The most important game of the year for the Weber State University men’s basketball team might not even involve the Wildcats.
Next week, the University of Montana will take on Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont. Before they play the Bobcats, the Grizzlies will take on Southern Utah University. Both games are on the road, and SUU and MSU have both challenged the Grizzlies earlier this year.
When SUU faced off against UM in January, it fell six points short of upsetting the Grizzlies, who were then unbeaten in conference play. The next night, UM hosted its in-state rival, MSU. The Bobcats took the Grizzlies to overtime and came up just five points short of the win.
I also think UM isn’t quite as good as its record shows. While it’s only lost one conference game, it’s struggled multiple times and has come close to losing multiple times this year. It’ll also be hindered without one of its best players, Will Cherry, who is out with a foot injury.
Either of these teams realistically could beat UM, especially with Cherry out injured. The Thunderbirds have been better than their record shows this year. They’ve come close to winning a lot of games. MSU also has played well; it, of course, defeated the Wildcats earlier this year and could knock off the Grizzlies. You can never predict what could happen in a rivalry game.
I think there’s a good chance UM could slip up, losing to either team. This would be huge for WSU. It would give both the teams two losses in conference play. If that happens and neither team loses one of its remaining games, it will come down to a tiebreaker to decide who is named regular season champion and will earn the right to host the Big Sky Tournament.
The conference tiebreakers are first a look at who won the head-to-head series, then games versus other league teams; then, if the two teams are still equal after that, they look at the RPI of the two teams. Currently, WSU has the better RPI.
The last few years, the Wildcats have had to travel for the conference tournament and each time ended up losing the championship game to the Grizzlies. If WSU could host the tournament this year, it could provide the difference-maker and help the Wildcats make it back to the NCAA Tournament.
Last year especially, the hostile crowd in Montana affected the outcome of the game. The pro-Grizzly crowd played a big part in the game. I think if the game was at a neutral site, or played on WSU’s court, the Wildcats would have won. That’s why it would be so crucial for WSU if the Grizzlies happen to lose one of their final games.
If WSU can host the tournament, there’s a great chance it’ll win it. I’d say even if they have to travel to Montana, there still is a good chance the Wildcats could win it all. Their team this year is talented and playing great.
I’ll be paying close attention to both of these upcoming games, hoping for an upset.