Montana were able to take the Big Sky title on the road last season as they knocked off Weber State to get to the NCAA tournament, but they won't be dancing this year after they fell to Northern Colorado, who successfully defended their home court with a 65-60 victory. These two teams split their season series, with each team winning their home game, but this encounter was considerably closer than the January 6th game that Northern Colorado won by 18 points.
In the end, Montana's biggest undoing was foul trouble. Had Northern Colorado shot better from the free throw line, the game might not have been very close, but due to the Bears barely managing 50%, Montana were involved all the way to the end. However, late in the game, the clutch shooting of Devon Beitzel, both behind the arc and at the free throw line, was too much for Montana to deal with.
Northern Colorado have an RPI over 100 with no wins over the RPI top 100, so despite their solid 13-3 conference record, the Bears are likely to draw one of the top seeds come tournament time. They're unlikely to care, though, as this is their first trip to March Madness in school history.
For updates on every automatic bid to the 2011 NCAA Tournament, keep this StoryStream bookmarked. For bracketology and 2011 NCAA Tournament field projections, be sure to visit SB Nation's Blogging the Bracket.