Montana comes to Omaha for Ugly Christmas Sweater Day

The Summit League won the Summit League/WAC Challenge 5-3. I’d like to take some time to thank everyone involved.  Except for Kansas City beating Western Illinois, I thought you were leaving that conference UMKC?  Why give them any more joy than they deserve?

I can’t wait to see the Summit League/WAC Challenge Trophy when it makes it way to Baxter Arena.  Oh, there’s no trophy?  We all just got some help with filling our non-conference schedules?  Is there a trophy case in that new Summit League office in Sioux Falls?

Omaha now enters the Summit League/Big Sky Challenge, which has scheduling that makes little sense to me, as Omaha, South Dakota State, North Dakota, and North Dakota State are the only teams with Big Sky teams in their non-conference schedules this season.  Northern Arizona didn’t count as part of the challenge?  I seriously don’t understand.

Omaha already has one game in the challenge, where they lost 97-56 at Eastern Washington. If I discuss this game any further, I’m just going to list off excuses as to why they lost by 41 points, and we’re all going to get frustrated with me.

Next up in the Challenge, Montana comes to Baxter Arena on Ugly Christmas Sweater Day.

Seriously, you’re going to get to watch the coaching staff in ugly Christmas sweaters on the bench.  Derrin Hansen is going to be wearing an ugly Christmas sweater and have an argument with a NCAA official at some point.  How are you not into that?

Now about that Montana.  They’re coming to Baxter Arena as Omaha will attempt to get their record to one game under .500 before the beginning of conference play.

One of my best friends is from Montana.  He went to Montana and played football for the Montana Grizzlies.  I texted him a couple weeks ago, telling him how I was excited about this game.  His response…

“Congrats on your 20 point win. Montana lost to Montana Tech. We suck.”

The Grizzlies won the Big Sky tournament last season, and they were picked to finish second in the Big Sky preseason poll, even received 3 first place votes.  Their team in the NCAA tournament last season was senior loaded and they lost a lot heading into this season.  I remember looking at their roster for this season, when it was first posted, and first thinking to myself it was just a funky looking roster.

There are 3 active seniors on the roster.  6’5″ Sayeed Pridgett, who earned 1st Team All Big Sky last season as a junior.  Jared Samuelson, a 6’7″ forward who played his freshman year at Montana, then transferred to a NAIA school for 2 years and then transferred back to Montana.  That alone rates pretty high on the funky scale. 6’4″ Kendal Manuel, who spent his first two seasons at Oregon State before transferring to Montana, was named the Big Sky Top Reserve (seriously, I think that’s the name of the award) and Big Sky Newcomer of the Year last season.

Pridgett and Manuel are the only two players for Montana averaging more than 10 points per game.

Montana and Omaha seem similar on paper.  Both teams only have eight man rotations, both teams are fairly young, and both have been good at home but bad on the road.  Yet, they don’t exactly match up well.

Pridgett and Manuel playing at the wings are likely to outmatch JT Gibson and Zach Thornhill.  On the other hand, Montana has genuinely no size to match up with Matt Pile, and as we’ve seen in the past when Matt Pile has no one to match up with him, he plays very well. He dominates the game.

Matt Pile should be able to take over the game on the offensive end in the post.  Omaha will also need big games out of KJ Robinson and Ayo Akinwole at the point to get penetrate and create shots for themselves and teammates.

Montana is 0-5 on the the road (Stanford, Arkansas, New Mexico, Washington, and Oregon so it’s fairly understandable for them to be 0-5).   Omaha is undefeated at home.  Montana lost to a NAIA team at home, so it might be easy to write them off, but the Grizzlies have beaten North Dakota, Texas Southern, and Coppin State who are all division one, last I checked.  Don’t write them off.

They’re still well coached, they create an awkward match up for Omaha, both teams need this win for momentum heading into their conference schedules.

 

 

 

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