Scouting the Frontier Conference

After the Dickinson State men’s basketball team’s 95-60 drubbing of Canadian school Briercrest College on Wednesday night, both the men and women are now both fully into their Frontier Conference portions of their schedule. The men have a dozen games left while the women have 11. The Westminster College men are coming to DSU, but not the women, a subject I’ll touch upon below.

Here’s a little of what the teams are going to expect as their first season in the league, starting with the men’s team, which has an 8-10 overall records and a 1-2 mark in league play heading into the final six weeks of the regular season.

Carroll College (home Friday, won 75-73 last Saturday): The Carroll College men are … holy cow, they’re just not very good this season. With a 1-14 record and having lost their first four league games, the Saints are on pace to have their worst season in the modern college basketball era. The last time they didn’t win as many as six games was in the 1958-59 season. Junior guard Nick Jones, an Australian, leads the Saints with 16.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.

Great Falls (road Feb. 7, home Feb. 21): This is a team that has come to Scott Gym the past several years and has consistently given the Blue Hawks fits with their athleticism. When DSU can slow the Argos down, it has found success. Junior guard Marcel Towns leads UGF with 19.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and an NAIA-leading 3.9 steals per game.

Lewis-Clark State (road Feb. 14): Valentine’s Day might not be so lovely for the Blue Hawks. They have a date with the No. 3-ranked Warriors (18-0 coming into the weekend) and one quite a roll. Senior forward P.J. Bolte leads one heck of a balanced team with 16.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. While their schedule doesn’t include any wins over upper-level teams, Lewis-Clark is still outscoring teams 86.8 to 57.3 points per game. The Warriors rank first in NAIA Division I in scoring margin, assists, defensive rebounds and rebound margin. They rank in the top 10 in several other statistical categories.

Montana State-Northern (home Feb. 23, lost on road 72-65 on Jan. 3): The Lights are in a three-way tie for the No. 10 ranking in the NAIA Division I poll and climbing thanks to their 15-2 record, which includes a loss to No. 8-ranked Westmont (Calif.). Senior guard Devin Jackson averages 15.4 points and sophomore forward Jesse Vaughan adds 12.6 for MSUN, which has been perhaps the league’s biggest surprise. DSU wraps up its Frontier season against the Lights, hoping a postseason bid isn’t on the line in the game.

Montana Tech (home Feb. 2, road Feb. 15): The Orediggers are 11-7 and coming off an easy win over Carroll on Wednesday. Sophomore swingman Adam Greger leads Tech with 19.2 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 48 percent from the field and 3-point range. Needless to say, he’s the guy to stop. So much that his 3-point shooting has the Orediggers ranking No. 1 in the NAIA in 3-point shooting (41.6 percent).

Montana Western (road Jan. 19, home Jan. 26): The Bulldogs don’t have NAIA All-America point guard Brandon Brown (he’s playing professional in Australia now) anymore, but they’re still solid. They’re 11-5 this season with their two conference losses coming against Westminster and Lewis-Clark State. Junior guard Maazin Butler leads them with 13.8 points per game and junior center Jake Owsley adds 10 points and 7.1 rebounds. Sophomore guard Jordan Overstreet averages 11.9 points and shoots 53.9 percent from 3-point range, which ranks at the top of NAIA Division I.

Rocky Mountain (road Feb. 9, lost 68-65 at home on Feb. 5): The Bears, despite their 10-7 overall and 1-2 league records, present one of the scariest challenges to any team in the league. Junior forward Joel Barndt  leads the way with 15.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Jeremy Nichols adds 15.5 points and 7.2 rebounds and was the difference in what was a tightly played win over DSU earlier this season.

Westminster (road Jan. 17, home Jan. 24): Aside from undefeated Lewis-Clark State, the No. 18-ranked Griffins are 13-3 and deep. They have seven players averaging at least 8.5 points per game, led by senior forward Jake Orchard at 13.4. It’s a long road trip to Salt Lake City for the Blue Hawks and vice versa when Westminster comes to Dickinson, something they didn’t have to do but did thanks to DSU head coach Ty Orton. The Blue Hawks were allowed into the league on the caveat that Westminster and Lewis-Clark’s men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams didn’t have to come to Dickinson for at least the first season. It’s a joke, but it’s what happened. Though Westminster will be heavily favored against DSU, they did the right thing by scheduling DSU twice.


