HELENA — It might be cold outside but inside Frontier Conference gymnasiums around Montana and Lewiston, Idaho, things are heating up.
It feels like just yesterday that the conference season began.
All those months of hard work have been narrowed down to just a weeklong tournament for an automatic bid into the NAIA National Bracket.
Some will go and some will stay. It’s all about how they fare battling teams one more time.
Let’s see who has the upper hand.
Agree or disagree? Let me know on Twitter at @rskuhn.
1. Montana Western (No. 1 seed, 24-3, 15-3 Frontier)
It’s hard to argue that Montana Western should not be the favorite to win the Frontier Conference Tournament after the season it had.
If you are a Bulldogs fan, it’s pretty safe to book your hotel in Billings.
Montana Western proved they're a top team in the country and has one of the nation’s top players in senior Brianna King.
Not only can she step back and hit a 3-pointer, but she can also drive to the basket.
The only problem the Bulldogs might have is if they run into Carroll. The Saints beat them in Dillon and a loss might set them back a little heading into the national tournament.
2. Carroll College (No. 2 seed, 22-7, 14-4 Frontier)
Carroll could be the hottest team in the field this season after an outstanding month of February.
Not only have the Saints won seven games in a row, but they beat Montana Western, Rocky Mountain and Lewis-Clark State all over a two-week span.
The only problem could be their lack of a superstar like Montana Western has, but great team chemistry can make up for that.
After all, the Saints pretty much feature a different scorer every night.
3. Rocky Mountain (No. 3 seed, 19-11, 10-8 Frontier)
Rocky Mountain is coming into the conference tournament on a bit of a streak, winning three of their last four games with great success at home.
The Battlin’ Bears should have no problem with quarterfinal round opponent Montana State-Northern, but there could be some questions once they reach the next round.
Rocky Mountain has already punched its ticket into the National Tournament by being the host team, so it should treat these games as a warmup for the week after.
What does it have to lose?
4. Lewis-Clark State (No. 4 seed, 19-10, 9-9 Frontier)
Everything was going so well for Lewis-Clark State at the beginning of the conference season.
But the last month has been awful for the Warriors.
Lewis-Clark State lost four of its last six games and watched as its No. 2 and No. 3 spots transformed into the No. 4 seed.
That said, the Warriors do a have a win over Montana Western.
Carroll fans should hope they can pull another upset for a smoother road through the conference tournament.
5. Providence (No. 5 seed, 18-12, 7-11 Frontier)
Providence is the team still looking for an identity.
It has wins over Montana Western, Lewis-Clark State and Carroll.
It also has two losses to Montana Tech.
Luckily for the Argos the postseason is a brand new season and they can put their past behind them.
Would it be shocking if Providence made a run? No. Is it likely? Probably not.
6. (tie) Montana State-Northern (No. 6 seed, 13-17, 5-13 Frontier) and Montana Tech (No. 7 seed, 13-16, 3-15 Frontier)
Both Montana State-Northern and Montana Tech head into the Frontier Conference Tournament with nothing to lose.
They are going to have to win the whole tournament to get a bid to the NAIA National Tournament, so they should use this week as an opportunity for younger players to get some experience.
The Orediggers are a perfect example, with no seniors on their roster.
As for Northern, Peyton Kehr and Sydney Hovde are sophomores. Imagine what another year of postseason basketball will do for their confidence.