HELENA -- The Frontier Conference playoffs begin on Tuesday with three matchups across the league.
Carroll College earned the No. 1 seed with a win over Montana Western on Saturday, splitting the regular season conference title. That means Carroll will get a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
It pits Montana Western as the two-seed, and as such will host No. 7-seed Montana Tech.
“Play each other for the fourth time,” Western coach Steve Keller said after the Bulldogs’ game in Helena. “Tech’s been playing good. They beat Carroll, and they lost to us two times by four. There’s no games in our league or no games in the tournament that are going to be easy.”
Western will look for a bounceback game from guard Dom Robinson, who in the regular season finale went 1-for-8 and had four points while playing only 25 minutes as the Bulldogs fell to Carroll. Western got big production from forward Brandon Jones, who finished with 18 point and six rebounds.
The Bulldogs are a deep team, but will be counting highly on those two to put away a pesky Montana Tech squad. The Bulldogs defeated Tech 84-66 back in November, but as both teams grew over the course of the season, the Orediggers shortened the gap. On Feb. 1 Western won 75-71 and then on Feb. 14 Western won 71-67.
The Orediggers record in their last 10 games isn’t stellar at 3-7, but in that span Montana Tech has fallen by double digits only twice, and defeated No. 6 Carroll College, No. 19 Lewis-Clark State and University of Providence. Perhaps most importantly for the Orediggers, they won their final game of the regular season and may have some momentum going into the playoffs.
Guard Chris O’Neill, an all-conference performer last season, has given Tech a huge boost recently. His play and the athleticism of the Orediggers will be factors.
In the other matchups, No. 3 Lewis-Clark State hosts No.6-seed University of Providence. Lewis-Clark State owns a 2-1 edge in the series. Most recently, the Warriors took a 80-71 win in Lewiston on Feb. 8.
Lewis-Clark State College gets big production from big man Race Martin, who scores from all over the court. He averages nearly 13 points this season.
Providence relies on a scoring trio of DuShan Rice, Steven Daho-Clark and Sergio Berkley, who all average over 10 points per game.
And in the final matchup, No. 4-seed Montana State-Northern hosts No. 5-seed Rocky Mountain College. Northern is 3-0 against the Battlin’ Bears this season, and most recently won 70-66 in Havre.
Rocky features the high-scoring of Billings native Jared Samuelson, who puts up 18.66 points per contest.
Northern will counter with a big man of their own in Ryan Reeves, who leads the nations in blocks with 3.4 per game and 103 total.
Carroll will face the lowest remaining seed in the semifinals on Friday. After that, the lowest remaining seed and highest remaining seed will be paired together.
The championship takes place on Mar. 5.