UM Sports Trivia | Week of March 17

By CHRIS WALTERSKIRCHEN

The Sentinel Spartans girl’s basketball team entered some elite company with their win over Billings West Saturday Night. The Spartans became only the third AA girls team to record a “threepeat”, Joining Great Falls High in the early 1980’s and Billings West a decade ago. Spartan coach Karen Deden remembers that Great Falls Juggernaut as she helped her Spartan teammates endthe Bison’s 72 game winning streak in September of 1983.

With the results from Saturday Night’s Championship games the memory bank floats back to 1983 another March Championship night. In one of the best AA state title games the Helena Capitol Bruins won a triple-overtime thriller over Billings Senior on a last second shot. In Shelby the Class B title game between Conrad and Big Fork ended with a last second shot that was waved off giving Conrad the title and setting up a firestorm of controversy. The Big Fork School debated whether to return the runner-up trophy and pursue legal action.

This Friday marks the fifty anniversary of the UCLA Bruins winning their first National Championship. Ironically all four schools that reached the Final 4 in 1964 are back in the field in 2014 (UCLA, Michigan, Duke and Kansas State).

Weber State is facing Pac-12 power Arizona. The Weber Wildcats are 0-3 against the Pac-12 in the NCAA tournament (two losses to UCLA and one to Washington State). Weber has the most NCAA tournament wins of any Big Sky school including first round upsets of Michigan State and North Carolina in the 1990’s.

It was a Big weekend for the University of North Dakota as both their mens and women basketball teams reached the Conference title game. Over the years Montana Men’s and Women’s teams have reached the conference title games in the same season 9 times most recently 2013.

An intriguing NCAA tournament first round game with Big Sky Conference connections will be Colorado vs. Pittsburgh. Colorado coach Tad Boyle brought Northern Colorado up from a mediocre D-II program to a contender in the Big Sky during his 4 seasons in Greeley. Jamie Dixon spent 4 seasons as Ben Howland’s top assistant at NAU and then replaced Howland as the Pitt coach in 2003.

The Idaho Vandals appearance in the WAC title game marked the first time that the Vandals had played in a Conference tournament final since 1993 when they lost to Boise State in the Big Sky title game.

It was a coaching rematch on Tuesday at the Mountain West Tournament when Stew Morrill and Larry Eustachy matched wits. In 1991 the two veteran coaches opposed each other in the Big Sky title game as Morrill’s Grizzlies won the program’s first NBCAA tournament bid in 16 years defeating Eustachy’s Idaho Vandals. Last Tuesday Morrill’s Utah State Aggies staged a dramatic comeback to defeat CSU and advance in the tournament.

It was a tough seasons for Division Owls in Mens basketball. Temple, Florida Atlantic and Rice all have Owls as their mascot and the three schools had a combined record of 26-67 and both Florida Atlantic and Rice wasted little time in relieving their head coach of his duties.

Missoula sports fan and activist Janice Sax might have liked being saluted following an item about Owls as the Owl is the Mascot of her sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma. Janice Sax cheered fervently for Spartans, Grizzlies, Bobcats and Orediggers when her children (Scott, Jeff and Kelly) were competing. Janice was one of the leaders of a group of moms who fought for equity in sports in Montana.  She believed strongly in the idea of “Student-Athletes” and her children exemplified that. Jan passed away February 27, 2014.

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Chris Walterskirchen has been an observer of Montana sports for nearly half a century. A Kalispell native, Chris has worked in various capacities for professional and college sports organization of at various times: ranging from announcing and statistical work to the concessions and even a stint as a costumedmascot.

Chris has academic degrees in communications and elementary education. His style of sports trivia involves more than just who won and who lost, but also focuses on the obscure or human side of sports. In this blog you will learn things like the Grizzly football team has won 210 games over the 19 seasons since they have had Monte as their mascot or that UNLV is the only school that both the Griz and Lady Griz have both faced in the NCAA basketball tournament

When not following sports Chris enjoys taking care of animals of all kinds (a peacock rescue?) and reading to pre-schoolers.