Men's basketball returns to Butler against Eagles, Vikings
GREELEY -- Northern Colorado (11-9, 7-2) faces a big homestand this weekend as it welcomes in Eastern Washington and Portland State at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.
The Bears, winners of their first seven Big Sky Conference games this season, dropped two-in-a-row last week on the road and fell a game behind Montana in the league standings with seven regular-season games remaining.
The Eagles (7-14, 4-5) enter on a bit of a hot streak, winning three of their last four games and all by 10 or more points. Eastern Washington has yet to win a road game this season, however, and lost to Northern Colorado earlier this season.
Portland State (11-10, 4-5) dropped its Big Sky conference opener to the Bears at home this season but holds a decided edge UNC in the all-time series (11-2). Northern Colorado earned its first-ever victory against the Vikings at home last season and has now won two straight.
- Games 20 & 21: Northern Colorado (11-9; 7-2 Big Sky) vs. East. Washington (7-14; 4-5 Big Sky) and Portland State (11-10, 4-5 Big Sky)
- When: 7:05 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3, and 7:05 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5
- Where: Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion (2,972)
- Coaches: UNC's B.J. Hill (11-9; 7-2 Big Sky) vs. EWU's Kirk Earlywine (39-72; 21-36 Big Sky) and PSU's Tyler Geving (24-29; 11-14 Big Sky)
- All-time series: The Bears and the Eagles are tied 5-5, with Northern Colo. winning the last three; Portland St. holds an 11-2 advantage
- TV: None
- Radio: KFKA-AM 1310
- Live stream: www.b2tv.com
- Live stats: www.uncbears.com
The "Butler" does it
- Northern Colorado is building quite an impressive home-court advantage at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.
- The Bears are 7-0 at home this season, 20-2 in Greeley over the past two seasons and 30-6 at home since 2008.
- Northern Colorado is also an impressive 100 games over .500 (271-171) since it began playing in Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion (then Butler-Hancock Hall) in 1974.
Some minor noise in Mid-Major Top 25
- Northern Colorado has started to re-inter the minds of the nation's mid-major pollsters. The Bears received one vote in the latest CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 after receiving a season-best four votes in last week's poll.
- Northern Colorado was ranked in the Mid-Major Top 25 for most of last season and reached a high-water mark of 10 at one point in the season.
- Montana is the only other Big Sky team in this week's poll, coming in at No. 14.
Some bracket racket
- Pairings for ESPN's ninth annual BracketBusters event were announced Monday night, Jan. 31, and Northern Colorado has drawn New Mexico State in a non-TV matchup on Saturday, Feb. 19.
- The Bears will travel to Las Cruces later this month for a nonconference game against the Aggies and then host New Mexico State in Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion next season prior to Dec. 31 in a non-BracketBuster game.
- The game will be Northern Colorado's first against a WAC opponent since it defeated San Jose State 93-69 last year in Greeley. The Bears are 7-15 all-time against WAC teams.
The significance of seven
- The Bears started the 2010-11 Big Sky Conference schedule with a perfect 7-0 record, which was its best start in five seasons of league play.
- That 7-0 start to conference play was the Bears' first in any conference since the 1959-60 season.
- The 7-0 start was also the third-best Big Sky start by any league team during the last 10 seasons, with Weber State starting 14-0 during the 2002-03 season and Northern Arizona starting 8-0 in 2005-06.
- Six teams have started at least 6-0 in Big Sky play over the last decade (Weber State, Northern Arizona, Eastern Washington, Montana State twice and Idaho State) and only Eastern Washington in 2002-03 did not win at least a share of the regular-season title.