Beehive Classic features Utah, BYU, Utah State, Weber State

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) The University of Utah, BYU, Utah State and Weber State will play in a December basketball tournament called the Beehive Classic starting this season and running through 2019. The event will be held at the home of the Utah Jazz.

Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment, the ownership branch of the Jazz and Vivint Smart Home Arena, announced the tournament Thursday.

It will feature one night of two games each year with every team playing the other two over the span of three years.

BYU will play Weber State and Utah State faces Utah on Dec. 9, 2017. On Dec. 8, 2018, it’s Utah State vs. Weber State followed by Utah vs. BYU. On Dec. 14, 2019, it’s Weber State vs. Utah and BYU vs. Utah State.

8-team GCI Great Alaska Shootout field announced

Benjamin Zack/Standard-Examiner via AP
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Friday afternoon another in-season tournament released its completed bracket for its event, with the GCI Great Alaska Shootout revealing the eight teams that will make the trek to Anchorage in November. The field includes two teams that reached the 2016 NCAA tournament in Iona and Weber State, and another team in Nevada that has the look of a contender in the Mountain West in 2016-17.

Joining those three teams in the GCI Great Alaska Shootout will be hosts Alaska-Anchorage, Buffalo, Oakland, UC Davis and Drake. The Shootout begins Wednesday, November 23, with the championship game scheduled for Saturday, November 26.

The match-ups in the top half of the bracket are Buffalo vs. Alaska-Anchorage and Oakland vs. Nevada, with those games scheduled for Wednesday night. On Thursday, UC Davis will take on Weber State and Iona matches up with Drake in the other quarterfinal contests. Each team will play three games in Anchorage, and there are also three on-campus games as part of the event.

While Buffalo and Oakland will host non-Division I opponents prior to their trip to Anchorage, Nevada will host Iona November 20 in Reno.

Big Sky Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Benjamin Zack/Standard-Examiner via AP
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The Big Sky tournament underwent massive changes in advance of this season, as all 12 teams will get to participate and a neutral site will be used. Reno will be the site this year, which is a big difference from seasons past in which the top seed served as the host. As expected Weber State and Montana were the top two combatants for the regular season crown, with Randy Rahe’s Wildcats claiming the title despite losing league Player of the Year candidate Joel Bolomboy for two games due to injury. The Wildcats and Grizzlies will be the favorites in Reno, but getting to the title game will be a challenge for both.

The Bracket

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When: March 8, 10-12

Where: Reno Events Center, Reno, Nevada

Final: March 12, 8:45 p.m. (ESPNU)

Favorite: Weber State

Many of the players in Randy Rahe’s current rotation were members of the team that reached the NCAA tournament two seasons ago, which should help Weber State even with the changes to the format and location of the Big Sky tournament. Of course it also helps to have talent, and there’s no shortage of that in Ogden. It all starts with the Big Sky’s best big man in Joel Bolomboy, and guard Jeremy Senglin (17.2 ppg in Big Sky games) is a force to be reckoned with as well. And with nine players playing at least 15 minutes per game in conference play, the Wildcats have the depth needed to navigate three games in three days.

And if they lose?: Montana

The Griz missed out on a share of the Big Sky regular season title as they lost to Northern Colorado Saturday, but Travis DeCuire’s team won six of their final eight games with the other loss coming at the hands of Weber State. Martin Breunig has been one of the conference’s best players, and the play of guards Walter Wright and Michael Oguine has been key as expected starter Mario Dunn missed 12 games due to injury. Only Eastern Washington was better in conference play from an offensive efficiency standpoint, and defensively the Griz ranked first in the Big Sky in both defensive rebounding and three-point percentage and third in field goal percentage.

Other Contenders:

  • Idaho: The Vandals shot 38.2 percent from three in Big Sky play (Chad Sherwood shot 45.1 percent), and they were also the best team in the conference in offensive rebounding percentage. Defensively, only Weber State was better from an efficiency standpoint.
  • Idaho State: The Bengals have two guards who can put points on the board in Ethan Telfair and Geno Luzcando. But they’ll most likely have to figure out their matchup issues with No. 5 North Dakota if they’re to make a run.
  • North Dakota: Brian Jones’ team swept Idaho State during the regular season, and they also split the season series with Weber State. And with a player as gifted as guard Quinton Hooker, UND could very well get to the title game.

Big Sky Player of the Year: Joel Bolomboy, Weber State

Bolomboy was outstanding throughout for the regular season champions, averaging 18.2 points and 12.8 rebounds per game while also shooting 59.6 percent from the field. Bolomboy’s an incredibly tough matchup to deal with in the post, and when fouled he converted his free throws at a solid clip (73.8 percent in Big Sky games) as well.

