Saints coming off a big week
If there's one thing that's becoming quite clear as it relates to Frontier Conference basketball this season, it's that nothing is clear.
After just two weeks of league play on the men's side, no team is undefeated any more, and the team picked to dominate the conference this winter, Westminster College already has two losses.
Westminster was beaten by Carroll College this week in Helena, and to show the respect the country has for the Frontier, the Saints jumped all the way from being un-ranked, to No. 16 in the latest in NAIA Poll. Westminster, which has suffered losses in each of the last two weeks, fell to No. 22 in the latest poll, while LC State dropped three spots to No. 24 after also losing to the Saints this weekend.
It was a big weekend all-around for the Carroll men. Not only did the Saints sweep the Griffins and Warriors at home, but junior forward Andy Garland earned both Frontier Conference Player of the Week and NAIA Player of the Week honors.
However, as muddled as things are, Carroll isn't in the clear, and a trip to Havre on Friday night to take on MSU-Northern could determine first place in the league standings. LC State and Westminster also play a rivalry game this week, which will also have strong implications on the league standings.
In this week's Frontier Conference Power Rankings, the Lights dropped to fifth, despite only being a half game out of first play. Northern suffered its first league loss, and had a seven-game winning streak snapped on Saturday night at UM-Western. The conference ratings this week have Carroll on top, followed by LC State, Westminster, Western and the Lights. Northern will try to rebound from the 69-64 loss to the Bulldogs with a home sweep of Carroll and Rocky Mountain College, as the Lights play their only two home games in the month of January.
On the women's side, things aren't much more certain, after then No. 3 LC State lost at Rocky last Thursday night. Still, the Warriors dropped only one spot in the NAIA Poll this week, while Westminster is ranked 15 and Carroll is No. 22 despite being 1-2 in league play.
The conference standings have a much different look to them right now, as UGF continues to impress. The Argos are 2-1 in conference play and are just a game behind LC State, Tech and Westminster for first place. Carroll and are 1-2 in league play, while Western's only win came against Northern last Saturday. UGF has a golden opportunity to really make some headway in the league standings this weekend with home games against Carroll and Rocky.
It's been a tough road for the Skylights so far in league play – literally. Northern is off to an 0-3 start, all losses on the road. And while coming home is usually an exciting time, having to play the Saints and Bears this weekend won't make it any easier.
The Skylights are still dealing with the loss of senior points guard Taylor Keller, but Samm Schermele has picked up her scoring even more. Schermele averages 18.8 points per game, which is second to LC's Jasmine Stohr. And Northern has been in all three league losses down the stretch. But field goal shooting late in games has hurt the Skylights and they'll hope to get that corrected this weekend.
Rocky will also bring the reigning Frontier Player of the Week to Havre on Saturday night. The Bears' 5-10 forward Callie Kautzmann averaged 20 points and 8 rebounds per game in Rocky's home split last weekend.
Net Notes: The Skylights beat Carroll 68-56 on the final regular season game of the year last year in Havre. But the Saints returned a week later to beat Northern 58-57 in a thrilling Frontier Conference Tournament first-round game. The Skylights crushed the Bears on their home floor a year ago, while the Lights dropped a tough one to the Bears on the second-to-last game of the season in Havre. The loss to Rocky severely damaged the Lights' chances of gaining an at-large berth in the NAIA Tournament, although they did hammer Carroll 63-48 the next night.