As the Northeast begins to dig out of the effects of Nemo, the SCGD is going to remain out west, though no longer on the Hawaiin Islands or in California. Instead, tonight we head to Missoula, Montana for a Big Sky matchup between the University of North Dakota and the Montana Grizzlies (9:00 PM Eastern).
Montana is one of only a handful of teams that remain undefeated in conference play, sitting at 13-0 in the Big Sky and 16-4 overall. Their RPI is 116 and their KenPom is 148, making an at-large bid unlikely, even if they win out to the Big sky championship game. They did pick up a game against a solid Davidson team in the BracketBusters, but even a win there won’t be enough to make up for their very weak strength of schedule (307). However, if Montana does find itself needing an at-large bid, it is noteworthy to consider the fact that their star player, Will Cherry, missed all four losses due to injury. On top of that, center Eric Hutchinson was also out for the losses to BYU and San Francisco.
Montana enters tonight’s game looking for their 25th consecutive Big Sky conference victory, an almost amazing feat. In fact, a win tonight will set the all time record for consecutive league wins, which Montana currently shares with the 1968 through 1970 Weber State teams that won 24 in a row. Montana also has a 13 game winning streak at the moment, second in the nation to Akron’s 14.
As for the University of North Dakota, they enter the game at 7-6 in conference and 10-12 overall. It has been a rough season so far for UND, but they seem positioned at least to finish in the top 7 in the conference, which will get them a bid into the Big Sky tournament (the bottom 4 teams in the league standings will not qualify). Of note about North Dakota is the fact that they are the only team in Division I without a nickname. The school had a protracted battle with the NCAA in an attempt to keep their Fighting Sioux name. This included the North Dakota state legislature stepping in and passing a law requiring the university to keep the moniker. However, it was then put to a statewide vote which overwhelmingly supported changing the name. As part of the final deal, the school is not allowed to choose a new nickname until 2015. Therefore, for the time being at least, they are simply known as the “University of North Dakota”.