The No. 5 Montana State Bobcats and No. 1 Southern Utah Thunderbirds clash in the Big Sky Tournament in Idaho on Friday night as the Big Sky Tournament continues. Some of these smaller conferences can make for entertaining basketball. I know everyone wants to watch the power conferences, but some of the mid-major tournaments can turn into entertaining contests. Montana State took an early lead against Idaho State in the first-round, as they went into halftime with a 37-29 lead, and then held on for a 71-63 win in the second-half. It was a solid performance for Montana State, who went 12-9 overall and 8-6 in the Big Sky.
The No. 3 seed in the Big Sky is out of the tournament after a 80-75 loss last night. 17-6 Weber State was bounced out of the tournament following a 80-75 win by Montana. Montana isn’t a bad team by any means, so the upset wasn’t all that shocking. In any event, Weber State was not expecting to exit the Big Sky Tournament without even getting into the weekend. It also effectively removes Weber State from the NCAA Tournament, which requires a win in the conference championship to earn an automatic bid.
Montana State has an upset on their minds on Friday as well. The Bobcats are going to have to do it against 20-3 Southern Utah. Southern Utah lost just three games overall, and 12-2 in the Big Sky. When the Thunderbirds get into a groove from the field, they can be very difficult to knock off. Montana State can not allow Southern Utah to get hot early on, or they should be able to pull away on Friday evening. Note that Montana State and Southern Utah did not play each other in the regular season, so this is their first meeting. Head below for our free Montana State vs. Southern Utah pick on March 12, 2021.
Montana State Bobcats vs. Southern Utah Thunderbirds Big Sky Tournament Betting Odds:
Montana State vs. Southern Utah Prediction:
Southern Utah is one of the best teams at shooting the ball if they’re left open. A weak defense is going to have a tough time containing Southern Utah. When an aggressive defense is not employed against the Thunderbirds, they can run the score up in a hurry. Southern Utah was sixth in the regular season with an average of 84.2 points scored per game. They are terrific on both sides of the ball at collecting rebounds. The Thunderbirds are 23rd offensively and 20th defensively on the boards.
Those rebounds can translate into points quickly for the Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds are in terrific form going into Friday. They are on a lengthy ten-game winning streak, with their most recent loss on January 21 against Weber State, 91-67. Southern Utah responded against Weber State with a 77-72 win a couple of days later and have been rolling since. They dispatched Northern Colorado by a score of 91-83 yesterday, as the offense stayed hot to win and cover.
Montana State has been more up and down through their last ten games. Since February 4, the Bobcats have gone 3-6 in their last nine outings. They looked good to win as 2-point favorites over Idaho State yesterday, but the Bobcats are going to need more than that to spring the upset against the top-seed Thunderbirds tonight. The Southern Utah defense was out of form against Northern Colorado, but are capable of doing a lot more.
They allowed an average of fewer than 60 points per game in their last three prior to getting lazy defensively versus Northern Colorado. Overall, they’re 124th in the NCAA with 68.5 points conceded per game. I’m expecting Southern Utah to address the defense in this game after a sloppy performance. Look for this to be close in the first-half, with Southern Utah pulling away in the second for a 80-67 win or thereabout.