I was skeptical when news broke last April that Montana State had given men's basketball coach Brad Huse a two-year contract extension. In the previous seven seasons with the Bobcats, Huse's record was 93-117 overall. In Big Sky Conference games it was 55-61. Did he deserve it, I wondered?
This season is off to much better start, so it looks like the tide could be turning. Huse and athletic director Peter Fields, for now, are proving me and anyone else who questioned the contract extension wrong.
The Bobcats are just 8-6 overall entering Saturday's game at Eastern Washington. But check out their record in the league: MSU is 3-0 and tied for first place. It's their best start in conference play since the 2010-11 season.
How have they done it? It's interesting to note that the Cats don't really have a consistent go-to scorer. Forward Flavien Davis leads the team at 10.9 points per game, and he's the only player that average double-digit points. But Davis, guard Marcus Colbert, big man Paul Egwuonwu and forward Calan Coleman combine to make up a little more than 51 percent of the scoring.
MSU has shot a little better than 50 percent from the floor in its three conference games, which ranks second in the league. Davis averages 13.3 points in conference games, which ranks in a tie for 16th in the league. Guard Michael Dison is the only other Bobcat in the top 25 at 11.0 points per conference game.
After shooting just 39.8 percent in their first five games, including a 26.5 percent showing from 3, the Cats have shot better than 50 percent in their previous nine. That includes nearly 45 percent from beyond the arc.
Defensively the Cats are giving up 65.7 points in conference games, the second fewest in the 11-team Big Sky. MSU also ranks second in steals, third in rebounding defense and fourth in total defensive rebounds.
There's talent on this MSU team, and I know there were high (if not quiet) expectations. But it's still too early to be totally sold. Remember, MSU opened 2010-11 with a 3-0 mark in the league and were at one point 5-1. But they limped through late January and early February, finishing 7-9. At one point they lost eight conference games in a row.
We'll see what happens when MSU plays the league heavyweights like Northern Colorado, Weber State and the like. But it's so far so good in 2013-14 thanks to a total team effort. Now it's just a matter of keeping it going.