Frontier Conference games have finally started so it is once again time for the weekly Power Rankings.
Let’s see how the men’s basketball teams did the first week.
Agree or disagree? Let me know on Twitter at @rskuhn.
1. Carroll College (11-0, 2-0 Frontier)
Will anyone stop the Saints this season? Carroll improved to 11-0 and won its first two conference games, but don’t let the scores fool you. It wasn’t easy. The Saints had to come back from an 18-point deficit to defeat the University of Providence and Montana State-Northern kept hitting 3s to come back from a double digit deficit in the first half. Still, as long as the trio of Matt Wyman, Match Burnham and Dane Warp is on the court, the Saints will continue to be the team to beat. Add Ife Kalejaiye into the mix when he returns from a calf injury and they just might be unstoppable.
2. Lewis-Clark State (8-1, 2-0 Frontier)
Lewis-Clark State moves up two spots for handling its business during the first week of conference play. The Warriors were the only team aside from Carroll to go 2-0 and had two quality wins against Montana Tech and Montana Western. Against the Orediggers, LC-State struggled from the field -- only shooting 35 percent -- but showed some balanced scoring with four players putting up 9 points or more. The offense came alive two days later against Montana Western, where R. Martin led the way with 21 points and eight rebounds. The Warriors don’t have a tough nonconference schedule to end the year, so the game that everyone should circle is Jan. 10 against Carroll.
3. University of Providence (7-2, 1-1 Frontier)
Providence used the opening week of conference play to make a statement and also move up in the Power Rankings. The Argos had Carroll on the ropes on the road with an 18-point lead before the Saints came alive and came away with a 93-89 win against Rocky Mountain in Billings. Junior college transfer Brandon Cotton should not be overlooked as he has been averaging 19.4 points per game, including a 20-point performance against the Battlin’ Bears. Providence will face a good test with some NAIA Arizona teams to wrap up the holiday season, so there is no where to go but up during the next few weeks.
4. Rocky Mountain (7-2, 1-1 Frontier)
The only reason Rocky Mountain is this high up is because of a conference win over Montana State-Northern. That said, the Battlin’ Bears squeaked by with a 78-74 win. The key to Rocky’s success this season will be Jared Samuelson. His 15-point, nine-rebound performance against Northern was a good start to the week, and then two days later he took complete control when he handled Providence with 30 points, seven rebounds and was 3-for-5 from the 3-point line. If he gets any help, the Battlin’ Bears will be a force, but until then one guy can get you so far. Rocky has no easy games for the remainder of 2018, so its outcome will tell a lot.
5. Montana State-Northern (6-3, 0-2 Frontier)
You might be wondering why a two-loss team is not at the bottom. The reason is that Northern will eventually get wins and they will come in bunches. The Lights hung with both Rocky Mountain and Carroll in their two games this week and coach Shawn Huse has his team believing. Guard Adam Huse is leading the way, averaging 14.8 points and making nine 3-pointers over his last two games. Once the chemistry comes from playing with new players like Masio McCadney, Northern will upset some teams and play the role of spoiler.
6. Montana Tech (8-3, 0-1 Frontier)
Montana Tech played just one Frontier Conference game thus far but lost big to Lewis-Clark State. The Orediggers struggled, scoring just 42 points and shooting 27 percent from the field. The only bright spot for Tech this week came in the form of Tyler England, who put up 14 points. Even though he shot a poor 3-for-12 from the field, he made up for it by getting to the free throw line, where he scored 8 points. The Orediggers will face Montana Western this week and the winner will surely move up. The loser will have a long season ahead of them.
7. Montana Western (3-3, 0-1 Frontier)
All these exhibition games against Division I opponents have not prepared Montana Western. The Bulldogs have yet to claim a win against an NAIA team this season and got trounced by Lewis-Clark State on Saturday 83-62. During that game, Western shot decent but turned the ball over 18 times. K. Kidgell led the way with 18 points and six rebounds, but he will have to do more than that if his team wants to get out of the cellar. The next game is against Montana Tech. No reason why they shouldn’t win this as there is plenty of time to turn their season around.