UNC Bears Basketball Controls Its Big Sky Conference Destiny
With four games to go, the University of Northern Colorado men's basketball team controls its own destiny in the race for the Big Sky Conference title.
If the Bears (19-8 overall, 12-4 Big Sky) win out, they are guaranteed to be the regular season conference champions.
"Its real exciting knowing we put ourselves in this position," said Bears head coach Jeff Linder. "We are embracing it knowing we have a tough stretch ahead. It's hard to win conference championships."
UNC has its final two home games at Greeley's Bank of Colorado Arena this week, hosting Idaho at 7 p.m. on Thursday (Feb. 27) and Eastern Washington 7 p.m. on Saturday (Feb. 29).
The Bears then finish the regular season with back-to-back road games, at conference-leading Montana at 7 p.m. on March 5 and at Montana State at 4 p.m. on March 7.
After the regular season concludes, UNC will vie for its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2011 if they can win the Big Sky Conference tournament in Boise in March.
The Bears make their living beyond the 3-point line, averaging 10.2 three-pointers per game — good for fifth most in the nation.
They've attempted 730 three-pointers so far on the season, good for seventh in the nation. UNC also owns the country's 18th best three-point field goal percentage at 37.70 percent.
As much as the Bears offense emphasizes hitting three-pointers, its defense also emphasizes stopping shots from beyond the line.
UNC has allowed the fewest three-point attempts, 364, in the nation. The next closest school, Abilene Christian, has allowed 82 more three-point shots than the Bears.
"The game has evolved to not letting teams shoot threes," Linder said. "This is a day and age where guys can shoot the ball a lot better and a lot deeper. You now have 4 or 5 guys on each team who can shoot the three."
And whether or not UNC can claim its first Big Sky regular season title since 2010-11 will largely be on how its offense and defense controls the three-point line over the next four games.