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031013 bball LEAD

Montana’s Kareem Jamar dunks in the second half of a Big Sky Conference game against Northern Arizona at Dahlberg Arena last season. Jamar is the reigning league MVP.

The two-time defending Big Sky champion Montana men's basketball team has been picked to finish second by the media and third by the league coaches in the preseason polls released Thursday 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. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own teams, meaning Weber was the unanimous pick of the league 10 other 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.

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

The Weber State Wildcats begin the season as the league’s preseason 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 spot-on,” Tinkle said of the polls. “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. 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 and I know they are chomping at the bit to get on the court.”

Media Poll

RK-Team Points

1. Weber State (31) 370

2. Montana (3) 322

3. North Dakota 308

4. Northern Colorado 251

5. Montana State 220

6. Eastern Washington 188

7. Northern Arizona 161

8. Sacramento State 140

9. Portland State 116

10. Southern Utah 92

11. Idaho State 65

Coaches Poll

RK-Team Points

1. Weber State (10) 100

2. North Dakota 86

3. Montana (1) 84

4. Northern Colorado 77

5. Eastern Washington 55

6. Montana State 54

7. Sacramento State 39

8. Portland State 38

9. Northern Arizona 32

10. Idaho State 22

11. Southern Utah 18

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​Reach the Missoulian newsroom at @missoulian, at newsdesk@missoulian.com or at (406) 523-5240

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