It’s always a positive when the majority of the coaches in the conference think highly of your program and respect the success you had the year before,” DeCuiresaid. “At the same time, with success comes pressure, and it will be interesting to see how our guys respond to it.

“You always want to be respected by the media. We like to have positive things said about our program, especially when we’re out recruiting. Then, when there are a couple coaches that question your ability, it gives you incentive to continue to perform. So we’ll have a lot to talk about in the locker room.”

Coach DeCuire put together only the second 20-win season for a first-year head coach in program history last year.

Montana returns six lettermen and five starters from that 2014 team. Leading the returning class is senior forward, Martin Breunig who averaged 16.7 points per game last season and 7.3 rebounds, and was a unanimous First Team All-Conference selection.

Also returning to the Grizzlies is junior guard, Mario Dunn. Dunn picked up an All-Big Sky Honorable Mention last season after averaging 48.8 percent from the field (8.8 ppg) and led UM with 59 steals.

Weber State was picked second by the Media with 194 points and two first-place votes. Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona fill in third and fourth spots, respectively, in each poll.

Rounding out the coaches poll; Southern Utah was picked fifth, Portland State was picked sixth, Northern Colorado earned the seventh spot, Idaho and North Dakota were tied at eighth, Sacramento State earned the No. 10 spot and Montana State and Idaho State rounded out the coaches’ poll.

Sacramento State was tied with NAU in the media poll while Northern Colorado earned sixth. Idaho and Portland State were tied for seventh, Southern Utah was picked ninth, North Dakota was No. 10 and Montana State and Idaho State rounded out the media poll.

The 2016 Big Sky Conference Basketball Championships will take place March 7 through 12 at the Reno Events Center in Reno, Nev. All 12 Big Sky teams will qualify for the tournament this season.

— Montana Sports Information

Coaches’ Poll (First Place Votes)

1. Weber State114 (6)
2. Montana113 (6)
3. Eastern Washington99
4. Northern Arizona79
5. Southern Utah64
6. Portland State62
7. Northern Colorado61
8. Idaho52
8. North Dakota52
10. Sacramento State51
11. Montana State31
12. Idaho State14

Media Poll

1. Montana220 (14)
2. Weber State194 (2)
3. Eastern Washington183 (1)
4. Northern Arizona133 (1)
4. Sacramento State133 (1)
6. Northern Colorado117
7. Idaho109
7. Portland State109
9. Southern Utah96
10. North Dakota70
11. Montana State64
12. Idaho State24

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