Meeting for the third time after splitting this season’s previous match-ups, the Idaho State Bengals and Portland State Vikings get to take care of some unfinished business. Both teams would really like this win from a standpoint that it would give them bragging rights, but the ultimate prize is the obvious berth in the Big Sky Championship. For the Vikings, a win would give them the chance to prove that they can beat Weber State after playing two close games without a positive result. The neutral court should be interesting. Idaho State is likely to bring more of their own fans, and is also likely to have the support of the Weber State faithful. The solace for the Vikings is that they have led by double figures in both of the previous games. If they can sustain 40 minutes of intensity, they should win.

ISU: Demetrius Monroe/Deividas Busma/Lucas Steijn/Felix Caspari PSU: Jamie Jones

The player seeing the majority of the minutes at center for the Bengals is anyone’s guess (probably Steijn). Perhaps the lack of a consistent option is the reason, and maybe playing everyone in this group between 10-15 minutes at one of the two big man spots just keeps them all fresh and effective. The main man up front in the most recent match-up was Honorable Mention All Big Sky Lucas Steijn. If Steijn is the answer for Idaho State, he presents major match-up problems for the 6’7” Jones and 6’5” Thomas. The one positive for the Vikings in all of this is that Steijn is primarily a jump shooter with very little power game. Don’t expect him to have his way with the Viking big men the same way Brandon Moore of Eastern Washington did. Jones was a non factor in the February 12 game coming off his foot injury. If he can provide an inside scoring presence, the Vikings are a different team. Look for the coaching staff to call plays that will get him established early as they have in recent games. Ultimately, the majority of both teams’ points will come elsewhere, so the stat to watch for is offensive rebounds, which every team in the Big Sky seems to give up at an astronomical rate.
Advantage: Push

Power Forward
ISU: Chron Tatum PSU: Kyle Coston

Even though he played 25 minutes in the game in Pocatello, Kyle Coston managed just 1 point. Since then, he has averaged 8 points per game, with the only sub-par performance coming at Eastern Washington. Nobody on the Viking coaching staff expects Kyle to match Tatum’s all-around game. However, if he can play tough defense and keep Tatum off the boards by making some 3 pointers, he will make a lot of people happy. Tatum has averaged 13 points and 5 rebounds against the Vikings this season. Expect him to be right on those numbers again. If he’s the one who leads the Bengals in scoring, they have no chance.
Advantage: Bengals

Small Forward
ISU: Amorrow Morgan PSU: Phil Nelson

Morgan is the guy that transforms the Bengals from a mediocre team into the team that was expected to challenge for the Big Sky regular season title this year. Unfortunately, things haven’t turned out quite as expected in Pocatello. Amorrow has averaged 13.6 points per game this season, but gone over 20 just twice during the Big Sky portion of the schedule. That said, this is Idaho State’s chance at redemption. They beat a pesky Northern Colorado squad at home after trailing at halftime and now sit two games from the NCAA tournament. The only problem is that those two games match them up with Portland State, the most physically talented team in the conference, and if they win, Weber State, the best coached and most complete team. Coach Joe O’Brien will need Morgan to have at least 15 points if they hope to move on. He matches up with the frontrunner for next season’s Big Sky player of the year in Phil Nelson. It’s been a bit of an up and down year for Nelson, but the next two games provide him an opportunity to carry the team back towards its goal: a return to the NCAA tournament. However, if he isn’t effective, don’t be surprised to see Andre Murray log heavy minutes at the 3.
Advantage: Push

Shooting Guard
ISU: Donnie Carson PSU: Andre Murray

One never knows what to expect from a match-up like this one. Both Carson and Murray played very strong games the last time these teams met up. What’s different this time around? Well, after scoring 24 points in Pocatello, Andre has averaged just under 8 points per game. Carson has had two big games in his last five, but also had two awful performances. If he expects to play significant minutes in a game of this magnitude, he will need to step up and contribute in the way he has in his better games. After all, he is a far more complete player than Kilpatrick, the other option here.
Advantage: Vikings

Point Guard
ISU: Matt Stucki PSU: Jeremiah Dominguez

Although this should be the most fun match-up to watch, it seems like one of the two stars is always guarding somebody else. When the two teams met in Portland, Stucki shadowed Phil Nelson the entire game. In the second game, he played more off the ball and let Sherrod Baldwin and Amorrow Morgan handle it while he carried the team offensively. Perhaps third time’s the charm? I wouldn’t bet on it. In all likelihood we’ll see one of the first two scenarios relive itself. If Morgan is having a good shooting night, we’re likely to see Stucki shadow Nelson. If he isn’t, look for Stucki to try to match the multifaceted Viking offensive attack with his ability to hit the outside shot and get to the line. Either way, don’t expect him to be one on one with Dominguez the whole game. Last week, Jeremiah was rewarded with another First Team All Big Sky selection for his second great season in a row. He will be sorely missed next season, and the team will have to find somebody new to take and make the big time shots. Both players have put on a great show for Big Sky fans in the past couple years and should have opportunities to play basketball somewhere in Europe next year if they choose to.
Advantage: Push

Given that these teams have already played each other twice, we know the story of the bench players. Dominic Waters and Felix Caspari get to see each other again after their fight on the way to the locker room in Portland. Other contributors for the Bengals include Austin Kilpatrick, a shooter, and Sherrod Baldwin. The Vikings rely on Julius Thomas’ energy and Tyrell Mara’s defensive prowess off the bench.
Advantage: Vikings

Prediction: PSU 78 ISU 73