A Brief Preview
After closing the Big Sky regular season on Monday with a 75-70 loss at Montana State, the Sacramento State men''s basketball team (14-14, 5-9) heads back to Bozeman, Mont., on Saturday, March 4, for the first round of the Big Sky Tournament. The Hornets and Montana State will square off in the single elimination tournament at Worthington Arena at 1:35 p.m. PST. The Bobcats enter the tournament as the No. 4 seed while Sacramento State is the No. 5 seed. The Hornets have reached the Big Sky Tournament four-consecutive years and hosted a first-round game each of the last two seasons. This year''s tournament marks the first time the Hornets have traveled to a first-round game since defeating Montana in Missoula, Mont. (88-75) during the 2002-03 season.
Sacramento State enters tournament desperate for a victory. After beginning the season with a 13-5 overall record and a 4-0 mark in the Big Sky, the Hornets have lost nine of their final 10 games. However, Sacramento State lost seven of those games by six points or less and had a chance to tie or take the lead with the last possession in five of those contests. Currently on a five-game losing streak with their only victory in the last six weeks coming at Portland State on Feb. 4, the Hornets defeated Montana State in Bozeman during both the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons.
Saturday will mark the first time that Sacramento State and Montana State have met in the Big Sky Tournament. After failing to reach the postseason event during each of its first six years in the league, Sacramento State is 1-3 all-time in Big Sky Tournament play. That includes a 1-0 record against Montana and an 0-3 mark against Weber State. In fact, Weber State, which did not qualify for this year''s tournament, defeated the Hornets in the Big Sky semifinals in 2002-03 and knocked the Hornets off at home in the quarterfinals each of the last two years by a combined nine points.
Like every game this season, Saturday''s contest can be heard live on KTKZ 1380 AM and 105.5 FM as well as www.hornetsports.com. Steve McElroy, who is currently in his ninth season as voice of the Hornets, will handle the play-by-play.
Because of the limited flights into Bozeman and on such short notice, Sacramento State has an interesting travel itinerary in its efforts to get to Bozeman. The Hornets will depart from Sacramento on Friday and fly to Seattle. After a layover in Seattle, the team will then fly to Helena, Mont., followed by a two-hour bus ride to Bozeman. Total travel time for the team on Friday is an estimated 10 hours.
The winner of Saturday''s game will advance to the Big Sky Tournament semifinals in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Tuesday, March 7, to face either No. 1 seed Northern Arizona or No. 2 seed Montana State. In the tournament''s other quarterfinal game on Saturday, No. 3 seed Eastern Washington will host No. 6 seed Portland State at 7:05 p.m. The winners of the semifinal games will face each other for the Big Sky championship and an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday, March 8, at 6:30 p.m. PST in Flagstaff. Sacramento State is looking for its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since joining the Div. I ranks prior to the 1991-92 season.
Although Montana State defeated Sacramento State on Monday (while overcoming a 17-point first half deficit), the Bobcats and Hornets enter the postseason as arguably the two most struggling teams in the tournament. Prior to Monday''s win, Montana State had lost five-consecutive Big Sky games with each of those losses coming by at least nine points. The Bobcats, who are 12-3 at home this season and 5-2 against Big Sky opposition in the friendly confines, defeated Sacramento State in both regular season meetings this year. However, those victories came by a combined eight points, including a victory in Sacramento where the Hornets missed two three-pointers in the final 10 seconds that would have tied the game.
Montana State, who swept Sacramento State in a season series for the first time since 1998-99, owns a 17-9 record in the all-time series with the Hornets. After failing to reach the Big Sky Tournament in 2002-03 and 2003-04, the Bobcats finished second in last year''s standings before losing in the semifinals to Montana.
All 18 page of Sacramento State''s game notes can be accessed by clicking on the link above the story.