Big Sky Coach of the Year: Bill Evans, Idaho State

Picked to finish dead last in the Big Sky preseason poll, Evans’ Bengals arrive in Reno as the four-seed. Idaho State won 11 conference games this season, with the perimeter tandem of Ethan Telfair and Geno Luzcando leading the way offensively. Those two combined to average 40.2 points and 4.6 steals per game in Big Sky play, and collectively the Bengals are a much-improved outfit from a season ago.

First-Team All-Big Sky:

  • Joel Bolomboy, Weber State (POY)
  • Ethan Telfair, Idaho State: One of the Big Sky’s most impactful newcomers, Telfair averaged 23.9 points and 5.7 assists per game in conference play (league leader in both categories).
  • Quinton Hooker, North Dakota: Hooker averaged 20.6 points per game on 52.3 percent shooting in Big Sky play, while also averaging four assists and two steals per contest.
  • Martin Breunig, Montana: The senior forward averaged 19.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, shooting 64.8 percent from the field.
  • Venky Jois, Eastern Washington: Averaging 18.0 points and 9.1 rebounds per contest in Big Sky play, Jois led the conference in field goal percentage (70.6).

Prediction: Weber State outlasts Montana to take the automatic bid.

2014 Big Sky Tournament Preview: Hard-luck Weber State’s quest for an elusive bid

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Weber State may be the nation’s unluckiest team. Over the course of the past five Big Sky conference tournaments, the Wildcats, which haven’t received lower than a three seed, have consistently lost to a team from Montana, and consequently found themselves outside of the bubble each of those five seasons. In fact, Randy Rahe’s squad hasn’t made the NCAA field since the 2006-07 season, but WSU is persistent, again reached the top of the Big Sky rankings, earning the top seed, an honor that means the team not only gets a first-round bye to then play the lowest-remaining seed for their first game, but also has home court advantage throughout the multi-day tournament. It would seem that Weber State would have a cake walk to the postseason, but the Wildcats may still miss out. This is arguably the closest league tournament field in recent years, and WSU could possibly face Montana or Northern Colorado, two teams who have beaten the Wildcats once this season, in their opening contest.

(MORE: Browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

When: March 13 – 15

Where: Dee Events Center, Ogden, Utah

Final: March 15, 8 PM (ESPNU)

Favorite: Weber State

The Wildcats are stacked. Davion Berry was recently named the conference’s player of the year, sophomore center Joel Bolomboy was honored with a defensive player of the year nod, and Jeremy Senglin, who made 41 percent of his threes in his inaugural Wildcat season, was crowned the freshman of the year. Thanks to the squad’s proficiency from beyond the arc — other than Senglin, Berry and Jordan Richardson convert more than 35 of their attempts — Weber State’s effective field goal percentage tops the league. However, if the team is going to get through the tournament’s three days unscathed, their defense will have to propel them. It starts with Bolomboy, a 6-foot-9 big who needs to develop an offensive game before he can mentioned as one of the nation’s best forwards; Bolomboy has posted a stellar defensive rebounding percentage of 28 percent and when combined with his lack of fouls, it is very difficult to engineer additional possessions when Bolomboy is on the court. The rest of the team is equally as defensive minded — 1.03 OPPP, which leads the Big Sky.

And if they lose? Northern Colorado

The Bears are the team to watch during the Big Sky tournament. They beat Northern Arizona, the conference’s hottest team, twice during league play, have defeated Montana twice (once in overtime), and split with Weber State. They haven’t shown any propensity for defense — only Southern Utah has allowed more points per possession in league play — but BJ Hill’s team is fun to watch operate within the arc. UNC grabs a high rate of their own misses, and spend most offensive possessions converting twos, making 55 percent of their attempts.

Sleepers:

  • Montana: This squad isn’t reminiscent of Montana teams of yesteryear (they are uncharacteristically poor on defense), but the Grizzlies have to be included as a title candidate since Kareem Jamar is still on the squad. The senior’s last Big Sky tournament go-around, the guard again had an outstanding season, upping his offensive rating to 116 and drawing two more fouls per 40 minutes than a year ago. Jamar will have to carry Montana if the team is to make a tourney run.
  • Northern Arizona: Jack Murphy is easily the conference’s coach of the year. A year after finishing well below .500, the Lumberjacks posted a 15-16 record and garnered the Big Sky’s No. 3 seed. Some even consider NAU as the favorite to take the league’s title. The team has won their last four games, a streak which included victories over Weber State and Montana. Quinton Upshur, a transfer from VMI, has provided offensive balance to a team that lost both Gabe Rogers and Dewayne Russell after the 2013 season.

