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Matt Norlander

Welcome to The Dance, Montana Grizzlies

The Dagger

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Anyone going to be able to top the story of Anthony Johnson this month? I doubt it. And even if it happens, good. These are the kinds of things - the human-interest pieces - that take us away from the bubble talk (which is admittedly fun) and make us say, "Hey, wow, now this is really something. This is worth forwarding to a friend." The Grizzlies got an automatic bid thanks to Johnson scoring two-thirds of the team's points Wednesday night. It was an epic comeback, one that had the Twitter world buzzing as it all unfolded.

It its 109-year span of playing basketball, Montana has never been ranked. It did make one Sweet 16 - back in 1975, when the tournament was 32 teams deep and it lost in the second round to eventual champion UCLA - and got a first-round upset over Nevada a few years back. But the school is largely void of any rich basketball history. So this is the year. Johnson's heroics in defeating Weber State is the launching pad for a season unlike any other. Think about what the school is going through right now. Calls from around the country - including this very blog! - are flooding into the athletic offices, searching for Johnson and head coach Wayne Tinkle (avoiding sophomoric puns at all costs here).

You know about Johnson's backstory, so how can you not root for this team to pull off an upset? There would, seemingly, be no better club to win next Thursday or Friday than this one.

Player to know: This is a joke, right? If you want to bare-bone stats on Johnson this season, here you go: 19.6 PPG; 50.6 percent from the field; 88 percent from the foul line; 46 percent from 3-point range.

The Vitals:

»Record: 22-9, 10-6 Big Sky
»Team colors: copper, silver and gold
»We're thinking: a 16-seed
»KenPom ranking: 104
»RPI: 124
»Best win: @ Oregon (15-15)
»Worst loss: Idaho State (7-22)
»Notable stat: Montana shot the ball more effectively (49 percent from the floor; 40 percent from 3) and held opponents to the worst field goal percentage (41.7) in the Big Sky.
»Most recent tournament history (eight total appearances):
-2006 (12-seed): W first round over Nevada, 87-79; L second round to No. 4 Boston College, 69-56.
-2005 (16-seed): L first round to Washington, 88-77.

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