Now onto the ladies. The Blue Hawk women have had their struggles this season and it’s plain to see why. They’re dealing with a first-year coach, a new system, several new players and, most importantly, a scarce number of upperclassmen. DSU’s is 5-12 overall with a 0-3 Frontier record and their lone win over an American four-year school came Dec. 15 when they beat Johnson & Wales (Colo.) 77-74 in Denver. Their other wins are against the University of Winnipeg, Oglala Lakota College and they twice defeated the University of Manitoba to open the season.

Carroll College (lost 69-49 on Feb. 5 on road, home Feb. 12): Miles City, Mont., native Torrie Cahill (a senior guard whom I seem to recall former Blue Hawks head coach Guy Fridley pursuing strongly as a high school recruit) leads the Saints with 14.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Senior guard Megan Patterson adds 13.1 points. The Saints have size and are upperclassmen led, which helps explain their 10-5 records and 4-0 mark in the Frontier.

Great Falls (road Feb. 7, home Feb. 21): The Argos are 11-6 overall but are off to a 1-2 start in league play having lost to Carroll and Rocky Mountain. Freshman point guard Erin Legel leads the NAIA in assists. She averages 13.2 points and 6.5 assists per game. Sophomore forward Lindsey Abramson adds 11.1 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. The Argos are one of the youngest teams in the league but have great potential behind Legel, Abramson and sophomore guard Sydnee Burke.

Lewis-Clark State (road Feb. 14): While the DSU men have a difficult task in the nationally ranked Warriors, the women will face a team that has struggled through its nonconference season. The Lewis-Clark women are 4-14 overall and 1-3 in the league with their first win coming last Saturday against Montana Western. Senior guard Annie Kane, one of the top 3-point shooters in the NAIA (she shoots 48 percent), averages 13.5 points per game. Sophomore Tanis Fuller adds 10.6 points and 6.2 rebounds.

Montana State-Northern (home Feb. 23, lost 59-56 on Jan. 3): The Blue Hawks pushed the Skylights (10-5, 2-1 Frontier) to the brink on a week ago bit they’ll have to wait until the end of the regular season to get another shot at them. Senior guard Nikki Tresch leads MSUN with 15.3 points per game (she’s among the top 3-point shooters in the NAIA at 45 percent) and Senior forward Jordan Bruursema adds 10.9 points and 6.5 rebounds. MSUN is one of the top defensive teams in the NAIA, keeping teams to 51.7 points per game.

Montana Tech (home Feb. 2, away Feb. 15): The Orediggers are 9-7 with a 2-2 league mark, coming off a 65-48 loss to Carroll College on Wednesday night. Sophomore guard Mandy Machinal averages 16.1 points while Junior center Kelsey DeWit adds 12.6 points and 7.6 rebounds. One of the best rebounding and defensive teams in the NAIA, the Orediggers are a team that consistently presents matchup problems.

Montana Western (road Jan. 19, home Jan. 26): DSU plays the Bulldogs (8-9, 0-3 Frontier) in back-to-back games on consecutive Saturdays. Right now, the teams are on the bottom of the league standings, so this could be the Blue Hawks’ best chance for a sweep. Junior Sammi Bignell leads Western with 16.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. The former Frontier Freshman of the Year is Western’s lone player averaging double figures in points.

Rocky Mountain (Feb. 9): Though they are 5-8 overall, the Bears are 2-1 in the league and snapped a four-game skid last Saturday with a 66-58 win over Great Falls. Junior guard Brittany Kumm averages 12.4 points with four players averaging 8.5 to 9.9 points per game behind her. Kumm is one of the top 3-point shooters in the NAIA. This season she is 38 of 88, having made just 14 baskets inside the arc.

Westminster (road Jan. 17): The No. 4-ranked Griffins have been dynamite this season, relying on balance. Senior guard Nicole Yazzie (12.9 points per game, 5.3 assists 3.4 rebounds), Senior forward Cydney Tibbits (12.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg) and Junior forward Kelsi Wells (10 ppg) lead the way with lots of strength behind them. At 14-2 and 3-0 in the Frontier, Westminster is a national force right now. They are fourth in the NAIA in points allowed per game (49.9) and shoot 74 percent from the free-throw line.



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