Griz Tabbed 2nd/3rd in 2013-14 Pre-Season Polls

By DAVE GUFFEY for GoGriz.com

The University of Montana basketball team has been picked to finish second by the media and third by the league coaches in the 2013-14 Big Sky Conference pre-season polls released today (Thursday, Oct. 17) by the conference office.

The Grizzlies received three first place votes and 322 points from the 34 media members who voted, while UM earned one first place vote and 84 points from the Big Sky’s 11 coaches.

The Grizzlies are coming off back-to-back 25-7 regular-season records, and have gone 34-2 in Big Sky games (a record 19-1 last season) the past two years.  Eighth-year Griz head coach Wayne Tinkle, the league’s coach of the year the past two seasons, welcomed three starters and eight letterman from his record-setting squad of a year ago.

Picture9UM’s three returning starters are 6-5 senior guard-forward Kareem Jamar (32 starts), the Big Sky Conference MVP last season and an Associated Press honorable mention selection; 6-9 senior center Eric Hutchison (27 starts), and 6-2 junior guard Jordan Gregory (21starts).

The Weber State Wildcats begin the season as the league’s pre-season favorite as the Wildcats were chosen first in both polls, receiving 31 first-place votes from the media and 10 from the coaches.  WSU returns three starters from a 30-7 team.

North Dakota was tabbed second by the coaches and third by the media.  UND returns four starters from a team that finished third in the conference last season with a 12-8 record.

The Northern Colorado Bears were picked fourth in both polls.  UNC returns all five starters from a team that was 10-10 (tied for fourth) in the Big Sky a year ago.

“I think it’s (the two pre-season polls) spot-on,” said Tinkle.  “Weber State has been awfully talented the last couple of years and returns a lot of guys.  When you look at North Dakota and Northern Colorado, they both return four and five starters, respectively.  Those teams definitely deserve to be where they are at.

“Everybody had their losses, Weber losing (Scott) Bamforth and the big fella (forward) Frank Otis, and we lost a lot in (point guard) Will Cherry and (forward) Mathias Ward,” Tinkle said.  “But, I am real confident in our group.  I think by the time it’s all said and done we will be where we need to be.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who played some big minutes for us during that impressive run last year,” Tinkle said; “and I know they are chomping at the bit to get on the court.”