Preseason Power Rankings: Top 7 Players in Big Sky Conference
The Big Sky Conference men's basketball season officially tips off Friday.
To help get fans of mid-major conference basketball excited for a new year of hoops, here's a preseason look at the top seven players in an underrated conference.
Note that I've left out all freshmen and junior college transfers. These seven are based entirely on their career resume so far in addition to what they are expected to contribute this season.
7. Joe Eberhard, G/F, Sacramento State
Joe Eberhard led all juniors in the conference last year with 5.9 rebounds per game in his first year after transferring from the junior college ranks.
His 45.8 percent shooting from behind the arc was also the best in his class as Eberhard contributed 11.1 points per game for the Hornets.
I almost left him off this list, but his versatility and athleticism combined with his production made it impossible.
Eberhard also shot 50.2 percent overall while averaging 35.7 minutes per game for Sacramento State.
6. Renado Parker, F, Portland State
The Vikings will need Renado Parker to be at least the sixth-best player in the conference to make up for their two best players graduating, and he certainly can.
He played the fewest total minutes of any member of the rotation last year but still finished third on the team in scoring (9.8 points per game) and second in rebounding (5.1 per game).
Parker shot 56.8 percent from the floor to lead all juniors, mostly by taking shots he knew he could make. Parker did not take a single attempt from outside the three point line.
My colleague Jon Reed at BigSkyBBall.com says Parker's post game is good enough to produce 16 points and seven rebounds per game this year.
5. Dylan Garrity, G, Sacramento State
Some of my colleagues have argued that Garrity wasn't even the best guard on his own team, but I disagree.
Last year, as a true freshman, he was seventh in the nation with 6.9 assists per game. He only put up 8.1 points per game, which is where everyone criticizes him.
However, that scoring average jumped to 10.6 points per game over the last 12 games of the season, including three of Garrity's four double-doubles and eight games scoring in double figures.
Early in the year he passed up opportunities to score, which led to turnovers because teams knew he would pass first. Late in the year he began to make opponents pay for that assumption.
Sacramento State head coach Brian Katz said Garrity is the best shooter on his team, which is high praise given how well Eberhard and other Sacramento State guards can shoot the ball.
4. Collin Chiverton, F, Eastern Washington
Collin Chiverton's 13.9 points per game were good enough to earn Newcomer of the Year honors, but he was only Honorable Mention All-Conference.
He's a much better player than his numbers show, but 8.9 turnovers per game (12th in NCAA) is a concern.
He also shot only 36.7 percent from the floor.
The bright spot is his perimeter shooting. Over half of Chiverton's shots came from downtown (217-401) and he converted at 40.6 percent (88-217).
Still, he needs to improve his numbers to help the Eagles make up for the loss of their other two top scorers.
3. Scott Bamforth, G/F, Weber State
Everyone was watching Damian Lillard last season, so they may have missed Bamforth quietly producing one of the better seasons in the conference.
His 14.5 points per game would have led on six other schools, and he would be no lower than second on the others.
The question will be how much more of the load can he handle? Lillard took his NCAA-leading 24.5 points per game to the NBA, so the Wildcats will rely on Bamforth to do more with the ball this year.
2. Kareem Jamar, G/F, Montana
Jamar was the only player in the Big Sky to record a triple-double last season and was the only sophomore to earn First Team All-Conference honors.
He averaged 13.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game in 32 games last year for the Grizzlies. With Will Cherry out with a broken foot, the offense will likely rely on Jamar early in the season.
Jamar shot 47.6 percent (147-of-309) from the floor and 44.1 percent (49-of-111) from outside the arc. If he has a weakness it's probably his free throws, where he only shot 68.1 percent (92-of-135).
1. Will Cherry, G, Montana
Will Cherry's resume more than makes up for the fact that he'll miss the entire preseason with a broken foot.
Last year he was one of three unanimous selections to the All-Conference First Team. A two-time Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year, Cherry also led the Grizzlies with 15.8 points per game.
Cherry's 2.6 steals per game ranked sixth in the nation, and he was even better in conference play, recording 2.8 steals per game.
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