Introducing Cinderella: Montana represents the Big Sky in the Big Dance

(AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Conference: Big Sky

Coach: Travis DeCuire

Record: 26-7, 16-2 (First in Big Sky)

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 80
– RPI: 84
– AP/USA TODAY: Not ranked

Seeding: Montana was the best team in the Big Sky this season as they’ll likely be in the 13 to 14 seed range.

Names you need to know: Junior point guard Ahmaad Rorie is the team’s best player and leading scorer while junior Jamar Akoh was a third-team all-conference selection. Junior guard Michael Oguine was the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year.

Stats you need to know: Defense is what Montana can rely on as they are No. 62 in KenPom in adjusted defensive efficiency. With the conference’s best defender and a veteran group that includes some transfers, Montana has good athletes to man the floor.

Big wins, bad losses: Montana knocked off Pitt early in the season before respectable losses to Penn State and Washington. The Grizzlies haven’t played a lot of stiff competition but they also don’t have any sub-150 RPI losses.

How’d they get here?: Winners of six consecutive games, Montana took down North Dakota, Northern Colorado and Eastern Washington to win the Big Sky Tournament.

Outlook: One of the more intriguing teams in the field, Montana is capable of hanging with a team in the first round but they’ll ultimately be an underdog. The Grizzlies are more than capable of staying close with many of the teams in the field but they might not have enough firepower to get over the hill.

How do I know you?: Montana has made 11 NCAA tournament appearances with the last appearance coming in 2013. The Grizzlies picked off No. 5 seed Nevada for an upset win in the 2006 tournament. Rorie spent the first year of his college career at Oregon as he’s a former top-150 caliber recruit.