Griz open with exhibition against Whitworth
By ERIC TABER
The Montana Grizzlies men’s basketball season officially gets underway on November 3, with the team’s first and only exhibition game against Div. III powerhouse Whitworth University out of Spokane.
To go along with the official release of the 2015-16 Griz hoops hype video and the first exhibition game of the season, gogriz.com breaks down the top five things that you need to know to get hyped for the year ahead.
5) THE SCHEDULE – This year’s Montana Grizzlies are facing one of, if not the, strongest nonconference schedule in school history. Proof? The Griz will face two AP preseason top-10 teams in Kansas (No. 5) and Gonzaga (No. 9), as well as Boise State, another team receiving top-25 votes.
The defending Big Sky regular season champion Griz will also face four other conference champions. Last season, Kansas won the Big-12, Gonzaga won the West Coast Conference, Boise State won the Mountain West, and North Dakota state won the Summit League, each earning a trip to the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
Get hyped for Boise State now, because they are next up for the Griz in Dahlberg Arena, visiting Missoula on November 13 to open Montana’s regular season schedule.
They say you have to beat the best to be the best. The Griz will play the best this season.
4) NEW FACES – Coach DeCuire has brought in a bevy of new talent that is expected to feature heavily for the Griz in ’15-‘16.
Look for Snow College junior transfer Walter Wright to bring his shooting ability to Dahlberg Arena. Wright set a career high last season when he scored 49 points in a game against Sheridan College for the Badgers. Astronomical numbers like those are hard to ignore, and will be a welcome addition to the Montana backcourt while Mario Dunn recovers from surgery.
Three, as in three stars, that’s another number that’s hard to ignore. True Freshman Michael Oguine came to Montana as a three-star recruit and is also expected to provide plenty of minutes for the Griz.
The 6-2 point guard/shooting guard, helped his high school to a California State Division III championship with an average of 21 points and 8 rebounds per contest. Oguine also has a career high of 45 points.
3) MARTIN BREUNIG – Breunig had a breakout ’14-’15 season with the Griz, becoming one of the most dynamic post players in the Big Sky Conference. As such, the 6-8 senior transfer from Washington earned a place on the Big Sky’s preseason all-conference team, with many thinking he could have received the preseason MVP nod too.
Perhaps most exciting about Breunig is that he will have additional support down low this season. The 6-10 Bryden Boehning and 6-6 Gavin DeJong join Breunig and Fabijan Krslovic in the paint this year, adding muscle to the post and freeing up Breunig to make even more magic in the open court.
There may not be a defender in the conference that wants to see Breunig in the open court, but fans will love it.
2) COACH DECUIRE– Head Coach Travis DeCuire is creating a lot of buzz around Griz nation, and rightly so after leading Montana to a regular season Big Sky Championship in his first season at the helm.
CBS Sports recently tabbed DeCuire as one of the nation’s “10 coaches on the rise” after he became only the second coach in UM history to lead his team to 20 wins in his first season.
DeCuire’s recruiting tenacity is already paying off as well with players like Oguine and Ahmaad Rorie enrolling at UM this fall, keeping the Grizzly bench loaded with talent for years to come.
Griz fans won’t soon forget DeCuire’s fiery courtside demeanor. That alone will be worth the price of admission.
1) DEFENDING BIG SKY CHAMPS – The Big Sky Conference looks to be one of the toughest leagues to win again this season, with parity across the board.
Montana has a leg up however, being picked overwhelmingly by the media to repeat as conference Champions with 14 first place votes, and picked by the league’s coaches to finish a close second behind Weber State.
The Griz finished 14-4 in the Big Sky last season with only two losses at home in league play, and only four losses all season in Dahlberg Arena, that’s a .789 home winning percentage.
Winning at home, Griz fans gotta love that.
Montana will get its first chance to win at home on Tuesday when the No. 10 ranked D-III team in America comes knocking to the Adams Center. Whitworth returns four starters from last season’s 25-4 team that lost to the Griz 94-79 to open the ’14-’15 schedule.
One of those key returning starters is Kenny Love, the 2015 Northwest Conference Player of the Year, a 2015 NABC Third Team All-American, and is one of only three players from the West Region named to the DIII News Preseason All-America team.
Tipoff against the Whitworth Pirates is set for 7 p.m.