Studs:

  • Davion Berry, Weber State: After a strong junior year, the 6-foot-4 Berry needed to prove he could both run a team’s offense while still providing a scoring punch, and he succeeded in both areas, boosting his assist rate to nearly 30 percent and becoming more efficient within and beyond the arc while attempting fewer shots.
  • Derrick Barden, Northern Colorado: Though he stands just 6-foot-5, Barden is UNC’s best frontcourt option. As an unabashed fan of undersized bigs, watching Barden dislodge larger opponents is enjoyable, and the ex-juco forward is skilled converting on the interior (61 percent around the bucket).
  • Troy Huff, North Dakota: The senior rarely gets a break. He is such a high usage player, attempting more than 30 percent of the team’s shots in each of his four seasons, but what is most impressive about the 6-foot-5 Huff is his ability to get to the free throw stripe at a higher clip in 2014. He has attempted over 200 free throws, and is drawing two more fouls per 40 minutes than last year.
  • Kareem Jamar, Montana: A sentimental favorite. Jamar is still playing at a high level, and has been crucial to Montana’s past two NCAA tourney teams.

CBT Prediction: It’s a toss up between Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado, and unfortunately for fans of the Big Sky, the two teams play each other in the opening round. NoCo, though, has the offense and experience to earn the league’s automatic bid.

Junior guard Gelaun Wheelwright leaves Weber State program

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After spending two seasons as a solid reserve at Weber State it looked as if guard Gelaun Wheelwright would be in position to earn starter’s minutes in 2013-14 due to the graduation of Scott Bamforth, who averaged 14.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game on a team that won 30 games last season. Alas that won’t be the case, as the school announced that the program and Wheelwright have parted ways.

“It was a mutual decision between me and Gelaun and we both decided it was time for him to have a change of environment and move on to a different situation,” Weber State head coach Randy Rahe said in the release. “We appreciatee all Gelaun has done for us and we wish him nothing but the best in his future in whatever he decides to do. We will help along the way in anyway we can.”

In two seasons at Weber State the Corona, Calif. native averaged 6.0 points and 2.2 rebounds per game, shooting 41.7% from the field and 32.5% from beyond the arc. With the aforementioned Bamforth out of eligibility, the thought of many was that Wheelwright would slide into the vacated position alongside seniors Jordan Richardson and Davion Berry.

Losing Wheelwright hurts from an experience standpoint, but according to Jonathan Reed of Big Sky Basketball by no means is this a crippling blow to the Wildcats’ hopes of winning the Big Sky crown.

In the end, it seemed like Wheelwright was coming into a great situation, but things never clicked 100%. At times, it seemed like he wanted to do his own thing, or make the fancy play rather than the simple one. However, he’s very talented, and his absence will test the great depth the Wildcats would have enjoyed. It’s not an insurmountable loss, but it’s a blow for Randy Rahe.

Weber State adds two true freshmen on the perimeter in Richaud Gittens and Jeremy Senglin, but neither is seen as a player capable of spelling Richardson at the point when he needs a rest. Could this mean more on-ball duty for Berry, who led the Wildcats in scoring (15.2 ppg) and assists (3.8 apg) in 2012-13? That may indeed be the case, as Berry finished the season with an assist rate of 23.7 and a turnover rate of 15.7, ranking 11th and 20th in the Big Sky in those respective categories per kenpom.com.

Coach Rahe and his staff will have some adjustments to make, but Weber State will still be one of the favorites to win the Big Sky this season.

Big Sky announces move to 18-game conference schedule in 2014

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With the addition of Southern Utah and North Dakota the Big Sky Conference went to a 20-game conference schedule in men’s basketball, which meant that the regular season would be a full round-robin.

Idaho, which is still a member of the WAC, makes the move to the Big Sky in 2014 and with that comes the decision to cut the number of conference games down to 18. The Big Sky also announced that it will not split the 12 teams into two divisions.

“Our administrators felt like 18 games with no divisions will be a better format for basketball, where it becoming increasingly more difficult to schedule home Division I non-conference games,” said Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton.

“Playing in one division for basketball allows for a more equitable schedule than an 18-game schedule with two divisions. Our schedule will likely be modeled after the Pac-12’s current model.’’

Not splitting into divisions is a good move, as it prevents the imbalance that was such an issue in the SEC before that conference made the move to scrap that setup. And having two more dates on the schedule should help the Big Sky when it comes to non-conference scheduling as Fullerton notes.

Perennial powers such as Montana and Weber State (and the other tean teams) get a little more flexibility, which could lead to a higher number of match-ups that ultimately raise the Big Sky’s computer profile (RPI, SOS).

h/t The Upset Blog

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.