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A preview look at the 2022 Big Sky Conference tournament

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Posted at 5:25 PM, Mar 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-08 09:04:18-05

BOISE, Idaho.—It's March, and you know what that means: It's playoff time in the college basketball ranks.

All four NCAA Division I Montana basketball programs are in Boise, Idaho, vying for Big Sky tournament titles and possible trips to the NCAA Tournament. MTN Sports will be in Boise all week for coverage of the tournament, and here's a look at how each team stands heading into the week.

Starting on the women's side, both Montana and Montana State have first-round byes and will play on Tuesday.

The fifth-seeded Lady Griz will kick things off with a game at 2:30 p.m. against No. 4 Northern Arizona, while second-seeded Montana State will play the winner of Sacramento State and Weber State right after at 5:30 p.m.

The Bobcat women (19-12, 14-6 Big Sky Conference) have made the semifinal round three out of the last five years including two trips to the championship game, including the 2020 tournament when the pandemic canceled the game and tournament. The Bobcats won it all in 2017.

Meanwhile the Lady Griz are looking to right their postseason fortunes, as Montana has won just one postseason game since the Big Sky Tournament moved to a neutral site format back in 2016. Under first-year head coach Brian Holsinger, the Lady Griz head into the tournament 19-10 overall and 12-8 in league play.

The Big Sky sent out the women's conference awards on Monday as well, and MSU's Darian White and UM's Carmen Gfeller were named first-team all-Big Sky. White was also named co-Defensive Player of the Year.

UM's Sophia Stiles was named to the all-conference second team, and MSU's Kola Bad Bear was awarded third-team honors.

On the men's side, both Montana and Montana State will start on Thursday in the quarterfinal round.

It's been a historic year for the Bobcat men who won the regular season title for the first time since 2002. MSU is currently 24-7 and finished 16-4 in league play.

But now they've got another big goal next on the check list as they try to win the conference tournament and head to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996, back when current MSU head coach Danny Sprinkle himself was a freshman player.

MSU will open on Thursday at noon against either Idaho or Sac State.

For the Montana men, they started conference play 8-2, but have gone 3-7 since. They finished league play 11-9 and went 18-13 in the regular season. After beating Montana State in Missoula on Feb. 27, the Grizzlies lost their final two games of the regular season at home against Northern Colorado and Sac State.

But the Grizzlies have always been March ready, and since 2010 UM has made the Big Sky Conference Tournament championship game eight times, with five of those games resulting in trips to the NCAA Tournament.

Montana will begin its tournament on Thursday at 2:30 against rival Weber State.