2012-2013 Overall Rank: #94
Conference Rank: #1 Big Sky
Montana Team Page
Montana was the team that knocked Damian Lillard and his Weber State team out of a Big Sky regular season championship and denied them an NCAA berth eight days later. The Grizzlies got a lesson from Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament, but Coach Wayne Tinkle has this group ready to get back to the NCAA Tournament. Point guard Will Cherry may not be the next Lillard in the eyes of the NBA, but he means just as much as Lillard ever did to the Big Sky. The 6-2 senior averaged 15.8 points, 3.3 assists, 2.6 steals and 3.9 rebounds during his junior year. Cherry can get to the basket and finish with ease and knock down the long ball with consistency. But slightly overshadowed by Cherry is the second best guard in the Big Sky, Kareem Jamar. The 6-5 junior was actually a more efficient scorer than Cherry last year, knocking down an impressive 44.1 percent of his attempts from long range. Either one of those two could go off for 30 points on any given night.
2011-12 Record: 25-7, 15-1
2011-12 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Wayne Tinkle
Coach Record: 116-71 at Montana, 116-71 overall
Coach Tinkle relied very heavily on his starters, with all five averaging at least 26 minutes per game. And two of them are gone. Art Steward was a versatile forward who could score inside and out. But the big, literally and figuratively, loss is seven-foot center Derek Selvig. Selvig was one of the most difficult players to prepare for in the Big Sky. Obviously he is big, but he was a shooter and a passer too. Selvig did everything one would expect from a seven-footer…score in the paint and lead the team in rebounds and blocks. But he also shot 43.7 percent from long range and dished out 3.0 assists per game. Guard Shawn Stockton was one of the players outside of the starting five that played consistent minutes throughout the season and fellow guard Jordan Wood is also gone.
The Grizzlies will need to rely on a few newcomers to at least provide some depth. Junior college transfers Spencer Coleman and Marko Kovacevic are capable of doing much more than that. Coleman is a 6-6 small forward who can score in bunches and do plenty of work on the glass. He will compete for a starting job from day one, as will 6-11 center, Kovacevic. Kovacevic has the experience this team needs in the frontcourt after spending a couple years at Nebraska Community College. He is no Selvig, but he can bang in the paint and is enough of a scoring threat to open up lanes for Cherry and Jamar. Incoming freshman Jake Wiley will likely compete for playing time with Kovacevic, although he may be a year or two away from making major contributions. Jake Wiley and redshirt freshmen Nick Emerson and Morgan Young will have to compete with returning players for minutes.
Who to Watch:
Mathias Ward is the other returning starter and is a versatile 6-7 forward who was only behind Cherry and Jamar with 10.9 points per game. Whether he is playing at the three or four, Ward will have to do a little more work on the glass with Selvig and Steward gone, but he has the skills to pick up the slack and continue scoring effectively. The more interesting players to watch are a handful of roleplayers who are full of potential but light on experience. Sophomore Keron DeShields could turn into a great all-around scorer when given the minutes. He is also a capable ballhandler, yet it is Jordan Gregory, another sophomore, who will likely be the backup point guard. That will allow DeShields to work off of the ball where his scoring potential can be fulfilled. Kevin Henderson is a 6-5 wing and yet another sophomore who could flourish with more playing time. And at the small forward spot, Henderson could find those minutes if Coleman does not pan out. Up front Mike Weisner and Eric Hutchinson will have to play some more minutes this year. Weisner averaged just 7.1 minutes per game as a freshman, but he had some moments of brilliance. Hutchinson has some size and will likely have to play a few more minutes backing up the center spot. Unlike all of the sophomores, Hutchinson has been around for a couple of years and had opportunities to make a larger impact. He will have the opportunity again.
Cherry, Jamar and Ward will make this a good team that will compete for a Big Sky title, but the development of the sophomores and the readiness of the newcomers will make the difference between a good team and a great team. There is potential here for a very deep and talented team. If all goes well, Coach Tinkle could have more depth here than he has ever had during his tenure at Montana. He may not use all of that depth and stick to a seven or eight man rotation, but he still has to figure out who those seven or eight guys are. There are plenty of options though and the Grizzlies will be eyeing another conference crown and trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Will Cherry, Senior, Guard, 15.8 points per game
Kareem Jamar, Junior, Guard, 13.6 points per game
Spencer Coleman, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Mathias Ward, Senior, Forward, 10.9 points per game
Marko Kovacevic, Junior, Center, DNP last season